We are multi-dimensional creatures, biological entities with several levels of existence: physical, intellectual, psychological, emotional, and yes, spiritual too. By the last I mean an inner longing to be connected with the cosmos. This longing expresses itself in a variety of ways, in most instances as a religious call. Evolutionary biologists and cultural psychologists may explain it away in the paradigms that are satisfactory for understanding the observed world. For others, religious yearning derives from an external intangible source that is not directly amenable to empirical verification.
No matter what the source, this heart-felt longing almost defines the religious person’s existence. Religion informs and inspires the values and visions that are part of a person’s existence. It also provides a backdrop for his/her life, present and future, terrestrial and beyond. The spiritual yearning has taken concrete forms in human history as different religions with deep historical and geographical links. Though its essence transcends such links, it is through these that the religious experience becomes meaningful, enriching, and relevant in its practice.
All through history there have been conflicts not only between those who hold particular versions of the religious spirit, but also between those who accept the validity of the religious experience as a genuine reckoning of something beyond the physical and the temporal, and those who reject it altogether.
The unhappy expressions of religions – of which there are and have been too many – are well known in our own times. But the positive sides of religion are seldom effectively articulated, especially in groups committed to the epistemic powers of science or by thinkers who have embraced science as the soul valid source of all our understanding and experience.
August 12, 2012