Saturday, May 29, 2010

Religion as Poetry

I don’t think it’s possible to truly understand religion without some sort of poetic sense. As examples of “religious” leaders who have no poetic sense, I can name such people such as John Hagee, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

There is no poetry in what passes for their souls. None. As a result, they have no understanding of religion.

The word “religion” means “to bind, to tie together.” It is supposed to bind us to the highest good.

The philosopher Brand Blandshard, in his book “Reason and Belief,” said this about religion: “Religion is an attempt to adjust one's nature as a whole to ultimate reality. In a sense all human life is that. But whereas the larger part of such life consists of an adjustment to what is immediately around us, religion seeks to go behind the appearance of things to what is self-subsistent, to something which, intellectually and causally, will explain everything else. And it must be conceived as a response of man's nature as a whole.”

The literal man, who has no poetic sense or imagination, can only destroy religion. Lacking any sort of poetic sense and imagination, he also lacks sympathy and empathy. He cannot put himself in another’s place. I gave as examples the men above.

I consider art to be a science. I don’t separate the two. So religion, then, is both art and science – the purpose of both being to gain knowledge of reality and wake people up.

At its best the art/science of religion is full of metaphors and similes and parables, and at its worst it’s full of literal-minded fanatical Pharisees. That’s one of the reasons there were such arguments between Jesus and the Pharisees.

I could never be an adherent of any religion that did not support music, painting, sculpture and literature. And for that matter, the art/science of humor, sensible drinking and dancing and partying. All these things are part of the good life, i.e. the “whole” life. And the word “whole” comes from the words “healthy” and “hale.”

It’s easy to tell which churches support these things and which do not. All you have to do is walk in and look around.

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