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About the philosophy of religion
'Seek those things that are above'
If you walk on the ridge of the Malvern Hills on a fine day and see the counties of Worcestershire and Herefordshire stretched before you, you will probably feel your mind uplifted, and similarly some people feel a spiritual uplift from their religion.
Children are often introduced to the religion of their parents. Some receive no religious instruction at all, while others may be presented with an overview of other faiths at school. Generally it seems to us, in England, that going to church on Sunday has dwindled significantly over the last 50 years, as shops have opened for longer on Sundays and both parents have been forced to work to make ends meet. It also seems that generally there is a continuing widespread ignorance of other faiths.
Life is a journey for which there is no practice run. We have to do the best we can, continuously listening to advice from others, learning and discerning what we believe is the truth.
In theory, adults have the freedom to think about the human state and form their own views about the nature, existence or otherwise of God, but in practice many will be too busy, getting on with everyday life.
Science provides models which predict with greater or lesser exactness how the physical world works. Theories change and adapt in the light of advancing knowledge.
Religion, on the other hand, tries to explain those mysteries that cannot currently be explained by science. Religion is attuned to the intellectual outlook of its time and place.
From earliest times there has been a system of belief, parts of which have been carried on from from one belief system to the next. For example, some of the ideas of modern religion appear to have been put forward by Zoroastrianism in Persia, predating Christianity and Islam.
It seems that religion is a distinctive trait of human nature.
Religions embody moral codes and rules, which are generally for the common good. These probably reflect lessons learnt by our ancestors. That said, it is postulated that throughout our lives we should be open to explore new ideas, compatible with the evolution of society, and not be imprisoned by the dogma of the past. Some rules may have been appropriate in the past but may no longer be relevant to current times and place.
Zoroastrianism suggests there are forces for good in the world and forces for evil. We are presented with choices of either doing good deeds or doing bad.
Religion should be concerned with doing only good, but very bad things have been done in the name of religion in the past, and it is sad that in modern times while the human race is struggling to survive earthquakes, floods, famine and disease, people in many countries are still killing each other, often in the name of religion.
Charles Dickens, the Victorian author, summarised religion in these simple words,
'Be kind to other people'
We agree, religion should be about getting on with other people and mutual support.
In England there are various branches of Christianity such as Roman Catholic, Church of England, Baptist, Methodist and the United Reformed Church, (which was formed in 1972 from the union of the Congregational Church and the Presbyterians). The different names might suggest huge differences in theology, but in our opinion the differences are slight.
This guidance from Paul's letter to the Romans (ch. 12), seems relevant today
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour.
Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' No, 'if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.
Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
1. Toynbee, Arnold, Mankind and Mother Earth, Oxford University Press, 1976
2. U3A lecture series on Social History 2009 - 2010
3. Holy Bible, Romans, chapter 12
Last updated 9th November 2018