(Cros-posted from Blogodidact) People have been struck by the hard senselessness and criminal evilness of this day, and have been tryi
ng to deal with, and find ways to comfort their fellows in the face of such present darkness. One poster in a group on Facebook wrote some brief thoughts and put up this excellent clip from “The Lord of the Rings“, where Gandalf the Wizard, in the face of approaching doom, conveys some brief and warming rays of enlightenment to the Hobbit Pippin.
One fool of a commenter, chose this occasion to mock and ridicule the heartfelt thoughts of all, and attempted to demonstrate his own superior wisdom with sneers of ‘sky gods’ and “religion requires no intellect.”
Most of my religious friends would consider me not to be religious, and yet this sort of comment has always seemed to me to be one of the most thoughtless things that can be said about the subject. What is it that you suppose Does require ‘intellect’, 2+2=4? There is much intelligence and conceptual depth expressed within that, but if you use it only for calculating, being unimaginatively ‘realistic’… that is no sign of Intellect.
When we read an uninteresting story, or see a boring movie… what is it that it lacks? Why is it boring? Because it lacks something which anyone can do, write, film, without effort? Without thought? Without intellect? No, a good story requires imagination, but not just fancifulness, imagination integrated with plausibility, something which connects familiar facts and perhaps previously unconsidered thoughts, and principles we’d forgotten and which connect our being to the deepest Truths which we so easily misplace in the hurry of the everyday; such poetry connects us to and entwines us with them, and shows them to be interesting, enriching, and extremely valuable to our ability to meaningfully live our lives.
That requires intellect. Above all, it requires intellect.
Do you think Religion to be somehow Less than a story or movie? Are you dull enough to think that The Bible, or Homer for that matter, are somehow less complex or worthwhile than a good movie or a stirring book? If so, then some of the most formidable intellectual minds in all of history have been thoughtlessly lacking in ‘intellect’. If that is your ‘judgment’, well, I’m not sure how much intellect it took to make it, but I’m sure you easily make the most of it.
Religion, or the hint of it that Tolkien gives Gandalf to convey to us, doesn’t just posit ‘sky gods’ and fancy – if that is all you see here, then you are already dead to yourself, or wishing you were.
The highest religion and (meaning no disrespect) mythologies, touch upon what is the most essential in the truths we know of daily life, and the principles we’ve discovered to be true, and carries them forward, idealizes and projects ‘what they must mean’ into the future we have no way of yet knowing, like a flashlight into the darkness.
Religion isn’t some ignorant marxian ‘opiate of the masses’ (though all flavors of marxism are), but a distillation of the most essential aspects of all we know to be true, and conveys them in a manner that even the simplest of minds among us (unless hardened from the inside out), can grasp. Ask the best author or actual artist you can find, about the nature of accomplishing that task, and I guaran-damn-tee you that ‘requires no intellect’ is Not the answer you’ll receive.
I don’t know what comes after death, if anything at all, but what I do understand, and from what I appreciate of what Gandalf, who Tolkien had speaking the flavor of Christianity through, says here, is that because of that understanding, and the deep center it makes possible in my life, here, now – it doesn’t matter if death is the end, because the religious experience – what someone like myself might put more flatly as philosophic performance art – enables me to find a deeper meaning in everything I do here and now, because of it.
If there is a hereafter – fantastic – if not, well I’ve at least lived a more meaningful life here and now because of it (and of what I once failed to appreciate).
If you want to dismiss all of that as something that can be accomplished with no intellect… then I very much doubt you have much use for an intellect in your life to begin with. And it’s probably best that you keep that to yourself. Especially at a time such as this.