“If you truly understand the enormity, complexity, age, and magnificent energy of the universe you will feel awe and wonder in a way that no manmade religious myth could ever duplicate”. -
But how does one “truly understand” the universe, and who can claim that they “truly” understand it? The greatest spiritual writings of all religions, including psalms, mysticism, and mythology, are reflections on and acknowledging expressions of the “enormity, complexity, age and magnificent energy of the universe”, not attempts to ”duplicate” it. In “The Case for God” author Karen Armstrong describes an all too common miss-take on our current thinking about mythology: “Today…myth has fallen into disrepute. In popular parlance, a “myth” is something that is not true. But in the past, myth was not self-indulgent fantasy, rather like logos (reason), it helped people to live effectively in our confusing world in a different way…they were really focused on the more elusive, puzzling and tragic aspects of the human predicament that lay outside the remit of logos. Myth has been called a primitive form of psychology.” We’ve regressed in our thinking about “God”, falling behind great theologians, scientists and philosophers of the past who didn’t feel pressed to approach these ways of thought as contradictory. A literal interpretation of the bible (fundamentalism) is relatively recent; in previous centuries biblical stories were not read as they are now, like a “book”; they were enacted as plays or told as stories that were adapted by the presenters to be most effective as morality lessons or calls to action. To quote Armstrong again: "A myth was never intended as an accurate account of a historical event; it was something that had in some sense happened once but that also happens all the time." Fundamentalism has squeezed the life out of “God”, a concept that historically and contemporarily comprises our senses of “the enormity, complexity, age, and magnificent energy of the universe.”Before the proliferation of the printed bible and its subsequent translations, the kind of fundamentalism we’ve seen in 20th century America to the present would not only likely have been considered bizarre, it would also probably have been considered idolatrous. Avowed atheists who have contempt for religion in general have valid complaints and concerns in light of what Armstrong refers to as “unskillful” approaches to faith, but they need to look at the history of religion beyond its most negative extremes to have a better understanding of how it serves us.
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