I took a break from my reasons why I’m a big ol’ agnostic so I could gush about the Quakers, but I’m mostly done with that. Later in the month, I may go to the “semi-programmed” service. What I went to was the “unprogrammed” service, which = silence. But a later service (which I couldn’t attend because I just couldn’t sit still for another hour) has a slightly more traditional thing going. More on that later.
Now back to why traditional religion doesn’t do it for me. Syncretism is the process of taking bits and pieces from different traditions to form a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of belief. It’s a messy process and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless it’s carefully explained, which I never do since that would probably require more of an attention span than I have.
But nonetheless, it’s what I’ve always done. I’m down with a lot of the Judeo-Christian ethic. I love some of the stories in the Bible. But I admire the spiritual discipline of the Muslims, who pray every day, five times, and who fast during the day all through the month of Ramadan to remind themselves of those who need charity. I admire the ideas of Buddhism, even if I’ve never come close to a practice of it. In short, I like being able to wander around in the hardware store and pick up the tools that I need.
Many proponents of religion argue that you can’t do that. From what I read, it seems that the Catholic leadership is very concerned about syncretism within Catholicism, and warns against performing Catholic services in any way close to local traditions. Some Jews are equally concerned about the purity of their belief community; I’ve read of moments in many faiths where mixed marriages have been condemned for fear of a sort of marriage-induced syncretism.
Don’t worry, I get why religions do this. After all, one of Huston Smith’s six pillars of most world religions is tradition, and you don’t preserve tradition by having everyone just do whatever they feel like doing. I think of many other people as purebreds, and myself as a mutt. But a nice mutt, the kind that will wipe her paws first and then hop up on the couch with you.