What if you knew the world was going to end? Not just your life or the lives of some people, but everyone and everything. All the achievements of our rather sad race wiped out in one go. Everything we do in our lives is predicated on our inherent faith that the future of the civilization is in some sense guaranteed. The symphonies of Beethoven, the plays of Shakespeare, the great monuments of the world, all of them are predicated on faith in the future. We raise our children, and do our jobs, we write novels, or invent new technologies, because we believe that these things will mean something in the future. Religious and non-religious people act equally on their faith. If you had no faith you would simply be a nihilist and I have never really met one of these.
Of course the terrible irony in life is that many of those who claim to have religious faith spend their entire lives trying to destroy the progress of the human race. And I am not talking about the ‘technological’ progress of the human race, although there are those who would destroy this too. I am talking about the aesthetic progress that we make; the progress we make toward being more loving, affectionate, tolerant, caring, poetic, and insightful human beings. Every day you can see them doing it. It is these politicians who constantly promote negativity, dividing people with intolerance and hate. It is religious fanatics who kill in the name God or drive a wedge of intolerance between people with different sexual or spiritual proclivities. It is soldiers who support coups in places like Honduras who will do anything they are told, no matter how brutal or ugly. Of course in most cases these people represent the most prosperous and powerful of all people in our society, which is a difficult and painful irony for all who oppose such hatred and evil. But the rich and powerful can do little without the support of much of the population. Thus, the philosopher Bertrand Russell pointed out that the supporters of the terrible in power are just as bad as those in power themselves. And Dr. King reminded us that those who passively accept evil are as much involved in it as those who perpetrate it.
But my greatest sadness, and it is a sadness that I feel in the very depths of my soul, is that I don’t know how to fight any more. I am losing the faith that I need to go on and I don’t know what to do about it. I remember reading that while St. Francis was working in his garden one day when someone asked him what he would do if he knew he was not going to live through tomorrow, and he simply replied that he would continue working in his garden.