House of Man accommodates all religions and religious views
by Ken Wear, Feb. '04, July '07What ought we to believe? By what principles ought our behavior be guided? Religions and philosophy alike arrive at principles by which we judge what is moral or ethical. Isn't is curious that there is such a diversity in the collections of principles (or religions) by which men live, yet the uniformity of ethics growing from those principles. I have often wondered what sort of core beliefs truly resides in humankind.
Your religion commands your internal dialogue. While its social organization may make demands on your time and resources, it also forms the basis of your notions of right and wrong and how you will expresss your core beliefs in your behavior toward others. I see the only common denominator as the quest for and pursuit of self with the rewards and satisfactions that brings.
I marvel at the apparent degree of devotion of each group to its own expression of those core beliefs, that is to say, to its religion. For each individual, what is the origin of beliefs so rigidly held; how were they instilled so firmly that all contrary views are anathema and sufficient cause for strife? It is obvious in each person's life that the foundation well precedes maturing to the point reason dominates, since the human brain is not fully developed until about age 25 and the bases for belief are firmly established long before adolescence. In reviewing the annals of history, can we assert that the operation of reason is capable of altering the outgrowth of those beliefs from our early life? That we can refine our belief systems through exercising our mental faculties? Or that all religions are outgrowths of the same common quest?
The phrase House of Man has intrigued me since first I stumbled onto it in pursuing religious thought. I am convinced there is a single Reality, that continuum of spirit and physical realms that includes the universe entire in which each of us currently participates in his personal drama of daily events. You may agree or you may be convinced I am mistaken.
There is the overwhelmingly extensive, complicated and massive universe that astronomers are describing, consisting of a plethora of, among other things, bodies large and small, perhaps many capable of sustaining life as we know it. And here are you and I, each an independent bit of this grand scheme, carrying on our daily activities in satisfaction of our personal needs and goals, all the while wondering at our role in this enormity of the cosmos and our little Earth. Are we only one of a multitude of civilizations orbiting various stars in our galaxy? Is there purpose? How did our kind arise? Have I a past or a future beyond this life with its daily round of activities? Is there a Guiding Intelligence? If so, what is His role and what is or ought to be my relationship with Him?
Whether we are plagued by it or blessed by it, there are hundreds of competing descriptions of our role in this magnificent cosmos and our share of it. And each description is fervently held and defended by equally devout and sincere individuals who each would proclaim to the rest of us the rightness of his views (and perhaps the wrongness of ours). How did such a diversity of views with their uniformity of ethics originate? Can they all be accommodated within a single House of Man?
I like the corollary of a large and bustling courtyard with a variety of peoples and activities scattered here and there; and the courtyard is bounded by a structure with many windows. The courtyard is Reality and the structure with many windows is the House of Man. Some of us stand close to a window and have a good view of the courtyard, but the scope of that view is limited and no one can see it all; even so each person focuses his attention on a specific portion of the panorama before him. Others, farther back, have only a partial view; and the rest of us must depend on descriptions furnished by those privileged to peer directly through a window.
Evidently the view perceived by each observer will be different and the best we can hope of any observer is an honest and accurate description of what he perceives. And we who are farther back must depend on what is relayed to us despite limitations of language or incomplete or distorted understanding by those relaying a description to us. We accept as our prophets those who offer us the most credible descriptions; at the same time we recognize that descriptions by other prophets of what fell within their field of view are equally perceptive and honest.
There you have a suggestion of the origin of the variety of religious views: One Reality, with myriad prophets each describing a view of that Reality that is a more or less accurate portrayal of what that prophet beheld. But the view of no one prophet embraces the entirety of Reality, and each has looked from a different vantage point and focused on a portion of what lay within his view. Thus the House of Man shelters conflicting religious views.
It is sometimes tempting to try to compare the rightness or wrongness of those various views from the House of Man. Whether all can be accommodated in tranquility is a matter each of us must address for himself. Perhaps the best measure of the worth of any view lies in its effect on mankind as each person strives to find a Light adequate for his own path.
I have been tempted to contend that the Christian faith of my heritage, with its emphasis on a God Who loves all equally and implores us to do likewise, is superior to other faiths such as Atheism, Hebrew, Wicca, Hindu, Muslim, or . . . The description suggested by Rational Theism, which recognizes the commonality of religions, seems to me a more believable portrayal of Reality. But I consent that my view is from one particular window as I gaze at a small region of the courtyard that is Reality; my description embraces what I see.
It is not truly important to you what view I hold. But it is important what effect my view or yours has on our relationships with others and the treatment we accord them. I have come to accept that religions have all sprung from, and been propagated because of, a conscious need by each of us to subordinate himself to something larger than himself, to be part of a grand march. Yet each of us yearns to experience the inner warmth of certain knowledge that his life is significant and of value.
To review an accumulation of religious ideas without comment on their
validity, click here.
My religious quest is presented if you My religious odyssey click here
To view my construction of Reality (the cosmos and where I fit), click here.
A more extended description of my view of Reality (the Spirit and Physical Realms and their characteristics) appears in a letter and its addendum. For that, click here.
Rational Theism is my effort to pull it all together, starting with Southern Baptist Fundamentalism and proceeding through a scientific education and a lifetime of struggle with faith. This appears if you click here.
For a suggested common walk regardless of religion, click here.
For a brief history of Islam, click here.
Your BACK button will return you here from any of the above.
To return to the Table of Contents, click here.
Non-religious essays that may interest you are:
Origin of the universe: Was the big bang the ultimate beginning? click here
and Musing on the beginning (of the universe) and end (of intelligence) click here
Origin of man: Creationism, evolutionism, intelligent design or deistic evolution? click here, and
Is mankind undoing the benefits of evolution? click here
Comment added 10-31-04 Of course the Light you have been given is far superior to the Light possessed by any other mortal; no one should challenge that. But it is folly -- and arrogant -- to assume all other mortals, or any other mortal, will agree (regardless of the vigor or certainty of your presentation of your Light).
Following from the verse ". . . You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free . . ." I assert that the ideal fostered by Christianity is freedom of the individual. And freedom in the matter of religious belief suggests allowing each person to follow what Light he finds satisfying to his soul. It also follows that freedom requires a government of secular outlook so that the practice of religious faith is not dictated by the coercive powers of government.
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