Worship

Worship God, nature, humanity or a supreme force. Don't worship money, sex, power, yourself or other people.

Whether we admit it or not, we all worship...something.   The problem is, many people worship the wrong things. To worship is to spend time in focused attention to one's highest values, shaping one's life around a transcendent force or ideal.  Worship, if it is to be effective, requires concentration, effort and repetition.  It is most obviously and perhaps most nobly achieved through the prescriptions of an organized religion.  Few of us can match the accumulated wisdom of centuries of expert thought, so religion allows us to leverage the experience and knowledge of others.  Unfortunately, many people find this restrictive, preferring to set their own values, mores and behaviors: 

"I am a good person; I do good things; I have strong values. I respect other people and treat them the way I would like to be treated myself.  What need have I for organized religion?"  This is the creed of the humanist, proudly denying the impact that religion has had on the formation of those very values.  These are good people.  I love and respect them.  They are reinventing the wheel, a very big wheel, but it is a good wheel and I wish them the best.

"Organized religion is irrational hocus-pocus.  I believe in the laws of nature as discovered by science.  I obey the laws of the land but I have no need for arbitrary rules invoked centuries ago by superstitious people in primitive societies who had not even a thousandth of my knowledge and sophistication."  This is the creed of the super-rationalist who worships knowledge itself, a worthy pursuit but also a false god.  These people can also be good and do good but, like the humanist, they are neglecting a rich and valuable resource in the pursuit of life.  Scientific knowledge is relatively recent.  Human understanding developed thousands of years earlier and is in many ways more advanced than the hard sciences.  Religions encapsulate human understanding, albeit in some sometimes puzzling ways, and can enlighten our lives in ways science can not hope to duplicate. Embracing either one while rejecting the other frames a one dimensional approach to life. We can live much fuller lives informed by the insights of both science and religion.

"I look out for Number 1.  If I don't need something, then it has no value.  If it annoys me, I'm against it."  This seems to be the creed of modern America and it is responsible for many of the ills of our society.  These people worship themselves and they have chosen an unworthy god.

"If a little is good, a lot is better."  Many people worship the false gods Money, Sex, Power and Prestige, devoting their lives to accumulating them.  We all know the excesses that such idols provoke but many can not resist their temptation.  We need money to survive and we can do a lot of good with any extra we happen to have, but too much of it tends to become one's defining attribute, a narrow metric at best.  We need sex to procreate, to relax and to fully enjoy life, but in the end its zealous pursuit can become all consuming, leaving little for other dimensions of life and often compromising our higher ideals and hurting others.  Power is seductive for some and perhaps the easiest way to achieve leadership, a necessary contributor to progress.  But the greatest leaders work hard to avoid the tendency of power to corrupt and some of the most powerful people have proven to be horrific leaders.  Prestige is also a false god, a perversion of the more worthy pursuit, righteousness. He who desires prestige worships other people and their opinions, ideas which may be worth less than nothing.

So consider with care what and how you worship. Rabbi Hillel said "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?" Think about it.

Finally, do I believe in God? Big question. Here are some thoughts.