The purpose of religion?

This is the second in a multi-part series on the UHJ’s Letter to the World’s Religious Leaders.

The second paragraph opens with

Tragically, organized religion, whose very reason for being entails service to the cause of brotherhood and peace, behaves all too frequently as one of the most formidable obstacles in the path…

This line puzzled me for a while. I thought, “Are they saying the reason religion exists is to serve the cause of brotherhood and peace?” Fortunately, they’re not. It always pays to reread.

The key word is entails. Religion’s reason for being entails service to… etc. What is under the surface is this: Religion has a purpose. It isn’t stated here, but in the light of other Baha’i writings, the UHJ probably has in mind the purpose of bringing humanity into communion with God. This purpose entails promoting brotherhood and peace.

I’ll buy that. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that the cause of brotherhood and peace are not themselves the reason for religion. The UHJ is not saying that, and anyone who does say that has just undermined religion altogether. Because in a desire to serve the cause of brotherhood and peace, people are tempted to empty their religion of all distinctive content. Once you’ve done that, people lose their motivation to make sacrifices for that religion, so then no one will make sacrifices for the sake of brotherhood and peace. People might still work for those goals, but religion won’t have anything to do with it.

If a religion lacks substance, it lacks the power to motivate people to do good.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: