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Religion: true or false?

"I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me..." Amos 5.21

Simone Weil's third example of the implicit love of God is religion. Her thoughts about this topic are especially interesting in light of her refusal to be baptised into the Roman Catholic Church and therefore her ineligibility to receive the sacrament of Communion. Weil's problem with the Church is that it is a glass ceiling, which prevents people from enjoying an authentic relationship with God. Here again we might take recourse to Plato's Theory of Forms, in which everything we encounter on earth (the type) is but a paler reflection of its greater reality in heaven (the anti-type).

Of course it is more complicated than that. Weil points to the Eucharist as a window into the scale of difference between much that passes for belief, but is really not much more than superstition, and the real thing, which blows our mind. It is almost absurd to think that a piece of bread can become the body of Christ. Yet, if God has deigned to enter creation as a human being, why should he not manifest himself in bread and wine? True faith involves allowing that all things are possible for God and therefore in God alone is everything worthwhile and consequently God deserves our complete attention and obedience.

Weil does not dismiss religion altogether but concedes that is is like language. Unless that language is defective, we are better expressing ourselves in the one we have been brought up with, otherwise we shall struggle to find adequate words. But, just as we recognise our words are merely vehicles for conveying what we perceive with our senses and not the realities which they describe, so religion is limited. What counts is the reality of what religion struggles to articulate - and only does so imprecisely.

The most expressive form of language is poetry because poetry challenges us to reach beyond what is obvious. To Weil the Church is like dull prose. She would prefer to deny herself its servile blandishments in favour of the more expressive and adventurous alternative. Not that it is a soft option. Christ teaches that following him involves total sacrifice and unquestioning obedience. And so, for Weil, faith cannot be hesitant, it must be purged of all doubt and resting on total conviction. This is what the Church Fathers taught and remains the orthodox attitude to faith in Jesus Christ. Better to remain in the wilderness than settle for inadequate accommodation!



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