Wednesday evenings here in Indianola a group of about ten Quakers gather for meeting for worship. Most I have known for much of my life. Someone I hadn’t known is Lyle Smith, and since he doesn’t often say much, I haven’t learned much about him. Last week he distributed copies of his new book, Why We Believe in GOD and Other Discussions. From the back cover: “Lyle Smith is a 93-year-old lawyer who has read and seen much history and he notes a growing displeasure with Capitalism. In the past when one civilization gave way to a new one it was usually followed by a new religion.”
I was pleased to read much that is related to what I’ve been thinking and writing about for years. The first chapter in Part I, Why We Believe in God, is titled Day One. In it four friends have a conversation about religion. Following are some quotes:
“I haven’t gone to church much for a long time but I am beginning to become interested in the possibility that religion might help get us to a better future than science alone.”
I, too, have been writing that we are in a period of spiritual poverty. But I have a growing sense of people searching for something that speaks to their spiritual needs. It has become increasingly apparent to more people that relying on science and logic alone has not worked out well.
“It was the belief in God as ruling patriarch and then as monarch which helped humans to visualize and formulate large communities and nations. Without religions, humans would probably still be living by hunting and gathering. The question I have been asking myself is: Have we outgrown the need for this larger vision? And if not, is there any better way to spread it before our world?”
I didn’t occur to me that religion played a role in the development of large communities and nations.
One of the things we discussed last weekend at the Midyear Meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) was how difficult it was for others to find our meetings. Our meetinghouses usually don’t have large signs in front of them, for example. Most don’t advertise meeting times in local publications. This was the reason I created the Facebook group, Quakers Welcome Spiritual Seekers, thinking that those who search online might discover that to learn more about Quakers.
We also discussed how often newcomers will feel they have found their spiritual home when they experience a Quaker meeting for worship, often without any spoken words. As Lyle asks, “is there any better way to spread it before our world?”
My question about the quote above is how indigenous spirituality fits, especially since I have been trying to learn about that recently. I’m thinking the answer is related to how one defines religion. Indigenous spirituality permeates all aspects of native life, whereas most would probably say religion is usually seen as a separate thing in most non-native cultures.
Just as some newcomers immediately connect to the spirit in a Quaker meeting, Friends shared their experiences of similar connections in situations outside Quaker meetings. I’ve written about how spirituality was what made it possible for me to connect to and be accepted by the Kheprw Institute community in Indianapolis. Similarly, I felt an immediate spiritual connection with Native Americans who I worked with as water protectors against the Dakota Access Pipeline: “Sage was burned, and several speakers talked, mainly to those who were part of the vigil, about native issues. There was a profound feeling of spirituality encompassing us all.”
Maybe one way to interpret “without religions, humans would probably still be living by hunting and gathering” might be to say we would be better off without religions.
I think these are important discussion to have, especially because I believe the spiritual, nonviolent approach demonstrated by water protectors at Standing Rock and elsewhere is how we can address our unfolding environmental chaos.