Are We Created To Worship?
A favorite team, a celebrity obsession, a TV show that we ‘must watch’, a ‘Great Cause’ we are passionate about: what do these things have in common? Do we not all have the desire to believe in something beyond ourselves and be willing to even make a fool of ourselves to show our passion for it? In the USA, despite an ‘Old West’ mentality based on ‘rugged individualism,’ we still long to be part of a larger body: a group of like-minded individuals who function as a unit, united in a common bond, a brotherhood. From support groups for cancer survivors or adult children of alcoholics, to a sporting team or music icon’s fan club- we all desire to be included and to be understood- to be part of something meaningful, something that transcends the mundane of everyday life. We long to worship something beyond ourselves.
Fulfillment… Or not?
Is there not some sort of continuum on the fulfillment scale, where each ’cause’ can be measured as more or less fulfilling and satisfying? Clearly, going to a sporting event and getting wasted with a group of friends has a less transcendent purpose than saving the whales or helping the poor; yet at their core, they are striving for the same elusive thing. One looks for momentary pleasure and oblivion, the other looks out for other life forms or future generations, but both involve other like-minded people doing something meaningful together. Although you could conclude that saving the whales is a more productive, positive activity than partying with your friends, do either of these activities bring lasting fulfillment?
It has been said that whatever we desire to give ourselves to is the thing that has the potential to be worshipped, be it a person, cause or religion; ultimately, many passionate causes decline as the sports team struggles or the musician stops innovating or the evidence piles up that the cause you were once giving up your life for in time and resources has fallen off its pedestal- for any number of reasons.
We become disillusioned, profoundly dissatisfied; life has lost some color, as the cold reality sinks in that what we once believed in has lost its luster. Our little god has fallen off his throne and apparently never deserved that place of prominence in our hearts. Empty now, at loose ends trying to figure out what is worthy of our time and effort and energy: nothing perhaps? Yet the questions lingers- why do we have this feeling of emptiness that nothing seems to satisfy? And suddenly it dawns on us that every culture believes in some sort of god- with a religious belief system to go along with it: could it be part of our make-up and hardwired into our DNA to worship!
Making Sense of Our Shared Humanity
The most helpful way I have found to understand our shared humanity is to view our identity as made up of three key components: mind, body, and soul. Perhaps the third one is controversial to you, but if you think about it for a moment there seems to be something qualitatively different about us as human beings that differentiate us form other life forms on this earth.
So when we consider the possibility that the desire to worship is wired into the DNA of us human beings, we wonder how that developed: we look at the desire to create, the desire to follow moral principles, the desire to strive for improvement and achieve an ideal. We have a burning desire to create: we make music, conceive art, build a house, engineer a car, start a family. We have a strong conception of right and wrong: the concept of karma is found explicitly or implicitly in all world belief systems, with principles that are accepted universally. We dream of an ideal world of beautiful perfection, a place where everyone has the highest motives and all seek the best for everyone else. We look around us and realize that in our finest moments, we are striving to improve as an individual, a family, a community, a nation, a world.
We seem to have a desire for the transcendent, to be part of something that raises us up to something beyond ourselves- greater than ourselves- and to deeply connect with others in a fulfilling relationship of shared understanding and mutual agreement seems to be a start. Nearly anything can take on a cult like status in our minds- everything on the continuum from ‘The Cult of Mac’ and Steve Jobs of Apple Computer to Jim Jones’ cult in Guyana, where his devotees appear to have committed mass suicide as one final act of togetherness. But we are compelled to ask: To what end? What are we humans trying to accomplish with our devotion? And we see, sooner or later, that all these things are hollow: some are merely deceptive, while others are downright dangerous or even deadly, but ultimately none fulfill. Yes, for that period of time when we were all together, of one mind, we loved it, but sooner or later it let us down somehow, and that feeling evaporated. From Santa Claus to Superman, and from celebrity obsession to music idol worship- there’s nothing ultimately worthy of our adoration.
So we keep seeking that elusive goal- to find something truly worthy of our worship.
courtesy of Fred Butson
Can I Improve My Soul?
So I can work on my body: eat right and work out and get in great shape; I can work on my mind: study and learn new topics and gain great knowledge; could it not also be true that I can work on my soul and ultimately find that thing that satisfies the longing, that fulfills our highest hopes and greatest dreams? What is it that satisfies the soul, that answers the question with a resounding YES there is something more to life than this? Could it be that we are indeed created to be eternal? To have a hope, a faith in something limitless, powerful, perfect- that we are created to be in a deep and fulfilling relationship with our creator, as he calls us up out of our deep hole of ignorance, destruction or deception- lighting our way to a new hope, a lasting peace and ultimate joy!
But first we must admit we can’t do it on our own…
Next: The Ultimate Higher Power