For a long time I thought to find answers in Quakerism, which attempts to unite the worldly life of the activist with the quest for deeper understanding. As William Penn once wrote: "True godliness does not turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it, and excites their endeavors to mend it." But in the end, I couldn't make it as a Quaker. I didn't believe enough in the central tenets of Christianity.
Those first years without a religion were really tough. I was struggling to construct an ethical framework out of thin air. Nature doesn't give us much to work with, really: genocide and wanton cruelty all over. I missed my color-by-number belief system.
Religion has for so many years been the sole arbiter of ethics. Now that it has begun widely to fall away, what will step into the breach? It takes a lot of power to make humans toe the line, and character-building seminars at the office aren't going to cut it. Are we evolving past ethics? Are we now to discipline ourselves? What will hold us accountable for hurtful behaviors toward ourselves, other living beings, the planet itself? Does the legal system have a right to uphold ethics? Will too much external discipline, via laws and regulations, foster rebellion without the promise of heavenly reward the church used to sweeten the pot? And doesn't too much self-discipline turn us into self-righteous little schmucks?
I have no answers. I have more important things on my plate, i.e. figuring out what to wear tomorrow. It's my first date with a fellow whose mind I have fallen in love with in my impetuous and generally ill-considered way, and I need to factor in hiking, swimming, possible rain, portability, and cuteness. WAAAAY too tall an order for someone so long accustomed to wearing my one pair of pants and whichever shirt had the least compost ground into it.
But don't worry, I brought out the big guns. Laura called and talked me through the whole thing, one article of clothing at a time. But in return she exacted a promise from me: I have to sleep tonight. So that's all for now. Wish me eloquence, mysterious beauty, charisma, an unending supply of interesting conversational topics, and above all LUCK!
Which, I suppose, is as good a god as any.