Sunday, May 13, 2007

We're All Right (Enough)

Religions seem to compete for members, trying to convince people that one Religion is best of all or in some cases that a particular Religion is exclusively "right." Besides the faithful (and sometimes fanatical) there are also the committed skeptics, insisting that our universe is completely material, our lives are brief and fragile, and Religion is a symptom (or even cause) of deep neurosis. And so the tug of war continues between the Religion and the non-Religious and among the Religious the struggle continues to "prove" which tradition is really "right."

Jesus (pardon my Christian bias) actually said something (or at least the statement is attributed to him) that might settle the issue entirely. The Jesus saying goes simply, "The Sabbath was made of humans, not humans for the Sabbath." The Sabbath, in his culture, was a day of observance mandated by his Religion. We could capture the spirit of the saying by paraphrasing it as, "Religion was made for humans, not humans for Religion."

If we could just remember that Religion is a tool for us to use rather than an imperial overlord that uses us, we could eliminate the angst created by religious competition. If Religion doesn't make sense to you or if it offends you, then a secular life is probably for you. If your personality thrives in the community that Religion creates or if you find comfort or empowerment from Religious ritual, then a life of Religious devotion may be for you. Which Religion? Pick one! Shop around for one that helps you live with love and hope and compassion and peace and then enjoy it. But please allow your neighbor to find the one that works for her/him. It may not be the one that you chose, and that has to be OK.

Is Religion bunk? I enjoy the ritual, sacred prose and poetry, and community that Religion brings together. So, I tend to believe Religion has merit. But I cannot accept that one Religion has all the answers or that members of one Religion are rewarded with an eternal paradise while all others are excluded from that paradise. The human soul exists or it doesn't. If it exists it is eternal or it isn't. But the soul's existence and durability doesn't depend on Religion. Religion isn't insurance to protect us from a worst-case afterlife scenario. Religion is for us, here and now. It seems to me this simple idea could de-fang Religion and thus allow it to enhance human life. Helping us is what Religion is for; let's not allow it to be the excuse we use to hurt, exclude, or vilify others any longer.

No comments: