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reading

I just started reading two books – The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel and The Case for God by Karen Armstrong.  The Case for Faith is easy reading and seems to have some interesting soundbites from various philosophers and theologians.

The Case for God is something else altogether.  Karen Armstrong isn’t presenting a case for the existence of God, but for the validity and value of religion in the human experience.  She presents a detailed long view of religion throughout human history which really puts our current theological debates in perspective.  I am only a chapter or two in and so far it is blowing my mind.  It really didn’t occur to me that thinking of religion as “believing in a set doctrine” is a recent interpretation, rooted in our scientific/logical cultural values.  Throughout most of human history religion was about practices, rituals, and mythology.  Armstrong suggests that the benefit of religion/faith comes from these elements.  Rituals and myth help us with meaning making.  Rituals and practice give us, through discipline, the experience of the transcendent.

Again, I’ve only just started reading but this book is changing how I am thinking about my spiritual journey.  It is reinforcing some of my thoughts about how looking at doctrine alone is inadequate and that practice is the heart of faith.  It is making me rethink the importance of myths.

 

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I picked this up at the library (in audio book format) while I was looking for books on CD to bring on my trip (another camping vacation coming up!).  I started listening to it today and am enthralled.  It is wonderful!  I am looking forward to hearing the rest and also borrowing John Bunyan’s autobiography: Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.  Since I am currently in the throes of my own existential/spiritual crisis I think reading about his crisis 350+ years ago will be very interesting.

I keep thinking about Gautama Buddha in the Kalama Sutra addressing the confused villagers who had heard too many wandering mystics/gurus and didn’t know who to listen to or follow.  I can relate.  People interpret this sutra in very different ways, but my take is that you have to start with what is clearly right – do those things, and observe the fruits in your life – from those fruits will come other convictions other “right ways.”  In such a way, one is guided continually both by one’s own judgment and the unfolding path.  Buddha doesn’t say “pick this one” or “use your intellect” or “use divination” etc etc – practice is what is needed.  We cannot know truth without allowing ourselves to change through living a changed life.

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My family is heading to the beach to do some camping this weekend.  I’m hoping to read and relax.

I’m currently reading The Wind is my Mother by Bear Heart, a Native American medicine man.  I’ll be bringing that with me.

Bear Heart has some wise and interesting things to say about the connection between faith and healing.  His observations seem very relevant to being a therapist and how one sits with a client with respect both for the person in front of you and for Spirit.  Healing, he says, come not from the healer but from the Great Spirit.  I also appreciated his observation that if one uses one’s gift for medicine or healing on oneself, one loses the ability to heal others.

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