In his book “Christian Love Buddhist Wisdom”, Albert Low introduces a new way to look at religion.
Why has religion been, and is still, such a pervasive, and for some an all-consuming influence throughout human history? Dawkins tries to explain this but he arrives at some very lame conclusions. He would have us believe that, one way or another religion is useful in the struggle for existence. He suggests, for example, that religion might be “a placebo that prolongs life by reducing stress.” Elsewhere he says that it is a by-product of something else. “The religious behavior may be a misfiring, an unfortunate by-product of an underlying propensity which in other circumstances is, or once was, useful.” Later he wonders, “Could irrational religion be a by-product of the irrationality mechanisms that were originally built into the brain be selection for falling in love?” None of this is at all convincing as a way of explaining the religion of Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Mother Theresa or the many other spiritual luminaries that have lit up our world.
Dawkins’ and other similar explanations, including the rather radical ideas of a God gene or of a God module of the brain, all assume that religion is homogenous and that the question of its origin can be reduced to a reductionist ‘nothing but.’ They believe that if one were to ask, say, the German mystic Meister Eckhart and Jerry Falwell, what they mean by religion they would say more or less the same thing. But of course, far from being homogenous, religion is like a diamond with many facets. The Hindus are well aware of this and recognize a number of different kinds of yogas or religions: raja, jnana, bhakti, hatha and laya yoga among others. The question, therefore, that one must ask before embarking on answering the question why religion is so widespread across all civilizations and societies, is what religion are we talking about?
One way among many others, to distinguish among religions, is to see that two entirely different kinds of religions exist: a religion that takes the form of a set of beliefs centered on a unique dynamic center, and a religion that takes the form of a quest. Moreover, because most of the content of the beliefs that people hold is derived from the reports of those who have been engaged in the religious quest, a study of religion could well start with making a distinction between these two kinds of religion.
About Albert Low
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Published April 22, 2011
Religion & Spirituality, Law & Philosophy.