“[Regarding religion], one is generally agreed that it deals with goals and evaluations and, in general, the emotional foundation of human thinking and acting. Religion is concerned with man’s attitude toward nature at large and with mutual human relationship.” – Albert Einstein
Research suggests that religious individuals suppress the brain networks used for analytical reasoning in order to engage the network for empathetic thinking. On the other hand, non-religious individuals tend to suppress their empathetic thinking for analytical reasoning. Nevertheless, both reason and religion are essential to the survival and evolution of our species. Here’s why.
A great majority of the world identifies with a faith that upholds kindness and generosity. And for everyone else, these moral virtues are certainly worth respecting. Yet we see corruption, suffering, and perversities of every kind. And with such apparent depravity in our nature, many have given up hope, or reserved their ideals of peace and happiness for an existence after death. But if humanity is to survive on planet Earth, then the harmony we seek in afterlife must be realized in this life. “We need a spiritual revival that makes practical use of the compassion and altruism potentiated by every major faith. But unlike other religious awakenings, this one must begin with the intellectual mind.”
“I believe, indeed, that overemphasis on the purely intellectual attitude has led directly to the impairment of ethical values. Without ethical culture, there is no salvation for humanity… A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.” – Albert Einstein
A belonging to nature is fundamental to all our spiritual convictions. However, the most widespread beliefs emphasize not only our connection with creation, but also our connection with humanity. In nearly every faith, the ultimate end is a transcendent unity with each other and our origin, whether it be one in Christ or one with the Universe. And at the source of this harmony is a conscious phenomenon that we call love—an alignment of emotions towards one purpose: to exist, together, forever (axiom 3).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
– Jesus Christ
“You will never enter paradise until you have faith,
and you will not complete your faith until you love one another.”
– Prophet Muhammad
“God is love; it is the only truth I fully accept.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them humanity cannot survive.”
– Dalai Lama
Our greatest moral leaders all recognized one thing: whatever the truth is, it must involve love. They knew that only love could fix the brokenness of man. That only compassion could change the course of our species. If there is any reason to hope in human nature, it is love. If there is any meaning in life, it is love. Through different beliefs, they reached the same conclusion: love is why we live, and why we want to live forever.
“This is my commandment,
that you love one another as I have loved you.”
– Jesus Christ
Religion underscores the possibility that human nature, with its capacity for evil, holds an even greater potential for good. Our nature allows us to hate, but to love even more. Maybe we all have an innate longing for the harmony that is meant to be. Maybe we’re not inherently broken, but momentarily misaligned.
“We have broadened the circle of those we love. [But] if we are to survive, our loyalties must be broadened further, to include the whole human community, the entire planet Earth.” – Carl Sagan
If I have learned anything from my faith, it is this: there is no phenomenon more powerful than love. Through its effect on the sentient mind, love is the single most potent sustainer of life. Fortunately, human nature allows almost everyone to feel compassion—all we need is a reason to. And as shown by religion, we have come up with some very fantastical reasons. But there are only two logical reasons to love—because we want to, and because we have to. And there is only one intuitive reason to love—because we are meant to.
“A phenomenon like self-transcending love does entitle us to make claims about the human mind. And this particular experience is so well attested and so readily achieved by those who devote themselves to specific [religious] practices or who even take the right drug that there is very little controversy that it exists. Facts of this kind must now be understood in a rational context.” – Sam Harris
Just consider: your mind is the result of 100 billion neurons communicating over 100 trillion synapses. Your body is not a single entity, but trillions upon trillions of molecules that continue your collective being. If such harmony can exist at the quantum level, then perhaps nature—human nature—has allowed for such harmony at the conscious level. Maybe there is a way to emulate, from our broken state, the beauty of biology.
At the quantum level, the components of an organism seem bound together by a certain purpose: to continue its collective being. To sustain, in a delicate homeostatic balance, the trace flows of energy throughout its trillions of compartments. To maintain the flux and gradient of every molecular form across every lipid membrane in its assembly. To recreate, from four nitrogenous bases, the precise passing of electrons by every enzyme from conception to death. What holds an organism together at the quantum level manifests itself, at the conscious level, as love—an alignment of emotions towards one purpose: to exist, together, forever. To continue our collective being.
“A human being is a part of the whole, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein
“It is quite possible to lose one’s sense of being a separate self and to experience a kind of boundless, open awareness—to feel, in other words, at one with the cosmos.” – Sam Harris
“For small creatures such as we,
the vastness is bearable only through love.”
– Carl Sagan
“If we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself, then we may certainly be a way for the Cosmos to continue itself. Our ability to reason, to feel, and to self-reflect—maybe it’s not some aimless accident. Rather, our existence evolved to know and to value itself, for the sole purpose of continuing itself.” That is, consciousness is the highest experience of order continuing order. And at the sentient level, this order is driven by love.
“We love because God first loved us.”
(1 John 4:19)
“Anyone who does not love does not know God,
because God is love.”
(1 John 4:8)
“God is love;
it is the only truth I fully accept.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“Consciousness is the highest experience of order continuing order. And at the sentient level, this order is driven by love.” Thus, our creation is the manifestation of our Creator’s affection. And now we—the created—have become the Creator. The true realization of this purpose must necessarily motivate a love that extends beyond ourselves and our species to the whole of nature in its beauty. If we want to continue our existence, then we must love our existence—its past, its present, and its future.
“Our remote descendants, safely arrayed on many worlds throughout the Solar System and beyond, will be unified by their common heritage, by their regard for their home planet, and by the knowledge that, whatever other life may be, the only humans in all the Universe come from Earth. They will gaze up and strain to find the blue dot in their skies. They will love it no less for its obscurity and fragility. They will marvel at how vulnerable the repository of all our potential once was, how perilous our infancy, how humble our beginnings, how many rivers we had to cross before we found our way.” – Carl Sagan
Mankind stands at the edge, caught between a stampede behind and an abyss below. The priest looks to the heavens, and the scientist looks to the stars—both believing that they have found their own hope, but neither aware that they seek the same salvation. The only alternative to extinction is eternity, and the only solution to death is love.
“If we seek nature, then love can be informed by truth
instead of being based on ignorance or self-deception.”
– Carl Sagan
“If I have learned anything from my faith, it is this: there is no phenomenon more powerful than love. Through its effect on the sentient mind, love is the single most potent sustainer of life.” And my philosophy is meant to inspire a love based not on wishful beliefs, but on a reverence for the beauty of our existence as revealed by modern science, and on a profound revelation of our purpose. If we wish to believe in free will, then we now have a choice. We can embrace our role as Creator, and create an existence more beautiful than the mind can comprehend. Or we can refuse our cosmic calling, and let ourselves fall into the darkness.
“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending.
You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds?
Lay first the foundation of humility.”
− St. Augustine
Human culture has tended to encourage narcissism and a false sense of entitlement. But a practical religion should inspire humility from even the self-perceived greatest. And there is no truer indication of our insignificance than the stars above—a reminder that you alone are absolutely nothing, and only with your species can you be something. If you seek greatness, then look up and let the majesty of God show you what it means to be truly relevant. Power isn’t about wealth or status. It’s about creating a world that is cherished by every descendant of humanity, and being part of an existence that sees eternity. In the cosmic perspective, true greatness arises from humility and kindness; the former enables change, and the latter sustains cooperation—both are necessary for our continuation. The loss of this foundation is what brings power to corruption and society to ruin.
Some ideas are fundamentally powerful because they draw on our religious intuitions—which, in more cases than not, influence an individual’s perception of reality. And there are three concepts that seem universal to our spiritual beliefs: God, eternity, and love. But in fact, these are three representations of one concept, much like the Holy Trinity. And deep within our nature is the understanding that we, humanity, are meant to embody this concept—that we are God becoming self-aware. This is an assumption that satisfies the deepest cravings of the human mind: our intellectual drive to discover, our emotional longing for love, and our spiritual search for significance. This is a truth that satisfies, once and for all, our longing for “identity, community, and a sense of purpose.”
“We have found that scientific laws pervade all of nature, that the same rules that apply on Earth as in the skies, that we can find a resonance, a harmony, between the way we think and the way the world works.” − Carl Sagan