Saturday, February 13, 2010

'Religion Cannot Survive Confined to One Compartment of Life and Education'

Author of  Islam & the Destiny of Man, Remembering God and King of the Castle.

"I was sent to school or rather to a series of schools in England and in Switzerland before arriving, aged 14, at Charterhouse. Surely, with services in the school chapel and classes in `Scripture', Christianity should have made some impact upon me? It made no impact at all, either upon me or upon my school friends. This does not seem to me surprising. Religion cannot survive, whole and effective when it is confined to one single compartment of life and education. Religion is either all or it is nothing; either it dwarfs all profane studies or it is dwarfed by them.

Religion is either all or it is nothing; either it dwarfs all profane studies or it is dwarfed by them.

Religion, it was assumed had nothing to do with the more important studies which formed the backbone of our education. God did not interfere in historical events, He did not determine the phenomena we studied in science classes, He played no part in current events, and the world, governed entirely by chance, and by material forces, was to be understood without reference to anything that might -or might not -exist beyond its horizons. God was surplus to requirements....

And yet I needed to know the meaning of my own existence. Only those who, at some time in their lives, have been possessed by such a need can guess at its intensity, comparable to that of physical hunger or sexual desire. I did not see how I could put one foot in front of the other unless I understood where I was going and why. I could do nothing unless I understood what part my action played in the scheme of things. All I knew I knew was that I knew nothing - nothing, that is to say, of the slightest importance - and I was paralysed by my ignorance as though immobilised in a dense fog.

Where should I seek knowledge?

By the time I was 15 I had discovered that there was something called `philosophy' and that the word meant 'love of wisdom'. Wisdom was what I sought, so the satisfaction of my need must lie hidden in these heavy books written by wise men. With a feeling of intense excitement, like an explorer already in sight of the undiscovered land, I ploughed through Descartes, Kant, Hume, Spinoza, Schopenhauer and Bertrand Russell, or else read works which explained their teachings.

`No intelligent person nowadays believes in the God of religion!' 

From Charterhouse I went on to Cambridge, A few of us lingered on, drinking coffee, after the evening meal in the Hall of King's College. The conversation turned to religion. At the head of the table sat an undergraduate who was universally admired for his brilliance, his wit and his sophistication. Hoping to impress him and taking advantage of a brief silence, I said: `No intelligent person nowadays believes in the God of religion!' He looked at me rather sadly before answering: `On the contrary, nowadays intelligent people are the only ones who do believe in God', I would willingly have sunk out of sight under the table."

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