The Essence of Religion PART III
Love and Hatred
A man who understands the dichotomy between love and hatred can say that he understands the Essence of Religion. Love is religion, hatred is irreligion. Love is faithfulness, hatred is unfaithfulness. Love and hatred are not consonant. In fact, love and hatred are diametrically opposed forces. Love, which is lawful, produces harmony and order whereas hatred, which is unlawful, produces discord and chaos. Love unites, hatred divides. That being said, love and hatred have many varied expressions. The key to understanding all of them is that the essence of love tends to union, whereas the essence of hatred tends to disunion. Love sees and emphasizes the similarities between things, whereas hatred sees and emphasizes the differences between things. Love, with its attention on the higher, tends towards humility whereas hatred, with its attention on the lower, tends towards pride.
One of the most unfortunate forms of hatred, then, is religious hatred or religiously motivated hatred. It is abhorrent that any form of religion should promote hatred – not least of all when the Essence of Religion, that which lies at the heart of every religion, is love. Those who are filled with hatred are irrevocably irreligious and unfaithful, no matter how much they pray. Then they only appear religious, for they have lost the essential meaning. They are hypocrites and blasphemer in the truest sense of the word. He cannot be both hateful and full of love, for love and hatred are diametrically opposed forces. Where there is love, there is religion. Where there is love, there is faithfulness. Where there is no love, there is irreligion. Where there is no love, there is unfaithfulness. As it has been said:
“He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in the darkness even until now” (1 John 2:9).
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
“No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).
To be filled with hatred is akin to living as a cancerous tumor in the body of mankind. To tear yourself from the bosom of the brotherhood of man by your hatred is to become sick and deranged. This is the greatest sickness and the epitome of madness, even – to sever oneself from the unity of life, which is God himself. As it is said:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ the brotherhood of man.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many.
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
And if they were all one member, where were the body?
But now are they many members, yet but one body.
And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Now ye are the body of Christ the brotherhood of man, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
The word “Christ” here is clearly symbolic and cannot possibly refer to one individual. The word “Christ” here is, in fact, referring to the brotherhood of man. If we replace the word “Christ” and the phrase “the body of Christ” in this particular instance with “the brotherhood of man”, this passage makes much more sense. In short, what this passage is dealing with is the fact that brothers should not be divided amongst themselves. That said, I wonder just how many of the faithful will understand even after having the matter explained to them as plainly as this? Of course, the theologians will claim that this is not so. They will say that this passage deals with Christianity unity, exclusively; however, that is not true in the least. To the penetrating mind, the analogy here extends far beyond Christianity.
The Strait Gate
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
These are, undoubtedly, two of the most misunderstood and misrepresented passages in the whole of the Bible. They have been twisted to mean something so incredibly contrary to the message of Christos, that it is absolutely imperative to address them, here and now.
Many of the faithful assume, with an undeserving smug satisfaction, that the “strait gate” mentioned here implies their particular faith, whereas the way that “leadeth to destruction” is assumed to be every other faith besides; however, nothing could be further from the truth. Just because this passage is found in the Bible does not, in any way, mean that “the strait gate” – is – the Bible or Christianity, itself; rather, love is the way. Unity is the way. Brotherhood is the way. The message of Christos is the way. The doctrine of Christos, the doctrine of love is the way; likewise, the way that “leadeth to destruction” is none other than hatred. It is easy to hate and, so, the way is wide. Any talk of one faith as the way is little more than poorly masked hatred. No faith can lay claim to love. No faith can lay claim to unity. No faith can lay claim to brotherhood. The “strait gate” is the razor-edged path of virtue which, when diligently followed, transforms the “Children of God” into the “Sons of God”. Of course, many religious brethren will say that this is blasphemous; however, it only goes to show that few have understood the signs and symbols which make up the scriptures. Love is the sword which is capable of separating the wheat from the chaff, the true from the false, and the word from the lie. Without love, men are blind and will see nothing but words. As it is said:
“That seeing they may see, and perceive not; and hearing they may hear, and not understand;” (Mark 4:12).
Love is the key.
We face a similar sort of misunderstanding and misrepresentation in John 14:6. All at once, the religious brethren assume they know what Jesus meant: that the Bible or Christianity was the way, that the worship of Jesus was the way – and, implicitly, that all other ways were wrong. In truth, it actually means something very similar to Matthew 7:13-14, which is why they are being addressed together here. Let us recall that Christos has already given us the commandments of religion: a love of God and a love of man. This is all that has ever been asked of us. When Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” he does not mean that – he – is literally the way; rather, he means that his message, his doctrine - the doctrine of love - is the way. When he says, “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” he means that no man can know God without love. Is this really so difficult to understand?
Many passages in the scriptures of world religions allude to unity or brotherhood; however, most believers of a faith, and especially the great monotheistic religions, have assumed or been taught to assume that this unity or brotherhood is an exclusive matter: the unity or brotherhood of believers of a faith. This notion is patently false. Where there is division, there is hatred. Where there is hatred, there is irreligion and unfaithfulness. Unity or brotherhood is not exclusive to believers of a faith, for unity or brotherhood – as love – cannot exclude anyone. Love has no conditions. How long will it take men to see that?
The claim that any one faith was more right, more pure is as senseless as claiming that red was better than blue or blue better than red. It is an argument based on unessential differences, a masked intolerance, and exhibits an ignorance of the shared Essence of Religion. Once a man has understood the Essence of Religion, he can no longer harbour such barbaric sentiments of ill-will towards those following other faiths. The only “heathen” he knows are the hateful who, in their ignorance, strive to drive a wedge between brothers.
Thanks for your time,
END OF PART III