Last words on religion

posted by Kaihsu Tai on May 7th, 2007

Mohandas K. Gandhi: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Chapter “Farewell”:

I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means.

From the last two pages (“Epilogue”) of E. F. Schumacher’s book A Guide for the Perplexed (1977) (bold type added):

Admittedly, some of this change of mind stems not initially from spiritual insight, but from materialistic fear aroused by the environmental crisis, the fuel crisis, the threat of food crisis and the indications of a coming health crisis. In the face of these — and many other — threats, most people still try to believe in the ‘technological fix’. If we could develop fusion energy, they say, our fuel problems would be solved; if we would perfect the processes of turning oil into edible proteins [the Haber–Bosch process], the world’s food problem would be solved; and the development of new drugs will surely avert any threat of a health crisis … and so on.

[…] The modern experiment to live without religion has failed, and once we have understood this, we know what our ‘post-modern’ tasks really are. Significantly, a large number of young people (of varying ages!) are looking in the right direction. They feel it in their bones that the ever more successful solutions of convergent problems is of no help at all — it may even be a hindrance — in learning how to cope, to grapple with, the divergent problems that are the stuff of real life.

The art of living is always to make a good thing out of a bad thing. Only if we know that we have actually descended into infernal regions where nothing awaits us but ‘the cold death of society and the extinguishing of all civilised relations’, can we summon the courage and imagination needed for a ‘turning around’, a metanoia [repentance]. This then leads to seeing the world in a new light, namely a place where things modern man continuously talks about and always fails to accomplish can actually be done. The generosity of the Earth allows us to feed all mankind [sic]; we know enough about ecology to keep the Earth a healthy place; there is enough room on the Earth, and there are enough materials, so that everybody can have adequate shelter; we are quite competent enough to produce sufficient supplies of necessities so that no one need live in misery. Above all, we shall then see that the economic problem is a convergent problem that has been solved already: we know how to provide enough, and do not require any violent, inhuman, aggressive technologies to do so. There is no economic problem and, in a sense, there never has been. But there is a moral problem, and moral problems are not convergent, capable of being solved so that future generations can live without effort; no, they are divergent problems, which have to be understood and transcended.

Can we rely on it that a ‘turning around’ will be accomplished by enough people quickly enough to save the modern world? This question is often asked, but whatever answer is given to it will mislead. The answer ‘Yes’ would lead to complacency; the answer ‘No’ to despair. It is desirable to leave these perplexities behind us and get down to work.

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2 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On May 7, 2007 at 22:45 Mauro said:

    This is welcomed reading after, today, I was told, by a city hall insider, that there was a small rumbling (somewhere)in city hall, complaining that there were too many “religious” shows on WCCA TV 13. We will remain open to “everyone” and continue providing a place for others to carry out their work freely.

  2. On May 8, 2007 at 02:31 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Yes, great quote! I like it.

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