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Thursday, 13 October 2016

A few ideas about religion

Thursday, October 13th., Comarques, Thorpe-le-Soken.

I was thinking about the distinction, if there is one, between beliefs and religions. Some of the belief systems I have been reading about seem to be accepted as religions, but where lies the difference. Clearly there are belief systems which have nothing to do with religion eg. science, evolution, communism. On the other hand, religions must, it seems to me, incorporate a belief system, but that is not in itself sufficient. So, what else. Presumably part of the belief system must include at least one deity. Additionally must there be some ritual component which attempts to communicate with or influence the deity/deities? If there is a belief system with a deity and rituals is that sufficient to constitute a religion? Or maybe there is an issue to do with people involved - would a belief system held by one person who had formulated his/her own rituals to propitiate an imagined deity be a religion? Must there be more than one person and, if so, how many are necessary? Must there be some persistence over time? My inclination is to try to get a clear definition of things but perhaps it is going to be difficult in this case.

I have no religious conviction myself. When I came to London as a young man I felt liberated from the oppressive formality of religious practise in the Potteries; not to mention its hypocrisy. I very soon became indifferent to all the forms and rites of dogmatic religion; and religion, in the accepted sense of the word, ceased entirely to enter into my life. I still shared of course the widespread objection to dying but felt that the maintenance of a healthy mind and body was more likely to delay this unpleasant but unavoidable outcome than was going to church. If anything, experience has convinced me that the material world is all we are heir to and we should make the best of it.
I am wondering what to read next. I have a couple of non-fiction books on the go and am reading about Oriental belief in a general way, but I do like to have some fiction to carry me away - was that an echo of Emily Dickinson? "There is no frigate like a novel to carry you away" Maybe I haven't got that quite right but the sense is there. I am wondering about a return to Conrad, perhaps some of his short stories?

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