Religion of Comfort

I love reading.  I get a lot out of it, more than just the enjoyment of imagination peopling the story in my mind.  In fact, there are times when the books I read come up with a wonderful turn of phrase that makes me do some thinking beyond the simple book itself.

One of my favorite authors, Mercedes Lackey, can occasionally come up with some of those little gems – even if for the most part I consider her to be brain-candy.  Brain-candy books are essentially just that, they are books whose characters are fairly simple in motivation, with fairly simple purposes, and tend to the same kind of simple morality play as some of the fairy tales collected by the Grimm brothers.  In fact, in the case of Ms. Lackey, many of the books she writes are re-imaginings of many of those fairy tales.

The book I’m reading right now, Reserved for the Cat, is a re-imagining of the tale of Puss in Boots (a fairy tale, but one not collected by the Grimms, in fact, this story began in Italy rather than Germany).  In this story, the part of the ogre that the cat defeats is a troll, an Elemental who found a way to stay in the ‘real world.’

‘he believed in God and the Church. Not, of course, the kind of honest and open-hearted belief that would also have protected him…no, indeed. He believed in the comfortable, dozing-in-the-pew sort of orthodoxy that promised him Heaven in return for the weekly offering and an occasional high tea for the clergy. He liked his clergymen modern – that is, a fellow who would talk to him about hunting and dogs and fishing, and not about uncomfortable things like the state of the poor and the exploitation of the mill-worker, or abstract things like morals and conscience. He certainly was not comfortable with those who took too close an interest in the state of his soul, but preferred those who reassured him without actually saying anything that his soul was in good repair and a place waited for him in Heaven – a Heaven populated by Cambridge men who would see his worth at a glance and give him the respect and deference he was simply was not getting here on earth. That this Heaven would also include plebeians who would fawn over his every word and beg to serve him went without saying.’

Mercedes Lackey

Reserved for the Cat,
Chapter 17 

This, to me, is the kind of person that others will call a “Sunday Christian” or a “Sabbat Wiccan.”  It doesn’t really matter what the religion of the person is, just how that person lives their life.

Faith is something that must be lived, not something that you put on like an old sweater when you’re cold or alone.  It doesn’t matter what your faith is, just whether you actually use it and live it in your daily life.  Faith should be something you experience every moment of your day, just like breathing.  It’s not as simple as breathing, and sometimes – particularly during either very good or very bad parts of your life – it can be hard work to keep your faith.

Faith, real faith, isn’t comfortable.  It may be comforting, but that’s an entirely different thing from being comfortable.

Faith, no matter the religion, means you have to be aware of how your choices affect the world around you.  Whether it is Christianity with it’s message of love for God AND your neighbors, or Wicca with it’s expectation of “harm none” (and the associated awareness and expectation of karma if there is no choice you can make that “harms none”), or Buddhism with its striving for no expectation  or attachment, you are ultimately responsible for your choices.

This is what the attitude of entitlement brings to us.  This utter conviction that the world “owes us” and that, of course, our form of the Divine approves of us – no matter what choices we make.  This is the narcissist who believes that he/she is the only real thing in the world, and that they deserve to be worshiped and complemented for every little good thing (or even every mediocre thing) they’ve ever done.  This is the abuser who feels that they have every right to punish those who won’t worship them.

It’s this kind of believer that makes anyone whose faith doesn’t match their own into the bogey-man.  Those who think that someone’s faith must match their own in every way in order to attain Paradise.  I’m not talking about the person who’s faith states that there is “another place” for unbelievers, but the person who looks at their own fellow believers (even in their own church) and thinks, “They don’t act like me, so God must hate them.”

What your faith is, is between yourself and the form of the Divine that you have faith in.  In the end, the Divine and you must come to terms.  I leave it to the Divine to make it clear to you.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel sad if you are someone like this, that you will never live your life to the fullness of the blessings the Divine has given you, simply because other people may have been blessed with more.

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