Grasping at Ideals
Beyond the Attainment
of Mere Humans
It's ridiculous to believe that Jesus or any of the other magical founders of religions or sects walked on water, drove out demons, or raised the dead and that people who believe such stuff ought to be ashamed. I part [company with the popular] attitude toward religious liberalism. Most of what are usually called "the worlds great religions" teach doctrines with different possible levels of meaning.
The story of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes, for example is, on one level, a simple miracle tale the message of which is, "Believe this man when he tells you that God exists and desires you to love one another like brothers. He is the real thing. The proof is that he can do magic." We overeducated people who would otherwise respond to this argument with "Yeah, and Uri Geller bends spoons with his bare mind" are invited to understand the story to mean, "The message of universal brotherly love is such a powerful one, that it can move those who hear it to share even their food with one another, spontaneously generating a rich meal, shared by all, among what was before a mere crowd of fearful, lonely and mutually suspicious men and women -- and what greater miracle is there than that? Those that have ears to hear, let them hear.
The story unites the simple and the intellectually sophisticated among us in one communion, giving us an elegant method of finessing what might otherwise become an unpleasant situation in which half the congregation is shouting that the other half are simpletons while the simpletons shout back (not entirely without reason, in my opinion) that the others are prideful and arrogant and think they know everything even better than God (or his Son). The Quest for the ultimate truth is a high and difficult thing for us Humans.
Among my very favorite stories are those of King Arthur and his knights, who, in pursuit of a high ideal, slew dragons and giants and rogue knights and brought security and order to widows and orphans and peaceably inclined men, while enjoying a deep bond of brotherhood among themselves. All this was destroyed, according to the version of Thomas Malory, when Sir Gawain challenged all the knights to embark on the Quest of the Holy Grail. This was grasping at an ideal beyond the attainment of mere humans, and so destroyed a brotherhood that had been successful as long as it pitched its goals at the level of the merely human, although illuminated by a light from above.
The truth is good. But ultimate truth is hidden in mystery anyway, and it behoves us, while looking for it, or bathing in its suffused, distant light, to enjoy the company of our brothers and sisters and to look after them. Also the silly ones.
It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.