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Finding a Religion to Abide By

by Dwayne Eutsey

For various reasons, I’ve been missing-in-action from this column for a while.

In addition to my full-time work, there’s the part-time job I took on a year or so ago; there’s the fact that we have a house full of adolescent kids now (which may help you understand why I have the part-time gig); and there’s that new religion I’ve been helping to found.

Yes, you read that correctly.

In what spare time I have, I’ve been spreading the good word of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude (or Dudeism), the world’s slowest-growing religion, to the masses. www.dudeism.com

Inspired by the Coen Brothers’ film classic The Big Lebowski, Dudeism follows the laid-back path revealed by the movie’s main character, called the Dude (hilariously played by Jeff Brides), who exemplifies for all us stressed out sinners just how take it easy, man, in a world gone crazy with stress.

Or as Dudeism’s founder Oliver Benjamin (aka the Dudely Lama) describes it:

The idea is this: Life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it. Just take it easy, man. Stop worrying so much whether you’ll make it into the finals. Kick back with some friends and some oat soda and whether you roll strikes or gutters, do your best to be true to yourself and others – that is to say, abide.

Dudeism is in part a joke, but it’s a joke with a serious undercurrent drawn from the ancient traditions of holy fools and trickster gods with a lot of self-deprecating Taoism, humanism, and Kahlua tossed in.

Check out the Dudely Lama and myself (the Arch Dudeship) recently spreading the Dude word on ABC’s Nightline in the uptight Mecca of the world (NYC): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWGDZawXEf0

I bring all this up not as a way to convert you to ranks of over 150,000 Dudeist priests around the world or to push our Dudeist self-help book The Abide Guide (which, by the way, makes a great holiday gift for the Lebowski fan in your life and is available on amazon.com and other fine book-selling sites).

No, I’ve been thinking about Dudeism and other more established faith traditions in light of a recent new poll on religious identity (or lack thereof) in America.

According to an article in USA Today, when asked to what religion they identify with, a growing number Americans (19.6% and climbing) are classifying themselves as having none. These “Nones,” as they’re being called, include not only atheists and agnostics but also people who say they believe in “nothing in particular.”

This latter group isn’t exactly a bunch of nihilists, however. In fact, they seem to have a strong spiritual ethos, one in which they believe in God or a higher power, they pray, and they even consider religion at least somewhat important in their lives. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/09/nones-religion-pew-study/1618607/

So why not identify themselves with a traditional religious path?

“I like the ambiguity of going without a label,” said one None in the article. “I prefer to stress the importance of acting with compassion rather than choosing a predetermined system of beliefs.”

Not surprisingly, many Nones are finding a spiritual home in the open-minded and inclusive (i.e., ambiguous) Unitarian Universalist denomination, which I, as a UU (and a Dudeist, for those keeping score), can avow is known for its abiding lack of anything resembling a predetermined system.  

“We are bunch of individuals finding our own path — but we are doing it as a group,” UU Nathan De Lee sums us up in another USA Today article on the growing numbers of UUs in the country. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/01/unitarian-faith-growing-stronger-nationwide/1607243/

De Lee’s comment brings me to my point: these new findings aren’t ultimately telling us anything new.

I believe that regardless of how you identify yourself in terms of religion (whether you are a None or you practice an orthodox tradition, or you’re a UU or even a Dudeist), there’s something inherent to being human that motivates us to follow our individual way through this life with fellow travelers on a similar spiritual quest.

In his book Finding Your Religion, Rev. Scotty McClennan likens following any spiritual path to climbing a mountain: you’re free to cut your own path alone up the side of the mountain if you want, but that sounds (as the Dude might say) exhausting. Joining others on an established path can enhance our experience on the spiritual mountain (so long as they’re not on an extremist that leads you off a cliff).

As McLennan (who inspired his cartoonist friend Garry Trudeau to create a character based on him in Doonesbury) writes:

There are good reasons trails have been worn on a mountainside: they help the hiker progress without unnecessary obstacles and injury, they lead to points of interest, they facilitate camaraderie among fellow travelers, and the many feet that have gone before have kept the trails maintained for the next generation of venturers.

He goes on to conclude that “community is a very important part of a full spiritual life. We eat and drink together around our religious tables, and we celebrate together the great holidays and rites of passage. None of these experiences work very well alone.”

And in this often baffling and sometimes cold and indifferent world, joining with others along a familiar path goes a long way in helping us to, like the Dude in The Big Lebowski, find our own way to abide.

Dwayne Eutsey lives and works in Easton, MD, is active in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Easton, and is co-author of The Abide Guide: Living Like Lebowski

 


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