Religious-mindedness is essentially uncritical belief. It is an un-self-aware flight from our actual existential, human experience. It is in this sense inauthentic—it does not live life as it actually presents, but as it wishes it to be. There can be authenticity in belief, but it requires the honesty that also embraces the accompanying doubt. Since doubt is usually taken as the contradiction of belief, this is not the kind of belief typically espoused. The consequence is inner conflict and denial.

We all have our beliefs, needless to say. Most of these more closely resemble “trust”. We believe it is worthwhile getting out of bed in the morning and to get on with the business of living. Though we likely do not first contemplate our reasons for doing so, we likely have some fundamental sense that it is. This is life being and doing itself—living. Trust is living. Living is trust. Ultimately, there is no raison d’etre—a reason to be—other than the apparent fact that we are. Belief is adding to life; trust is living it.

Any belief in fixed, objective “truth” is religious-mindedness. This statement must therefore also be religiously-minded—unless it can be upayic—unless it can self-efface and allow a return to doubt.

The surest sign of religious-mindedness is closed-mindedness; they are essentially the same. Open-mindedness is the opposite of religious-mindedness and its cure. Radical open-mindedness describes the essential mystical experience advocated by Zhuangzi and most other philosophies of his stripe. Another name for it is “emptiness”. Emptiness is release from everything grasped and into all things. Emptiness is release into vastness, which is the fullness of all things because it does not cling to any one thing. This enables Zhuangzi’s “soaring”.

If religious-mindedness and open-mindedness are opposites, can they not be “united to form a oneness”? Of course. This is open-mindedness. Open-mindedness in the real world is just this dialectic—a perpetual process of self-effacement by way of inclusion. Belief in the hypothetical sage who requires no such dialectic can easily lead us into religious-mindedness. For this reason we are entreated to discard the sages and worthies. If they exist, just let them be.

Get real. Be real. Be honest. That’s the sum of it.

This blog is steeped in religious-mindedness. This entire project has its religious aspect. And the only “cure” is for me to admit it and to unite it with its opposite so as to form a oneness. This is realizing open-mindedness—approximatingly so. Failing of that, I can unite with that . . . and that . . .


  1. Hi Scott,
    Would you regard the historical Buddha from the Pali canon as fitting into the category of “religious-mindedness”.
    As I understand it, he just sat under a tree, stilled his mind and observed every phenomena that arose and passed away as it was happening moment to moment with objective awareness (sounds almost scientific).

    1. Hi.
      No, I wouldn’t say that at all about senor Buddha. I find what Buddhism has become in its diversity a bit confusing so I have difficulty really addressing it. I do believe that the vast majority of its present adherents are religiously-minded, but that has nothing to do with “the Buddha”. Every religion, whatever its origins, whether originally inspired by a genuine and authentic experience or not, eventually becomes religiously-minded. This, I think, is because people are by nature religiously-minded. The Buddhist vision is a radical one that eliminates religious-mindedness and there are few who really wish to practice it; it’s so much easier to revere “the Buddha”.

      What I like best of what he is purported to have said is this: “I gained nothing through complete unsurpassable enlightenment–that it is why it is complete and unsurpassable enlightenment.” Every other project is a religious one. I think the “best” in Buddhism would agree with me. Zen certainly would and thus is very aware of the problem of its own Zen-stink.

      Perhaps it is the “objective” aspect of Buddha’s observation of passing phenomenon that suggests that I might take issue with it? I think this might be different than the objectivism that takes these phenomena as real, as does science (typically). But again, I am not really qualified to speak to this. (Which, admittedly, doesn’t usually stop me.)

      In any case, Buddhism can be as authentic an exercise as any other–it’s how we go about it that matters. (Expressing such an opinion–deigning to be qualified to approve of Buddhism, or anything else–embarrasses me, but it seems I must to answer your question.)

      Thanks for you comment and for keeping me on my toes.


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