In contemplating today’s column, I came across this quote. “The whole of mankind is groaning, is dying to be led to unity, and to terminate its age-long martyrdom. And yet it stubbornly refuses to embrace the light and acknowledge the sovereign authority of the one Power that can extricate it from its entanglements and avert the woeful calamity that threatens to engulf it.” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 201)
What is the “light" and the “one Power” which can help us to avert a woeful calamity? This power is found in religion.
The promise of all the world's religions is that science has given us the power to destroy ourselves and we need the power of salvation to save us from our shortcomings and teach us how to make peace with each other in our community, our country and the world.
However, some have seen religion as a cause of the problems that happen when religion is controlled by fanatics who pervert its use to their own ends. What is needed is a close examination of the core values of all religions and thoughtfully consider their application to today’s problems.
A suggestion for this task is presented in the book “Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief” by Huston Smith.
In the preface of this book, Smith states that, “underlying and interlacing the intellectual history and social criticism that the book deals with is a pervading and urgent thesis. That thesis is the importance of the religious dimension of human life — in individuals, in societies, and in civilizations.”
In part one, chapters 1-7, Smith traces the three historical periods that have brought us to the present. He describes the world before being diverted by our misreading of modern science. He continues to place the major portion of the blame for the decline of the influence of religion on this distorted view of science. Science is primarily concerned with the material aspects of reality and assumes, without proof, that all nonmaterial considerations can be derived from the material. This process has devalued the contribution of religion.
In part two he calls for the restoration of the balance between these two extremely important systems of knowledge. He relates examples from his personal life and quotes from the religions he has studied.
Smith summarizes the contribution of religion in the final chapter. “The religious sense recognizes instinctively that the ultimate questions human beings ask--What is the meaning of existence? Why are there pain and death? Why, in the end, is life worth living? What does reality consist of and what is its object?--are the defining essence of our humanity. They are not just speculative imponderables that certain people of inquisitive bent get around to asking after they have attended to the serious business of working out strategies for survival. They are the determining substance of what makes human beings human.” (Smith p. 274)
Phil Wood, a Baha'i, originally from New England, resided for 12 years in Barbados, 4 years in China, has lived 30 years in Hutchinson. firstname.lastname@example.org.