It’s a laudable, sincere and profound exercise of the intellect to recognize all the good different religions have contributed to humanity throughout history.
However, as one philosopher said with elegant simplicity, “Religion did not arise out of the need to assure social solidarity, nor were cathedrals built to encourage tourism” (Nicolas Gomez Davila). Religion is not an idealized projection of human aspirations, nor is it a creative invention of narratives to promote altruism and peace, much less a profitable business to control the masses.
Religion is adoration. Religion is the expression of profound stupor and recognition in the mind of the man that has encountered God, call it transcendent or absolute. That man prostrates himself in reverential fear because he knows that before him is a tremendous and fascinating mystery to whom the heavens and the earth, time and space belong.
Man kneels and prays asking for forgiveness; petitions and hopes, just like the word religion suggests: able to rebind (unify, or link again) heaven and earth, even if only for an instant, to reconcile man with God, and in so doing to usher in peace, unity, and the original harmony of creation (if not now, then in the life to come).
In the midst of this experience, a series of truths is revealed to man; truths that shape his path; a way traveled in fidelity can lead him to that life of unity and reconciliation that he longs for (that we all long for). This is how it happens. From religion’s cults, rules and approximations to life, sprouts a vision far beyond our understanding. Not the other way around.
That’s why, contrary to what this video tells us, we are not (nor will we ever be) capable of forging on our own what is generated by the transcendent. We will never be able to replace religion. The question of the chicken or the egg is not valid. Here, what’s first is fundamental, that’s to say, what we have received from above. What leads us to recognize in each man a brother or sister worthy of respect and unconditional love, and that includes our enemies. It’s not born out of a stipulated agreement (even if it’s ease, efficiency or even survival that are at stake). No. Ethics of such magnitude are a response to the revelation of a God that has revealed himself as a father who loves us all unconditionally.
Not even with Promethean aspirations or the strength of our own reason can we deify what’s imminent, raising ancient titans (which in reality still live), those “ideologies” (political, economic, etc.) that promise to construct an earthly paradise with visible and invisible hands, looking to destroy all that stands in its way. Before them we’ll have to bow our heads, to hand over our will, and we know well where this story ends.
We can’t build the secular world with a substitute for religion, this does not represent a challenge for human beings because it is simply unattainable. This is the strategy the modern world uses: don’t fight with religion, just empty it of its meaning and replace it. Humanism without transcendence is an anti-human humanism that sooner or later creates human gods. They end up fighting against men themselves. We must be careful (as the video only pretends to be) not to be seduced into the belief that man can create and match, from our own human ethics, the values that come from God and depend on Him to reach absolute happiness.
On the contrary, Christianity doesn’t only profess a revelation that comes from on high, it also makes a scandalous affirmation that is revealed in the true life that is promised in the convergence and incarnation of One Concrete Person. The singular event that defies all logic and human imagination, paradoxically awards itself a particular credibility. That is, if it is not a fiction or invention.
Who could come up with something so crazy? Who in their right mind would affirm that He could save us with impotence; that His triumph presupposes failure; that His love is Mercy that became Incarnate, descends and dies for all of us, enemies included, and later on resurrects to fill everyone and everything with His loving presence? “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14: 6). You can’t make this up. That’s why Christ’s coming has divided history in two, and its strength transforms and will be definitive; it shall not pass… and there will be no turning back. We don’t need to invent something new, we need to have an encounter with the living God.
I will end with a quote from then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger that makes a good point and sums up what is discussed above. In his book Introduction to Christianity, he writes:
“In view of the New Testament’s message of love, there is more and more of a tendency today to resolve the Christian religion completely into brotherly love, “fellowship,” and not to admit any direct love of God or adoration of God: only the horizontal is recognized: the vertical of immediate relationship to God is denied. It is not difficult to see, after what we have said, how this at first sight very attractive conception fails to grasp not only the substance of Christianity but also that true humanity. Brotherly love that aimed at self-sufficiency would become for this reason the extreme egoism of self-assertion. It refuses its last openness, tranquility, and selflessness if it does not also accept this love’s need for redemption through him alone loves sufficiently. And, for all its goodwill, in the last resort it does others and itself an injustice, for man cannot perfect himself in the reciprocity of human fellowship alone; he can do this only in the cooperation of that disinterested love which glorifies God himself. The disinterested character of simple adoration is man’s highest possibility; it alone forms his true and final liberation.”
Translated from the original for Catholic-Link English by Maria Alejandra Rivas.