Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Why’s and Where-for’s of Religion

Wise people say we should never discuss politics or religion at a festive event, and usually for good reason. There are many, many conundrums to life and the aspect of religion is one of them. So, when all’s boiled down, what’s the point of religion? (Let’s consider that religion and spirituality are one and the same concept—for simplicity purposes.) We often have to look in special places for these answers. Let’s look to the words of Helen Keller:

“The reason why God permitted me to lose both sight and hearing seems clear now—that through me He might cleave a rock unbroken before and let quickening streams flow through other lives desolate as my own once was. I am content.”[1]

It seems religion is more about others than anything else. But, we can’t do that very well if we don’t self-relate very well; God in an instant helps us accept ourselves. We get religion all wrong when it becomes about ourselves (our wishes, our preferences, our views, our desires). And if we don’t accept ourselves, life can only ever be about “us.” Religion is an opportunity to connect with God and the world, relationally, and in a way to offer the self (free of burden) to both those entities.

Keller continues:

“It is not true that I am never sad or rebellious; but long ago I determined not to complain. The mortally wounded must strive to live out their days cheerfully for the sake of others. That is what religion is for—to keep the heart brave to fight it out to the end with a smiling face [aligning with the Apostle Pauls’ philosophy]. This may not be a very lofty ambition, but it is a far cry from surrendering to fate.”[2]

So, perhaps religion is about embracing God, our world and everything in it; all life circumstances and situations equally. It appears to be a middle-of-the-road approach to life—a ‘narrow way’ of negotiating the plethora of treacherous twists, turns, crests, valleys and pikes.

This throws up for us a few further opposing thoughts.

Is religion the answer for the world’s (and the individuals’) ills? Can it ameliorate these ills, for instance, mental illness—take depression, for example.

It seems that religion (through us/me) is about sowing hope for others. If that were true then someone (or more than one person) might ‘minister’ to me, helping me with my issues and problems; notwithstanding God or complementing him in his work.

In the context of the world’s ills (and further, that of individuals’), I’d venture to say that religion both contributes as a cause for suffering depression and is something that prevents it. Both opposing standpoints agree, depending on the context.

Perhaps these two opposing views combine over the process of time, one preceding, the other proceeding. Let me explain. For religion to cause ills means something in that process is wrong. Once this can be resolved, religion can actually help. Again, we’ve established that religion is necessarily about others.

But, let’s consider two spiritual people: one well, the other not. Both of these people need religion—a spiritual connection with God and the world. One is in a place of entrance and discipleship; the other’s in a place of going on (to higher places) in the faith. Both of these people can benefit acutely from a focus on others, and on God.

Taking Keller’s quotes and amalgamating them in the context of ‘religion,’ we find that it’s about others and it’s a correct way of viewing the lifespan—a determined race where we are designers (with God) toward our own destiny.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Helen Keller, The Faith of Helen Keller (Kansas City, Missouri: Hallmark Cards, Inc., 1967), p. 19.

[2] Keller, Ibid, p. 21.

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