Another excerpt of David Dark‘s wonderful Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, this time the portions of the introduction that formed the basis of what I tried to say in NYC

07f710e0e1d69729618d056ca364338c“Because religion can radically name the specific ways we’ve put our lives together and, perhaps more urgently, the ways we’ve allowed other people to put our lives together for us. To be clear, I’m not trying to encourage anyone to begin self-identifying as religious. That’s as futile and redundant a move as calling yourself political or cultural. But I am arguing that we should cease and desist from referring to others as religious as if they’re participants in games we ourselves aren’t playing, as if they’re somehow weirdly and hopelessly enmeshed in cultures of which we’re always only detached observers. On the one hand, this is a distancing move that keeps us detached from the fact of our own enthusiasm, our own rituals, our own enmeshments and our own loves. But it also holds another person–the ostensibly religious person–under a scrutiny I have yet to apply to myself. Calling someone else religious doesn’t answer the question of my own…

The voice, the tale, the image, the parable that gets through to you–that wins your heart–religiously is the one that makes it past your defenses. You’ve been won over, and you probably didn’t see it coming. You’ve been enlisted into a drama, whether positively or negatively, and it shouldn’t be controversial to note it happens all the time….

Religion happens when we get pulled in, moved, called out or compelled by something outside ourselves. It could be a car commercial, a lyric, a painting, a theatrical performance or the magnetic pull of an Apple store. The calls to worship are everywhere… Whether we spy it in ritual, symbol or ceremony, religion isn’t something one can be coherently for or against or decide to somehow suddenly engage, because it’s always already there. Or as the old Palmolive commercial once put it, we’re soaking in it. 

Whatever the content of the script we’re sticking to for dear life–that would be our religions–it binds us for worse or for better till we begin to critique it religiously and relentlessly, in view of the possibility of conversion to better boundedeness, different and more redeeming orientations or, to put it a little strangely, less bad religion. And a person’s religiosity is never not in play. It names the patterns, shifting or consistent, avowed or not, of all our interactions. Religion is the question of how we dispose our energies, how we see fit to organize our own lives and, in many cases, the lives of others.” (pg 16-18)