Have you ever had a debate with someone that went on and on, only to discover that you were actually talking about two different things? Some words, like “liberty” or ‘socialism” or “religion” mean different things to different people and some arguments have gone or for centuries because they never stopped to define what they were talking about. So let me define what I mean by “religion.”
Religion: A worldview with an Ultimate Value that answers the Big Questions: 1) Who am I? 2) Where do I come from? 3) Why am I here? 4) Where am I going?
This definition fits the universal human spiritual impulse better than the narrow definitions of the big three monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Even the atheist Bolsheviks, like all revolutionaries, had a religion: a worldview, an Ultimate Value and answers to the Big Questions. Furthermore, their battle against rival religions exceeded the ferocity of the Spanish Inquisition.
Religion. We all have one and by looking at the shared beliefs of our ancestors we may get a clearer insight into our own. “Know Thyself” was the sign at the entrance to the Oracle of Delphi, perhaps because whatever the oracle was going to say, the listener was going to filter it through their own worldview anyway.
For example, a general once asked the Oracle at Delphi if he should go to war. The Oracle said, “If you do, a great empire will fall.” Assuming it was his opponent’s empire that would fall, he went to war and was defeated.
Know thyself. Zarathrustra said we are destined one day to meet our own soul on the Cinvat Bridge, which crosses from this world to the Land of Songs. Does this sound like a scary proposition? Why would it be scary to meet our own soul? He pictured our soul as a beautiful young woman who greets us like this: “I was made beautiful, but you have made me more beautiful by your good thoughts, good words and good deeds.”
Talk about a Moment of Truth. But are Zarathrustra’s words reassuring? Or do you think, as I do: But Z, what if I have not made my soul more beautiful?
Maybe we should make friends with our beautiful soul now.