Reflecting on my near lost of faith.

If you grew up like me, you hear all kinds of wild claims.

But after you actually studied basic philosophy, religion and history (originally because I wanted to defend these claims), you start to realize religious and institutional mythology aren’t always literally true; nor are they even compatible with each other and that’s not a problem, as long as one accepts religious diversity. Unfortunately, this is not always acceptable. Instead, there’s the tendency for cheap syncreticism, which is just sloppy and lazy. If you don’t know, just accept the mystery of it. Mystery is okay. But materialists always want to be certain.

What kind of claims do I find problematic? Many.

I am sorry, I am supposed to believe that this sutra’s claims are true, whilst also simultaneously accepting that this sutra’s AUTHOR is not a member of the true faith? That doesn’t even make any sense.

I am supposed to accept this children’s educational material from 17th century China is an infallible reflection of the teachings of Confucius? That this commentary on the Mahayana Sutras is infallible? That this frankly fictional hagiography is literally true, word for word? Don’t make me laugh.

I am suppose to accept that these foreign religious figures, whose teachings were conveniently propagated to China are somehow true, but that hundreds of other religious figures and their teachings, whose teachings were coincidentally not propagated to China at that time (or was historically destroyed), is therefore not true?

I am suppose to ignore the taint of ethno-nationalism and colonializing tendencies in religion? I really hate nationalism.

How about to so grossly misread and misinterpret Paul (not that he’s someone you should read as infallible either, since he was just a normal man too). My God. I couldn’t translate any of this with a straight face. Fortunately, it’s labeled as commentary. Thankfully. I would have huge problems if anyone claimed this was true.

How can I claim to have true faith if I ignore all of these heresies and lapse of discernment?

Don’t get me started on having to accept some heretical American Evangelical revisionism of Jesus and biblical history, just because that’s the only form of Christianity you have ever been exposed to. But you know, it’s okay. All of that I can accept, it doesn’t make a religion not true or unworthy of practice.

The hard part is getting the religious fanatics to leave you alone. They seem very invested in forcing you to be a literalist, or forcing you to accept infallibility (contrary to the teachings clearly making it clear infallibility is possible) but that doesn’t jive with their mistaken assumption about what they think religion is, nor what spiritual cultivation is. Fortunately, these days, I have divest myself of the influence of severely misguided people, and keep to myself.

This is for the best, engaging with people like that only makes me unfairly hate religion. It’s the people that are the problem.

I have little faith, but I am deeply invested in keeping that little faith as true as possible. 99% of “faith” is actually just constructs you can toss out if necessary. But that 1% that is true is worth cultivating.

The horrific realization you were actually influenced by borderline fundamentalists while growing up is truly terrifying (and I have this tendency to take their words seriously or with obedience, and that has lead to very dark times in my life), but the saving grace was that actual teachings are the opposite of fundamentalism (that’s the case for any religion, really).

That has saved me, along with close friends who have encouraged me to keep faith— ironically, none of them are members of my faith, or even religious. The people my religious communities would claim are “inferior” or sinful, are the ones who helped me, but I can’t even voice my own doubts to my so-called peers because literalists are incapable of critical thinking, and tends to react with smug condescension or outright hostility (especially because they believe they are more elderly, they are magically wiser. A typical Chinese fallacy). How funny is that.

Scepticism is a great tool of self-understanding, it is no wonder that the Buddha preached it so much. Unfortunately for fundamentalists, skepticism and insight destroys blind faith and malpractice; and they would react with hostility or try to gas-light you.

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Justin C. Hsu

Designer, Artist, and Consumer of Pop Culture.

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