Religion takes the form, normally, popularly, of ourselves as individuals and of some transcendent power. Not a benevolent Father in heaven, as the sceptics sneer.
They say ‘well you’re babies, you can’t grow up!
You had your parents to look after you when you were little and now you want parents in the sky to look after you. You can’t stand on your own feet.”
But they’ve never practised religion or they would know that to enter into religion means to take far greater responsibility than the sceptic can. It’s not a comfortable thing.
But there is a problem in religion and it can be summed up perhaps quite well in one of these humorous children’s stories which sometimes have a good point to them:
A man with a very bad temper died and his little nephew was told that well ‘Uncle Tom has gone to heaven’.
So then he said:
‘Is he shouting at the angels?’
So his parents said:
‘No, dear no. No Uncle Tom’s smiling now. He’s going round and he’s in heaven. Think, think of him like that’.
And a little time later the mother said:
‘you think of Uncle Tom now, don’t you, like that?’
And he said
‘Well I try, he’s always smiling, but it’s not Uncle Tom’!
Now this is the problem. What is it that worships? What is it that’s going to heaven or hell? Am I going to heaven with all my faults? Oh well, no. Some of them will be less. Perhaps all of them will be wiped out. Well, then what will distinguish me, if I’m a perfect soul, from all the other perfect souls?
And one teacher gives this example. Supposing there’s ‘I’ (writes on blackboard).Well, other people would write their ‘I’ like that and then others would write it sort of more carelessly, and others more carelessly still. But it’s still recognisably ‘I’.
But if all the faults are removed, all the carelessness is removed, well then it’ll just be (writes I’s on blackboard) and he says this is why all the descriptions of heaven are so boring, because they can’t think of anything.
Hell is interesting, things are going on there, people are all different. But in heaven they’re all perfect and so they’ve all got these long robes, and somehow the, well the kids used to look through father’s Dora illustrations of the bible. Hell was interesting, even purgatory, but in heaven it was all robes, a few harps around, but you’d soon get tired of those.
What’s going to heaven that’s going to be blessed? And the problem, our problem is, am I going with all my faults? Or are my faults going to be corrected? And if my faults are corrected, what will it be?
It’s been pointed out by a critic, that Shakespeare couldn’t create a saint. Everything else he could create. And it’s a Tolstoy remarked that in all novels, the villains are much more interesting than the good people, because the author understands about villains, as we all do, he doesn’t understand about good people.
So the heart of religion comes down that we have indications of a ‘Here Am I’ from the beyond, which come in inspiration in our lives, and in blessing in our lives when we follow, to some extent, the religious path.
But the problem is the self, the soul, what is that?
© Trevor Leggett