“Faith may be blind faith. Faith is not the real description of religion. Religion means the laws given by God, and anyone who follows those laws is religious, whether a Christian, a Hindu, or a Muslim.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Science of Self-Realization, Ch 6a)
“One side has their argument. It seems logical enough to those who hear it in passing. That side just wants to love; that is the foundation of their opinion. Why would anyone deny them that love? I agree with your argument, but if you can’t explain it properly, it won’t hold any water. One side speaks to emotion and basic common sense, while all you can do is thump your Bible. How do you expect to ever persuade people that way?”
Indeed, when religion is deemed to be something only of faith, it is very easy to discount. The other side, which relies on sense perceptions alone, seems to have the upper hand. When you portray your opposition as fanatical or living in a fantasy land, it is much easier to win arguments. Real religion, however, is not based on faith alone. Faith will always be there, even in relationships where the other party’s presence is easily perceived, i.e. when faith apparently turns into reality. Faith thus doesn’t make religion unique. Real religion is scientifically based, as it has laws that apply to all time periods and to all people.
The arts can give a good reading on the pulse of the society at the time. Just seeing how religion is portrayed in television and film tells us all we need to know about the reason for its gradual decline in popularity. On the one side you have science. You have physicists, chemists, biologists and archaeologists combining together to understand the universe. They’ve made great strides over the past few thousand years, so they think they are progressing towards complete knowledge. With complete knowledge they’ll be able to live forever with endless enjoyment.
On the other side you have religion. Followers of religion are equated with those who believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Therefore the dividing line is rather clear. Either you believe in science, which is logical and well-reasoned, or you believe in a God described in your scriptural work of choice. In the latter there is intolerance. You don’t accept anyone who doesn’t believe in your books. You act a certain way only because your book says to do so. You’re not very intelligent; otherwise you would take to science.
In actuality, the real fantasy is the belief that scientific study alone can bring happiness. The animal community doesn’t have the higher intelligence required to understand the atoms and other intricacies of nature. They only know eating, sleeping, mating and defending. At the same time, they find such things without a problem. They don’t have to study fossils. They don’t have to force themselves to eat healthy. They don’t have to worry about scientific advancement. They just live.
The materialist who relies solely on science has a very difficult time in life. Even if they live for one hundred years, the full duration is spent in worry. The mind is consumed with the fear of impending death, and so there is feverish study to try to prevent death’s destined arrival. Whether one lives for one hundred days or one hundred years, death will arrive all the same. If both the animal and the human being die, of what significance is the difference in intelligence?
God doesn’t have to be a figment of the imagination. He doesn’t have to be worshiped as a result of fear tactics alone. A wise person understands that there is an origin to all life. There is an original force, and since that force is much more powerful than anything else, what is the use in trying so hard to live forever in the present body? One who knows the spiritual science understands that every living entity does indeed live forever. The spirit soul’s existence cannot be eliminated. The influence may be lessened or increased depending on the time and circumstance, but the existence itself is never affected. The sun sometimes shines bright in the sky, while other times there is a cloud cover, but in either case the sun still exists. In the same way, the living entities are sometimes manifest, at which point we describe the initial entry as birth, and sometimes unmanifest, at which point we describe the exit as death.
“All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when they are annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.28)
The Vedas are the original spiritual science and the religion with the most detail provided. There is no need to rely solely on faith. Understand for yourself how you are not your body. From basic observation, come to the realization that sense pleasure is not the be all, end all. Today you are hankering for doughnuts from your favorite doughnut shop, but eating the doughnuts won’t give you lasting satisfaction. The next day you will be hankering for something else.
On the other hand, if your lone hankering is to serve God, you will always be pleased. You will automatically require much less in regards to personal comfort. Eating, sleeping, mating and defending will take place as a matter of fact, sort of like a routine. Right now, you don’t consciously think about taking a shower, driving to work, blinking, eating your meal until it is finished, or so many other routine things. They just happen on their own after a while. Your mind is focused on something else while all these things are going on.
If the mind is focused on serving God, then there is little concern for sense pleasures. This is real transcendence. Religion is portrayed as something to be laughed at precisely because of the challenge it presents to the standard way of life. Instead of the motto of “eat, drink and be merry,” in real religion it’s “simple living and high thinking.” The consciousness is the gateway to happiness, and in devotional service, which is the genuine religion, the consciousness is gradually purified. In material life, which is devoid of spiritual attention, the consciousness is only further degraded, implicating the worker in so many reactions of karma.
In devotional service one actually uses all that is around them to worship God. Thus even the scientific advancements can be used for good. It is the consciousness attached to a particular activity that determines whether the activity is auspicious or inauspicious. If there is only blind faith, where every pearl of wisdom that is not believed to be sourced in a sacred book is instantly rejected, then the consciousness isn’t very sharp. The same goes for rejecting the presence of God outright because one mistakenly thinks that such a belief must rely on faith and faith alone.
Science will get you a somewhat better understanding of the material nature that isn’t your ideal home, and Santa Claus can perhaps carry you through the younger years, before you wise up. Bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, will always be to your benefit because it is the culmination of all goals and desires. It is the purest version of activity, and it allows one to see everything with the proper knowledge. It brings a permanent result. Bhakti-yoga in the modern age starts and ends with the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Either material science you pick,
Or to thumping your Bible stick.
God painted as figment of imagination,
Fools are those involved in glorification.
But faith not foundation of religion real,
Not in ignorance to Lord must kneel.
From Vedas mystery of real God uncover,
Proper use of material nature then discover.