Monday, June 18, 2007

(13) Common Basis of Religious Truths?

"Another Stoic influence of considerable importance in the
tradition of Christian Humanism was the view that all religions
have a common basis of truths concerning God..."
[Encyclopedia Britannica, "Philosophical Schools and
Doctrine," p. 608.]

Comment: If I remember correctly, ancient Stoics considered
various religions as representing different "faces" of God.
As for a common basis of truth, I am not so sure when it
comes to the various expressions of Religion. However,
one might guess around this issue.

I have recently read an interesting book by a famous church
leader, pondering whether the basis of Religion might really
revolve around our age-old need to survive in this world.
Various religions do exhibit a certain placating, whether via
ritual or prayer, that would seem to be forms of asking God
to protect us, to help us out. Also,there are certain kinds of
religious measures we need undergo that would make us more
acceptable--and safe!

Maybe not all, but certainly most religions also circulate
around one of our most basic human needs: that deep
ontological question about Meaning. Who are we in this
world, and what is the world all about?

Stoicism, itself, declares that we humans are as a microcosm
to the Macrocosm. This is a philosophical premise that surely
can serve our sense of spirituality. Perhaps some religions
borrow from this premise. Christ talked about the "Vine and the
Branches," if you will. And St. Paul devised an interesting term,
the "Body of Christ" in which various members would work to
build-up the Church by the action of their various talents and
abilities. This "Body of Christ" could be seen as a sort of mystical
macrocosmic entity wherein microcosmic members would
contribute to its evolution.

Beyond this, in more recent religious thinking, there's finally a
return to the idea of the Ground of Being, no matter the labels.
The theologian Paul Tillich wrote of the *Urgrund,* this great
Ground of Being in which we all reside. Pierre Teilhard de
Chardin, a Jesuit theologian and paleontologist, provided a
unique evolutionary view via his *Christogenesis.* He saw
cosmogenesis in terms of the Omega Point, a moving forward
and converging of humanity around the common center of a
Cosmic Christ. Again, in this there's the flavor of the microcosmos
in relation to the Macrocosmos.

I, myself, am theologically trained. Still, as I have hopefully
continued to mature, I look beyond a religion that may have
once been necessary for our survival. Sometimes this kind of
religion becomes a "concretion," a kind of box that reverts towards
literalist and magical thinking. Rather, I look more towards a sense
of Meaning that gives value to our existence. Personally I am
inclined toward a sense of evolving sentience in this universe,
where our minds are ever becoming more great and intense
"consciousness points" that are part and parcel of the Macrocosmos!

Nonetheless, as for a common basis of truths concerning God,
well it would seem to me that we are dealing simply with the
natural unfolding of increasing consciousness. And it's not a level
trajectory either! Still there are jumps from one plateau of religious
understanding to the next. Yet, not everybody jumps at the same
time! It is not an even evolution when it comes to religious thought
and expression.