“I have read much philosophy, and though I do not see how it is possible to refuse intellectual assent to certain theories of the Absolute, I can find nothing in them to induce me to depart from my instinctive disbelief in what is usually meant by the word religion.”
— W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer’s Notebook
“As I turned my attention to all that is done by people who profess Christianity, I was horrified.”
—Leo Tolstoy, Confessions
“Transport yourselves with me to the day on which all men will be judged, when God will deal with each according to his works. I see all the dead of former ages and, of our own stand in his presence. Are you sure that our Creator and Father will say to the wise and virtuous Confucius, to the lawgiver Solon, to Pythagoras, to Zaleucus, to Socrates, to Plato, to the divine Antonines to the good Trajan, to Titus, the delight of the human race, to Epictetus, and to so many other model men: ‘Go, monsters, go and submit to a chastisement infinite in its intensity and duration; your torment shall be as eternal as I.”
— Voltaire, A Treatise On Toleration
MIDDLE EAST & INDIA — February 9, 2011 — Arthur Schopenhauer, the 19th century German philosopher, explained how, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”
If you wonder what a column like this hopes to achieve by stalking the Goliath of religion, have no doubt the thought comes frequently to my mind.
This long haul is unlikely to be executed with five smooth stones.
However, while probing for facts and information to underscore the urgent need to discern the difference between religion and genuine faith it’s obvious many others have gone the distance before me.
As Maugham, Tolstoy and Voltaire and a host of others have done, I also plan to consult those philosophers that have pondered religion and faith.
However, I also recognize that those philosophers have all succeeded and failed in their quests.
It is not for me to speculate about anyone’s place in eternity, but if those past voices had not spoken out, asked the hard questions, I wouldn’t be writing a column like No 2 Religion, Yes 2 Faith.
Goliath however continues to tower over the global religious landscape.
One can only marvel at the strategy and control he has acquired over men and over nations. All of this in the name of God!
But the giant is not invincible; many can testify from experience it is possible to bring him down, if at least one requirement is met, though it’s probably the hardest.
Stop your bus to Rome, Jerusalem, Jeddah or Benares and get off if you are trapped on board organized religion’s bandwagon! It’s a matter of ‘No!’ and a matter of ‘Yes!’
Speaking from experience, you can overcome fear if you trust your Maker for the outcome.
It would be presumptuous of me to tell you who God is; research and many dissimilar testimonies seem to indicate that such a precious discovery is the supreme epiphany and a gift by revelation.
But Christian, Jew, Hindu or Muslim we all have so much to gain and nothing to lose by bolting to personal spiritual freedom.
We can let go of institutional religion for a simple, authentic faith in God.
One cannot help but recall the words of Christ in this context: “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?”
Does this apply only to people who call themselves Christians or is there meaning in it for all?
Someone has observed, the greatest pilgrimage is the shortest one; from the mind to the heart. It maybe the shortest but it is not the easiest, fraught as it is with doubt and fear and for those who will have to contend with intolerance, perhaps even danger. Besides my own experience, which I hope to share someday, the best illustrations of such a pilgrimage I can think of are the conversions of the well known English writers CS Lewis and GK Chesterton whose own descriptions of the event speaks for itself.
CS Lewis wrote: “You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”
“I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape?… The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation”. (Surprised By Joy, ch. 14, p. 266).
GK Chesterton chose to write a a poem precisely on the occasion of his coming to faith:
“…The sages have a hundred maps to give
That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
They rattle reason out through many a sieve
That stores the sand and lets the gold go free;
And all these things are less than dust to me
Because my name is Lazarus and I live”
American missionary to India E. Stanley Jones pointed out, “To pass from estrangement from God to be a son of God is the basic fact of conversion. That altered relationship with God gives you an altered relationship with yourself, with your brother man, with nature, with the universe.”
Jones explained that in conversion one is not attached primarily to an order, nor to an institution, nor a movement, nor a set of beliefs, nor a code of action, but primarily to a Person, and secondarily to these other things.
Who is that Person is the central question of life.
Frank Raj belongs to an extended Indian-American family; he is based in India and the Middle East where he has lived for over three decades. He is the founding editor and publisher of ‘The International Indian’, (www.theinternationalindian.com) the oldest magazine of Gulf-Indian society and history since 1992. Frank is listed in Arabian Business magazine’s 100 most influential Indians in the Gulf and is co-author of the upcoming publication ‘Universal Book of the Scriptures,’ and author of ‘Desh Aur Diaspora.’ He blogs at www.no2christianity.com
Read more of Frank’s work in No 2 Religion, Yes 2 Faith in the Communities at the Washington Times.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.