Easter Thoughts (a bit late)
I’m reminded of Joseph Campbell’s observation that we don’t so much crave the meaning of life as we do to feel it intensely. That is, he said, what religion is about. A cerebral perception of who we are and what we are here for is only satisfying if we feel it deeply as well. Religion is largely about an experience rather than a belief. The belief as idea is more in the realm of philosophy. When I say deeply felt belief I’m thinking of the Greek mystery cults, with all the elaborate rituals involved, as well as more familiar religious ceremonies.
I slightly misstated that quote from Campbell. What he said, as I recall, was that what we want from religion is not to know the meaning of life but to experience life itself more intensely. That’s what those middle-class folks who paid so much to get initiated into the rites of Isis or Bacchus were after: having an experience of the G/god. The same reason, I would suppose, why people take LSD, or write fiction, or fall in love, or try to feel God’s presence within them.
The practice of loving our fellow human beings or anything else is a somewhat different matter, to my mind. Slogging away in a clinic for the dead and dying in an African village, literally mopping up after them at the end of the day, as someone I know observed some nuns doing in Malawi, can’t be all that exhalting unless you are doing it out of a sustained, deeply felt motivation. I suspect they see what they are doing as the Lord’s work, ministering unto the least of His…which happens to be the same work atheists are doing under similar circumstances simply because it seems to be worth doing and it fulfills them.
I guess I believe losing yourself in something useful is better than trying to “experience God’s love” or get off on some other religious stimulus. It seems to me the latter can be just as selfish as, say, living for pleasure. I don’t put it down; I just don’t see why it should be looked upon as better because it’s “religious.” I’m the sort of person who believes there are always people walking around among us who are every bit as good as any of those we venerate in the past. And I don’t mean celebrities like Mother Teresa. I mean Nobodies. And there are just as many non-religious types among them as in the rest of the population. Maybe more.