tangyabominy: A misty, magical-looking lake hidden in deep forest. (secret gardens)
[personal profile] tangyabominy
Why is religion so successful, and why are many of its spontaneous preachers-- the amateurs, the kind who come up to you on the subway and ask you if you've heard the "Good News"-- so motivated, so excited, by the act of preaching?

Here's one theory that I haven't seen mentioned too many times before:

Because at its heart, it's a symbolic, mythological, fantastical interpretation of the world, where things mean things and one man's death is symbolic of a grand and wonderful gift, where it makes sense for larger-than-life figures to have acted out these tragic, epic dramas of metaphor and allegory and those secret symbols really do have something to say about our lives, even now. Where sometimes, people are taken out of the context of ordinary reality, and taught extraordinary lessons, and given wonderful hopes. In other words, it's a series of truths about life, told in ways that may not be literally true, but still speaking to the overarching threads of life-- love, hope, death, fear, eternity, sacrifice, mercy-- that are more important to most of us than descriptions of what literally, physically occurs. Very few people make a religion out of scientific understandings alone, because while science can reveal many beautiful truths, it isn't equipped to tell us about the meaning of the interplay between these ancient fascinations.

If you could become convinced that such a powerful story had a vital place in our lives, and it was a story that was culturally accepted enough as true that you might have a chance of convincing others, too, to see the world as not just a meaningless place of coincidental happenings, but a grand myth of interlocking meanings, wouldn't you want to gush to complete strangers, too? If you had just found out, in your understanding, that the world was a place where grand dramas were played out behind the scenes, where we could each hold our very own personal saviour to our hearts and praise a global king who loved and died for us, where there were not merely fallible and human figures but great archetypes that unquestioningly deserved to be beneficiaries of our deep-rooted desire to love something and have that love never be disappointed, where things were more magical than they seemed... if you had been enraptured by a story like that, and it was one of the few stories that people would not section you for crying out about in public, wouldn't you cry out, for everyone to see the world in this glittering way?

And doesn't the fact that we want that, that we want that so deeply in our hearts that it causes stories that are wholly irrational and even dangerous on a literal level to thrive for thousands of years, that we don't merely find symbolism and interconnectedness pleasing but thirst for it so much that we'll support the strangest ideas just to feel like it's true... doesn't that say something about whether there might be something to the idea that we're meant not merely for a world of atoms and brain impulses and chemical reactions, but for something grander, for a world of meaning and connectedness and vast archetypal wonder?

Just some thoughts.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-03-30 08:24 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lhexa
A world in which a person can walk on water is an interesting one, but a world in which the symbol of walking on water can have as big an effect on humanity as the actual deed would is an incredible one. This is a world in which it is precisely symbols that have the power of miracles.

Maybe people yearn for a grander world. But maybe what they yearn for is the grandeur of this world, present but occluded. Or, because I really feel like I'm not articulating the thought well: one can feel meant for a better world, and one day discover that this better world is the one you already live in.

July 2011

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