I sit up in bed. Whereas in the past I would be rushing to the morning prayer service, I now just sit. When I suspended some of my religious practices, I did so out of philosophical integrity. If I saw no reason to believe in Judaism as some ultimate truth, then to act out of guilt or fear would be inconsistent and inauthentic. I would arise and strengthen myself not to pray and feel a sense of, I'm tempted to say, religious fulfillment.
Yet, as life has become busier, and my mind hasn't the time to contemplate the "answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything," I find myself slipping into a state of secular mindedness. A superficial perception of reality. A reality in which life loses some, if not all, of it's wonder and grandeur.
To be secular (in the way I am defining it here) is to see life as a machine and not a mystery, to experience life as a happening and not a calling.
To be clear, I do not view the lives of the great movers and shakers of the centuries-passed as secular people. Though they may not have identified to a specific faith, they seemed to live their lives with a sense of purpose. They sought to better the world. Through their innovations, discoveries, and movements, they changed and it many ways made the world we inherited a more pleasant place to be.
I realize as I write this that "secular" may not be the word I should use. Perhaps mindless is more appropriate? Either way, I fear a life, just lived. Indeed, some people are alive today, simply because they didn't die yesterday.
Religion, with all it's flaws, gives man a reason to get up in the morning, a duty to perform. And though, much of the time the practices become rote and almost meaningless, the practices and traditions themselves protest a life lived mindlessly. A religious man doesn't just eat, he recognizes that some do not have, and is thankful for his portion. He does not just wake up, but is aware that tomorrow he may not, and feels the preciousness of life.
Religion causes one to become reflective on life and introspective of self. Religion causes one to live mindfully.
However, I must say that though I see the gifts religion has given it's followers, I still find it outrageous to accept any religion as ultimate truth until it can be proven. Do not call it God's will unless you can back up that claim! I recognize that many faiths, Judaism included, have attempted to prove that their beliefs trump the others. And, where this makes for a delightful debate, for it to be of any worth one would have to prove that God communicated with man at all, which would lead to the necessary proving of God; a current impossibility. God, like Bertrand Russel's "celestial teapot," is an unfalsifiable claim, rendering it's discussion a disappointing dead-end. Therefore, one can conclude, no religion, by way of negating another religion, can prove itself, and any attempt to prove religion will result in inconclusive arguments for the existence of God. Without proof of God, how could you prove he spoke to man?
This then is my challenge to all faiths or religions who claim to know the word of God: The burden of proof is on you. You must bring sufficient proof that you are in fact a divinely inspired philosophy of life before any rational person should accept you as such. I think that it would be a great benefit of the world if we viewed our religions as philosophies of life. Suggestions to a wholesome and meaningful existence, while remaining only the work of humans and therefore imperfect. We could then present them, critically examine them, and either accept or abandon their teachings as we do everything else. Why believe dogma without evidence?
I do not to know if indeed the world void of religions claiming to be God's will would be a better world. Surely there have been philosophies that have claimed millions of human lives when in the hands of the wicked. Maybe the world needs to believe in religion for it to have it's effect?
On an individual level however, I see no reason to accept what any man claims if he cannot offer proof. This, it seems to me, is a rational way with which to approach all of life, a certain healthy skepticism.
To conclude, I fear greatly a life lived mindlessly. Since religion offers a structure for living everyday mindfully I can see it's value. However, I think the world, or at the very least the wise individual, should view them in the context of philosophies, and should examine their positive as well as negative aspects. Unless a religion can be proven to be actually some eternally binding Divine truth, which, as I have shown above, I believe to be a current impossibility, it is the most rational response then, to be skeptical of it's claims.