Monthly Archives: January 2015

Elvis searched for Happiness, and so do We!

The Search for Happiness

Searching for Happiness

Searching for Happiness

The search for happiness often ends up at the door to organized religions.

Why do people think that a religion will bring them happiness? What is happiness, anyway? Everyone defines that term in a different way. Some people think that they must “feel” happy to be happy. Others think that by doing something or accomplishing something, that would bring happiness. Some say that it is a healthy state of being. Some think that money will buy happiness yet others think that giving money away brings happiness. Every person must define the word “happiness” for himself or herself.

Religion can provide a community and identity for people. I have always envied people who could go anywhere in the world and find a religious community in which they were comfortable. (Of course, I am being idealistic here, because being a member of a community automatically means that there would be different points of view.) I hired an electrician once who told me that I should join a church. He said that he belonged to two and it was good for business. Religious communities can be a real source of practical and emotional support. Many people are lonely and a religious community serves that interpersonal need of communication with others.

People wear clothing or jewelry or employ symbols so that you know with whom they are associated. They are really shouting “I am a Jew, a Muslim, of the Amish, or Wiccan.” Or some religions refrain from wearing makeup, or cutting their hair, so that they make a statement about who they are and their beliefs. Most people need to be a part of “something,” — to have an identity.

Elvis Collectibles

Elvis Collectibles

Religions answer the basic questions in life that are sometimes unanswerable, such as; what is the meaning of life? Who am I? Is there a God/Divine? What is God or the Gods like? How should I live my life? How did humans find their way to earth? Is the Divine in my life now, or in history, or on vacation most of the time? Can the Divine help me?  Will the Divine make me rich or give me advantage over my friends?

Sometimes people think that if they can obtain help from the Divine, their careers and fortunes will be better. Some religious leaders preach that if you are a member of their group, the Divine will shine on you with dollar bills.

Like Elvis, many people want to change their lives, but seem incapable of doing it on their own. They search out a religious community to support them in their change. Others hope for a measure of security in their lives. They want to be protected and cared for and they find it in a community.

Some believe they are perfect and look for a religious community who is perfect so that they can fashion a life of perfectness together. These people often create dogmatic and legalistic rules which they impose upon those around them. For them achieving perfection is following the rules without exception. And following those rules– being perfect– is the ultimate happiness.

Others seek out religions in their quests for social justice or equality at home and around the globe. Large organizations foster peace movements and feed and clothe the world. They bring medical help to those in need and many want to be a part of this life-saving effort.

There is research that suggests that belonging to certain religious communities produces both physical and mental health and a sense of well-being. But there are also studies that suggest that religions encase and imprison people and lead to violence and injustice as well as oppression.

Importance of Religion

Elvis Teddy Bears

Elvis Teddy Bears

In my many years as a professor, I found that other academics often wanted to downplay the influence of religions in our lives. (This was certainly the case with those that surrounded Elvis too.) They wanted to ignore it or place it on a back burner. They were intelligent beings and intelligent beings did not have anything to do with superstitions. It was difficult for them to confront the reality that religions influence us almost every day of our lives, whether we are within or outside of a religious tradition or community. Then there were other academics that argued that the only religion that should be taught on campus was their religion. Those responses to discussing religion(s) are typical. People don’t know what to do with the topic of religions, because they don’t know enough about it to discuss it intelligently.

Religion could be the single most important influence in a person’s or a nation’s life. You might be a Roman Catholic or a closet Atheist, and you might deny the effects of Religion, but all the same, it is always there. You can’t pick up a newspaper or a book or a magazine without finding evidence of the influence of religion on our lives.

 

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

Religions Become the Friends of Elvis

Why write a book about Elvis and Religions?

Statue of Elvis

Statue of Elvis in Memphis

This blog will begin the long journey of creating a book about Elvis and the relationship he had with many different types of religions.  It will not contain everything that will be in the book about his trek through many faiths, but it will open a window for readers to determine if they want to read the entire book.

Many people today are still captivated by Elvis. They place him squarely within their own religious faith. And it is true that Elvis was raised within the Pentecostal and Assembly of God traditions. He never stepped away from those roots. But he also began his own search for understanding found in other religions. He would never assert that his childhood faith was the only true faith. He discovered many and varied religious traditions. He questioned himself and the world and the purpose for his life. He wondered why such wealth and success came to him when he was so young. Could there have been a divine purpose in all that happened to him?

People do not know nor do they believe that Elvis investigated and read within many religious traditions. There are several lists cataloguing what he read. We cannot explore all of these books. But, in the following pages we will explore some of those books,  and give possible reasons as to why he would explore that religious tradition and what benefit he may have obtained by studying it.

Why study other religions?

Temple in Thailand

Temple in Thailand

Why do people study books about religions? Most of us do not have the time, money, or energy to travel to meet the founders or officials of religious traditions or the countries in which they reside. We must read if we are to understand the religious traditions. Books can become friends when no one around you thinks the way you do. Books can open the door to the past where you can find people with whom to talk. Yes, you cannot actually talk with them but you can discover a soul-mate (so to speak) in the past.

Books are Friends You have Not Met

May I give an example from my own life?  Early in my career, I was studying in an environment where females were debased and degraded. While I was accepted into an academic program (because a Federal Law demanded non-discrimination), the professors had no conception of equity, nor did they value the contribution of females. They had never thought of studying the history of females because females had no worth to them.

Selvidge's Dissertation

Selvidge’s Dissertation

As I began my research on religious topics, I discovered a group of men and women (in books) who thought the way I did about females, who were progressive in their interpretation of religious texts, and were also professors. Discovering these minds, these people, these writings, became a source of support for me as I walked through my studies toward a Ph.D. Their work actually gave me the courage to create and defend my own work.

I am sure that Elvis’ journey was similar. His questions were no doubt different. But the people and points of view and beliefs he discovered in those books were so important to him that he carried books with him wherever he traveled. The voices in those books became his friends and comforted him when most of those around him could not possibly understand how he felt, and certainly were not capable of discussing anything about religions with him.

Ireland Interview

Ireland Interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge, 2015