“Religion” comes from the Latin word, religare, which means “to regulate.” That’s what a religion does, it regulates one’s intellect and will, one’s way of behaving and believing. You voluntarily choose a religion. When one says they “believe” in a religious sense, what they are saying is that they freely submit to being regulated by their religion.
How will you regulate your life?
Beliefs are based upon three kinds of evidence:
- reason, and
- testimony of others.
Since each and every person has varying ability to reason, they experience different things, and have been exposed to varying testimonies, it should be no surprise that there are so many different beliefs in the world. Whether or not those beliefs are true is another thing, however. Some are quite unreasonable. Many are rather contrary to experience, and many conflict with trustworthy testimony.
Pope John XXIII affirmed, “***In essentials unity, in doubtful matters liberty, in all things charity.***” This is the axiom that I too affirm.
So what is essential? You see, that’s the question which the various religions cannot seem to agree upon. One must choose for themselves who and how to worship based upon: 1) reason, 2) experience, and 3) the testimony of others.
Sociologist Peter Berger wrote a book called, *The Heretical Imperative. *In it Berger uses the word “heresy” to mean “to choose for one’s self.” The irony pointed to by Berger is that even when on chooses orthodox values, he or she has to exercised “heresy” because in the process of intentionally choosing any set of values, even the traditional ones, alternatives must be considered. In his book, Berger addresses the modern situation with its multitudes of religions, philosophies and paradigms, declaring that we each live with “a heretical imperative.”
Harvard professor R.B. Perry wrote that the root of religion is, “***the attempt of man, conscious of his helplessness, to unite himself with the powers which do actually dominate.***" He further affirms, "True religion is better than false, but it is not less certain that religion is better than irreligion.” Religion. An Introduction - Lectures on the Harvard Classics (1909-1914)]. If this is true, then everyone who recognizes that he is not the power which dominates, has a choice to make. Again, how will you regulate your life? Religion is better than irreligion (ie. a non-regulated life).
Given your experience, reason, and the testimony you’ve been exposed to, can you know the best path to take? The path where you will find rest for you soul? Must we be absolutely certain about everything before we can proceed forward in our growth and maturity? I hope not, otherwise we could never move forward.
Those who contend one can never know truth with any degree of certainty–sufficient to decide–are fooling themselves. In other words, it is foolish and contradictory to asserts the thesis, “It is certain that nothing can be known with certainty.” The study of math, science, philosophy, and theology and other fields of study ALL rely upon varying degrees of certainty which are less than absolute in order to progress. Individuals must also progress, grow, mature without having absolute certainty.
As an analogy, although my eyesight is not perfect, that doesn’t mean that I can’t see some things clearly enough so as to have some level of certainty about what I see. In contrast, if nothing can be known, then we are always necessarily in doubt, and even our own existence cannot be known to be true. In fact, even our doubts must be doubted.
There are indeed some things about reality that are “incomprehensible” to human nature. However, that does not imply that *all *things cannot be knowable to sufficient degree to grow, to mature, to believe. The conclusions of our daily existence can and must be an assent based upon the preponderance of evidence. If we discover new evidence which is contradictory, we simply draw different conclusions. That’s how life works.
We can and must draw conclusions based upon the preponderance of evidence, even though human reasoning can be flawed, or our experience limited, or some of the testimony before us is false. To do otherwise would be detrimental to maturity, growth, and living one’s full potential.
If I were you, I’d start with what Scripture calls the perfect religion, then move forward from there.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)