The effect of religion

I think the spiritual world is real, but it is like a seeing man looking for the sun in a cave. Until he leaves the cave, no report, however accurate, will convince him that the sun is anything more than a description.

If it weren’t real, how to explain the dramatic changes in society that have taken place after each religion was founded? Christ walked around and talked to people, informally, for three and a half years. A carpenter, a son without a father, poor. And yet, not only did He utterly transform the Roman Empire, but His legacy remains world-embracing to this day.

How many philosophers have labored for decades to produce a change in the world’s affairs, only to end in futility, or be remembered for their thoughts without producing any actual change? Plato’s masterpiece, the Republic, has yet to create a single enduring city with even a passing resemblance to his hopes.

If wish-fulfillment alone were this powerful, how to explain the utter failure of millions of self-help books to alleviate the inner difficulties of the world? If the soul were so easily satisfied, religions should be popping up left and right. Who doesn’t want a piece of the pie that the Catholic church and the mosques rake in every day?

One man, for three and a half years, talking briefly to the people around him. Think about that. Another man, exiled from His home city, built up a band of Arabian followers and fought a few battles with them. So many generals have done more; why isn’t Aurelius – a devoted supported of Stoicism – as remembered?

And the Báb, who went on a pilgrimage, proclaimed Himself to be the Promised One, then spent several years in prison until He was executed. His ministry did not last seven years! And yet, look at the effect: tens of thousands not only went to their deaths, but laughed during torture, kissed the hands of their executioner, gave them money and gifts. When has blind fanaticism ever yielded such generosity of heart in the midst of suffering? When has it led to consideration for one’s enemies, to sacrificing one’s own life in order to honor the faith of his enemy?

If you look to the original history of each of the world’s religions, you will find a quality that no one has learned how to reproduce. Perhaps because there is something deeper involved? Because, although mystical experience can sometimes be explained in psychological terms, there is a truth involved that can’t be captured by description?

The whole point of seeking is to find. This is not an easter egg hunt in an empty field. The reason you bring up these questions – why so many people do – is because the question hasn’t been answered to your satisfaction. But why would God create such a hunger, and not provide the food? Every creature’s desire has a fulfillment: why would our souls be an exception to this rule?