Secular Religion: God as a neutral third-party

by phil on Sunday Jan 4, 2009 11:07 AM
secular religion

The basis of this entry has to do with these two principles:
- One of the most common causes of divorce are disputes over issues of child-rearing.
- All teams of equals need a tie-breaker.

Heated arguments seem to ultimately become a fight over who has a better handle on reality. But if both parties believe that neither of them are the end-all be-all, then they are humbled. They become open to ideas "out there." Belief in God has a "neutral third-party" feel to it. It assumes that there is a deity out there, separate from us, who has the real answers. If there are two people arguing with each other, a belief in God could lend itself to a sense, "well, it's not what I think, or what you think, but what some Third thinks." When an argument ceases (either through disagreement, agreement, or postponement), there may be less bitterness because the final settlement will occur during God's bookkeeping, not ours.

Of course, a belief in God doesn't automatically end dispute. A couple could argue with each other over their interpretation of God or religion. However, arguing over an interpretation of the neutral third-party seems less deep than arguing over "what I think vs. what you think." Plus, if both parties regularly attend the meetings of their organized religion, or maintain a strong belief in a particular dogma, there will be less room for misinterpretation.

In some ways, I'm arguing for the benefit of conformity in a relationship. I'm going to make the radical claim that "healthy" and "lively" patterns of disagreement deserve sarcastic quotation marks. While as debates are fun among friends or partners that don't have children, they're fatal to a relationship when you have disagreements about serious topics, such as how children should be raised or issues of money. Disagreement and debate can be fun when there are no serious consequences.

It's interesting that at the start of The Purpose-Drive Life, Rick Warren strongly urges you to go through the 40-day workbook with a partner. Warren says that all journies are better when they're shared. This jives with another important idea for strong, long-term relationships: it's important for both partners to grow together. Both of these are simply more charitable ways of saying that conformity in a relationship is better. Let's say Partner A takes off on their own for a vacation, discovers some amazing ideas about the world and life, while as Partner B stays home and develops a deeper relationship with their work/passion. When the two re-group, they may have disconnected from their cohesive and harmonious decision-making process.

One potential problem to the "neutral third-party" argument is that it requires both parties to be equal. If one partner is dominant, disputes seem sort of moot. But I don't know how prevalent inequitable relationships are over equitable ones. Some say not all relationships are 50/50, which may be the case in that no two people have equal levels of interest in each other. But, I more generally see partners talk to each other as if they're equals. Even among the households of immigrants from conservative countries, I've noticed that while women do behave like they're weaker, they will talk on the same level with their husbands when it comes to discussing affairs of the household or family.

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