The Road Ahead
As pointed out in Chapter 20, the fact that we exist for a purpose carries with it the requirement that we must contribute toward fulfillment of that purpose if our existence is to have any meaning. Thus our course is clearly marked out for us. We must fashion our own ethical personality to the best of our ability, at the same time doing what we can to assist others in their efforts toward a similar end, the ultimate objective in both cases being to bring the human personalities up to the Sector 3 standard. This is no simple or easy task. We are all inclined to underestimate it, largely because we are still unable to realize how far we have to go—how much we fall short of reaching the Sector 3 level even at our best—but some idea of the magnitude of the undertaking can be gained by comparing it with the task that evolution has accomplished in the long march from the first primitive single-celled living structure to the highly developed life forms of the present day.
An important factor in this situation is the manner in which the gains that are made are passed on to those that follow. More than a billion years of growth and adaptation separate the primitive single-celled organism from the complex structures of the most advanced species of life in the world today, yet each new individual of these present-day species must begin its existence as a single cell. A complex biological organism is unable to pass on its structure to its descendants; the best it can do is to transmit the “know-how”—the instructions as to how such a structure can be built. With the aid of these instructions, the newly arrived individual must accomplish the almost incredible feat of telescoping a billion years of development into the short span of time available for its growth and maturation.
Much the same is true of the ethical structures of the members of the human race. Here, too, as in the evolutionary situation, each individual must retrace the steps that were taken by those who preceded him. Existence of a Sector 3 control unit begins with the Sector 3 equivalent of a primitive biological unit, and just as each individual of a biological species must utilize the genetic instructions passed on to him by his parents as a guide by which to replicate the evolutionary development of the species, so each Sector 3 component of a human, or other intelligent being, must utilize the information passed on to him by his family, his teachers, his associates, and those who speak to him through the written, oral, and visual media in order to build the kind of an ethical structure that is the objective of existence.
There is, however, an important difference in the way in which the necessary information is transmitted. The new biological organism gets its instructions automatically, and a cell that is supposed to develop into a cocker spaniel does so develop, barring accidents, without any direction from the individual. On the other hand, a new Sector 3 unit does not get its “know-how” automatically. The information is available, to be sure, but access thereto may be too difficult, or, as it is received, the truth may be so mixed with error that it is not possible to distinguish clearly between the two. Hence, unlike the biological situation, where the potential normally becomes the actual as a matter of course, improvement of the ethical component of the human personality requires a continuing application of effort, both by the individual and by those who have the responsibility for imparting the required information to him.
When we recognize that the ultimate goal of existence is to bring the entire human race, and all intelligent extraterrestrial beings as well, up to the Sector 3 standard, which few individuals, if any, have yet reached, it is clear that the road to the ultimate objective is a long and difficult one. Even at best, achievement of the goal will require an extremely long time. The available evidence indicates that many billions of years were required for aggregation, the ruling process in the inanimate sector, to produce a DNA molecule from the original hydrogen, and at least a few billion years were required for evolution, the ruling process in the biological sector, to produce man from the most primitive life form. Although there may again be some speeding up of the development process as we go from Sector 2 to Sector 3, just as there was in going from Sector 1 to Sector 2, it seems probable that the time which ethical perfection, the ruling process in Sector 3, will require in order to complete the transformation of the various forms of intelligent life from a condition only slightly above that of the animals to the full status of ethical beings will not be less than a period of hundreds of millions of years, and it may very well be considerably longer.
The crucial question, then, is: What can we do to accelerate this painfully slow progress? There are two primary tasks to be accomplished. First, the requirements for progress toward the ultimate goal must be defined more clearly, and in greater detail. Then, the individual members of the human race, whose advancement toward the Sector 3 status is the objective at which we are aiming, must be acquainted with these findings and persuaded to put them into practice. As the activities of society are now organized, at least in the West, these are the responsibilities of philosophy and religion respectively.
It is true that there are major differences of opinion as to the proper role of philosophy and its connection with religion. Some observers regard them as separate and distinct. “Philosophy is one phase of human culture, religion is another,”407 says one author. But the relation between the two fields of thought is clear if we compare their content. The subject matter of the usual philosophy courses in the universities consists of epistemology, the branch of learning that treats of the nature of knowledge; logic, the methodology of reasoning; metaphysics, here used in a narrow sense in which it is concerned with reality and existence; ethics, which deals with the standards of human behavior; and esthetics, which explores the factors that affect man’s appreciation of beauty. Logic is procedural rather than substantive, and the status of esthetics in the general picture is still somewhat uncertain. The other three of the subjects enumerated above are therefore the primary fields that philosophy currently undertakes to cover. As expressed by one writer, “There are strictly three universal constants: existence, knowledge, and value.”408 On this basis, he reduces the essential content of philosophy to ontology, the study of existence, epistemology, the study of knowledge, and axiology, the study of values (the basis of ethics). For present purposes, we will say that the foregoing constitute the subject matter of metaphysical and moral philosophy.
Now, for comparison, let us ask, What subject matter is treated by religion? In general, a religion gives us an explanation of the existence and ultimate destiny of the universe and of man, an explanation of the origin of this and other religious knowledge, and a code of ethics; that is, it treats of existence, knowledge, and values: the same items that are of most concern to the metaphysical and moral philosophers. The subject matter of religion is thus essentially the same as that of the metaphysical and moral fields of philosophy.
Furthermore, religion arrives at the same kind of conclusions about these matters as philosophy, and, when we make due allowance for the wide diversity of opinions in both fields, much the same conclusions. But there is a significant difference in methods and procedures. The task in which the philosophers are engaged is primarily a search for knowledge. Religious organizations, on the other hand, regard the revelations received by their founders as adequate sources of knowledge, and they devote their energies to putting that knowledge into practical use. When a philosopher reaches some conclusions regarding his subject matter, he writes a book. But when an individual receives, or thinks that he receives, a religious revelation, he initiates action. He organizes a continuing and systematic program of persuading others to accept that revelation as authentic, and to pattern their lives accordingly. Religion, says Abraham Kaplan, is “not merely an intellectual belief, but something to live by.”409
We thus find that the relation between philosophy and religion is analogous to the relation between physical science and engineering, or between the “pure” and “applied” branches of any science. This fact may be expressed by the statement that Religion is applied metaphysical and moral philosophy.
There will no doubt be some objection to this statement on the ground that the theoretical aspect of religion is theology rather than philosophy. But theology is something quite different. There is considerable overlapping of the subject matter, and theologians are to some degree philosophers as well, but theology is not, like philosophy, primarily aimed at discovering new truths. The theologian’s task is to explain and interpret the already existing system of religious thought to which his organization is committed. An appropriate analogy from the physical field would compare the product of philosophy to a textbook, and that of theology to an operating manual.
It has often been pointed out, much to the distress of many who do not like the idea, that pure science is neutral; it has no goals. Engineering and other applied sciences establish objectives, or are assigned objectives by other agencies, and they then proceed to take actions directed toward these objectives, utilizing the information supplied by pure science. For example, the various factors entering into the mechanical properties of materials—strength, elasticity, resilience, etc.—are evaluated by the scientists working in the laboratories. In the course of this activity, they may determine that the elastic limit of a certain grade of steel is 25,000 pounds per square inch. This is what the philosophers call an is statement: the expression of a fact.
As noted in Chapter 20, philosophical discussions have laid much stress on the point that ethical theory has no way of going directly from such an is statement to an ought statement, the expression of an obligation. But this is equally true in the physical field. The mere fact that the strength of this particular steel is sufficient to support a load of 25,000 pounds per square inch does not tell us anything about how much of a load we ought to put on it. Of course, if our objective is to design a structure that will withstand the load that will be imposed, we ought to so proportion the members that the elastic limit will not be exceeded at any time. But if we are designing an overload device to prevent damage to a certain unit of equipment, we ought to so proportion the bolts or other fastening devices that the strength of the steel will be exceeded and the overload mechanism will come into play before serious damage is done. Thus the nature of the ought statement cannot be specified until an objective or goal is assigned.
From the foregoing, it can be seen that the situation in the philosophical field is by no means unique; the same considerations are controlling in the physical field. Indeed, they apply to the theoretical branch of every field of knowledge. Theory cannot be put into practice until objectives are designated. Assignment of philosophical goals is a function of religion.
This statement will be challenged. But the objectors cannot deny that some agency must set the goals. Those who suggest that they could be set by some non-religious agency are simply offering a substitute for religion; actually nothing but religion under another name. Henry Margenau, for instance, tells us that, “Ethics can disclaim all essential connection with religion.”410 But in the same discussion he concedes that values are “arbitrary as long as they stand by themselves,” and that actions “receive their value from a command or a directive to which the person is committed.” Now let us ask, What are we to call the agency that commands and directs the most important aspects of human life? Isn’t this about as good a thumbnail description of religion-in-general as we could want? Those who wish to divorce their value systems from religion are simply transferring the primary functions of religion to some other agency, thereby making that agency a religion, or at least a quasi-religion, regardless of what name they may attach to it.
As noted in Chapter 20, a moral code is not self-enforcing; it contains no directive that it be obeyed. Such a directive is obviously needed if the code is to have any practical effect, as Margenau points out, and one of the basic functions of religion has been to meet this need. The findings of this work now provide a directive independent of religion, by showing that compliance with the code is essential to the fulfillment of the purpose for which the human race exists, but this is not inconsistent with the religious explanations of the origin of the command, and each individual is at liberty to accept either or both.
It is now evident that the obstacle that has hitherto prevented the formulation of a consistent and workable theory of ethics was the lack of a clear understanding of the nature of the moral objective. As long as ethical judgments were based on criteria, such as human happiness, not related to the true objective, and not more than ethically neutral at best, it was impossible to set up any satisfactory ethical system. But now that a clear and unequivocal definition of the objective is available, there is no longer anything standing in the way of working out the provisions of the true moral code—the code of Sector 3—in full detail.
This knowledge of the details of the moral code will provide the basis for a new and more consistent theory of values. There is a rather general agreement that this is one of the basic needs of the present era. Some of the statements quoted in the earlier pages were taken from the published report of a conference on values held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1957. An idea of the gravity with which the participants in this conference viewed the value problem can be obtained from the following excerpts from the preface to the report:
This volume springs from the belief, first, that the ultimate disease of our time is valuelessness; second, that this state is more crucially dangerous than ever before in history; and finally, that something can be done about it by man’s own rational efforts.
The state of valuelessness… has come to its present dangerous point because all the traditional value systems ever offered to mankind have in effect proved to be failures. The cure for this disease is obvious. We need a validated, usable system of human values, values that we can believe in and devote ourselves to because they are true rather than because we are exhorted to “believe and have faith.”411
In the light of the new information that has been developed in this work, it is evident that this critical statement falls into the same error that has produced the results that it deplores; that is, it speaks of “human values” where it should be concerned with “moral values.” Moral values are human values, to be sure, but not all human values are moral values. In fact, most value decisions that are made by human beings involve economic values or social values rather than moral values. From the standpoint of the ultimate destiny of the human individual, only the moral value judgments are relevant. Lack of recognition of this fact is the reason why, as pointed out in the foregoing statement, “all the traditional value systems… have in effect proved to be failures.” They were, and are, failures because they have no solid foundations.
The efforts of the philosophers to replace authoritarian morality with value systems based on empirical premises have been nothing more than futile intellectual exercises. None of these systems gets any significant amount of attention outside philosophical circles because it is obvious that the values thus derived are not the kind of values that “we can believe in and devote ourselves to.” As emphasized in Chapter 18, most human individuals have an intuitive understanding of simple moral principles, and they realize that pleasure, happiness, and the like are not the grounds on which an acceptable code of human conduct can be based. Our scientific analysis confirms the validity of this intuitive judgment, as it shows that the objectives defined by the hedonist philosophers are the objectives of Sector 2, the biological sector, rather than those to which the human race must subscribe if it is to be anything other than one more species of animal. Some supporters of the so-called “naturalistic” view of ethics, who recognize the incongruity involved in basing morality on hedonism, have tried to find a basis in human development, or “self-realization.” The good, or right, according to one expression of this view, is that which is “in conformity with evolutionary development.” But evolution, in the usual sense, is also a purely biological process. Of course, evolution could be redefined, but as A. C. Ewing points out, “if we define evolutionary development as change for the better, as one is tempted to do, the definition of good proposed will constitute a vicious circle.”412
Unlike these philosophical value systems, which have little actual moral content, and a correspondingly minimal practical effect, the religious systems have had a profound impact on human life throughout recorded history. However, the true foundation for the principles of morality included in the religious teachings has not heretofore been recognized, and the organized religions have therefore been forced to rely on the power of authority. For thousands of years, this has sufficed to hold the rank and file in line, but now that more and more individuals in the advanced societies are reaching the point where they want to make their own decisions, rather than accepting the word of authority, the religious value systems are left without any basis on which they can claim authenticity.
The decline in the influence of the organized religions, especially in the Western nations, and the widespread repudiation of the religious standards of morality, are generally interpreted as a major retreat in the continuing struggle to raise the moral level of the human race. But, in fact, the present situation is a stage through which we must necessarily pass before the higher levels can be reached. The level of morality from which the drop has occurred was not an expression of the morality of the human race. It was an expression of the moral standards of the most advanced religious thinkers: standards that the general public were not prepared to accept voluntarily, but to which they were induced to conform by threats of punishment, or promises of reward, either here or in the hereafter.
Organized society is concerned primarily with what its members do, rather than why they do it, and an enforced code serves the purposes of society. But, as pointed out in Chapter 20, the purpose for which the universe exists, so far as we are able to discern it, is to develop individuals who are fully under the control of the Sector 3 aspects of their personalities. Before this can be accomplished, the individual members of society must be released from control by the carrot and the stick, and allowed to make their own choices. The first result of such a release naturally takes the form of a general deterioration of the prevailing morality, inasmuch as the general average of the individual moral standards cannot be expected to measure up to the level previously established on the basis of the most advanced moral thinking. But the release from authority is essential, and even though the initial retrogression that follows this release is distressing, this is part of the price of progress.
In the long run, the deterioration of the position of institutional religion that is now taking place in the Western world, grim as it may seem to the orthodox religious establishments, may have a beneficial effect in forcing these organizations to reassess their policies. We may hope, for instance, that at least some of the religious bodies will take note of the need for growth in moral understanding—something comparable to the growth that has occurred in scientific knowledge. “None of the world religions,” says L. L. Whyte, “has adequately recognized the supreme importance of this human faculty for progressive discovery.”413 Science, too, has its unproductive periods when knowledge stands still, or even retrogresses, and it is often handicapped by undue reliance on the dicta of “authorities,” but in principle it is open-minded. The word of authority may for a time be accepted de facto, but never de jure. Sooner or later, therefore, the search for the truth is resumed, and more progress ensues. Religious thinking could very profitably take heed of this scientific experience.
Of course, those who feel that all that needs to be said about philosophical and religious matters has already been said by the founders of the great religions—more particularly by the founder of their own religion—will reject any such suggestion summarily. But it is now apparent that the purely authoritarian basis for religion, however necessary it may have been originally, and however great its contribution to past progress may have been, is wholly inadequate to deal with the questions that are being asked by the growing number of individuals who are doing their own thinking, and who want to put their religious beliefs on a rational basis. A major reason for the “valuelessness” which is the occasion for so much concern at present is that much of the traditional value structure has been based on the metaphysical assertions of religion, which are today weakening under sever attack.
Now that the results of the present study have reaffirmed and reinforced some of the most important of these metaphysical assertions, and have provided a sound scientific basis for the moral code, totally independent of religious authority (although entirely consistent with the existence of such authority), the weakness that is responsible for the lack of a “validated, usable system of values” has been overcome. The way is now open for a resumption of the forward progress that was interrupted when the authoritarian controls were first relaxed. It is no longer necessary to define the moral code by religious decree. We now have the ability to derive the provisions of the code independently of any authority, even if we do recognize a religious authority of some kind.
Just what form future progress toward the objectives of human existence will take remains to be seen. In the short run situation, the established religions will play the principal role. Over the long pull, there may be some significant changes. As pointed out in the discussion of scientific insight, the information that can be derived from intuitive sources depends not only on the capability of the human individual to receive such information but also on the amount of existing knowledge to which the intuitive information can be related. In the words of the previous discussion, it depends on the height of the platform from which the “inductive leap” is made. The continual increase in religious (that is, metaphysical) knowledge, a process that will be accelerated when full advantage is taken of the findings of this work, should therefore bring a significant amount of additional intuitive information within reach.
Under these circumstances, it is quite possible that some especially qualified individual may receive religious revelations of such a nature as to lead to establishment of a new religion, or drastic reconstruction of some religion now existing. Either in connection with such developments, or independent of them, there may be some major changes in the structure and policies of religious organizations in general. For the immediate future, however, we will have to rely mainly on the efforts of the established religions.
In the light of the information that has been developed in the preceding pages, it is clear that the task to be accomplished calls for religious organizations that have a strong sense of purpose, together with an up-to-date, enlightened viewpoint on genuine religious issues. As matters now stand, however, most of the religious organizations that follow a well-defined path are badly encumbered with archaic beliefs and doctrines, while those that have made some efforts to keep abreast of modern thought have, to a large extent, lost their sense of purpose and are floundering about without any clear-cut religious objectives. Such an assertion, coming as it does from a scientific rather than a religious source, may be challenged, and probably resented as well, but current issues of religious journals are full of statements by members of the religious Establishment that say essentially the same thing. Here, for instance, are the views of a minister of one of the large Protestant denominations:
Across the entire country there is a deep uneasiness about the message and the mission of the Christian church… . First, there is the current turmoil in theology and worship. Just when the church seemed to be the one place left where a person could be sure of finding ancient truths and moral standards reaffirmed, suddenly everything seems to be called in question… . The uneasiness has been compounded by the emergence of the clergy as questioners and innovators… . If you add to that the trend toward political activism and the rejection of traditional piety—what I might call the theology of the picketline—then no one can speak of sanctuaries today as havens of peace in a world of tumultuous change.414
It is no accident that “the trend toward political activism” coincides with a “deep uneasiness about the message and the mission” of religion. When long range objectives are not clear and distinct, there is always a tendency to substitute some short range goals that can be readily defined. The “social gospel” that we now hear so much about is simply humanism under another name. More and more often it is proclaimed from the pulpit that “the objective of religion is to make the world a better place to live in.”
This is, of course, a very commendable objective; one that all of us can approve. Whether or not it is a religious objective is an altogether different question. The transcendental religions have always held that man exists for a purpose that is far more significant than living a good life on earth, and that an activity is religious, or at least has religious aspects, if it contributes to the fulfillment of that purpose. It is probable, however, that the present trend toward the “social gospel” is largely due to an increasing awareness among church leaders that they have no clear idea as to what the purpose of human life actually is. In the words of their respective creeds, which differ but little in this respect, it is “to accomplish the will of God,” but the crucial question is: Just what does this mean? Alongside the vague and conflicting answers that are supplied by the various organized religions, the simple and believable assertions of the humanists—that life in this world can be improved, and that we ought to try to improve it—are definitely attractive, and it is not surprising that there has been a general shift in the direction of accepting this as a religious goal: embracing the “theology of the picket line.”
The point that does not appear to have been given adequate consideration by those who have accepted the humanist thesis is that this leaves them without any distinctly religious objective. In effect, it makes religion superfluous. Many other agencies are working toward social and economic betterment, either intentionally or as a by-product of their efforts toward other objectives. The economist, for instance, defines his objective in identically the same terms as those employed in stating the aims of the “social gospel.” The purpose of economics, he says, “is to make the world a better place in which to live.”415 Furthermore, many of these non-religious agencies are doing this job much more effectively than the religious organizations. For instance, the inventors of labor-saving devices and the industrial organizations that work out methods of manufacturing those devices at a cost that is within reach of the general public probably do more to make life pleasant for the average individual than the “social gospel” ever accomplishes. The same can be said of those individuals and organizations whose efforts are directed toward making new and better medicines available to minimize the physical ills of mankind. If social and economic betterment is adopted as the religious objective, then the religious organizations are simply joining in an activity in which many other agencies of society are participating. They are taking part, and only a minor part at that, in what is primarily a secular activity.
Past experience suggests that this policy may have some very undesirable long-range consequences. It is not difficult to see a rather close parallel between the social welfare activities on which the churches are now embarking more and more freely, and the secular functions undertaken by the religions of earlier eras, the functions that are responsible for the present condition in which the genuine religious doctrines are smothered under an overburden of anachronistic rules of conduct. There is a disturbing similarity between the early-day identification of godliness with conformity to diet regulations and today’s identification of the “will of God” with support of some particular social or economic program.
Today, as in the distant past, the short-term advantages of utilizing the authority of religion as a secular tool are self-evident. Just as those who were trying to enforce diet, sanitation, and other health regulations in primitive communities found it expedient to incorporate these regulations into the religious codes, so those who are trying to make changes in present-day social and economic conditions find it expedient to enlist the aid of the churches, and to portray their objectives as part of the Divine plan. But the long-term results of the first secularization have been disastrous. The mixing of secular and religious ideas and activities has confused the situation to the point where neither priest nor layman is now able to distinguish between them; a fact that has contributed very materially to the decline in religious influence that is admittedly becoming serious.
Religious organizations have made a serious mistake in attempting to enforce a social code as a part of the moral code. When the social conditions change, as they inevitably do, many of the principles of the previously formulated social code become inapplicable, if not completely ridiculous. The religious attempts to continue enforcing these provisions as part of the moral code then have the effect of discrediting morality in general, and producing the “valuelessness” that is now a matter of acute concern. There is no reason to believe that the effects of the present-day tendency toward further secularization of religion will be any less damaging in the long run.
In any event, the findings of this present work now define the issues more clearly, and should enable a reassessment of the situation, not only by the religious organizations but also by those individuals who are sufficiently concerned to want to evaluate these issues for themselves. The basic fact that has been uncovered is that the transcendental religions are correct in their assertions that there is a purpose in human existence, and that this purpose is defined by agencies outside the space-time universe. It then follows that these religions are also correct in their contention that the primary objective of religion is to aid in the fulfillment of that purpose. The essential contribution which the present work has made toward clarification of the situation is a definite identification of the purpose of human existence, which has hitherto been only vaguely understood.
The purpose for which the entire universe, including the human race, exists, we find, is to build ethical personalities; that is, to perfect the rudimentary Sector 3 components that enter into the structures of men and other intelligent biological organisms in extraterrestrial locations. We may then define religious activities as those that are aimed directly at the accomplishment of this basic purpose. It is clear that the humanistic goal of “making the world a better place in which to live” does not come within this definition, since it makes no direct contribution to the primary purpose of existence. It therefore cannot be considered a religious objective, however praiseworthy it may be from some other standpoint.
Improving the conditions of life on earth does have some indirect effect on progress toward the purpose of existence, since, as we have already noted, the individual who leads a comfortable and trouble-free life has more opportunity and more inclination to perfect his ethical personality than one who is continually harassed by the everyday problems of living. But in view of our observation that most of the improvements in living conditions that are being made today are results of the activities of agencies and organizations that cannot be considered religious in any sense of the term, it is clear that we cannot stretch the definition of “religious” far enough to include humanistic goals. Humanism is directed toward happiness. This is desirable from the human standpoint, to be sure, but, as brought out earlier, it is irrelevant from the standpoint of the ultimate purpose of life. Thus, humanism is not a religion, nor a substitute for religion, nor even a component of religion.
It is a fair question to ask whether any religious organization can carry on an extensive program directed at the objectives of humanism or other secular ends and at the same time do justice to its religious responsibilities. As Paul Tillich warns, “Acceptance of secularism can lead to a slow elimination of the religious dimension altogether.”416 Inasmuch as the religious objective, the building of moral character, is the most significant aspect of human existence, the only one that is anything more than transient, should we not have some sort of an organization—if not the present religious bodies, then something else—that would devote its full energies to this most difficult and most important task?
“We are told,” says Jay G. Williams, Chairman of the Department of Religion at Hamilton College, that “the church cannot afford to be irrelevant; it must address itself to the crucial problems of the day if it wishes to attract people.”417 But in diverting their attention to the “crucial problems of the day”—secular problems mainly—the churches are diverting their attention away from the crucial problems of human existence: the religious problems. They are converting the church from a religious organization to a secular institution.
If the church is to survive as a significant influence in the world of tomorrow, it must, in the words of Dr. Williams, “begin to take itself seriously as a religious community.” It cannot afford to abandon its religious mission in order to “attract people,” even if it were successful in that aim, which is clearly not true, thus far at least. Again quoting Dr. Williams, “I certainly do not see hordes of people flocking to those churches which are attempting to be relevant.” Membership growth in recent years has been confined almost entirely to those denominations that do not try to be “relevant” in the present-day sense.
One of the factors that mitigates against the success of the kind of a mixture that is involved in attempting to pursue both religious and secular objectives concurrently is that the secular task, whatever it may happen to be at the moment, is much the easier. A secular goal can usually be identified clearly and unequivocally, whereas the religious task is more general and hard to pin down specifically. The secular antagonists—people—are clearly visible, while the religious antagonists—ignorance, inertia, superstition, selfishness, and so on—however real and however powerful they may be, are nevertheless intangible. The available means of furthering the secular objectives are easily recognized, and the progress or lack of progress that results from their use can be evaluated, at least approximately, as the work proceeds. On the other hand, there is always a question as to what methods are appropriate in any religious situation, and whether or not any progress has been, or is being, made toward the defined goals is often shrouded in uncertainty. It is not surprising, therefore, that where the option exists, the young and impatient—together with those that are merely impatient—are very likely to find themselves more at home with the secular activities. The religious aspect of their responsibilities then recedes into the background.
It should not be assumed, however, that separating the religious and secular aspects of present-day religious doctrines, and a renewed emphasis on strictly religious activities would require embracing the conception that man’s aims and aspirations must be centered on “other-worldly” goals to the exclusion of concern with life on earth. On the contrary, our findings show that there is no way in which an individual can prepare himself for a future existence, whatever form that existence may take, other than by fulfilling his purpose here on earth. There need not be any less progress toward improvement of the conditions of human living; one of the most effective means of insuring that such progress does take place is to increase the number of individuals who have both the knowledge and the desire to do that which is right and good. But this is only a collateral issue, and we should avoid confusing it with the primary objective. The essential function of religion is to supply each individual human being with the special knowledge that he needs in order to be able to so govern his life that he will fulfill the purpose for which he exists and to provide the example, encouragement, and support that will induce these individuals to make full use of the information that is supplied. This a colossal task, and it deserves the undivided attention of those persons and those organizations that are engaged with it.
Since the demand for rationality in religion is the principal cause of the present crisis in the religious field, this crisis will inevitably deepen unless effective counteraction is taken, inasmuch as the continued rise in educational levels is bringing more and more individuals up to the point where they will no longer accept the word of authority without question. If religion cannot present a rational case, then humanism, which is rational if one accepts its premises, will continue to gain. In order to meet this challenge, the organized religions will not only have to make it clear that the goals of humanism, however commendable they may be, are secular, not religious, but will also have to make some significant progress toward introducing reason into religion. What is now required is an overhauling of religious doctrines that will make them acceptable to the person who is no longer meekly submissive to authority and insists on doing his own thinking.
Unfortunately, neither the established religions nor any philosophical agencies have made any perceptible progress in this direction thus far. Not even a good start has been made toward the essential task of separating the true from the false in existing doctrines and reconciling the divergent views of the many religions and sects: a prerequisite for any concerted effort toward higher levels of thought and action. It is true that much attention is currently being given to “ecumenism,” and church mergers, or unions, as they are generally called, are very much in the forefront of institutional religious activity at the moment. However, these mergers are usually achieved not by reaching agreement on the points of doctrinal difference, but by agreeing not to pay any attention to these differences. This is effective from the standpoint of eliminating controversies that might block the mergers, but it contributes nothing toward distinguishing religious truth from religious error, or from the large amount of inherently non-religious matter with which the religious essentials are now associated. Indeed, the churches’ avoidance of discussion and controversy about genuinely religious issues plays a significant part in accelerating the current trend toward substituting secular for religious objectives.
The peculiarly religious task is a difficult one, and in view of the lack of any clearly defined goal, or any rational justification for the doctrines that they are called upon to support and defend, it is not surprising that many workers in the religious organizations have allowed discouragement and frustration to turn them toward secular objectives. But the findings of this work now provide the solid factual and rational base that religion has heretofore lacked. We have demonstrated by standard scientific methods that there is an existence independent of the physical universe, as the religions have contended; that there is communication between that existence and the human race, as the religions likewise assert; and that the ultimate goal of human existence is to so develop our ethical personalities that we will follow the governing rules of that outside sector rather than behaving as purely biological organisms. The religious task is to ascertain the details of the governing rules, to disseminate that information as widely as possible, to persuade individuals to pattern their lives in accordance with these rules, and to guide and assist them in their efforts toward that end. The particular language that is employed in carrying out this assignment—the imagery in which the essential truths are clothed, and the doctrinal assertions with which they are embroidered—is immaterial, so long as it is rational and not inconsistent with established facts. The important point is that the goal is now definitely defined, and although the road that leads to it is full of obstacles and impediments, it is nevertheless visible.