I was driving my rental car back to the airport from a gig yesterday and I caught an interesting interview with religion scholar Elaine Pagels (author of Why Religion?) on Fresh Air.
“You know, Terry, I think that belief is overrated.” she said.
Talking about religions as if they were about belief takes an image that’s basically forged in Christian tradition and applies it to Judaism, applies it to Buddhism or Hinduism. And in other traditions, belief is not so much the center as practice — saying the prayers, saying the Shama or going to worship, participating with others in certain acts, prayer.
She then spoke about her own spiritual practices:
I go to an Episcopal church often. I love the music. The person who’s the priest there is a man of spiritual depth, which I deeply appreciate. I go to yoga almost every day. That’s a physical and also contemplative practice. Meditate sometimes. I walk in the woods, see my friends… I’m enormously susceptible to what you spoke of before — the music, the rituals, the traditions, the prayers that I find there and also, too, those that we create. I wrote about also creating rituals, and many people do that. Many artists do that. And what many artists do is, feels to me, very closely akin to what I’m talking about.
Related reading: “We are verbs, not nouns”