WHAT IT IS
RELIGION is an impulse working within us to make us greater than we are, and, through us, to make the world better than it is; to lift us to levels above the ranges of physical appetite and satisfaction; to drive us to goals beyond the bounds of time and sense. Religion belongs distinctively to man not because he is capable of thinking and speculating, of building churches and rearing altars; but because he is capable of sensing the whole of life, of catching a vision of the ideal in things real, and is prepared to devote his life to the fulfillment of the dream. To be compelled to serve an ideal of enduring value not only for ourselves but for humanity and humanity’s high destiny on earth — this is religion.
WHERE IT IS
RELIGION appears wherever and whenever men appear who live under this compulsion of the spirit. We see and celebrate it, traditionally, in “the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of martyrs, the holy church throughout the world.” And we should see and celebrate it as readily in scientists zealous after a truth they would not misuse, in reformers and revolutionists striving to establish upon the earth an ideal society. If and when there is the dream, and men give of their life’s devotion to the dream — it is there that religion appears.
WHAT IT DOES
THERE ARE SOME THINGS all people want: good health, so as to enjoy life; money enough to allow for reasonable comfort; happy marriage and a normal family life; good times; congenial friends; surroundings of beauty; knowledge; and interesting work. But beneath all these is something which, perhaps unconsciously, everyone wants, — although he does not always know he wants it: the sense of inner fulfillment. Having this sense of inner fulfillment, all other wants take on a different color, for we then think not so much of what
we want as of what life wants of us.
It is lack of this inner adequacy which is responsible for the disturbed state in which so many persons find themselves. No oneneeds to be told these are troublous times, or that there are many exterior causes of the trouble. But fundamental is a lack of inner moorings. Without a religion of meaning and vitality we are not likely to emerge from our confused state. Paradoxically, religion should do two things at one and the same time: (1) it should lift one out of oneself; and (2) it should reinforce one in oneself. Far from being an “escape from reality”, it should normally heighten and intensify one’s powers when grappling with reality. Nothing else so well enables us “to see life steadily and see it whole”, for no other interest is so inclusive. And it directs attention toward other people and toward God. New centers of interest are bound to develop.
WHAT IT NEEDS
BUT, IN AND OF ITSELF, religion is not enough. It needs its essential instrument to give it implementation, continuity, organized power. With all her sins of omission and commission, the church is still the most effective means man has yet devised to afford the vehicle religion requires.
To grant the values of religion and, at the same time, to deny the necessity of the church is inane. One might as well praise the principles of education and recognize the desirability of the educated life, yet refuse to admit any need of the school. The surest way to deny a great matter is to refuse the road leading to it by refusing the road, we thereby refuse the goal. Religion needs the church!