Relevance of Religion
Rev. Jaehwa J. Lee
Bryn Mawr College- 104 Aelwyd on Cambrian Row
Haverford College - 208 Whitehead Campus Center
Swarthmore College - Bond Hall - 20
The Enlightenment attained for the human person a freedom of thought and conscience to match the political freedoms won by the outpouring of blood in the age of revolution. The obituary for Christendom was altogether a welcome evolution that echoed the natural separation from parental authority that every adolescent toasts with the cocktail elixir of freedom and responsibility. Once the declaration of personal independence is proclaimed all will be well with the world. God - if God exists - is in heaven and all's well on earth.
If only that were true. If only anything, ever again could be true.
Once the apron strings to a 'Mother' Church were cut, there were also abandoned the comforting kitchen smells of religious consolation and the sense of family that the new political and academic associations one inhabited could scarcely approximate. In renouncing the concept of Truth, there would no longer be any steady patch of existence on which to make a stand that could endure beyond the moment. Permanence itself became a myth.
In the wondrous perspective of science that revealed existence itself as a reality the knowledge of which would depend upon.....what?; upon so many variables that the pursuit of its essence would be forever futile. The greater the catalogue of things known, the more immeasurable would be the expanse of ignorance.
It all depends. It's all relative.
And, of course with so many possibilities for perception, who can say what the correct perception of anything might be...or even if the ability to perceive anything correctly is, itself, rightly perceived. Is learning thus to be evermore a circular riddle? As popular theory runs: education is not supposed to give you the answers; it is to provide you with more and more questions. Educational achievement is - for quite a while now - not the providing of answers but only the further elucidation of the questions. This approach has also about it the wonderful benefit for both teachers and students: there is no certain way to measure the excellence either of teaching skills nor whether anything taught has actually been learned. Nothing to be worth knowing or learning...only worth questioning and knowing the questions. And for this, what a joke it is to set or pay the $45,000 annual fee!.
And yet we seek to know. To know more. To know why. About everything. And we live day by day in the fantasy that we really can attain to the Truth, acting with practical verve on the principal that what we think we know is real....is true. So fiercely do we cling to the need for Truth that, not infrequently, we will fight for and die for and even slay others for what we hold True. No one has been able yet to deactivate the gene in each of us that wants to trust what we perceive to be, really is.
Is all of this what Sartre would call useless passion? Or might there truly be something there, in the very structure of ourselves that cannot be dissuaded from the cold logic: the Truth about things does exist; the Truth can be known. Growing up is not to deny the quest for Truth, it is the wedding of what has been revealed (science, religion) with what satisfies - even revolutionarily - the most profound and human of all longings: to know what is and how what is relates to Me.
To deny that reality is to impose on self a life sentence of limitless pursuit of the unattainable. It misses the exultation of knowing. It makes impossible the acclamations of eureka that have echoed through the ages. It denies the perfection of knowledge that was put away with Mother Church such a little while ago, in the long scheme of things. And which can be found again, like a parent who becomes a friend, by those able to laugh at the adolescence of relativism in the embracing of the adult task that pursues and engages Truth until eternity makes It fully known.