Tuesday, April 14, 2009

religion for adults

Religion also has its good points.

By "religion," I mean the organizations that offer direction and peace to those who lack direction and peace ... the steeples against the New England sky, the temples in Jerusalem, the minarets in Mecca, the gods and goddesses in India, the stupas in Nepal, etc. Everywhere, people have their difficulties and sorrows and longings and religion, at its best, points the way. Religion claims a home in the ineffable and encourages the 'effable.'

It is enough for many people to have the sorts of directions that religion encourages. Social order is maintained and people are happier when they are good. The fact that religion can tip over into manipulative authoritarianism ... well, it's a danger with endless examples, but still, "hope springs eternal." Just the idea of a peaceful and soothing something-or-other is an enormous relief to those who seek relief from the thickets of confusion and difficulty. "Thank God!" is sometimes more than an idle phrase.

And who would begrudge anyone a little relief? Not I.

But within the framework of religion, there are sometimes a few who will step back from their relief and wonder, in one form or another, "Who is this very god of very gods?" What is the foundation to which religion points and about which it can speak and on which it bases its encouragements? Seriously, personally ... who is this god? Don't read me a book ... tell me the truth.

And it is in such questions from the few that religion meets its greatest test. Many recoil in horror or fear, papering over those horrors and fears with circular reasonings that lead back to the established fold: "No one can know god," they may say. Or, "We know god through his works." Or, "Come back to the temple and be comforted."

No one can know god. But if no one can know god, how will religion respond to those who want to know god? How will the good shepherd show love for his children? Well, love sacrifices everything ... even religion.

Worse than the blood-lettings of the Crusades is the frequent unwillingness or inability of religion to love its adherents -- adherents who include the few who demand an answer that goes beyond a warming relief or a comforting social order.

And this is the juncture at which childish religions stand in contrast to the adults. Adults do not fear the questions and quests their children embark on. They support and point. Adults may not know the answers, but they do not fear or rebuff the questions. After all, they love their children.

And would die for them.

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