I have studied lots of theologies: Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu. I have dabble in others including Islam, Shinto and Taoist. And over the years I have come to see theology as stories; stories to help a believer accomplish something like: reinforce moral systems, secure tribal bonds, offer comfort for loss and suffering, explain away troubling uncertainty and more. More nefariously, theology can also used by religious professionals to secure their status and money-making ability. See my diagram to the right which illustrates all the modules that “God” fulfills for people (see the related post).
So when I listen to religious folks theologizing, I simultaneously search to understand how their systems translate into methods to secure these essential human goals. I don’t believe their stories, but I think their narratives (even if wrong or delusional) can serve concrete, practical functions for them.
But we can talk about all these common shared human desires without using parochial theological chatter. Theology only adds an unnecessary layer of abstraction. In my previous post, I called this a “theology knot”. Pic to the left.
So when I question people about their theology, I am looking for these basic human functions or obvious inconsistencies or both. But I am often not as patient as I’d like to be. For after too much god-talk, I inevitably tire.
I actually find theology aesthetically unappealing — mainly because I think it is boring hogwash. It is not that I mind fiction, but this stuff is usual ridiculous. I try to remind myself that it somehow serves important functions for the person I am listening to but sometimes the person I am discussing theology with mistakenly feels I am actually deeply interested in the details. They forget that I have absolutely no belief in spooks, spirits, demons, saints or gods. It is at times like those, when I have burned out my god-talk neurons, that if the conversation gets carried away, all I hear is “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah ….”.
In my next post, I will put up the question, “Why is Theology so Hard?”.