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Faith, Belief, Experience, Practice

By Anomalous Thracian

Much as I love the idea of foreign languages and ancient etymologies, and much as I love a good academic discourse, in my experience most of these are somewhat irrelevant in usage and it is such an uphill battle to try and constantly hold to them and usefully debate them, even in purely professional usage. So I have my own set of definitions for a collection of key religious terms, which is the most useful contemporary way that I’ve found to navigate and actually put them to lived, rather than hypothetical, use.

It is my understanding and observation that people engage religiously and spiritually through a set of four basic spectrums: faith, belief, experience, and practice. I hear a whole lot of arguments (many of which I agree with absolutely, others I think are full of shit, and so forth) about their proper use and which is the “right way” of doing things religiously, polytheistically, and so forth. I think these debates are useful. I have yet to see evidence of a better way of viewing these terms in practical context (as opposed to academic assessment) and so this is how I choose to navigate them.

Practice: Arguably the “most important” spectrum of religion is practice, as it is through practice that one does anything at all. And religion is not a passive thing, it is an active thing. A thing that is done, a thing that is experienced, a thing that is attended and indeed tended. It is not conjecture or theory (those would be called theological study and debate) nor is it concerned with assessing individual qualities of mind, unconscious or otherwise (as those would be elements at home in the fields of psychology). Practice is the spectrum of religious employment that covers things like rituals, private rites, prayer cycles and worship calls, devotions at a shrine or gestural devotions at certain landmarks (such as bodies of water, bridges, or cemeteries). Practice is attending a mass or a religious misa, stripping down and running in Lupercalia, or carrying an Irish war goddess for a small collective of devoted priests and laity who sing Her praises with all of their hearts. Practice is the active use of and engagement with religion.

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