Reconciling Religion

Updated: Jul 30

By Marshall Defender Nyanhete

"Religion has largely become an act of interpretation. In these modern times, the creator no longer creates but is created."

The best parts of me I owe to religion. The worst, most obnoxious, parts of me originate also from that same source. As you have probably already gathered, my experience of religion has largely been an experience of conflict.

The decision to take up faith is a subconscious choice. The subconscious forms the majority of our cognitive make-up and in comparison to the active parts of our thinking, is so vast and multi-layered that we will never be able to comprehend the entirety of its workings. Attempting to would be a little like streaming a high-resolution video (e.g. 1080p) through a server capable of actualising only low thresholds of resolution (e.g. 360p). The extra information does not cease to exist but we cease to be able to comprehend it. In trying to understand ourselves and our belief systems, therefore, we must be prepared to accept the fact that there is much we do not know simply because there is much we cannot see. Rather than take offence at my attempt to do just that, I would counsel you to remember that the sky is best observed from the ground and the ground from the sky and it is often the gaze of others - removed from our situation - that offers us the truest glimpse of ourselves. In this article, I will offer up my understanding of religion as afforded me by my unique viewing of it.

The issue of perspective is a doubly interesting one because all religious structures are formed around a story. These stories often encompass the ideals of a group of believers and are readily believed because they almost always reflect the world back to the group, as that group perceives it or even as they wish to perceive it. Here’s the rub; because the believer, the person, the “I”, resides at the centre of everything they encounter, even identical stories, over time, become fallible to individuated understandings. That is how you can come to have a strain of Christianity in Southern Africa (catholicism: for example) that is all-together alien to its Italian counterpart. We cannot help this. We see the world through our own eyes, through the lens of our wants, our priorities, and our fears. In the past, this was largely addressed by conquest. A new ruler would come in, assimilate the interpretations that they didn’t like whilst reinforcing the ones that they did like (often because they validated their sovereignty). The religious world today is largely free of the exertions of Genghis’ and Julius’ and, perhaps as a result, it is overwhelmingly full of conflict.