Every established system of spirituality embeds commands, commands that relate to actualization of spiritual life. In presence of commands, a system of spirituality doubles as a religion, that is, as ‘a way of life’. Given people who share a common way of life, but who do not seek to associate together are at very best dysfunctional, call it spirituality, or call it religion, spirituality calls for attendance at some sort of ‘religious’ services. We have then that a religion is not defined by religious services; that is, arrive at the awareness that attendance at religious services merely is part of the way of life of a religion.
Attendance at religious services is part of the way of life of a religion, not the religion itself. Religion by definition is a way of life.
A religion whose ‘way of life’ consists in entirety of attendance at religious services is a sham religion.
An important criticism of reasonableness of religion, or efficacy of religion for ennoblement of society is inherent demand for adherence to commands. In Christianity, the spiritual system, way of life or religion with which I am most cognizant, there is inherentness of the command to love everyone.
In addition to the command to love everyone — Christian or non-Christian — there is the command that a Christian who finds loving of non-Christians easier is a hypocrite. This label of ‘hypocrite’ is rooted in rationality. If a man or woman finds it difficult to love someone with whom he or she shares a way of life, how exactly is it possible such a person loves people who live by entirely different codes of behavior? Not impossible, merely dysfunctional.
In context of Christianity, there are at the very least two tests for dysfunction of spiritual beliefs — delight in avoidance of religious services (as distinct from non-attendance, which can be for various legitimate reasons), and difficulty of demonstration of love for other Christians.
On then to seeming contradiction of spiritual commands, which is, “how exactly are spiritual people to claim they reason beliefs out when they are commanded by God to do this or do that, as such must obey if they are to be accepted by God?”
Consider that philosophically speaking, a command is unequivocal, does not broach argument. A Christian cannot negotiate with Jesus Christ for relaxation of the command that commencing with fellow believers, he or she love everyone within his or her circle of life.
The rationalizing philosophical thought? In context of spirituality, commands state whatever God deems non-negotiable. In the tabling of what is non-negotiable, weighing of reasonability of whatever is stated to be non-negotiable becomes an important component of the decision to commit to a system of spirituality, way of life, or religion.
So then, faced with the command to love everyone, a person pondering acceptability of Christian beliefs is prompted by God to ask himself or herself:
Do I believe that loving of everyone within my circle of influence is part of essence of life?
Equivalently, do I believe that loving of everyone within my circle of life is rational? Do I think it rational to love those who by words or actions declare themselves my enemies?
With respect to reasonability of loving of enemies, consider that Germany inflicted war on Western Europe between 1914 and 1918, subsequently was hated and punished for it’s actions.
What then happened next?
Well, Germany was at it again between 1939 and 1945. This time around, victorious allied forces forgave Germany, helped rebuild Germany, did not impose punitive damages on Germany. Today, all of those allies are friends with Germany. Currently, Germany’s economy is an important cornerstone of the EURO currency arrangement. Turns out forgiving and loving a declared enemy who has caused tremendous pain can help turn an enemy into a friend.
Consider on the other hand the relationship between Russians and Poles. These two sets of people have at various times in past been in ascendancy and applied position of ascendancy towards oppression of the other. Russia is accused of killing millions of Poles in course of the Second World War. During the 15th century, with both largely Christian, Poles oppressed Russians. And on and on it goes. Today, the two countries are no friendlier than they were hundreds of years ago.
Loving an enemy it would seem is the only path to transformation of an acrimonious relationship into a relationship that allows for possibility of friendship.
It would seem then that loving an enemy embeds a specific form of rationality — embeds the only feasible route to transformation of hostilities into peaceful coexistence, perhaps even friendliness.
If there is any modicum of truth to the declaration that “Love Makes The World Go Round” clearly, love is rational.
With respect to essence of commands, note that whenever most folks accept a job, work hours, work culture, and responsibilities of a job typically are stated as commands, typically are non-negotiable.
But people are offered jobs, not forced into jobs. Whenever a person accepts a job offer, inclusive of non-negotiable commands, they affirm that they are comfortable with all of the terms of the job offer. When they resume said job, they attend to commands, yet they do this by choice, hence conferment of the power of resignation. We conclude then that to be accepting of a command does not imply absence of choice, merely connotes conformity of commands with individual preferences and rationality.
Acceptance of commands does not imply absence of reasoned choice, merely connotes consistency of accepted commands with individual preferences and rationality.
The next time you observe people who have spiritual beliefs, who believe in a particular way of life gathering together — as they must if they are not to be dysfunctional in their beliefs — remember that embedded in that gathering is exercise of power of choice for accepting of an offer from God, for the decision to live by certain spiritual commands.
To live by commands that are accepted by choice, with commands that conform with our individual preferences and rationality is commonality of all of mankind.