To begin with, isn’t all language essentially metaphorical? After all, we invented it. And didn’t we, from ancient times, invent religion? Or at least the concept of gods who constructed and ruled what our language calls the Universe? Our less evolved predecessors perhaps could never have phrased the classic question, “Why is there something instead of nothing?” But did they sense that somebody somewhere said, “Let there be…” or maybe heard the eternal echoes of a very Big Bang?
Ever stop to think what might have been the very first question ever uttered?
We forever live in the midst of mystery. Our great detectives of meaning, theologians, philosophers and scientists, search endlessly for any clues to the whys and hows of existence that may move them closer to the elusive answers they seek. And short of clues, there are always insights and theories to keep them busy. Religion is where the rest of us usually go with our not-knowing. God may be the ultimate metaphor our need-to-know seeks out. Nothing wrong with that, but that particular metaphor seems to be all about questions and the mystery that remains, at least for time and language, out of reach.
In a very real sense, there are as many “religions” as there are those who claim a personal relationship with whom they call God. Even in religious communities – churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, etc. – people may share the same sense of God, but their relationship with that God is unique. What all have in common is not-knowing, or a faith that is more spiritual than religious. Still, I am speaking “metaphor.”
What if in our not-knowing we complicate what is basically simple, we compromise our inherent spirituality with religions’ rigidities? What if Jesus had it right? There is nothing complicated or “heady” about his teaching and his language. His words make as much sense today as they did 2000 years ago, nor do they contradict the core beliefs of other – some older and ancient, some much younger – religions. His “Render unto Caesar…” directive echoes all the wisdom of Solomon, while his emphasis on love and Oneness underscores the challenge of a meaningful life, especially his own. He knew something more than religion connects us all – the spirit within that is eternal.
This is not meant to discourage or dismiss the quests of theology, philosophy and science but to wonder about the origins of religious belief. It is helpful to imagine our earliest ancestors trying to figure things out, creating in their long evenings stories to explain the beginnings of the universe and life itself, adding to and passing them on down the corridors of becoming.
Metaphorically speaking, of course.