By the age of nineteen, my budding intellect had already decided that God was a figment of man’s imagination, but it was, as it turned out, a powerful figment; a very exceptional piece of imagination. My budding scientific and engineering education reinforced this agnostic feeling, but, because I was brought up as a regular church goer from the earliest age until I left school at the age of seventeen, I know that, deep down, I have a kind of belief that can never be erased completely. In my budding dotage, this kind of belief is now founded on a better understanding of man’s ultimate fallibility and frailty and is evidenced, everywhere you look, by the repeated failure of human endeavour, to live peaceably and with respect for our Mother Earth. This may sound very gloomy and negative, but it isn’t intended that way. It may, nonetheless, be touched by reality. I do hold a very strong feeling about the value of church and religious faith in our lives.
Imperfect though they may be, religious faith and ‘the church’ are still symbolically the last bastion, the writing through the stick of life’s rock, of family, community and a of nations. They represent a foundation and an anchor in stormy times; a prescription from the Spiritual Health Service. Whether for religious devotion or simply to reinforce community spirit and togetherness, it matters not, as long as the routines and rituals are maintained, reinforced and always accompanied by the search for truth.
The development of the established church and of all world religions over the millennia of the existence of the human race, has come from a fundamental human need, borne by political instability, pestilence, plague and all sorts of stuff that, whilst it may not have been experienced on a worldwide scale since WW2, still prevails in pockets everywhere you look. It is also driven by our need for security, for a common understanding; an understanding that, because of our undeniable individuality, our uniqueness, however wealthy, privileged and in control of our lives we may feel, we cannot achieve this alone.
The drift away from the church and the breaking up of communities; our increasingly technologically and commercially aided isolation, is attributable to an ‘enlightenment’ of the material age. This is an age in which our physical health and life expectancy has increased dramatically over the last hundred years. As evidence of this, the population of the world has more than doubled in my own lifetime; and all of this whilst our mental health has deteriorated inversely.
In the West we have developed a selfish and arrogant expectation of health and wealth and, at the same time, a denial of the need for a God; denial of almost everything spiritual, which, in our quest for an increasingly material life, full of countable and measurable stuff, has become intellectually unfashionable. What will it take to bring us together again?
Could we envisage a moment of cataclysmic crisis across the world, when even the calculating super-rich, sceptics and non-believers alike, could be faced with their own frailty and begin to wish, as I imagine we all will, when faced with our imminent mortality, for the coming again of a truly benign Messiah; a Saviour? Some beneficence would nice, but I personally don’t want to go as far as assuming a cataclysm. The process of decline is far more insidious and therefore harder to detect and calls on all of those who can, to be mindful of our own contributions to that decline.
Happy Winter Solstice, everyone.
[This post was originally my response in a comment to a post by poet, Kona Macphee, over six years ago, in her rather special blog, ‘That Elusive Clarity’, but because of the subject and of the fact that this thought process has preoccupied me philosophically throughout my adult life, I thought it worthy of editing, updating and enlarging slightly for inclusion, where more appropriate than here, in The BeZine, as a post in its own right ].
© 2017, John Anstie