First You Choose Then You Live
Thoughts on the First Readings – Joe Frankenfield
“Religion is really a very simple thing,” a fellow once told me. “Everyone knows what’s right. They just have to do it.”
Except for reducing religion to morality, my friend’s comment is hard to disagree with – on the one hand, that is. As usual, the trouble lies on the other hand. Generally, the hard part of acting justly or ethically lies not in knowing what to do but in having the courage and strength to do it.
Acknowledging that mind-achingly difficult situations certainly arise, day-to-day morality is generally not intellectually crippling.
What can be and often is crippling is the fear that accompanies making what we know is the best moral decision. What’ll it going cost me; what’s the downside? What kind of acceptance will my decision find among my peers? Will my effort to act justly make any difference in the long run?
That brings us back to the above speaker’s assertion about religion’s simplicity. Religion isn’t first and foremost about morality; it is about how we view life: its meaning and its potential. An a-theist believes that there is no knowing, caring source of creation. Creation is radically pointless – it just happens – and human beings, as part of creation, are radically pointless. A theist, on the other hand, believes that there is a knowing, caring Being creating all reality. As a result, all reality, humans included, are known and cared for. Our existence is not pointless, our dreams not futile. Over time, the view of life we choose directs our actions.
My friend was correct when he declared that religion is simple. Either we believe in a knowing, caring Creator or we don’t. When we look at the universe and ourselves, we either see promise and love as the most powerful forces or we see love and promise as illusions we create to assuage our fear of nothingness as ultimate destiny.
Can we prove either position? I don’t know how. It’s choice: a simple choice; a choice made new each day – a choice that determines every other possibility.