I spend a lot of time struggling to figure out the fundamental basis of reality. I’m hampered in this by a brain that was evolved—optimized—to help me survive in my environment, not to penetrate the depths of what’s really real. That’s why I began studying religion in the first place. The connection was organic. Raised as a fundamentalist daily reminded that an eternal hell of torment awaited, it made sense to study the antidote (the Bible) as much as possible. When I prepared for college, which wasn’t the plan at the beginning, I could think of no other major beyond religion. In Paul Tillich’s nomenclature, it’s all about ultimate concerns. I didn’t accept the very evolution that had made me this way. That required thinking through.
Attending a liberal arts college wasn’t really a conscious decision. Nobody in my family had been to college and I didn’t know the difference between a research university and a stand-alone liberal arts institution. Somebody has to teach you these things. Religion, I found out, is a pretty good way to work toward perceptions of reality. These days the award for that goes to philosophy, but the two fields are closely related, as much as philosophers socially distance themselves from theologians. They’re both seeking the same thing, really. Public perceptions of theology, however, trail after televangelists and their ilk, leading a wrong impression in the minds of the masses. Even professors are prone to accept this facile supposition. Seeking reality doesn’t mean you won’t get laughed at along the way.
Although there have been some among religious leaders who claim to have found the answer, the rest of us continue to struggle. The more I read both of science and of religion the more complex it all seems to grow. And of course human agendas require the keeping of secrets. Knowledge that is for employees only because they kind of have to know. The price on the sticker represents a mark-up that could be cut down. What is this item really worth? So it goes with the search for reality. There’s no end to the searching. Even after Siddhārtha Gautama was enlightened, he continued to have to work at it. Christianity used to teach that love was the point of it all. That message seems to have changed with the arrival of the messiah known as Trump. Those of us who can’t stop searching even if we find can’t help but wonder if there isn’t something more worthy on which to spend our time.