"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Why Religions Really Do Matter

There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.
George Bernard Shaw

view from the Saffron Monastery
in East Turkey south towards Syria
Someone had written "They Don't" under the title on the front cover of the book.
I looked at it with a touch of sadness. I wondered if the person who had written that had actually read any of the book to find out why religions do indeed work? Because the "work" in the title, Why Religions Work has three different meanings: first to reflect all the amazing good work that religions do in the world,  thereby cancelling out many times over the negative aspects of religions (because of course anyone can find the negative in any thing that they themselves have no time for.)
The fact is that religions are social capital writ large. 
Secondly, religions do all of this because it is within their teachings to do so; to care for creation and each other, for example.
Thirdly, and somewhat subtly,
they "work" in the sense that they satisfy a spiritual need that is inherent in the human condition and in the sense that science is perhaps beginning to show us some of the reasons for some of our religious beliefs.
If there were no religions established to worship a "Being" mightier than ourselves then we would have to invent one. And there is exciting science emerging that helps us to understand some of the beliefs the religious among us hold dear: discoveries about the nature of consciousness, the way the brain works, and the existence of empathy neurons, for example; together with mystical experiences and evidence from near death and out of body experiences of another existence beyond this one, even evidence for a "soul." These give us ideas as to why religions "work" in that sense.

St Albans Cathedral UK
In this book Why Religions Work: God's Place in the World Today, I wanted to approach the God and religion argument from this new and challenging angle. I wanted to address the lack of respect for religions, particularly in the Western world. I wanted this to be a serious yet accessible contribution to understanding why we all need to support religion as well as spirituality. I wanted to explore the global spiritual awareness we are now beginning to see, that comes with an appreciation of spiritual human inter-connectivity and shared responsibilities. Are ideas of spirituality and advances in the scientific understanding of empathy and consciousness closing the gap between science and religion, between spirituality and religion? Could these same ideas help us find better inter-religious and interdenominational understanding? Perhaps so. 
Such questions matter for the future of our world 
and I try to answer them in the book.

So I could have called the book Why Religions Matter. But that would not have conveyed fully what the reader will find within its covers. Religions WORK. And there are very many reasons why they do!

So I hope that person comes back and reads the book. But I fear he won't!

From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
From the laziness that is content with half-truths,
O God of truth, deliver us.

sunset over the canary islands

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