The Essence of Religion PART II
The Essence of Religion
What is the Essence of Religion? Where many people are concerned, the very first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “religion” are the diverse forms of religion with their multitude of beliefs, practices, sacred writings, messengers, and places of worship – and especially their multitude of beliefs. In fact, where many people are concerned, the words “religion” and “belief” are all but synonymous. When someone asks us, “Are you religious?” more often than not, what they really mean to ask us is, “Do you follow a form of religion?” or “Do you believe in a particular religious doctrine?” For many people, the form of religion – and especially its particular religious doctrine - has become religion itself.
To understand the Essence of Religion, it first becomes necessary to carefully distinguish between the forms of religion – and especially their particular religious doctrines – and the Essence of Religion. Where many people are concerned, the very first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “religion” is Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism – or any other religion or sect; however, all of these religions and their sects are but forms of religion. There are a plethora of different forms of religion and each of these has its own beliefs, practices, sacred writings, messengers, and places of worship. They are all separate and distinctly unique in much the same way that the colors of the rainbow are all separate and distinctly unique. Each and every one of them has its own kind of quality and caters to a specific kind of individual. The Essence of Religion, then, is that which is embodied in the diverse forms of religion just as much as light is that which is embodied in the diverse colors of the rainbow. The Essence of Religion is the common element which lies at the very heart of every religion. Just as much as light is not a color, The Essence of Religion is not a form of religion. The Essence of Religion, the heart of every religion, is necessarily formless. It is part of every religion, and, yet, it is also distinct from every religion. As it has been said:
“Hast thou not seen that Allah causeth water to fall from the sky, and We produce therewith fruit of divers hues; and among the hills are streaks white and red, of divers hues, and (others) raven-black” (35.27, Qur’an).
"However men approach Me, even so do I welcome them, for the path men take from every side is Mine" (Bhagavad Gita 4.11).
What is the Essence of Religion, then? Long ago, Christos effectively explained the Essence of Religion thusly:
“And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
And Jesus answered him, The first commandment is, Hear O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31).
In two commandments, Christos effectively explained the Essence of Religion, which can summed up as follows:
1. A love of God
2. A love of Man
In the first case, “a love of God” means a love of all that is good, right, and just. “A love of God” means a love of goodness and virtue. After all, what is “God” but the source and wellspring of all that is good, right and just; of goodness and virtue? This is what it means to “love God”: to be devoted to the ideal; to aspire to the virtuous. There is undoubtedly nothing greater than this.
In the second case, “a love of man” means a love of our brothers and sisters under God. “A love of man” means a love of the Brotherhood of Man. As it has been said:
“Have we not all one father? hath not God created us?” (Malachi 2:10).
If God is one and the father of all creation then it necessarily follows that every man, woman, and child of every race, class, and creed ought to be considered a “Child of God”. As such, every man, woman, and child of every race, class, and creed – as a “Child of God” – is deserving of our love. We are all as many siblings in one great, divine family.
These two commandments, the Essence of Religion, is all that Christos has ever asked of us. It is such a simple explanation – and yet how many of the faithful do we see keeping his commandments? Christos replies:
“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
The Essence of Religion is this: a love of God and a love of man. According to Christos, love is all that is ever asked of us. The Essence of Religion, then, is love. The Essence of Religion, then, is unity. The Essence of Religion, then, is brotherhood. This is the message of Christos that has been so hopelessly bungled in our day and age.
Religion is not Belief
Where many people are concerned, the very first thing that comes to mind when they hear the word “religion” are the diverse forms of religion with their multitude of beliefs, practices, sacred writings, messengers, and places of worship – and especially their multitude of beliefs. In fact, where many people are concerned, the words “religion” and “belief” are all but synonymous. It would seem that, according to many people, belief has become the measure of faith. It would seem that, according to many people, all that matters is that you believe – with all your heart – in fairy-tales. Believe and you are absolved of all your sins. Believe and you are promised the “Kingdom of God” in return. Of course, everyone likes this idea for it implies that we do not have to do any work for our own salvation. It is about high-time that this utterly reprehensible notion of irresponsibility were scotched.
Religion is not belief. Religion is not theology, that incorrigible religious fictionalism. Religious fictions, theological constructions, are not adequate as theories, nor are they adequate substitutes for the facts of reality. Religious fictions, theological constructions, are the bane of religion. Theologians are the peddlers of belief. More than anyone else, they make people blind to the light of the Essence of Religion and eradicate the sense of brotherly love with their endless, warring speculations. As it is said:
“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:14).
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned the Doctrine of Christos, the Doctrine of Love; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
The theologians have effectively placed themselves between man and God. They pretend to think, feel, speak, and act on his behalf. If ever there was hypocrisy and blasphemy, it is this. It is about high-time that people began to think for themselves and decided what accords with the Essence of Religion. We have the message of Christos. We have his two commandments. We have the Essence of Religion. What more do we need from the theologians? It is about high-time that we cast aside the yoke of theology. The world could be spared much unnecessary suffering if theology were scraped altogether. The loss would not be much.
The Essence of Religion is a feeling anent the universal brotherhood of life, whereas belief is an absolute, unreasonable emotional conviction. To be faithful is not a matter of belief. It is not a matter of messengers, sacred writings, and places of worship. Faithfulness is beyond all of these things. It is love that sets the standard, love and nothing else. Faithfulness is not measured in how much you believe as many people suppose; rather, faithfulness is measured in how much you love. The real test of faithfulness is brotherly love. The Essence of Religion is a matter of the heart – it is a matter of feeling love, not believing in fairy-tales. As it has been said:
“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
In other words, the Essence of Religion is simple. It is love. A love of God and a love of man. It is love in action. It is genuine kindness and goodwill.
What anyone believes – or not – is their own business. What matters is the willingness to serve ones fellow men. The Essence of Religion is a feeling anent the universal brotherhood of life. More than anything, The Essence of Religion is the will-to-unity, the will-to-serve. The demand for belief is dangerous. It is the right and duty of every man, woman, and child of every race, class, and creed to think for themselves. The demand for undiscerning belief is absurd. Reason is God’s gift to mankind – it is the difference between man and beast. To deprecate it is utterly deplorable and blasphemous.
Thanks for your time,
END OF PART II