It’s springtime now, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ, and Jews celebrate the divine deliverance of their ancestors from Egypt. Sacred stories, sacred prayers, sacred songs and recitations and meals of communion—all combine in worship now, throughout these special days, of the Great Giver of Life.
And all around, an exultant natural world joins in. Life, in all its manifold glory, bursts forth in one grand symphony of adoration, its beauty and power abounding.
Through everything, an ethereal music weaves; and the closer we listen, the more we hear all those sincere voices from the Passover and Easter celebrations; all the birds and bees and blossoms and trees around us; every thought and intuition from every living thing that senses the beaming pulse of divinity everywhere.
It is now, in the dawn of spring, that the whole earth again sings the ancient hymn of praise:
O may Your glorious name be blessed
And exalted above all blessing and praise
You alone are the Lord
You created the heavens
The highest heavens with all their host
The earth and all that is on it
The seas and all that is in them.
You give life to all things
And the host of heaven worships You
Not everyone sings the ancient hymn, of course. There are those who have inured themselves to the great testimony of nature. Those hardened souls can’t even sense the song anymore, and couldn’t sing it now even if they still wanted to.
And as a result, they can now walk through a grove as the world comes to life all around them, immersed in miracle, hearing the birdsong, breathing in the scent of fresh meadows and young pines, examining the flowers, observing each unique little creature moving in its sphere, and think, what a random, utterly meaningless accident this all was.
Part of me feels pity for them.
I feel pity because I feel they’re missing out. I don’t know of any more meaningful experience than uniting with others in praise of—connection to—some sense of the holy. It is humbling and electrifying; it deepens us, moves us, inspires us, orients us.
That there is some mystery as to what we’re sensing, or that we name that mystery God, is no disqualifier, as these folks insist. We are not omniscient. We only see through a glass darkly, as Paul says. Accepting the finitude of our ability to understand, but rejoicing anyway, is just part of the experience, and always will be.
But another part of me feels wary of them. Too many do everything they can to compel others to become like them. If we resist, they insult us, calling us “madmen and idiots” They call us abusive parents for teaching our children to revere the Creator and His creations. Once in power, they change policies and laws so as to marginalize and diminish religious expression, and even prohibit worship services. They undermine every traditional sense of right and wrong we possess, seeking to impose a different morality on us altogether.
They tell us to abandon our connection to the numinous and our faith in something beyond ourselves, and give ourselves entirely over to their crabbed versions of reason and science—which is to say, to a rejection of the divine, and even a hatred of the divine. We must, they insist, kill off the spiritual part of ourselves. Doing so is a sacrifice required by the allegedly superior gods of reason and science, which they claim to represent.
But I hope I speak for everyone reading this when I say, that is not for us. We want to be fully human. And to be fully human means to be fully open to the divine—the divine both within ourselves and without. Full humanity is why all our ancestors believed. It’s why every human society for eons has believed in a divine realm, and made special provisions to stay in contact with it.
And it’s why the anti-theism of influential thinkers over the past three centuries has been so injurious to human life in the West. The relentless trivialization, diminution, and now demonization of theist faith, along with the religious denominations designed to concentrate and express that faith, hasn’t eradicated theist faith so much as warped and redirected it. That has indeed lessened our humanity.
Put another way, a straight line connects Enlightenment denigration of traditional religious belief to the rise of replacement political religions centered around men acting as imitation gods. Far from attempting to mimic the benevolent God they sought to replace, these man-gods, almost without exception, have been psychopaths.
But not just psychopaths. Robespierre, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, et al., were mass-raping, mass-torturing, mass-enslaving, mass-murdering psychopaths, if not by their own hands, then through proxies. The careers of these fiends entail the worst abuses ever committed on this planet.
And crucially, in almost every case, these psychopaths have justified their inhuman cruelty by citing the pursuit of progress as an ethical imperative derived from reason and science—the very things modern anti-theists still insist provide ethics superior to those of the Judeo-Christian tradition, despite 200 million killed by these people in the last century alone.
As I say, this is not for us.
For us, there certainly is an embrace of learning, an embrace of truth, an embrace of the logos wherever it applies.
But there is also an embrace of all the things we sense, but cannot prove; cherish, but cannot fully understand; adore, but cannot touch.
It’s that latter kind of embrace, more than anything, that enlivens our deepest moral intuitions, connects us more to others, and lets our light so shine, that our good works glorify the Great Giver of Life.
And so . . .
That we begin now, this springtime, to embrace the divine in our lives more fully, more resolutely, and more gratefully than ever, is my Easter and Passover prayer for all of us.
May it be so.