The Making Of Religion Essay, Research Paper
In The Making of Religion, Alfred North Whitehead attempts to give a concise analysis of the various causes in human nature, which go to form a religion. To reveal the unavoidable transformation of religion with the transformation of knowledge, and also to direct attention to the origin of religion on our understanding of those permanent factors by reasons of which there is a stable order in the world. He begins this purpose of justifying the various causes in human nature to form a religion by showing religion in history, then religion and dogma, then body and spirit, and finally truth and criticism.
Religion in History
One thing that is certain about religion is that religion is as old as humankind. The evidence of Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon life representing the earliest members of our own species practiced burial rites that indicate a belief in an afterlife. They also practiced rites of propitiation. As old as religion is we still encounter some uncertainties when defining religion. Reasons for being unable to define religion is many definitions are too limited in the variety of historical views of religion. Some definitions are narrow; they overlook or dismiss features that are characteristics of religion traditions. Other definitions are reductive or prejudicial. This is a question that challenges each generation on the curiosity of religion that humanity is always shifting its attitude towards it. (Pg 3-4)
Justification is the basis of all religion. Your character is developed according to your faith. Religion can be defined as a system of general truth that no one can escape that has the effect of transforming character when they are sincerely held and vividly understood. However, your character and conduct can change your intimate conviction throughout life. Your life is an internal fact that journeys through your external fact, which is relating yourself to others. The behavior of your external life is conditioned by environment, but your internal life receives its final worth, which is self-existence. (Pg 5-7)
Social facts are important to religion, because there is no such thing as independent existence. Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness. If you are never solitary, your are not religious. Accordingly, what should emerge from religion is individual worth of character.
Religion in its external expression in human history has exhibit four factors of itself. These factors in the order of the depths of their religious importance are first ritual, then emotion, then belief, and then rationalization.
Ritual goes back beyond the dawn of history. Ritual may be defined as the habitual performance of definite actions that have no direct relevance to the preservation of the physical societies of the actors and are found in every human community and are a primary means of social communication and cohesion.
Rituals range from single gestures, such as bowing or shaking hands. It demonstrates the tendency of living bodies to repeat their own action. Therefore the actions necessary in hunting for food, or in other useful pursuits, are repeated for their own sakes. Their repetition also repeats the joy of exercise and the emotion on success. In this way emotion waits upon ritual. It was a tremendous discovery for mankind on how to excite emotions for their own sake, which started mankind in the adventures of curiosity and of feeling. This is because ritual is the stimulus to emotion, and a habitual ritual may spread into religion, according to the quality of the emotion excited. (Pg 5-10)
In this primitive phase of religion, dominated by ritual and emotion, we re dealing with essentially social phenomena. Ritual is more impressive, and emotion is more active, when a whole society is concerned in the same ritual and the same emotion. Conversely, religion in its decay sinks back into sociability. Such as revivals, institutions, churches, rituals, bibles, code of behavior, are the trappings of religion. Mere ritual and emotion cannot maintain themselves untouched by intellectuality. Also the unreal idea of maintaining the ritual for the sake of emotion is far too unreal to enter into their conscious thoughts. (Pg 12)
A myth satisfies the demands of growing rationality. The myth explains the purpose of the ritual and of the emotion. This belief is the vivid effects charged with emotional excitements but absent of rationalism. What lies beyond the routine of life is in general void of definition, and when it is vivid, it is disconnected. Therefore the myth not only explains but also reinforces the hidden purpose of the ritual, which is emotion.
A myth will involve special attention to some persons or to some things, real or imaginary. Accordingly, the belief in the myth will involve the belief that something has to be gotten out of him or it, or that something is to be averted to the evil to be feared from him or it. Then prayer, praise, and ritual interest of the hero deity emerge. If the hero is a person, we call the ritual religion. If the hero is a thing we call it magic. The important difference between magic and religion is that the magic is unprogressive and religion sometimes is progressive. (Pg 13-16)
Ritual encourages emotion beyond the simple response to practical necessities, so religion in this stage begets thoughts divorced the pressure of circumstance. Imagination is used for development. This is the stage of uncoordinated beliefs. Since there is a minimum of coordination, there is room for all. But religion is still a social phenomenon. In the higher stages of religion there are many gods within a tribe, with the loosest coordination of cults and myths. Though religion can be a source of progress, especially when it s dominant feature are of uncriticized belief. This is the stage of satisfactory ritual and of satisfied beliefs. If it works, then it should be awarded the prize for truth. (Pg 16-20)
The age of martyrs dawns with the coming of rationalism. The Bible is by far the most complete account of the coming of rationalism into religion, based on the earliest documents available. In the documents written by man something was added and something was lost; but fortunately the Gospels survive. Rational religion is beliefs and rituals that have been reorganized with the aim of making it the central element in a coherent ordering of life an ordering which is coherent both in respect to the explanation of thought, and in the direction of conduct towards a unified purpose commanding ethical approval. The curious position of religion is that it stands between abstract metaphysics and the particular principles applying to the experience of life. Religion bases itself primarily upon a small selection from the common experiences of the race. Religious interests are directed to oneself whose truths are of limited validity. Religious concepts are derived from special experiences, to be applied by faith to all experience. (Pg 21-25)
Rational religion emerged as a gradual transformation of the pre-existing religious forms. The old forms could no longer contain the new ideas, and the modern religions of civilization are traceable to definite crisis in this process of development. But the development was not then ended; it had only acquired more suitable forms of self-expression. The emergence of rational religion progressed in the races in which it arose. It had to wait for the development in human consciousness of the relevant ideas and ethical intuition. A social system in which the result was first obtained. Society and language grew together. (Pg 26-28)
A rational generality was introduced into the religious ideas. The myth was reorganized with the account of verifiable historical circumstances, which exemplified the general ideas with adequate perfection. Therefore rational criticism was admitted in principle. The principles of individual criticism of tribal customs were based upon direct ethical intuition. In this way the religions moved toward more individualistic forms. The individual became the religious unit in the place of the community. The tribal dance lost its importance compared to the individual prayer. And the individual prayer merged into justification through individual insight. During this epoch of struggles as in most religious struggles the judgements passed by the innovators on to the less-developed religious forms were very severe. (Pg 29-31)
History until the present day, is a unhappy record of the horrors which can attend religion: human sacrifice, cannibalism, sensual orgies, hatred as between races, bigotry, can all be laid at its charge. Religion is the last refuge with goodness is directly negative by plain facts. Religion can be, and has been, the main instrument for progress.
New factors emerge and successively assume decisive importance in their influence on the ascent of progress. The sense of social unity and of social responsibility had been quickened. They produced concrete beliefs that embodied, the justification for these emotions. Human thought it had broken through the limited horizon of the social structure. The world as a whole entered into the explicit consciousness. A tribe, which wandered or traveled picked up new ideas but stayed, unified in the face of a hostile environment. The great empires and trading facilities made traveling easy. Everyone traveled and found the world fresh and new. A well consciousness was produced. But a world-consciousness is more disengaged. It rises to the conception of an essential rightness of things. The individuals are indifferent, because unknown. It is the difference between the enemy you reconcile with and the companion whom you imitate. (Pg 32-33)
Religion and Dogma
No religion can minimize the evil in the world, but the pain and the suffering. The great religions, Christianity and Buddhism, have their separate set of dogmas, which deal with this great question. Buddhism finds evil essential in the very nature of the world of physical and emotional experience. One metaphysical fact about the nature of things, which it presupposes is that this release, is not to be obtained by mere physical death.
Christianity took a different approach. It has always been a religion seeking metaphysic, in contrast to Buddhism, which is a metaphysic, generating a religion. Christianity has retained the easy power of development. It starts with a tremendous notion about the world. This notion is derived from our understanding of the sayings and actions of certain supreme lives. (Pg 37-42)
Therefore Christianity is, less clear in its metaphysical ideas, but more inclusive of the facts. Christianity, like Buddhism, preaches a doctrine of escape. It states a doctrine whereby, through the treatment of evil, life is placed on a finer level. It overcomes evil with good. Therefore in respect to this crucial question of evil, Buddhism and Christianity have entirely different attitudes in respect to doctrine. Buddhism starts with the explanatory dogmas. Christianity starts with the explanatory facts.
Buddhism and Christianity find their origins respectively in two inspired moments of history: the life of Buddha, and the life of Christ. The Buddha gave his teachings to enlighten the world. Christ gave his life for the people of the world. We do not have a systematic detailed record of the life of Christ. We have vivid record of the first response to it in the minds of the first group of his disciples, with their recollections, interpretation, and incipient formularizations. (Pg 43-48)
The reported sayings of Christ are not formularized thoughts. They are descriptions of direct insight. The ideas are in his mind as immediate pictures, and not as analyzed in terms of unreal concepts. His sayings are actions and not adjustments of concepts. The life of Christ is not an exhibition of over-ruling power. It has the decisiveness of a supreme ideal, and that is why the history of the world divides at this point of time.
The dogmas of religion are the attempts to formulate in precise terms the truths disclosed in the religious experience of mankind. Such as Religion is force of beliefs cleansing the inward parts , and also, Religion is what an individual does with his own solitariness.
Religious consciousness starts from self-valuation, but it broadens into the concept of the world as a realm of adjusted values. Religion is world-loyalty. And it cannot find this value till it has merged its individual claim with the objective universe. Christian theology has adopted the position that there is no direct intuition of such an ultimate personal foundation for the world. It maintains the doctrine of the existence of a personal God as a truth, but holds that our beliefs in it are based upon inference.
Today there is but one religious dogma in debate: What do you mean by God ? There are three main simple renderings of this concept before the world.
The Eastern Asiatic concept of an impersonal order to which the world conforms. The concept expresses the extreme doctrine of immanence. (Pg 49-53)
The Semitic concept of a definite personal individual entity, whose existence is the one ultimate metaphysical fact, absolute and underivative, and who decreed and ordered the derivative existence, which we call the actual world.
The Pantheistic concept of an entity to be described in the terms of the Semitic concept, except that the actual world is a phase within the complete fact, which is this ultimate individual entity. Its only reality is God s reality. This is the extreme doctrine of monism. (Pg 57)
It will be noticed that the Eastern Asiatic concept and the pantheistic concept invert each other. Accordingly to the former concept, when we speak of God we are saying something about the world. And the latter concept, when we speak of the world we are saying something about God. The modern world has lost God and is seeking him. The reason for the loss stretches far back in the history of Christianity. If the modern world is to find God it must find him through love and not through fear. (58)
As a rebound from dogmatic intolerance, the simplicity of religious truth has been a favorite saying of liberalizing theologians. There is certain simplicity of dominant ideas, but modern physics does not disclose a simple world. To seduce religion to a few simple notions seems a risky solution of the problem before us. This procedure ends by passing religion on those few ideas, which in the circumstances of the time are most effective in producing pleasing emotions and agreeable conduct. (Pg 59)
Religion, while in the framing of dogmas it must admit modifications from the complete circle of our knowledge, still brings its own contribution of immediate experience. That contribution is in the first place the recognition that our existence is more than a succession of bare facts. Religion is the direct understanding that, beyond such happiness and pleasure, there remains the function of what is actual and passing, that it contributes it quality as an immortal fact to the order which informs the world.
Body and Spirit
Religion requires a metaphysical backing because of the emotions that are generated. The foundations of dogma must be laid in a rational metaphysics, which criticizes meanings, and endeavors to express the most general concepts adequate for the all-inclusive universe. Therefore history presupposes a metaphysic. It can be objected that we believe in the past and talk about it without settling our metaphysical principles. In so far as your metaphysical beliefs are implicit, you vaguely interpret the past on the lines of the present. (Pg 71-73)
But science can leave its metaphysics implicit and retire behind our belief in the pragmatic value of its general descriptions. If religion does that, it admits that its dogmas are merely pleasing ideas for the purpose of stimulating, its emotions. When religion ceases to seek for penetration, for clarity, it is sinking back into its lower forms. Therefore religious experience cannot be taken as contributing to metaphysics any direct evidence for a personal God in any sense transcendent or creative. (Pg 74)
The universe is through and through interdependent. The body pollutes the mind; the mind pollutes the body. The individual if formative of the society, the society is formative of the individual. There is a kingdom of heaven before the actual passage of actual things, and there are the same kingdom findings of this passage. But just as the kingdom of heaven transcends the natural world, so does this world transcend to the kingdom of heaven. (Pg 75-76)
The actual world, the world of experiencing, and of thinking, and of physical activity, is a community of many diverse entities.
Metaphysics is a description. The tests of accuracy are logical coherence, adequacy, and exemplification. A metaphysical description takes its origin from one select field of interest. (Pg 77)
There are many ways of analyzing the universe. First, consider the analysis into the actual world, passing in time; and those elements, which go to its formation. These formative elements are (1). The creativity whereby the actual world has its character of temporal passages to novelty. (2). The realm of ideal entities, which are in them not actual, but are exemplified in everything, is actual. (3). The actual entity whereby the indetermination of mere creativity is transmuted into a determinate freedom. (Pg 79)
The actual temporal world can be analyzed into a multiplicity of occasions of actualization. Then the actual world is a community of epochal occasions. These epochal occasions are the creatures. For the creativity is not separable from its creatures. Therefore the creatures remain with the creativity. (Pg 80)
The epochal occasions are the primary units of the actual community. These epochal occasions are the creatures. The creativity is not separable from its creatures. Therefore the creatures remain with the creativity. An epochal occasion is a concretion. It is a mode where diverse elements come together into real unity. The various elements, which are therefore brought into unity, are the other creatures and the ideal forms and God. (Pg 78-79)
The inclusion of God in every creature shows itself in the determination whereby a definite result is emergent. God is that nontemporal actuality which has to be taken account fir in every creative phase.
The boundless wealth of possibility in the realm of abstract form would leave each creative phase still indeterminate, unable to synthesize under determinant conditions the creatures from which it springs. Therefore creative indetermination attains its measure of determination. A simpler metaphysic would result if we could stop at this conclusion. A complete determinism would therefore mean the complete self-consistency of the temporal world. The difficulty of this conclusion comes when we confront the theory with the facts of the world. If the theory of complete determinism, of the necessity of conformation with the nature of God, holds true, then the evil in the world is in conformity with the nature of God. (Pg 81-82)
Now evil is exhibited in physical suffering, mental suffering, and loss of the higher experience in favor of the lower experience. The fact of the instability of evil is the moral order in the world. This instability of evil does not necessarily lead to progress. The evil in itself leads to the world losing forms of attainment in which that evil manifests itself. Therefore evil promotes its own elimination by destruction, or degradation, or by elevation. Therefore if God were an actual entity, which enters into every creative phase and yet is above change, he must be exempt from internal inconsistency, which is the note of evil. (Pg 83-84)
The temporal world exhibits two sides of itself. On one side it exhibits an order in matter of fact, and a self-contrast with ideals, which show that its creative passage is subject to the immanence of an unchanging actual entity. On the other side its incompletion, and its evil, show that the temporal world is to be construed in terms of additional formative elements, which are not definable in the terms, which are applicable to God. (Pg 85)
The purpose of God is the attainment of value in the temporal world. Value is inherent in actuality itself. Value is inherent in actuality itself. To be an actual entity is to have self-interest. This self-interest is a feeling of self-evaluation. It is an emotional tone. This self-interest is the interest of what one s existence comes to. It is the ultimate enjoyment of being actual. But the actuality is the enjoyment, and this enjoyment is the experiencing of value. Each actual entity is an arrangement of the whole universe, whereby there is constituted that self-value which is the entity itself. (Pg 87)
Therefore the epochal occasion has two sides. On one side it is a mode of creativity bringing together the universe. This side is the occasion as the cause of itself, its own creative act. On the other side, the occasion is the creature. This creature is that one emergent fact. (Pg 88)
Various occasions are therefore comparable in respect to their relative depths of actuality. Therefore the purpose of God in the attainment of value is in a sense a creative purpose. Apart from God, the remaining formative elements would fail in their functions.
The adjustment is the reason for the world. It is not the case that there is an actual world, which accidentally happens to exhibit an order of nature. There is an actual world because there is an order in nature. If there were no order, there would be no world. All order is therefore aesthetic order, and the moral order is merely certain aspects of aesthetic order. The actual world is the outcome of the aesthetic order, and the aesthetic order is derived from the immanence of God. (Pg 89-91)
The order of the world is no accident. There is nothing actual which could be actual without some measure of order. The religious insight is the grasp of this truth: That the order of the world, the depth of reality of the world, the value of the world in its whole and its parts, the beauty of the world, the zest of life, the peace of life, and the mastery of evil, are all bound together not accidentally, but by reason of this truth: that the universe exhibits a creativity with infinite freedom, and a realm of forms with infinite possibilities; but that creativity and these forms are together impotent to achieve actuality apart from the completed ideal harmony, which is God. (Pg 102-104)
Truth and Criticism
Religion starts from the generalization of final truths first perceived as exemplified in particular instances. These truths are amplified into a coherent system and applied to the interpretation on life. The peculiar character of religious truth is that it explicitly deals with values. It brings into our consciousness that permanent side of the universe, which we can care for. (Pg 110)
A dogma is the precise enunciation of a general truth, divested so far as possible from particular exemplification. Such precise expression is in the long run a condition for vivid realization, for effectiveness, for apprehension of width of scope, and for survival. A dogma can never be final. It can only be adequate in its adjustment of certain abstract concepts. A dogma may be true in the sense that it expresses such interrelations of the subject matter as are expressible within the set of ideas employed. Every true dogma, which formulates with some adequacy the facts of a complex religious experience, is fundamental for the individual in search and he disregards it at his peril. But every individual suffers from invincible ignorance. And a dogma, which fails to evoke any response in immediate apprehension, stifles the religious life. Therefore religion is primarily individual, and the dogmas of religion are clarifying modes of external expression. Expression, and in particular expression by dogma, is the return from solitariness to society. The dogmas are statements of how the complex world is to be expressed in the light of the intuitions fundamental to the religion. They are not necessarily simple in character or limited in number. (Pg 117-119)
The importance of rational religion in the history of modern culture is that it stands or falls with its fundamental position, that we know more than can be formulated in one finite systematized scheme of abstractions. The final principle of religion is that there is wisdom in the nature of things, from which flow our direction of practice, and our possibility of the theoretical analysis of fact. Religion insists that the world is a mutually adjusted disposition of things, issuing in value for its own sake. This is the very point that science is always forgetting. Religions commit suicide when they find their inspirations in their dogmas. The inspiration of religion lies in the history of religion. The sources of religious belief are always growing, though some supreme expressions may lie in the past. But dogmatic expression is necessary. The dogmas, however true, are only bits of the truth, expressed in terms, which in some ways are over-assertive and in other ways lose the essence of truth.
God, who is the ground antecedent to transition, must include all possibilities of physical value conceptually, thereby holding the ideal forms apart in equal, conceptual realization of knowledge. The limitation of God is his goodness. He gains his depth of actuality by his harmony of valuation. The nature of God is the complete conceptual realization of the realm of ideal forms. The kingdom of heaven is God. The depths of his existence lie beyond the vulgarities of praise or of power.
God is the binding element in the world. He is not the world, but the valuation of the world. He confronts what is actual in it with what is possible for it. He solves all indeterminations.
In conclusion, God is the only thing that is everlasting and all else is temporary. Therefore, it only makes sense to find out as much about God as one can. Recognize the temporality of all things and what is causing delusion. Reexamine everything so that you gain a new understanding of everything. After one recognizes the delusions perpetuated around oneself, it follows naturally that one should like to know the truth, which explains the delusion. The truth is the only thing permanent that one knows. Realize what you already have and be thankful to God for it. In ones selfishness, one forgets how lucky one is to be alive and how thankful one should be for all the goodness in ones life.
So many people have wrongly come to the conclusion that they can make pleasure permanent even though they have never been able to do so before. They wrongly think that if they just had more money and power they would be permanently happy. The truth is that no pleasure is permanent. Even if one had more money, they would realize that one couldn t buy love, peace, joy, and contentment that one gets from a relationship with the truth. When one accepts the ideal that God has created, and stops fighting against ones own perfection, one may enter the kingdom of God.