I am religious. I want to be religious, anyways. But I'm not a believer. I get my faith second-hand, in small doses, from other people. It's addictive, and it hurts. It's why I've never posted on Irving's blog, and why I don't lurk there as much as I used to: for all of the countless failings I'm sure he could confess to, he makes it look easy.
It vexes me, because I should have faith.
I'm not sure if I believe in God, al-Lah, HaShem, however you want to try and anthropomorphize it. I can accept the cultural baggage. The problem is the verb. "Believe" is too active. Belief is an assertion. Bearing witness means that you can be cross-examined. Most importantly, belief can be refuted.
But if it was proven conclusively that God doesn't exist, I would still accept.
I accept al-Quds. I accept kami. I accept the Numinous. I have no rational way to prove its existence, but it makes sense that there be a Sacred Thing. And it follows that I acknowledge and respect.
But I don't have any empirical way to prove its existence either. And I am an emotional black box, who panicked when somebody wrote me a letter saying "I like you" because I had no idea how to respond to it. That's why I still lurk on Irving's blog: I'm trying to figure out how to experience faith.
That's the story of my religious life in a nutshell: trying to learn a new sensation because I feel that I would be made qualitatively better for it.
The Sacred is one, undivided, undifferentiated. I'm not sure if omnipotence or omniscience apply to it. I am sure that omnibenevolence does not. Only tangible sapient bodies are subject to moral judgment, and the Sacred is not tangible or embodied. It is not human. It is ahuman. It is Other, and we can't express it as a function of human terms.
(This is why I have problems calling myself Muslim. I accept the oneness of the Sacred. I have no problems with the prophecy of Muhammad. Hell, I can believe that the Qur'an was spoken by Muhammad while he experienced the Sacred. But this happened in human history and it happened in human language. To say that the Sacred has a copy of the original Arabic seems disrespectful.)
Expressions of virtue are a way to experience the Sacred. (Not directly, either. The closest thing I've ever had to an ineffable moment of faith was on the receiving end of an act of mercy.) And that experience is transformative. It changes lives. It changes people. And while it doesn't deserve worship, that experience deserves - and across history, across culture, across religion, receives - respect.
This much I've learned from non-scientific empirical data, a lot of reading, and years of demonstrably unsuccessful attempts at established religious praxes.
Which is, again, part of the problem: I know what I accept. My religious question is what to do about it.
And I've found, this afternoon, that sonnets might help. Not as a religious praxis: I have no desire to be a cloistered sacred poet.
But I find that I sigh a lot when I write sonnets. Not from frustration. Not from despair. But just from saying things that are more important than what I usually say.
Sacred things deserve that kind of respect.