How can I answer my question? I have no religion. I'm absolutely confused with lots of questions in
my mind, what do I do with them? And I'm looking for a teacher. Can you help me with that?
It is a positive step to admit that you are confused, that there are questions which grip you but which
you cannot answer.
For someone who has no religion, the sustenance offered by philosophy is harder, harsher, because
we have burned our boats and put all our hope in our capacity for reason. Unfortunately, human
beings are fallible creatures, and reason can sometimes let us down. Philosophy is an unsuitable
substitute for religion. Better to have no god at all, than to make a god out of philosophy.
Philosophy as a raison d'êtrehas its limitations. As a potential student of philosophy, you would
have additional limitations to contend with. It is possible that the best that you could hope for would
be to be an average student. In that case, I believe philosophy would still be something worth striving
for. But can you accept that? Would you be prepared to trade your present state of fuzzy and
ill-defined confusion for not only greater uncertainty, but also a keener sense of your limitations?
In view of the pessimistic picture I have painted, you might be surprised at the large numbers of
students from all walks of life who have enrolled on Pathways programs. Judges and priests, power
station engineers and nurses. Musicians, physicians, company directors, accountants, postal
workers, teachers, school students and housewives. Many of my students have expressed to me their
view that there is nothing better than philosophy. Few of them are likely to make a lasting contribution
to the subject. Yet they are enthusiasts,as indeed I am myself.
Try philosophy. You might like it!
In their philosophy religions have one thing in common, that they seek peace on earth. Only the ways
they talk about this are different. Jewish emphasis is on justice and mercy. The Jews have the
promises of God and the Law of Moses given on Mount Sinai. If you follow the Ten Commandments
they will transform your life according to God's will. 'God' is the Creator of all that is. If everyone lived
according to His will the world would be a place in which, even if there were a natural disaster, so
much human love and caring would be unleashed that disaster itself would be transformed. The
Christian emphasis is on the moral quality of love. Christians believe if a person lives a life of
self-sacrifice and forgiveness and inclusiveness like Jesus, the person will be transformed and her
spirit will never die though her body shall. The idea is that first the individual is transformed, then the
family, then the community and one day the world. But the work starts for any religion with the human
heart and mind and change within. According to Islam Earth can be raised to Heaven by the Five
Pillars of Islamic religious practice. Buddhist emphasis is on balance and harmony. The Four Noble
truths are the core of their teaching.
There are variants of each world religion that accord with different national and personal
temperaments. There are cults and sects which look like religions, but which are not, like Scientology
and Jehovah's witnesses and Mormons. A lot of these cults tend to come from the United States.
Religion and culture go together. You may convert to a religion but you can't convert culture. There is
something to be said for those Christians and Buddhists who advise you to follow the religion of your
culture, whatever that is, whether you like it or not. If you pick up teachings from another religion, let it
go to enrich the religion of the culture you are born into, which your language and your surname
suggest. If you are culturally 'Christian' I advise you to read the four Gospels in the Contemporary
English Version of the New Testament and speak to a priest (Catholic), minister or pastor (Protestant)
depending on which is more local. If you are culturally Jewish or Islamic contact your local
community. If you are drawn toward Buddhism have a look at The Heart of Buddha's Teachingby
Thich Nhat Hanh (Random House 1998). It is subtitled: 'Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy and
Liberation'. Sounds like what you need to me.
Matthew Del Nevo