A religious idea for our time


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Have you strayed from the religion you were raised in? If so, you’re like many today.

My mind has been wrapped around matters of religion in the past few weeks. For example, earlier this month I posted a piece about post-holiday thoughts on rethinking the message of Christmas. Today, I’d like to continue that strain of thought.

If traditional religion has any value, can people who don’t feel part of it gain from any of its advantages? Can we take nutrition from the fruit of that tree?

My thought today is: Yes.

We all enjoy life when things are going our way: our jobs or careers; our relationships; our financial health; our physical health; our sense of accomplishment or meaning. (To be honest, I don’t know if anyone has all of these pistons firing all of the time, but if at least a majority of them are at any one time, we feel like we’re living in the sunshine pretty much.)

But what do you do when the meal life has given you doesn’t taste so sweet? When you’re struggling financially; when you’ve been laid off, and you’re working for a fraction of what you used to make, or you’re unemployed?

Or what do you do with interpersonal troubles, when your relationships with your spouse, significant other, children or friends are strained in some way?

What do you do then?

Does religion have an answer?

I think it does.

One perspective on religion and life teaches us this: To some degree, it doesn’t matter what happens to you in this life, or even what you do. What matters most is not your happiness, or lack of it; your fat bank account, or your struggles with food stamps and various public aid programs. What matters most is not how many friends you have, or whether or not you have a wonderful relationship with a lover. What matters most is that you exist in this world, that you are a part of a grand mystery for which no one really has an explanation.

Right now, for example. You are reading this blog post on your computer screen or your smart phone. Your eyes are scanning left to right, deciphering the meaning of these marks I’m making on my computer screen. It’s magic! No one really understands how it works. (Sure, scientists will talk about a portion of the brain that decodes and understands language, but where did that portion of the brain come from? Where did those cells originate? And what is “understanding,” anyway? Can you hold it in your hand and point to it?)

The next time things in life aren’t going your way, remember: you’re part of something bigger than what happens to you, or even what you do. You’re part of a grand mystery, the grand mystery: existence, and the universe.


-Lawrence Hartmann

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Filed under: Art and Culture, Religion

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