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Losing My Religion--A Rock and Roll Epistle

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Losing My Religion (A Rock and Roll Epistle)

By Richard Girard

"Every whisper, of every waking hour,
I'm choosing my confessions;
Trying to keep an eye on you,
like a hurt lost and blinded fool, fool;
Oh, Oh no I've said too much, I've set it up,
Consider this, consider this the hint of the century,
Consider this, the slip that brought me to my knees failed,
What if all these fantasies come flailing around,
Now I've said too much;
I thought that I heard you laughing,
I thought that I heard you sing,
I think I thought I saw you try."

Losing My Religion
R.E.M., 1991

What happens when you lose your faith, your deeply held belief in the goodness and rightness of some important aspect of your life, on which you have invested a great deal of your emotional capital?

It does not have to be about your religious beliefs. It can be about sports (the Black Sox scandal). It can be about the government (Watergate). It can be about some aspect of a religious institution (the Catholic Church's pedophilia scandal). It can even be about yourself (this often leads to depression). It is invariably about our making an emotional investment in a person or thing (including a false part of ourselves) that is not worthy of that investment. This is sometimes referred to as being a fan (short for fanatic) or idolizing that person or thing. The technical term is idolatry.

I was told twenty-five years ago that I would discover that life is an endless cycle of faith, doubt, and reaffirmation of faith, and that if I have never doubted, then my faith was untested, and would certainly fail if it was ever truly tested.

I discovered that the old gentleman who told me that simple truth in the Boulder Unity bookstore--where I had gone looking for a book on meditation to help deal with my recent (if at the time incomplete) diagnosis of unipolar depression--had given me a profound insight into the world as it exists.

He also explained that with each cycle of faith-doubt-reaffirmation, I would change my perception of what it was I had faith in: sometimes a little, and sometimes profoundly. For this reason he suggested I should always engage in a period of self-examination afterwards, to reground myself in the world.

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Richard Girard is a polymath and autodidact whose greatest desire in life is to be his generations' Thomas Paine. He is an FDR Democrat, which probably puts him with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders in the current political spectrum. His answer to (more...)

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