Spirituality and Religion, are they Connected? Commentary on Raghwesh Ranjan

- Frank (Yeruham) Leavitt, Ph.D.
Chairman, The Centre for Asian and International Bioethics
Faculty of Health Sciences
Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel
Email: yeruham@bgumail.bgu.ac.il

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 11 (2001), 111.


Raghwesh Ranjan's article is serious and stimulating, but I wonder if it really is getting at some of the most troubling points about religion. Regardless of whether the Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary defines religion as belief in existence of God or Gods, it seems to me that maybe there are things deeper than belief. Isn't belief a matter of what we have been indoctrinated, or made emotionally excited into believing? Or perhaps it is the firm adherence to conclusions which we have reached through logical or scientific reasoning. But maybe existence -- or worlds beyond existence -- include things which we cannot imagine or conceive well enough to believe in. And maybe there are mysterious forces, other worlds, "God or Gods" which influence us whether we believe in them or not. Would "God or Gods" really need us to believe in them in order for them to influence the workings of our brains and the movements of history? I think that in the bioethic of science in general, and in the bioethic of medicine, especially terminal care, in particular, we need to start with the humility to recognize that we really do not know anything whatsoever about the meaning of life, about what happens to us after death, about unknown forces which may or may not be acting on us at every moment. Religion -- in spite of the humility which some religious texts teach -- can be a kind of gross egotistic presumption that we can know about the deep and mysterious sides of existence, including what "God or Gods" are really like.

Raghwesh Ranjan says: "Religion teaches tolerance, humbleness and respect for fellow beings." Oh, really? Think about all the religious ward going on this very moment in the world. Think about the hatred which religions have encouraged, not only towards believers in other religions but also towards members of other sects within the same religion, or towards individuals who don't happen to perform the ceremonies as one would wish them to do. Think about religions which preach that only their concept of God is the right one, and which have tried to convert the world to their beliefs through violent force, deception and manipulation.

I think the bioethicist's creed should not be belief, but metaphysical humility: the humility to admit that I am probably wrong about everything I think about the mystical, that we are all here together in a life the deep meaning of which none of us can understand, that when it really comes to understanding the meaning of life -- why we exist, why anything at all exists, what if anything will be when it is all over -- the simplest, most uneducated person knows no less than the greatest and most distinguished scientist. Perhaps this -- not religion, but not secularism either -- can be the start of love.


Mystical Bioethics Network
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