Reason and the Divine – Thoughts about an Unnecessary Conflict
edited: Wednesday, November 14, 2007
By Franz L Kessler
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Thursday, November 08, 2007
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Reason and the Divine are not enemies, but friends
Reason and the Divine – Thoughts about an Unnecessary Conflict
The Divine – beyond individual lives, and human society, has been given many names. These, however, are not fit for qualifying the unspeakable. Few people appear to have come close to the Divine, and those who have are united in humbleness and modesty.
How can one transfer unspeakable experiences to others? It happens through media such as speaking, writing, meditation, theatre and perhaps others. During that task of translation, sparks of enlightenment are getting convolved with ordinary consciousness, and textual interpretation often replaces true experience. At this moment, a religion is born. As it grows, it incorporates tradition and culture, and often pretends to understand what cannot be understood. It equally attempts to guide humanity, and to mitigate the horrors of existence. Humans are social beings, and, entangled in a myriad of problems, require emotional support. Religion, at its best, nurtures the soul, anchors emotions and can in such ways be a guide for a good emotional balance and a happy, relaxed life.
But there is a dark side, too. If the Divine is the engine, then religion can be seen as the gearbox transferring experience-turned-concepts from a close-to-absolute to the common profane or relative levels. There, it requires the building of a religious framework and the (self-appointed) presence of a clergy acting as defenders of faith against other beliefs attacking from outside, and also the ‘heretics’ from within. Religions based on a strong level or reasoning and less on faith tend to be the tolerant ones. On the other hand, religions who are mainly based on emotion or faith, and pretend to have answers for everything, are not only the intolerant ones, but are seen to fail on practical levels.
Of course there can’t be only one single experience or interpretation of the Divine. The human mind is multi-facetted. To pretend that there was only one approach to the Divine is not only flawed, but outright ridiculous. From a practical standpoint, however, too many competing visions may blur the picture, produce endless squabbling and undermine the guidance provided by the priesthood. A religion needs to be serviced, maintained; otherwise it falls into disrepair. Some gifted individuals also tried to combine pieces from different religions, and created cults with one high priest only, a person who is most times identical to the person who cooked up the religious cocktail at first.
The practical dimension of religion also bears an ugly political dimension. Once truth has descended from the high grounds of the Divine, it meets the day-to-day morass of human existence. At this moment in time religion has often morphed into a system of political, emotional and ideological control.
Human Reason, on the other hand, is a story of misery and splendor. It’s also a piece of highly unstable software- we all know it. Reason always carries a glimpse of loneliness, as it abhors the banalities of a rambling thought and talk. Depending on external conditions and moods, Reason faces the onslaught of one’s own emotions and is subject to one’s own and other egos. There also exists a world of false reason, a world of the paradigm and of stubborn and arrogant pseudo-scientists behaving like dogmatic priests.
Out mind is an unstable and touchy thing, that has to function on different levels. There is no guarantee it can or will work properly. It’s like the old rusty car in the barn, with rumbling engine, squealing brakes, and a leaking engine. It may, however, be the only vehicle we’ve got.
This said human Reason is also like a raw diamond that can be cut and polished until it sparkles and shines. There are many fine examples for the splendor of Reason. Science, in particular, has improved life around the globe in unspeakable ways. Where religion had miserably failed in sparking-off vision, ideas and incentives for a better life, science came out in glory. Science has affected human condition probably more than all religions combined – a thought certainly undervalued in our days, where people tend to turn their back to science and reason, and instead pursue religious-ideological-emotional concepts proven wrong many times.
When science removes erroneous concepts, it interferes with religious concepts at a given point. The latter are often based on little but faith and/or intellectual short sight. Reason also gets the flak of religion, when it challenges tradition, ethics or emotional life patterns in society.
But actually, there is no need for a conflict between religion and Reason. It is good, to be modest, and humble when dealing with emotions and the Divine. It is equally good to make one’s Reason shine and to erase flawed concepts with the required strength and assertiveness.
It’s not a story of ‘either-or’ but as-well-as. Humanity cannot thrive on Reason alone, as human nature longs for solid emotional anchors that are beyond individual existence. Equally, we cannot live without Reason – to do so, means that the blind are guiding the blind, and Law easily becoming a conglomerate of parochial arrogance, special interests, ignorance and evil. Reason and religion can also spoil each other. When talking Reason, Reason comes first. On the other hand, there is no point using scientific arguments in environments that cannot be measured. Putting science under a religious umbrella doesn’t make any sense – resembling a bird with cut wings. Equally, too much Reason can spoil the fine web of human emotions.
Reason and the Divine have their place in life, and exist to support, to correct and to respect each other. They are different sides of the same golden coin. Reason and religion don’t need to be at war, yet mutual tolerance and strive for the common greater good are mandatory preconditions for a successful dialogue. In such ways, individuals and society can advance on intellectual and emotional levels.
© 2007 by Franz L. Kessler