My ex husband and I had a cross cultural, intra-faith relationship. And by intra-faith, I mean he identified with one of the big 4 religions and I have my own idiosyncratic belief system. He hated it when I asked questions. I made him feel stupid. At least that’s what he said. I think it’s more likely that my questions made him uncomfortable.
Because what ever my question (usually starting with “why”) the answer was always that someone else – namely a religious figure of whatever stature or influence – had said this was the way it was. He had read his holy text, but he’d never thought it through for himself. And my questions about his belief system did not help in the effort to stay married.
It didn’t help when, standing in the shower together, I asked him if he would face judgement when God came back.
“And you’ll get asked about your life and your choices, right?”
“And is your religious authority of choice going to raise his hand from the back of the crowd and say ‘wait, wait, God Almighty, I got this one’ and speak for you?”
“Well, if that isn’t how its going to go down, don’t you think you’d better come up with answers that you can stand behind?”
Yeah. We’ll call that a nail in the coffin of the marriage.
He could have asked me all kinds of questions about what I believe, and I could have answered them. It wouldn’t have bothered me, because he couldn’t have pushed me any harder to come up with a defensible belief system than I pushed myself. I know why I believe what I believe, I know why I do what I do. My belief system isn’t so fragile that it can’t withstand a reasoned discussion. If I had a holy text (which I don’t) you could burn that if you felt the need. What does your act of rage have to do with my faith?
I think the more degrees of separation we have standing between ourselves and the things we believe – people, interpretative texts, cultural norms, traditions that no one questions – the more anxious and defensive we get about our faith. When you’re confident that you can stand at judgement day (or any other day for that matter) and take complete ownership of the path that you’ve taken, then it really doesn’t matter what other people do or think. Your direct connection to the divine/universe/source/G-d/Allah/whatever is not dependent on an external entity.
When your connection is based on rumor, hearsay, tradition, interpretation, etc… how can you not be anxious? If your belief system is dependent on any number of unknown external entities, then maybe the guy’s opinion down the street is a legitimate threat. Maybe this book being burned, or that film being made, or that gay couple getting married, maybe all of that is relevant. How would you know what mattered, or who could upend your world if your relationship to the divine wasn’t a monogamous arrangement?
Maybe it’s judgmental, but whenever I hear someone squawking about what other people are up to, I pretty much assume that the reason they’re so bothered is because their connection to their belief system isn’t intrinsic and organic, it’s a super-imposed structure that they can neither inhabit, defend, or explain. When your belief system is organic and intrinsic, then what other people do with their free time isn’t relevant.
The further you get from owning your faith, the more fragile you are.
Just my two cents.