Religion: Man’s Attempt to Find Meaning

I wanted to share more from the introduction of the book, “A History of God” by Karen Armstrong.

“Yet my study of the history of religion has revealed that human beings are spiritual animals. Indeed, there is a case for arguing that Homo sapiens is also Homo religiosus. Men and women started to worship gods as soon as they became recognizably human; they created religions at the same time as they created works of arts. This was not simply because they wanted to propitiate powerful forces; these early faiths expressed the wonder and mystery that seems always to have been an essential component of the human experience of this beautiful yet terrifying world. Like art, religion has been an attempt to find meaning and value in life, despite the suffering that the flesh is heir to. Like any other human activity, religion can be abused, but it seems to have been something that we have always done. It was not tacked on to a primordially secular nature by manipulative kings and priests but was natural to humanity.

Indeed, our current secularism is an entirely new experiment, unprecedented in human history. We have yet to see how it will work. It is also true to say that our Western liberal humanism is not something that comes naturally to us; like an appreciation of art or poetry, it has to be cultivated. Humanism is itself a religion without God-not all religions , of course, are theistic. Our ethical secular ideal has its own disciplines of mind and heart and gives people the means of finding faith in the ultimate meaning of human life that were once provided by the more conventional religions.”

There’s one more passage I will share in a few days, but chew on this one and let me know what you think.

The Present but Absent God

Karen Armstrong in the introduction to her book “The History of God” writes:

I wrestled with myself in prayer, trying to force my mind to encounter God, but he remained a stern taskmaster who observed my every infringement of the Rule, or tantalizingly absent. The more I read about the raptures of the saints, the more of a failure I felt. I was unhappily aware that what little religious experience I had, had somehow been manufactured by myself as I worked upon my own feelings and imagination. Sometimes a sense of devotion was an aesthetic response to the beauty of the Gregorian chant and the liturgy. But nothing had actually happened to me from a source beyond myself.

I relate to what she writes here and have often felt the same way about prayer throughout my life. I wonder if most of the Christians I was surrounded by felt this same sense of the “present but absent God” that I have felt.

She has many more things to say in this introduction that rings true to me. Possibly I will share more later. But I’d like to hear what you think.