Reason for Believing

The Point of Believing
Advent 24
Celebration Corn Soup

We have spent the last twenty-three days discussing different types of religion. Why do we have religion? Why do we believe? Does having a religious belief serve a purpose? The American Indian chief Seneca once said: ““Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.”

Throughout history, mankind has appeared to have been united, albeit in groupings, by religion. Sharing a common belief which was usually accompanied by specific rules for how one should live meant that believers of similar beliefs congregated together not only for worship but for living. As religious persecution became a tool used politically to obtain or restrain power, people of the same faith were herded together and kept isolated from others.

Being religious has been shown to have had physical benefits, though, in spite of such persecution and exile from native lands. Some of the religious edicts about living proved very beneficial. The rituals and regimens regarding food led to better physical health. Various studies have indicated that a strong religious belief is associated with good mental health, fewer suicides, greater perceived happiness, less harmful personal habits, and a reported greater sense of overall satisfaction with one’s life.

Life is full of unexpected and often unpleasant events. A strong religious belief seems to help someone overcome these events. Many religions see such events as testing and ways to gain greater insight and increase one’s personal self-worth as well as the path to greater understanding religiously. Additionally, most religions believe in an omnipotent deity and the comfort that brings leads to an acceptance and ability to move forward rather than be bogged down in depression or retreat to suicide.

All religions speak of life after death. This belief that physical life on earth is not all that awaits one has given believers a sense of empowerment to face their living because there will be more upon their physical death. It is reported that the actor Richard Dawkins was quoted as explaining one church official’s attitude towards death in this way: “When Cardinal Basil Hume told the Abbot of Ampleforth that he, The Cardinal, was dying, the abbot was delighted for him: ‘Congratulations! That’s brilliant news. I wish I was coming with you.’ ” While it is doubtful the quote references an actual true story, it does serve to illustrate the acceptance many religious people have regarding the inevitable death of their physical body and the belief that the spiritual soul will continue living. Such a conviction aids when a person faces the death of a loved one.

Everything we do causes brain activity but spiritual experiences have been scientifically proven to create positive neurological effects. Meditation has very powerful beneficial effects on the brain. Studies involving nuns resulted in a release of dopamine as they prayed and felt one with their deity and their world. Dopamine is part of the brain’s reward system. A loss of interest in spiritual or religious activities has also been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s though more study is needed to accurately determine why. However, it is important to remember that too much of anything is not good. Intense religious experiences have also been linked to various stages of psychosis.

The historical exile of many different religious groups across the planet throughout the world has led some religions to proclaim other belief systems to be considered sinful or evil. Sadly, religion has been used as a tool of death and destruction rather than the beneficial side mentioned earlier. As the global activity of the world increases intermingling and international commerce, it is believed religion will become more unifying as the elements of commonality are explored and recognized.

“We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more.” Bill Clinton, former president of the United States of America, has spent the time since his terms in office traveling the globe trying to encourage this. Russian immigrant and science fiction author Vera Nazarian explains it this way. “A choir is made up of many voices, including yours and mine. If one by one all go silent then all that will be left are the soloists. Don’t let a loud few determine the nature of the sound. It makes for poor harmony and diminishes the song.” Religion is one way the internal soul sings, leading the physical body to live in harmony, hopefully, with all of creation.

Celebration Corn Soup
5 cups corn– frozen, canned, or fresh
5 cups milk (can be ½ half milk, ½ vegetable or chicken stock or even a white gravy)
2 Tblsp flour
2 Tblsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Place corn in a double boiler and 1 quart of the milk or milk mixture and cook over medium heat for twenty minutes. Make a white sauce with the some of the milk, using the flour and butter (Put butter in pan over medium heat and add flour to form a roux, and then slowly add the milk.) Puree the corn and milk mixture or strain and combine with the roux. Stir over medium heat, slowly adding the rest of the milk. If you like soup with texture, omit the puree step. For corn chowder, add potatoes and carrot. Chicken can also be added if meat is desired. For a corn soup with texture is to your taste, omit the pureeing.

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