Toward A Commonality Of Religion
Does common sense have anything to do with religion? Does the "common" part of common sense give us any hints about what is transcendentally true and right? Would common sense ever suggest raging and fuming against some people whose religious beliefs don't match yours?
by Schuyler Lake
Take all the religions of the world, throw them all into a big pot together, mix them up, let them settle. Apply a little heat, not too much. See what rises to the surface, and what remains dissolved in a universal system of belief. Suprisingly, there is very little scum. And what scum there is, has little to do with religion. The core beliefs of almost all religious persons, no matter what their religion, are shockingly uniform.
To an outside observer, the doctrinal differences between a Belfast Catholic and a Belfast Protestant, are so minimal as to seem absurd. To a non-Muslim, the ancient quarrel between the Sunni and the Shia is arcane and non-sensical at best, and completely at odds with the words of the Prophet himself. Yet these doctrinal quarrels, and others like them, result in horrible misery and war and death. These kinds of illogical and useless and petty feuds extend to all religions, including the Hindu and Buddhist religions, and many others. The fault is clearly attribuable to Clericalism, which has been and remains, the bane of every religion ever invented, save perhaps that of the Quakers.
Since the vast majority of mankind relies on religion as the fundamental basis for its ethical and social decisions, is it not high time that we all took a good hard look at the phenomenon, in general? Ayn Rand notwithstanding, it's fairly obvious that we (humanity as a whole) cannot get along very well without some form of religion. But need it always be so adversarial? I don't think so.
All religions, and in fact all humanity are faced with a common problem today -- namely the survival of the planet, and the survival not only of civilization as we know it, but of life itself. How this problem is addressed in religious terms, by all the various sects and philosophies, will largely determine whether we survive as a species, or not. What is needed is a consensus of religions, starting at the most basic level of agreement, and working down from there. Is it possible for all religions to agree on one single principle of commonality?
I think it is -- namely the sacredness of life. From this single principle, a host of corollaries might be deduced, and a host of very useful, international agreements made. Then perhaps a second, and a third universal principle could be proposed. I'll bet that given time, the world religious community might be able to come up with at least ten such principles, without ever contradicting each their own scriptures.
As it stands we have pirates disguised as Christians, raping criminal Beduins disguised as Muslims, and no good can possibly come of it. The blame rests squarely on the Clergy of all these religions. Show me a Priest who drives an Audi, and I'll show you a whore who spits on the message of Jesus. Show me a mullah who reclines on seven layers of carpets, and I'll show you a hypocrite whose heart does not revere the Prophet's word, but defiles it. World peace cannot issue from sources like this. It must issue independently, from the internet and from local sources, including especially renegade Clergy.
Renegade Clergy of all religions are a hope for the future
Whether "G" "O" "D" exists or not, is completely irrelevant. He can exist in one context, and not exist in another, depending on how He is defined. We must learn to see beyond our own linguistic and cultural boundaries, and to realize that the spiritual heritage of humanity is all of a piece -- that its essential nature is not linguistic at all, but spiritual -- which is to say, supra-linguistic. We must at least begin to understand that the divine nature of our existence is not sectarian in nature, but is rather a mystery we all share, and one which we have all tried to define, each in his own way. And that it is very, very important to all of us, no matter what guise we have given it.
There are those (a distinct but influential minority) who believe there is no divine authority to the universe -- that existence itself, that awareness itself, is a matter of random chance. Should this point of view be denigrated, castigated and condemned, according to some theological theory? Certainly not. It might be right. When it comes right down to it, none of us actually knows for sure what this existence we share is all about. None of us knows for sure what will happen, if anything, at that moment when we pass from the realm of the living to the realm of the dead. The only thing anyone knows for sure, is that we're all in for it. All the rest of it is more or less speculative, or wishful thinking, or what we call "religion".
I think it's time for the theologians of the world to show a little humility. To admit that they don't exactly have all the answers. That they have some of the answers, but not quite enough of them. To be willing to bend their convictions a bit, for the sake of the things they love.
Schuyler Lake lives in New Mexico, and has spent much time in Europe and Canada. He works as a painter of houses and "very odd and almost completely unsaleable canvases." Lake observes that patriotism and a sense of global brotherhood are not at all incompatible.
Lake's previous essays:
- Fred Foldvary on Religious Supremacists
- Annie Spiro Asks -- Can There Be Civility in the 21st Century?
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