Stop Blaming Religion for the World’s Problems
I think that we ought to stop blaming religion for the world’s problems, whose roots I believe lie in the animality within basic human nature. If anything, religion and to a larger extent, spirituality, is one of key forces that gives human beings a chance to refine their animal nature and become civilized. The fact that many people, throughout time, in their quest for power, have abused religion and used arguments of moral superiority as a tool for political persuasion, imperialism, and manipulation of the masses, does not lessen the authenticity of the world’s religions and our basic human need for spirituality. Nor should the possibility be denied (ref. Dr. Andrew Newberg) that human beings may be wired for spirituality. Lastly, we should consider the positive emotional and health benefits that spirituality, when practiced with honest intention and seriousness, has brought to millions of people throughout time.
I respect the scientific movement, and encourage the investment of time and energy to the pursuit of scientific discovery. Just like religion, science has many schools of thought and different interests that are closely intertwined with it. It is very exciting actually, that we are able to grasp shreds of truth, in order to continue verifying the divine wonder of the Universe. However, often scientists, out of what I believe comes from their hubris, insecurity and difficulty dealing with the unknown, resist the reality that people have existed throughout human history (like Aristotle, Plato, Rumi, Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, Ptolemy, Nostradamus, and many more) who could not only grasp, but who were able to confirm for themselves as well as expound to others, many of the universal truths which modern science is only just beginning to get a glimpse of. All the way back to the early days of Islam, the Faylasufs played the role of bringing the rational process into the discovery of God. The origins of science grew out of this type of spiritual inquiry. In the end, most of the great philosophers concluded that God was beyond purely scientific analysis and could not be approached solely by methods of logic. One had to become closer to God through their emotional center, which is connected to the Spirit (ref. Ouspensky, Gurdjieff). I can imagine and understand why extremists from the scientific community, who by the way, can be just as irrational and irresponsible as religious extremists, would scoff at such remarks, demanding tangible proof and replication of such statements in a laboratory setting. Well, even these cynics are being proved wrong through the most rigorous scientific methods as we enter the era of Quantum Physics (ref. What The Bleep for a good introduction to Quantum Physics). We are finding that the God experience is an emotional one, and that spiritual practices, like meditation and prayer, have tremendous healing and health benefits.
The amorality of most scientific practice is, I believe, a flaw and major hindrance that prevents its findings from being significant. We must introduce ethics and components of morality and emotions into science – to make it more of a holistic process, and encourage interdisciplinary studies between various segments of science, philosophy and religion (see recent Time Magazine cover story for some recent strides in interdisciplinary approaches to science and spirituality); else, it remains something cold and removed from reality. This concept of specialization (ref. Scott Peck), while useful in terms of achieving depth of knowledge in a particular area, has major drawbacks; it is like chopping off parts of the human body to see how they work independently, and then never bringing what we learn back into the big picture – it is insufficient and leads to erroneous and incomplete results.
This is not about being moderate or extreme – it’s about being supple, rigorous and holistic in our approach to Truth. My hypothesis is that the deepest spiritual truths of the universe will always remain elusive to the masses, as well as the majority of religious, political and scientific ‘leaders’. The esoteric teachers throughout history have cloaked their knowledge in symbolic language and passed it on through a process of transmission to worthy initiates. There is good reason why this power has not been freely dispersed to the masses, for in the hands of the wrong people, it is generally abused for selfish and destructive purposes (see Lord of the Rings for an analogy). As Shams-e-Tabriz of ancient Persia said to a cynic, “God needs no proof. It is your existence which needs to be verified.” And therein lies the process of Spiritual Work, and its importance for each human being. It is, I strongly believe, our life’s purpose to prove, and make the most of, our own existence. And spirituality, in some form or another, is the only way to achieve that purpose.