Basic Moral Courage: Day Nine-The Religious Assertion

   Religion is ultrarational. That is, religion begins with the questions that come when human knowledge leaves off. One can map the genome. What happens when the genome ceases to exist as a living unit? Religion ventures beyond the final stop on the map.

   Certainly, it is important to know all the stops along the map, so that one knows the difference between simple unknowing and arrogant ignorance. Religion is invaluable when it points us beyond ourselves but completely without value if it will not let us explore everything that is in us, around us, in contact with us.

   I am going to argue against the stream of popular thought (imagine that) in order to insist that religious passion is its greater expressed value. That is, religion has value as it makes deep truth brilliantly visible. The plain manifestation of the human soul experience requires passionate expression, soulfulness, not soullessness.

   Religion, as I see it, opens doors for the rational ethicist, who must finally continue his faith system in some form of utilitarianism. He can tell you he does not lose anything, or feel cheapened, by any appeal to the the non-verifiable, all the while seeking some self-evident reason to assign some value to humankind, to nature, to existence. Human history reveals the difficulty of assigning worth to that or those just outside one's own circle on a purely rational basis. The lifeboat may have room and food for only half its refugees. The rationalist assigns a place in the boat according to perceived utility under the existing rules of society. The thoughtless fundamental religionist allows room in the boat for those who adhere to a strictly codified set of beliefs.

   The passionate religious thinker (and the rationalists informed by her) insists on a place for all, with equal sacrifice (and the final sacrifice, if need be) regardless of giftedness. There is a place for the pragmatic, as there is a place for the nihilist, as there is a place for the racist, as there is a place for all the damage a messy man can bring to a messy race confined in a trapped sphere. The passionate religious thinker argues that we all survive together or risk the death of us all, if life is to be rationally consistent.

   No? Do you observe Holocaust Day? Why do you care if 6,000,000 people perished a half-century ago, since they are irretrievably gone and you never knew one of them and they were not even like you and some of them were probably even bad people?

   What is that you say? You remember those dreadful events of the 1940's and hate what was done because people should not be treated that way.Yes, you are right. You know people are better than cattle and so should not be penned into rail cars, stripped, beaten, gassed, cast into ovens. You know better than to treat people that way.

   How do you know? Passionate religious thinkers told you humankind is a creation of God, in fact God's ultimate creation. While all divine creation (whales, polar bears, red warblers) deserve protection, humans are of even greater worth. Naturally, you know you should defend people because you believe in human worth. You know because you believe. Belief is informed faith and that is the basis of passionate religion.

   Oh, and the word passion comes from a Greek word that means "suffering." If you claim to have passion for something, you mean not that you are enthusiastic or excited about something. You mean you are willing to suffer/sacrifice for that person or pursuit you claim to love.

   Passionate religion has this duty, the onus that gives it worth. That is, passionate religion makes deep truth brilliantly visible. This is morality, to which courage, energy and strength are attracted.



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