Christian Relaunch


Many people use the word "religion", but few know what they mean by it, in fact I am not sure I have met anyone who does. If you ask them, they often start by saying that it means "believing in God", but if you tell them that Buddhism (in its pure original form) was explicitly agnostic about such questions, and ask whether Buddhism is a religion, they are stumped, because they are convinced that Buddhism is a religion but too stubborn to admit that there could be an atheist religion. Whether the public counts something as a religion is a historical accident with no rhyme or reason to it. Last time I checked, Wikipedia offered a list of typical features of a religion, but the problem is that some so-called religions have some of these features and others have others, and the only reason for this list is prejudice. So before you brand Christianity as religion and reject it on that basis, beware of prejudice and shallow thinking.

Just because people call themselves atheists, don't imagine they have no sense of the transcendent. Their reverence may be directed towards inadequate objects, but the recognition that its object must be in some sense beyond is universal. This recognition, traditionally expressed in words like "sacred", is these days more often expressed in other ways, but it is still there. If you want to know what folk revere, listen for the hushed silences. The most "ireverent" have them; their "irreverence" is really just different reverence. Even among the most cynical it is never true that "nothing is sacred".

Incidentally, I do find it convenient to use the word "God". Please do not let any prejudices about this word hinder you, either. It has many meanings, most of them different from mine. Please try to understand what I am saying, and do not focus on the fact that I am using this particular word.

Buddhism is an attitude, albeit a pessimistic one whose answer to the Prime Question is, "Devote your life to escaping from life".

Marxism is an attitude, which in subtle forms is still influential in Europe even though its Bolshevik form has been abandoned in Russia (explicitly) and in China (implicitly).

The prevailing attitude in England these days is expressed in sayings such as Have fun, that solemn blessing with which many parents now send their children into the world. This Attitude, devotion to self-indulgence, is sometimes called hedonism. And the altruistic principle that the fun should be shared by as many people as possible, maybe even shared equally, is still hedonistic, it is just that the hedonism is collective rather than individual.

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