Going through email yesterday, I noted one sent to the distribution list for our condo association by one of the residents. He and his wife are both graduates of Harvard Divinity and are both local ministers — he of a non-denominational Christian church, and she of a Unitarian church. I think they’re fabulous people and I always enjoy talking with them.
In his tag line to his email was this simple quote.
"Religion is meant to provide deep reflection, not easy certainty."
Amen to that! As an atheist, I can understand it completely; I get it, if that’s your thing. And you know what? If I looked around America and saw religion primarily about that, then I’d likely just shut my mouth about it altogether.
It’s not the primitive, silly notion that there exists some literal anthropomorphic being who mets out rewards and punishments. It’s an effort to understand humanity beyond the pure material. Yes, I think there are better ways of doing that than consulting ancient texts written by tribesmen and sheepherders; but whatever, I guess. It’s not like I necessarily doubt theirs or anyone’s capacity to recognize a conscience within themselves and seek to understand it and reduce it to moral principles.
To focus on the literal is to completely miss the point — to completely miss any value that might be contained therein. It’s about poetry, metaphor, narrative, and parable; and in that regard I’ve never disputed the value of it. Just the other day, for instance, I was telling a friend that I’ve never doubted the ancient wisdom that, in the proper circumstances, "it is more blessed to give that to receive." I believe that and more, but I don’t need literal ghosts, human sacrifices — in all their earthy manifestations — heavens, or hells in order to do so.