Ways to Practice Religion
Most people today follow certain beliefs when making choices about their lives and future. Some belong to formal religious communities, such as Christians or Muslims. Others accept or deny divine guidance as a general concept without specific rules and traditions. Practicing religions may be private and individual or loud and public. Although each faith’s representative believes that their point of view is correct, currently, there is no scientific method to prove God’s existence or absence.
Three Stages of Religious Doctrines
Pre-modernism refers to the doctrine that supports fatalistic views about life events. In religions, whether talking about Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or any smaller movements, that meant praising God and divine creatures as the masters of the Earth. Pre-modern society could be characterized as primitive or traditional, although the main reasons for that would be isolation and the lack of universal knowledge as opposed to ignorance (“Pre-modern Society” 00:00:40-00:00:45). Before the 19th century, most of the religious followers strongly believed that their faith was the only one that could be correct and rarely resisted the local traditions of worshiping.
Modernism and post-modernism were the reactions to Enlightenment that started developing around the 17th century in Europe as a movement against the irrational dogmas of the past. Both of these doctrines emphasized the perfectibility of human nature and belief in progress through science (“Modernism vs. Postmodernism” 00:01:20-00:01:25). Quantum physics studies of the 20th century significantly shook the deterministic model of the World proposed by the traditional religions. Modernism was about rationality and logical explanation of the World and the human role in it. The philosophical movements that characterized that period include Materialism, Utilitarianism, and Marxism, all of which suggested a focus on human abilities and desires instead of religious guidelines and traditions. Post-modernism was based on the “disenchantment brought on by the Second World War” and technological development of the twentieth century (“Modernism vs. Postmodernism” 00:06:05-00:06:15). In the context of religion, that would mean freedom of thought and the ability to change beliefs depending on one’s current state of research and development. There are no right or wrong religions since every person has a right to their point of view. Self-searching could lead an individual to changing faith throughout life.
“Passing-over” as a Part of Religious Journey
While centuries ago, changing the religion or choosing atheism would not be accepted or supported by society, today, people could do so based on their conclusions in most of the countries. When children are raised in families with strong spiritual traditions, they tend to follow them, mimicking the adults. However, once they start exploring other possibilities through communication with other people or the Internet, they may decide to “pass-over” to a different religion and do it as many times as needed to feel comfortable. While in modern society, any member can participate in self-search and try different faiths and traditions, historically, there were several public pioneers among the influential cultural figures to do that.
One of such people was a Russian writer L. Tolstoy who followed the ancient orthodox traditions even when it was not fashionable for wealthy landowners like himself. He did not carry the Christian customs from childhood but eventually came back to them later after decades of self-searching and trying to find the meaning of life. Tolstoy was brave and straightforward when challenging the norms of the Russian Orthodox Church. Still, he also admitted that dying without hope for the afterlife was a depressing concept to him (Larson para. 2). The writer’s concerns throughout his professional career were also reflected in his works.
M.K. Gandhi not only experimented with different religious approaches during his lifetime but also changed and adjusted the existing terms to apply them to the society of his time. He supported secularism, but not in the Western sense of completely separating the government and official religion of the country. Instead, he suggested that the rulers of India should follow the Buddhism principles of creating the best peaceful opportunities for their people. At the same time, they would not dictate the rules regarding faith that the general population had to follow (Godrej 150). Gandhi analyzed religious principles and searched for practical and beneficial ways to apply them.
M.L. King Jr. also did not accept Christianity dogmas as they were propagated traditionally. He admitted that biblical miracles did not correspond with the scientific knowledge of his time and preferred to focus on freedom for all humans (Horn). King quoted the lines from Exodus to inspire and encourage people to stand for their rights but did not promote the fear of God as a supernatural being capable of destroying the human society for disobedience.
All of the mentioned influential men were spiritual pilgrims who chose non-traditional ways to explore and interpret their homelands’ core religions. Although they did it as a part of personal self-searching, their works had affected thousands of people. The Ancient world religions are not always good or bad; they use concepts that may be impractical or outdated during specific times in history. People like Tolstoy, Gandhi, and King analyzed them and searched the new application methods in their societies.
J. Dunne explored the concept of “passing over,” or changing religions throughout the spiritual journey according to the person’s current emotional needs. He stated that the religious choice was not static and predetermined, but dynamic as the person’s views developed through life (Perkinson 208). People are born in a particular environment, then they explore the different lands and traditions and eventually return to the original beliefs, but wise and renewed to understand them appropriately.
Guru Nanak and Kirby Godsey
Guru Nanak started Sikhism, a religious movement of India that denied the meaning of casts and genders, which was unusual and unacceptable in most provinces of his country. He was also a faith pioneer of his time as his teaching’s central idea was developing the personal wisdom and respect of Guru instead of blindly following the traditional religions and supporting internal greed (“Sikhism” 00:01:07-00:01:10). Nanak promoted the balance between the service and family responsibilities, thus considering faith as part of human life and not its primary purpose.
Dr. Kirby Godsey fully reflects the post-modern views on humans in his lectures. He says that every person’s dreams and abilities are essential, and humans should “be present” and proactive in influencing the world around them (“Dr. Kirby Godsey” 00:01:10-00:01-25). People can use the available time to affect their environment consciously. Active engagement is crucial for gaining the maximal benefits of living in human society.
“Passing-over” is not the concept that was encouraged and allowed several centuries ago. However, it seems to be an effective method for a modern person to find a comfortable spiritual state by exploring different religions and ways of life. Besides, studying and trying alternative traditions widens people’s general knowledge and allows them to be more tolerant and supportive of others with different values. Human societies are dynamic, and so are their religious views; to gain the maximum benefits from a diversified world, people need to study and understand alternative religious movements.
“Dr. Kirby Godsey.” YouTube. 2017. Web.
Godrej, Farah. “Secularism in India: A ‘Gandhian’ Approach.” Multiculturalism in the British Commonwealth: Comparative Perspectives on Theory and Practice, edited by Richard T. Ashcroft and Mark Bevir, 1st ed., University of California Press, Oakland, California, 2019, pp. 150–166. Web.
Horn, Joshua. “Was Martin Luther King Jr. a Christian?” Discerning History, 2018. Web.
Larson, Thomas. “Leo Tolstoy and The Origins of Spiritual Memoir.” Los Angeles Review of Books, 2017. Web.
“Modernism vs. Post-modernism.” Youtube. 2019. Web.
Perkinson, James. “Race War, Climate Crisis, Indigenous Witness and the Bible: The Word of Water.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, vol. 20 no. 2, 2020, p. 208-230. Web.
“Pre-modern Society.” YouTube. 2017. Web.
“Sikhism: A Very Short Introduction | Eleanor Nesbitt.” YouTube. 2016. Web.