Which way to the Cosmos?

This is the title of Chapter 4 in ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity.’ The following is the pre-publication endorsement to this chapter.

“I find the concepts in Hidden Footprints of Unity most appealing, coming as they do from an agile mind which has managed to embrace cultures usually seen as competitive, or even enemies. This book should prove a precious contribution to mutual understanding.” —James Murray, SSC, recently retired Religious Affairs Editor, ‘The Australian’.

I accept that a religious belief would have sustained mankind through most of our time on Earth. A belief, arising from an initial fear and awe, that we are not alone and unprotected from terrifying, unpredictable, and devastating forces would have given some hope when all seemed lost. An even better belief that we were brought into being by a universal Creator, who will thereby surely look after us, gives us yet more hope – and respect for this imputed Creator. There seems to be a more recent belief that Earth was established as a home especially for the human species. Those who do not need any such beliefs are the exceptions, with faith in their non-need for protection.

Life, being one of hardship for most of us, with many experiencing no relief from birth to death, requires hope – hope that things will be better, and that God (reached through our priests) will alleviate our sufferings. ‘It is God’s Will’ (uttered by some of the priesthoods) is neither a panacea nor a pain-killer. Anyone who has suffered grievously in life will understand this.

So, one prays; one hopes. Sometimes, life is better, safer, less painful, and offers more hope. Faith, however, does not always work. In an organised society, whose responsibility is it to work towards the betterment of the quality of life of those who are suffering, those who are worst off? In a culture wherein the priesthood merely assists a petitioner to beseech God through accepted rituals, can one blame the priesthood for negative results? Of course, prayer can be in itself beneficial, in that it somehow strengthens the petitioner.

What can one say about a structured, institutionalised religion, whether or not there is a hierarchy of priests, or whether or not the religion is based on authority and an associated power? Can one ask what it is that the priesthoods of these religions have done to alleviate the material, and thus the social, plight of their followers over the centuries? Indeed, what are they doing now?

I ask the same question of those who offer their services, whether in health or education or spiritual matters, to those of us who need help.

Man should not have to live by faith alone! If faith does not mean love for one’s fellow humans, for other sentient beings, and for the environment which sustains us, of what use it? And those who advise us to have faith when we need succour, but who do not perceivably display this love, of what use are they?