I have always felt that there was a close . . . a very close . . . relationship between religion, belief, and a ‘way of life’. In fact, I’ve always felt that the crisis of religion and belief is really a crisis of a ‘way of life’.
What is a ‘way of life’?
It is a specific way of living in the world. It’s effects are quite extensive. Some of what it gives you include:
- It determines how you behave.
- It defines who you are.
- It gives you your ‘place’.
- It gives you a ‘style’ of how to live.
- It gives an interpretation of the world and your place in it.
It entails a certain perspective, attitude, and interpretation of things. In some respects, a ‘way of life’ is like a people who, over a long period of time, seem to grow, adapt, and be a part of their surroundings, their living conditions, and to their social reality. A ‘way of life’, really, is a strong sense of home, of being ‘there’ and of ‘living there’. It is a manifestation of constancy: the same environment, the same people, the same traditions, the same point of view. This constancy creates a ‘way’ of living, of being in the world. There is nothing to change it or alter it or modify it in any way. As a result, it is almost like a garden, something grown over a long period of time.
Not only that, it is something that becomes a part of you. It is not just things you do but, in a sense, a part of who you are. It defines your identity and place in the world. It would not be wrong to say that we become our ‘way of life’. This makes it more than just the activities of life and living. It is much more than that.
A ‘way of life’ is something lived. It is what you do. In the end, it determines how you live, how you determine what you do, whats right and wrong, and everything else in life.
There tends to be a lack of any dogma, principles, and justification of its existence. It has a quality of containing ‘self evident’ facts. These are facts that a person generally does not question but assume is true. This is generally because things just ‘are’.
Most of the beliefs are as if integrated into life, not set apart from it as it is nowadays. A person often cannot tell where the line is between “living” and “belief”. Living the ‘way of life’ is, in actuality, a religion. Many of the societies and religions of primitive peoples are good examples of this.
A ‘way of life’ is like a “style” or a “character” of living. It is a specific form and manner of being as a person in the world. Because of this it gives life a ‘shape’.
A ‘way of life’ tends to have strong roots in tradition that often goes back centuries. As a result, there tends to be very strong cultural forms of expressions and living. Naturally, these become very specific to a people. Because of this, a ‘way of life’ often gives a strong sense of belonging to a ‘people’.
As a result of all this, a ‘way of life’ often becomes something like a ‘base’ or ‘foundation’ for human society, life, and the individual. And just like a ‘base’ or ‘foundation’, any disruption or alteration to this ‘way of life’ has an impact on everything else.
It is for this reason that I have always believed that religion and belief are rooted in ones ‘way of life’. How one lives, and the conditions in which one lives, will determine a persons religion and belief. Any change to the ‘way of life’ and religion and belief changes with it. This shows a great sensitivity and reactive dependency between religion, belief, and a ‘way of life’.
This point of view conflicts with many of the ‘organized religions’. These religions tend to assume certain things:
- The viewpoint that religion and belief can be ‘chosen’. You read about it and decide which one you like much like going to a salad bar and picking and choosing what you want. It assumes people know what they want and that the individual can choose. It also places the weight of everything on a persons understanding and thought. As a result, it is very ‘choice centered’.
- There is a tendency for this point of view to think that everything is based on your belief. Once you have a belief everything else in life is supposed to as if ‘come together’. The point of view is that everything follows belief. In other words, it is very ‘belief centered’ in its point of view. As a result, the idea of any other thing as being central in life, such as the ‘way of life’ affecting everything, may sound odd or ridiculous.
- It is something you’re brought up with and told is true is true, regardless of where you are and what you’re doing. That is to say, what you’re told is true regardless of your ‘way of life’ your living. If your a Christian you have to live like a Christian whether you’re in Australia or Saudi Arabia.
- Many emphasize the ‘universality’ of things and beliefs. Often, these are described as ‘proof’ of how they are right. In reality, the idea of the ‘universality’ of things undermines the ‘way of life’. This is because it makes everything the same. Though they may be similar in an abstract way they are lived differently and its how things are lived that matter.
In some respects, ‘organized religions’ can be called the ‘uprooted religions’. They are reacting to a loss of a ‘way of life’ in general. That’s why they become ‘organized’. Typically, a ‘way of life’ is not organized. There are no teachings, principles, or dogma. In a ‘way of life’ things ‘just are’ – there’s no reason to question it. You don’t question the sky or the moon do you?
When humanity grew it seemed to lose the ‘way of life’. People became closer together causing exposure to other points of view and beliefs that were at odds with their ‘way of life’. It also created all sorts of tensions and problems between people (as typically happens). Situations caused much change in things. These are all underminig to the ‘way of life’ and that’s exactly what happened.
When the ‘way of life’ began to fall, there appeared religions and beliefs with definate principles and dogma – the ‘organized religion’ – to take its place, almost as if to fill the void. These include Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, etc. These gave a sense of constancy and security the ‘way of life’ used to give . . . at least for a while.
But humanity continued to grow and grow. Again we see different points of views contradicting everything. People collided causing endless tensions. There was endless pointless change. As these grew and got worse they began to undermine the ‘organized religions’ just as they did with the ‘way of life’. They, too, began to deteriorate.
And so here we seem to stand in history – the ‘way of life’ deteriorated, the ‘organized religion’ deteriorated. What’s next? So far it seems nothing. Oh, there have been attempts to replace them. Science tried to be the new ‘religion’, and failed. Nationalism tried to be the new god, and failed. As a result of these failures there seems a sense of confusion and alienation. What we have become is a people who have lost something and don’t know how to get it back. We’ve become like rafters traveling down the river to who knows where.
In some sense, consumerism, mass communication, etc. are giving a ‘half religion’ quality nowadays. People look at them as something to look at and follow, like some religion. Even now, you can see its not fullfilling anything . . . but its all we have, and so we make what we can of it. This creates a ‘way of life’ that seems almost like an illusion, a ‘half way of life’, a ‘half religion’, a ‘half belief’ but nothing is definate. We seem to be in a phase of what could be described as a ‘mass society illusion’ . . . it’s the best we can do.
All this seems to show a pattern in human civilization:
‘way of life’ > uprooted > ‘organized religion’ > uprooted > various attempts > failed > confusion/alienation > ‘mass society illusion’
The continual and endless loss of the ‘base’ or ‘foundation’ – the ‘way of life’ – which we now face seems to of created a ‘way of life’ without a ‘base’ or ‘foundation’. We are as if tumble weeds now, drifting to who knows where. Being desparate for some ‘base’ or ‘foundation’ we try to find substitutes which just aren’t good enough and simply don’t work . . . but its all we have.
Oftentimes, we are told that we need religion, god, and belief nowadays. I have always disagreed. These are perspectives from ‘organized religion’. What we need is the ‘way of life’ for that is where everything starts. It’s loss started us on the crisis of religion and belief and led us to where we are now.
But a ‘way of life’, once lost, is almost impossible to regain. This is most especially true for a society. But, as individuals, we can regain a sense of it. In general, we have to recreate the original conditions as best as we can. These could include:
- Having a defined belief.
- Living that belief.
- Avoiding change and exposure to different things.
- Associating with a small amount of people. It’s probably best to not have too much exposure to different types of people (such as from different cultures).
- Avoid conflict with people.
- Stay with things that are relevent to you.
In a sense, this is nothing but creating something like a ‘niche’ for ourselves in the world, carving a piece of the world out and living in it. To me, it’s not unlike living like many animals in nature: You have your ‘niche’ and you stay in it.
I can just hear, in my head, modern people saying that this is like “living under a rock” or, one of my personal favorites, that a person is “scared of the world”. But who is really living under a rock? Who is the one who is really scared? All the ‘yes men’ to the modern world do is agree and go with the flow. What’s so great about that? That’s the easy way out, the path of least resistence. I do not want to go with the flow . . . I want to live!