|The way I look at it, which is
heavily spiritual, religion and religions today are largely off the
point. They beg the question. Religion today is not only off the wall,
it is irrelevant. As far as I can recommend and my views are not meant
to be taken as whole, infallible or in perfect depth, religion today has
gone on a wild goose chase.
First we should examine what function religion is supposed to serve.
I suggest that it is to produce spiritual people who are then nearer being whole, complete, and better people. To achieve spirituality is primarily what God has given us religion, to make us whole and healthy.
God does not wish anyone to remain a warped, stunted, selfish, materialistic person who does not grasp the full picture. For I truly believe a person without any spiritual awareness is not full evolving towards his ultimate personhood or, as we might say, healthily unfolding and growing as a human being.
Why is this? I am sure there are many factors involved. Far more reasons than I could possibly know or ever fully understand. But whatever the causes, religion seems to be or often has become only a dog fight between denominations, different types of faith.
Some intellectuals that I look on as semi-morons then suggest that we abolish all religions. However religion satisfies too many social needs, one of them being spirituality, to be done without. Religion is too deeply imbedded in the nature of mankind to be rooted out. Religion is like breathing, it is something people do, need and desire.
Abolishing religion and its different brands of faith is like saying when the train gets off the track you promptly dynamite the train. That is illogical and unreasonable. It shows no common sense. When the train gets off the track, you get it back on the right track.
The religious institutions all over the world, all faiths and denominations, seem to me to have lost their spiritual sense of mission. Their mission is primarily a spiritual one: to spread the shining peace of God that is creative benevolence and to publish the character challenge involved in knowing and having a relationship with God.
But I suggest for your consideration that too many religious people all over the world have gotten off the right spiritual track by dividing into literal believers and non-literal believers. The believers often have overlooked the real purpose of religion which is to encourage a reverent spirituality (Love of life and the respect for life that the world so badly needs.)
Let us look at it this way. One group says that a whale took inside its belly the prophet, Jonah. Another group says the whale did not. Now this is literalism (the whale did) versus liberalism (the whale did not.) Neither are transcending or spiritual concerns and I tend to think in the name of true religion the line from Romeo And Juliet, "a plague on both your houses."
Who really cares that much either way? Actually, a lot of people. It would surprise you. But is their concern for the superficial (literal or liberal) valid? Did he or did he not is NOT what the narrative is supposed to get across. When the emphasis is off the spiritual meaning and onto the literal or liberal argument, the whole meaning is lost and the time spent is wasted. If you believe, you are supposed to look for and think on the spiritual meaning.
What is important in the narrative is the SPIRITUAL meaning or awareness the believers are supposed to get out of the narrative. That is Jonah was not able to escape the call of God. The will of God was done. Jonah finally preached to those in Ninevah and, the narrative remarked, they repented. Good show! (Sinners seem more inclined NOT to repent in many other situations. So Jonah's adventure ended positively.)
It is very difficult for me not to support the conservative view. If it didn't happen, why get upset? It is easier to go along with those who believe it did. You may think not, but God knows, you never will know for certain this side of the grave. The emphasis should be on the growth and workings of the spiritual person.
When any groups start fighting over really or not really, they are off the spiritual point. Their use of their religious time has become irrelevant and perhaps spiritually divisive. They should be doing something practical in the Kingdom of God (serving others) as Jesus said, instead of spending much of their religious time on what is irrelevant and not spiritual. (Of course there are limits on what you can go along with.) I mean use some spiritual perspective and spiritual sense of proportion about just what is important in believing. Just because you can believe some things doesn't mean you have to believe anything to keep a creatively benevolent peace in that faith you have been called and chosen to labor in.
Remember one terrible mistake of Western Religion has been that it changed over time and history from a not fully translatable spirit of the Transcendence of God into a sometimes ridiculous creed to quarrel over. In other words as it became increasingly creedal, it became increasingly spiritually irrelevant in my view. And the more creed expressed the more buttons to quarrel and fight over.
For example, one creedal difference was: Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Son or the Father? This was Greek Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism fighting it out in the Middle Ages. But does this really sound any loonier and irrelevant than forgetting the spiritual intentions of the Bible and fighting it out over the relationship of Jonah and the whale. When religion sets aside its main purpose spirituality it often turns to overly intellectualized creedal nonsense. This reduces the potential for a positive spirituality to take hold.
I pray the Eastern Asian Churches on the way up today do not get lost in intellectualizing the transcendence of God into creedal needlepoint to fight over like the West has. Creedal fighting and bickering in churches that have lost their transcendent sense of spirituality and sense of spiritual purpose, are prone to argue and fight over the largely irrelevant and rapidly become religious jokes.
Please consider the fact that the main purpose and intention of religion should be spiritual: to sponsor creative benevolence, service to humanity, and widespread compassion. If mankind is positively blessed and spiritually enlarged by religions, religions may prove a blessing to a struggling humanity. If religions are simply going to be another divisive force, as it sometimes has been at times, religion will be another looming tragedy.
Let us remember the true purpose of religion is to offer spiritual growth and divine hope for a disillusioned humanity badly in need of what religions, at their best, may offer them.
Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.