Friday, 25 March 2016

Youth shunning religion

This morning's news is about "youth shunning God." Those that say they have no religious affiliation has increased from 17% (2010) to 18.5% (2015). One youth, 23, left Buddhism, joined the Christian faith, and then ended up with atheism. She said, "I think it is highly improbable that any god exists. There is no evidence of it."
The Catholic Church said that "traditional religions have also been slow to engage young people and help them appreciate their faith." Reverend Father Jude David believes that without religion "Singapore would certainly lose a part of her soul or spirit."
Lesson? Yes, just one. Is reason replacing God? A political science undergraduate, 21, said, "I don't think I need divine guidance to make a right or wrong decision. Reason alone can guide such decision-making."
Well, I can't say he is wrong about that. I always believe that atheists can arrive at the same decision about morality as a believer could. Mind you, the golden rule is not the sole domain of believers only. In fact, at times, being a believer for 30 years, my lamentation is that atheists demonstrate more compassion and understanding than believers.
While atheists struggle with a godless morality, the believer struggles with a morality that seems to me to be rather godless. I guess that is why Jonathan Swift said, "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."
There is just something polarizing about a common belief existing in the majority that makes its devotees more self righteous than those who stand as minority simply looking for hope, understanding and acceptance.
It is reported that some young people identify more with liberal ideologies because they find religion "variously limiting, irrational, oppressive, unreasonable, and unscientific." And the papers went on to cite the "high profile incidents such as the City Harvest cases, where church leaders were found guilty of misusing around $50 million in church funds."
Well, I can't say that I am not personally disillusioned by that too. Alas, most times, people are not looking for a righteous heart in a fallen world. But they are earnestly looking for a broken and repentant heart in a hopeful world. So, after all said, has reason then replaced God?
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I have not spent 30 years of my life still holding on to my faith on a wing of a prayer and some feel-good jibing in my soul. It may be true that you can reason your way to morality, but I believe you cannot always be moral just being reasonable. What is reasonable to you may not be reasonable to another person (or a group of them).
You see, when the late Syrian dictator Colonel Gaddafi was found, he turned to his captors and pleaded to the effect that he could not understand why they were so bent on overthrowing him since he has been providing for the country. In other words, he did not think his actions/policies (which were beyond description if you read about his cruelty) were unreasonable.
The problem with a postmodern society is that it is unreasonable to claim that your reason is more reasonable than another. In the end, with a society based only on reason, we end up no doubt being courteous, tolerant and even inventive.
But what is missing is a sense of awe, that is, a flourishing and inspiring metanarrative that goes beyond what reason can offer. You see, reason only shows you one side of this incredibly multifaceted world. You will be shortchanging yourself by putting all your "curiosity" eggs in one "epistemological" basket.
I think Salmon Rushdie puts it well when he said that "the idea of God is both a repository for our awestruck wonderment at life and an answer to the great question of existence."
The truth is, we will never know everything. Knowledge (and the bounds of reason) are limited. And we can't understand God with knowledge/reason alone. I feel that knowing the omnipotent is experiential and only the earnest years will add up. Our youth is preparatory or seminary of what awaits us when we have journeyed through life long enough to appreciate the limitation of reason and the wonderment of that which reason cannot comprehend. Where reason has tired, awe gently holds us by the hand and takes over.
And God can be found in the awe-consuming natural world that He has created. He can't be directly known but He can be intimately intuited. That is why the French philosopher Simon Weil wrote: "If I light an electric torch at night out of doors, I don't judge its power by looking at the bulbs, but by seeing how many objects it lights up. The brightness of a source of light is appreciated by the illumination it projects upon non-luminous objects. The value of a religious or, more generally, a spiritual way of life is appreciated by the amount of illumination thrown upon the things of this world."
Let me end with what R. Buckminster Fuller has to say: "Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought is staggering." And for the youth out there, reason herself staggers at the infinity and depths of His mysteries. Cheerz.

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