These thoughts are pretty incomplete but if I wait until I find them satisfying I'll probably never post them. I'll start with a few snippets from that David Foster Wallace article I posted a bit ago:
The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship...By denying religion I don't thereby embrace the "values of this world". I often find the "values of this world" as annoying as religion's values and I generally think of religion's values as also the values of "the crowd". The values of the crowd need the values of other crowds. Balance of powers and all that.
Because here's something else that's true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things -- if they are where you tap real meaning in life -- then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already -- it's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power -- you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart -- you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.
Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default-settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing. And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default-settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation.
It used to be that all education was dictated by or associated with the church. Some Oxford dons led me to believe the first separation of Church and state in regard to education came with Henry VIII (something about funding coming directly from the monarchy, they had a lot of positive things to say about ol' Henry). But we're still in danger of homogeny in regard to education. The state is also an agent of homogeny. Homogeny is at odds with freedom (and imagination -- viva Orwell/Huxley).
I'm a believer in external reinforcers and religions are what exists.
I'm more of a fan of the imitation of Christ (minus the bloody end) than following Christ. Why does the latter often preclude the former? The fear-driven life?
We were involved with religion because we are on a growth path and it was part of that path. The path went through religion but I don't deny that religion took us further along that path. If we remained in religion we would stagnate.