Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Religion Rising

"People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."
These are the words of Joseph Campbell, one of America's most famous mythologists. A quick glance at the daily headlines or a look around your classroom or office reflects the truth written in the lines above. People, no matter where they are or what they are doing in the world, want to feel that their life has worth. That it is happening.

In our world of scientific discovery, we have emphasized science and reason at the expense of the aspects of ourselves that give us a sense of wholeness, meaning and "happening." Unlike civilizations before us that made matters of the material and spiritual realms compliment one another in a way that made us whole, we have pushed ourselves to the edge of where reason can take us while keeping us sane.

Maybe that's why there seems to be a rise in the number of people "defecting to faith," as reported in a New York Times article a few weeks back. Such people, in choosing to turn to God and religion, affirm their belief that "[w]e are more than cells, synapses and sex drives. We are amazing, mysterious creatures forever in search of something greater than ourselves."

An increased emphasis on the mythical and the spiritual will no doubt change society. But it will only be a change for the better if we free ourselves from our traditional ways of viewing religion, God, and our relationships with one another. Otherwise, we may well have a crisis on our hands.