Monday, November 24, 2008

A Celebration of Truth

The history of mankind, for better or for worse, has been shaped by religion. Everything from great acts of charity to horrific atroscities have been committed before in the name of religion. Religion is an inescapable fact of the human condition. To understand human nature, we have to understand this religious impulse that stir from deep within our psyche, a force that is as strong and primeval as sex itself.

Why do we need religion? Agnostics and atheists argue, sometimes quite convincingly, that religion has done more harm than good to mankind. Wouldn't the world be a better place if such a thing as religion doesn't exist?

Those who are on the other side of the fence insists that without the guiding light of religion, mankind would degenerate into a loathsome state of moral debasement, where all our actions are driven by selfish needs, where it's every man for himself and the ruthless law of the jungle rules supreme. In other words, we will be no different from animals--a world without kindness and compassion.

Is this true?

Maybe the agnostics are correct. Religion does poison everything. Religion does not guarantee good moral behaviour. Its teaching and practices are so open to interpretation that it only provides a convenient vehicle for individuals in authority to manipulate them for their selfish aims.

But I can hear the man of faith protesting. Those who have had a spiritual awakening would know. Once you have caught a glimpse of the divine, you see the world differently. There's love, light, beauty and compassion. There's a purpose in existence; the soul of a spiritually awakened person soars in exaltation.

I've blogged on this subject many times in the past. Spirituality is an "irrational" but basic human impulse. Falling in love is "irrational". Listening to music is a "useless" activity. But human beings spend a great deal of their waking life falling in love and listening to music, sometimes even blending the two together, to great effect.

Wipe out the entire human race and let another species rise to dominate earth. Inevitably, as this species evolves, it will develop a spiritual impulse and invent religion. Emotions, intelligence and spirituality. These are the flowers of civilization. Our great works of science and art arise from the creative force inherent within these basic human impulses.

Religion is nothing but institutionalized spirituality. It provides a framework for spirituality to find its expression. Some frameworks work better than others in certain geographies and epochs. Some grow so powerful that they forget their original intent, and attempt whatever means to perpetuate themself, by subsuming the individual and suppressing all opposition.

Let's not forget that. Religion serves humanity, and not the other way round. Human beings need a platform to express their spirituality. The institution of religion is for the sole purpose of providing this platform. And we must admit a plurality of platforms for human spirituality, like music and art, finds its expression in diversity.

No religion is truer than the other. No religion has a monopoly of truth and salvation. Every religion is but an expression of being human--a response to the yearning spiritual impulse within us. Every culture respond in its own unique way.

The doctrines of religion is not Truth, but a celebration of Truth. What is Truth? We don't know, and we need not bother ourselves too much about it. By insisting on our version of Truth, we divide. By celebrating Truth together, we unite.

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