I wish that the great Shakespeare had not written that “immortal” line:
“The wish is father to the Thought.”
It haunts you throughout your life. Like a flaming sign of interrogation it burns upon the Altar of Faith Unquestioning, before which, in your perplexity, Fate forces you–at least once in your life–to bow the head. It makes us wonder if we should believe all the evidences of Immortality we do–were Immortality really a state of Punishment and not of Happiness unspeakable. It is so hard, so very hard, to disentangle our own desires from our own beliefs; so easy to confuse what we ought to believe with what, beyond all else, we want to believe. It sometimes makes one chary of believing anything–in questions Human as well as Eternal. The “Personal Bias”–ever in our heart of hearts can we at all times decide where it ends and impartiality begins? Even our so-called impartiality is tinged by it–or what we fondly believe to be our impartial Faith. Doubt strikes at the root of Justice and of Love–not the doubt that is the half-brother to Disbelief, but the doubt which wonders always and always if we believe most easily what we want to believe, and if our firmest conviction against such Belief is not, more than anything else, yet one more manifestation of what we desire so earnestly to doubt.
Sometimes I am in despair regarding the whole question of my own individual Faith.
I am firmly convinced that there ought to be a God and a Life Hereafter. But my faith in such facts is paralysed by the haunting doubt that they may both be such stuff as dreams are made of, after all.
On the whole, I believe the best way is not to think about them at all–or as little as we may. The one question which really and truly concerns us–and most certainly only concerns God, if there be a God–in His relation to ourselves, is this life and what we make of it for ourselves and for other people. Don’t ask yourself always and for ever if there be a God? Act as if He existed! So far as possible, play His part on earth. Then all will surely be well with your Immortal Soul in the Long Here After!
And, if the reward of it all–if “reward” is what you seek–be but a Sleep Eternal, do not weep. If you have done your best, you will have left the world happier and better, and so more beautiful. To those around you, to those who walked with you a little way along the Road of Life, you will have brought Hope where before you came there was only resignation and despair; you will have brought laughter to eyes long dimmed by tears; you will have brought Love into lives so lonely and so desolate until you came. God surely can ask of no man more than this.
That, at least–is my Faith. That is also my “religion.” Theology is unimportant: FACTS, concerning the reality of God and a Life Hereafter–matter little or nothing at all.
What is all-important is that here on Earth–in the world of men and women around us–there are many less happy than we; many infinitely lonelier, poorer, more desolate and depressed. To these–even the lowliest among us can give comfort, bring into their darkness some little ray of “light”–however small.
Let the “Christian” Churches quarrel as they may. The uproar of their differences in Faith, each seeking to be justified, is stilled before the Great Reality of those really and truly in Human NEED. Let us do all the good we may–nor ask the reason why, nor seek a heavenly reward. At every step we take along the Road of Life–there is someone we can help, someone we can succour, someone we can forgive. A truce to violent controversy around and around the Trivial. True religion is an Act–even more than a Belief, infinitely more than mere articles of Faith. By the greatness of our sacrifice, by the unselfishness of our Love; by the way we have tried to live up to “the best” within us; by our earnest wish at all times, and with all men–to “play the game”–surely by these things alone shall we be judged?