RELIGION IS AN INVENTION OF HUMAN IMAGINATION
Don’t get me wrong. I am not an atheist. Anyone, who claims categorically that there is no god because there is no scientific evidence to prove the existence of God, is extremely short sighted to the point of being unscientific. It is like concluding that what you see with a flashlight in the dark sky is everything that exists. In Japan, this sort of shortsightedness is compared to a frog who lives in a well all its life. This frog thinks that what he sees from the bottom of the well is the whole world and the tiny patch of blue sky he sees from the bottom of the well is the whole outer space.
At the same time, anyone who claims to know who god is delusional and a liar. A search for the absolute truth or in whatever the word you want to call god is a never ending continual process. No human has found God. Religion is not a knowledge. It’s a belief. It is an everlasting human endeavour to find the absolute truth, the divine being, or whatever you may want to call such a being. Christians believe that in Jesus God revealed himself/herself completely. I personally believe that. The problem is the knowledge of Jesus is so diverse that it is impossible to know God through the literature available to us about Jesus. But that is all we have. So I keep following the hints presented to us in the Bible and continue my search. Again it is an everlasting process.
As for the Bible, though it is the only thing we have, it is very difficult to find what the authors of the Bible were trying to say, because it is an ancient literature. Richard Holloway, the Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh, said in his book Between the Monster and the Saint, “I found it helpful to think of it (religion) as a product of human imagination.” In that sense, I like to compare the Bible with a historical novel. It was written based on a certain number of historical facts. And each facts is connected to each other with the author’s imagined or invented narratives in order to express his or her ideas. There are some facts contained in the Bible to be sure, but the point of the Bible like the historical novel is to make a point, not record and report facts. The Bible is not a book to find historical facts, neither does it present science.
In fact, the writers of the Bible never intended, neither were they interested, to report the factually accurate accounts of history. They intended to express their ideas through their perception of what might have happened in the past. They interpreted events freely and sometimes twisted and invented facts to suit the purpose. They did not intend to report on their scientific findings. This is why some accounts of the same events are contradictory and are varied. Many parts of the Bible are made up stories and poems. In that sense, I am not afraid to say that the Bible is a collection of stories, parables, and poetry which may include some facts. But reporting the facts are not the purpose of the Bible. Let us leave the discovery of historical or scientific facts to the historians and archeologists and leave the Bible to those who seek the absolute, the ultimate, the meaning of our existence.
This is why I am not a literalist who believes that the Bible is the word of God, and every fact and word must be taken as literally correct and true. Yes, the Bible contains the word of God, but it is by pointing the direction where God is through many efforts of those who were seeking the absolute truth.
One unfortunate consequence of the development of science and technology is the resultant devaluation of art. People tend to value what they can see and touch more than imagination and inspiration invoked by artistic expressions. Science and art are equally important in our search for truth. But because people tend to think science is real and art is superfluous, they try hard to force a round peg of religion through a square hole of science. This is the tragedy of our time.