The Rationale for the Reason’s Denial of Religion

The rational intellect’s rise over the last several hundred years has coincided with a fierce debate over the primacy of the intellect or the primacy of the religious sentiment in life.  Modern society has very much attempted to sideline religion and reduce its role, influence and central place in human life, and has in fact succeeded in this attempt to a great degree.  There are some legitimate criticisms related to the way religion has, in many cases, acted to deny the development of the intellect or the vital powers of life.  The role of religion, in principle, cannot be denied.  The attempt by Reason to suppress or destroy religion’s role is an extreme reaction to the mistakes made by Religion along the way, and can be seen as “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”, as the proverb goes.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “The religionist may say that this accusation was an error and an atheistic perversity, or he may say that a religious retardation, a pious ignorance, a contented static condition or even an orderly stagnation full of holy thoughts of the Beyond is much better than a continuous endeavour after greater knowledge, greater mastery, more happiness, joy, light upon this transient earth.  But the catholic thinker cannot accept such a plea; he is obliged to see that so long as man has not realised the divine and the ideal in his life, — and it may well be even when he has realised it, since the divine is the infinite, — progress and not unmoving status is the necessary and desirable law of his life, — not indeed any breathless rush after novelties, but a constant motion towards a greater and greater truth of the spirit, the thought and the life not only in the individual, but in the collectivity, in the communal endeavour, in the turn, ideals, temperament, make of the society, in its strivings towards perfection.  And he is obliged too to see that the indictment against religion, not in its conclusion, but in its premiss had something, had even much to justify it, — not that religion in itself must be, but that historically and as a matter of fact the accredited religions and their hierarchs and exponents have too often been a force for retardation, have too often thrown their weight on the side of darkness, oppression and ignorance, and that it has needed a denial, a revolt of the oppressed human mind and heart to correct these errors and set religion right.  And why should this have been if religion is the true and sufficient guide and regulator of all human activities and the whole of human life?”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 17,  Religion as the Law of Life, pp. 174-175