Religion in 200 Words
Religion in 200 Words or Less 11/27/21
Religion, to be meaningful, must be moral, compelling, and hopeful. If a religion is not moral, and cannot make us better human beings, it is not worth following. Religions that are not compelling, rooted in ideas or myths that are no longer plausible, people will simply stop observing. The point of religion is to offer hope beyond our lives, and if a religion is not hopeful, is it even religion?
These are the kinds of questions that I wish to be asking here, and to boot I will make each entry short and succinct, 200 words or less. If I cannot say anything meaningful at all in 200 words, I have wasted the time of day you’ve given to read them. Religious realism has as its task the need to be moral, compelling, and hopeful, and to offer a belief that can continue to guide us in the future. I think most religions can be realistic if they adopt to survive. I come from a Christian background and would think of myself as both realist and universalist, because any viewpoint that pretends it is the center of everything is in danger of assuming too much arrogance.
The religious view is most hopeful, the agnostic view most frankly humble, and the atheistic view captures our skeptical pessimism. All three views are compelling. I have long wrestled with this triple vision, capable of seeing the realistic elements in another person’s point of view. I think many of us may share in this view, but it may still be too uncommon. Too often we champion only our own ideas, and fail to think subtly, with triple vision. And what is this triple vision?
The believer has the most hopeful view of life, the one we wish to be true in spite of our doubts. Who cannot wish for life beyond the grave? Who can doubt that heaven and afterlife are appealing? Yet the agnostic may simply profess what we may all know also to be true: that all who live cannot really be sure what this life is, how it was created, and whether there is an afterlife. Just as all persons have reason to doubt and be atheist, for life can be grim, unfair, and at times seemingly random. This is the trilemma of triple vision, that we indeed think as all three: believer, agnostic, and atheist.
Triple Vision 11/27/21
There is an absolute necessity of triple vision. I think I can prove that in 200 words or less. If you are not tempted by hopeful belief, what kind of person are you? One who has easily capitulated to doubt? One who values your life, and the life of departed lost ones so little, that you would not care to see them, even if there is that slim chance?
Yet if you are not agnostic, and skeptical of this possibility in some measure, there are two dangers. One, that you assert your view is infallible and without question. Two, that in doing so you act as an oppressive steamroller that flattens all other views. So, a measure of agnosticism is necessary and wise.
Then, what man or woman alive cannot admit doubtful atheism? If there are not times when the world seems godless, orphaned, and lonely, I wonder how fully your senses have absorbed the reality about you? Are you too insulated by a smug theism?
I care not for views smug – either atheist or believing. A hopeful, but cautions religious belief, rooted in a universalistic and realistic Christian vantage point is the one I am best able to champion.
The Meaning of Religion 11/27/21
We all think we know what religion is, but more important to me is what religion means. I make my living largely describing what religion is, the basic facts of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, for example. More important to me, however, is what my students end up thinking and understanding about religion. Yes, I can describe the life of Christ or the Buddha, but if that makes no moral or personal impact on you, then I have failed as a teacher.
What religion means is not a constant, it is a variable. If we pretend that all Muslims, Christians, Jews or Hindus think a certain thing or believe in a certain way we have imbibed a crassly wrong idea, a gullible image. What religion is, in large part, is what we choose to make of it. Yes, it forms and sculpt us, without a doubt, but we are all capable of sculpting our views, making them more realistic and compelling. We are not obliged to be sleep-walking zombies waltzing to a tune unchanged for a thousand years. We are obliged to be flesh-and-blood humans, beating with a pulse and tune that is meaningful.