When referencing religion, generally we consider theology, anthropology and morality to some degree in order to create a foundation for our theories. But on a personal level, often times it is people that substantiate our beliefs. People like Mother Theresa, the Pope or Gandhi.
We look to them for affirmation when our seemingly ambiguous questions surrounding religion become overwhelming. Not because we haven’t developed ideas of our own, but because we respect theirs and we trust that they are far more in-touch with faith than ourselves.
On Sept. 13, the Dalai Lama wrote this:
“All of the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I’m increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.”
As might be expected, the quote received a great deal of feedback, beyond its 500,000 “likes” on Facebook. The cutting edge commentary resonated with some, angered others and really, really confused most of us.
Is this some kind of social media hoax?
No, it wasn’t. Yes, he really does have a Facebook account.
At 77 years old, the Dalai Lama was publicly re-considering much of what he has based his whole lifetime on.
The Huffington Post reported that the Facebook status was a quote from his newest book, “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World”. It’s important to note that when referenced in context the Dalai Lama is not rejecting religion. He is, however, reevaluating its purpose and place in modern society, much like average citizens of the world do on a daily basis. Essentially, the book encourages readers to consider “a new vision of secular ethics” and the idea that maybe our view of religion needed to be readjusted to suit the 21st century.
Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Fortunately for me, this opinions piece has no regard for the answer, but only the question at hand: what do you believe and why do you believe it?
I went to a public high school where learning about Christianity was off-limits. Instead, we studied religions like Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism. We defined them, classified them and made charts to compare and contrast them with one another.
I was considerably curious about each of them, though never went searching for answers as a means to figure out what I believed. After all, I had already established myself as a Christian.
Upon entering St. Thomas, I enrolled in the required entry level theology course where I did just the opposite. I learned solely about Catholicism. Here, we read scripture, spoke about the trinity and applied biblical lessons to our lives. But there was very little question-asking, and not one chart. I simply accepted what I learned as proverbial truth.
My theory was that if Christianity was good enough for the people that I respected most in the world, like Mother Theresa and my own mother, than it was good enough for me.
Until the Dalai Lama singlehandedly crushed that theory with a religious curveball via Facebook.
It wasn’t the words that he wrote, but rather the fact that he wrote them at all. He made a profound notion suggesting that conviction is both a personal dialogue within ourselves and a conscious decision to enter into the unknown. He forces us to ask the tough questions like, what do I believe and why do I believe it?
Ultimately faith isn’t fueled by answers, it’s fueled by questions. Ambiguous, just as they should be.
Carly Samuelson can be reached at email@example.com.