March 13th, 2015

Answer for question 4278.

What is your opinion of religion? Is the world a better or worse place because of it?
One philosopher defined religion as philosophy plus "a certain amount of superstructure which consists of superstitions, dogmas, rituals, and institutions." Since i don't care much for superstitions, dogmas, nor institutions, i suppose i must prefer philosophy to religion. I do care about spirituality but think that a spiritual life is possible with or without religion.

Religion, at its best, has been too little and too late. As the Tao Te Ching suggests, people become religious after they have lost contact with the divine. The great teachers: Mahavira, Lao Tse, the Buddha, Jesus, have tried to restore that connection but their followers have complicated their simple message and corrupted it. So we are worse off because religion corrupts itself.

At its worst, religion has too often assisted the advocates of violent conflict and human abuse by sanctifying the power grabs and land grabs that have constituted world political and economic history. One and one-half stars.

Wendell Berry - The Wish to Be Generous

All that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man's evil, or dwindle
in its own age. Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.


-- from The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982, by Wendell Berry
Poetry Chaikhana | Wendell Berry - The Wish to Be Generous

Wendell Berry - The Silence

Though the air is full of singing
my head is loud
with the labor of words.

Though the season is rich
with fruit, my tongue
hungers for the sweet of speech.

Though the beech is golden
I cannot stand beside it
mute, but must say

"It is golden," while the leaves
stir and fall with a sound
that is not a name.

It is in the silence
that my hope is, and my aim.
A song whose lines

I cannot make or sing
sounds men's silence
like a root. Let me say

and not mourn: the world
lives in the death of speech
and sings there.


-- from The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982, by Wendell Berry
Poetry Chaikhana | Wendell Berry - The Silence