Appreciating Religion Category Explained:

The bigness of our universe can make us understand how small we are.

Our self-serving path of efficiency makes us feel big and all-important.

I have chosen articles for this section from writers who agree with me, such as:

“The devil no longer moves about on cloven hooves, reeking of brimstone. He is an affable, efficient fellow. He claims to want to help us all along to a brighter, easier future, and his sales pitch is very smooth.”

Birkerts, Sven.  The Gutenberg Elegies : The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age
New York: 1994. ISBN 0449910091
Page 229

The devil no longer moves about on cloven hooves, reeking of brimstone. He is an affable, efficient fellow. He claims to want to help us all along to a brighter, easier future, and his sales pitch is very smooth. I was, as the old song goes, almost persuaded. I saw what it could be like, our toil and misery replaced by a vivid, pleasant dream.

John Milton, ‘On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent

Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent.
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”

Universal Prayer, from Hope
July/August 1997

So far today, God, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greed, or grumpy, nasty or self-centered. I’m really glad about that. But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed, and then I’m going to need a lot of help. Thank you. Amen.

Yancey, Philip.  “The Holy Inefficiency of Henri Nouwen
Christianity Today, 12/9/96, Vol.40, No. 14
Page 80

I once visited Nouwen, sharing lunch with him in his small room. It had a single bed, one bookshelf, and a few pieces of Shaker-style furniture. The walls were unadorned except for a print of a Van Goth painting and a few religious symbols. A Daybreak staff person served us a bowl of Caesar salad and a loaf of bread. No fax machine, no computer, no Daytimer calendar posted on the wall—in this room, at least, Nouwen had found serenity. The church “industry” seemed very far away.

Architecture Magazine December, 1999

Percentage of Americans who believe in God or a “universal spirit”:  96

Percentage who believe in miracles:  69

Percentage who believe in hell:  63

Percentage who believe in an afterlife:  53

Percentage of Americans who believe they are God:  3


Merton, Thomas.  Contemplation In A World Of Action
New York: 1971. ISBN 74123702
Page 158

It is a curious fact that in the traditional polemic between action and contemplation, modern apologists for the “contemplative” life have tended to defend it on pragmatic grounds—in terms of action and efficacy. In other words, monks and nuns in cloisters are not “useless,” because they are engaged in a very efficacious kind of spiritual activity. They are not idle, lazy, evasive: they are “getting things done,” but in a mysterious and esoteric sort of way, an invisible, spiritual way, by means of their prayers. Instead of acting upon things and persons in the world, they act directly upon God by prayer. This is in fact a “superior kind of activity,” a “supreme efficacy,” but people do not see it. It has to be believed.

Bill McKibben,  “Sometimes You Just Have To Turn It Off,”
Esquire Magazine, October 1993
Pages 66-7

There are other broadcasts, on wavelengths that do not appear on our cable boxes, other commentaries, which do not appear in the back pages of newspapers. These natural broadcasts are timeless—the sense of the presence of the divine, for instance, that has marked human beings in every culture as far back as anthropologists can go and that we now try unsuccessfully to buy from televangelists or crystal merchants. These broadcasts are low, resonant only in stillness. They are easily jammed—we don’t have to be in the woods to hear them, but we have to be quiet.

Harrison, Steven.  Doing Nothing: Coming to the end of the Spiritual Search
New York: 1997. ISBN 0824516842
Pages 38 and 39

As it turns out, nothing is a surprisingly active place, but it is here that we may discover what we are. In the resistance to doing nothing, the fear of doing nothing, of being nothing, we begin to discover the parameters of the self.

Sit in a room for one week and do nothing. What will happen to us? Will we die from it? Will we become insane? Why does such a thing as doing nothing cause such fear?

Robert Wright, Sociobiology The Moral Animal
New York, 1994: ISBN 0679407731
Page 115

Life is full of cases where a slight expenditure on one person’s part can yield a larger saving on another person’s part. For example: holding open a door for the person walking behind you. A society in which everyone holds the door open for people behind them is a society in which everyone is better off (assuming none of us has an odd tendency to walk through doors in front of people). If you can create this sort of system of mutual consideration—a moral system—it’s worth the trouble from everyone”s point of view.

In this light, the argument for a utilitarian morality can be put concisely: widely practiced utilitarianism promises to make everyone better off; and so far as we can tell, that’s what everyone wants.

Merton, Thomas.  Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
1994. ISBN 1879418142
Page 252

This invisible body of Christ will have no church buildings and no ministers or priests, but its members will not lack for Christian fellowship. As in the developing secular “global village,” they will encounter each other wherever they go and whatever they do. They will be identified not by denominational labels, lapel pins, or bumper stickers, but by the spirit in which they live.

Dewey, John.  Democracy and Education
Macmillan, 1916
Chapter Nine:  “Natural Development and Social Efficiency as Aims

The aim of efficiency (like any educational aim ) must be included within the process of experience. When it is measured by tangible external products, and not by the achieving of a distinctively valuable experience, it becomes materialistic. Results in the way of commodities which may be the outgrowth of an efficient personality are, in the strictest sense, by-products of education: by-products which are inevitable and important, but nevertheless by-products. To set up an external aim strengthens by reaction the false conception of culture which identifies it with something purely "inner." And the idea of perfecting an "inner" personality is a sure sign of social divisions.

Kyle, David T. Human  Robots & Holy Mechanics: Reclaiming Our Souls in a Machine World
Oregon: 1993. ISBN 0963231006
Pages 274-76

Emerging out of our own silence and listening to the Voice, this Other, this Logos, will clearly present choices that will change our work, the pace of our lives, the way we spend our money, and where and how we live. Let me present some modest proposals that can begin to change the container of our experience in order to hear this Other more clearly:

1. Do a media fast and join in silence with friends. You can start with a media fast as a kind of purification process. Before vision quests, or significant personal efforts for change, indigenous people prepare themselves by cleansing and refocusing both their body and psyche. They will fast from food for two or three days, do a ritual purification in a sweat-lodge ceremony, or go alone into nature to be silent for a period of days. Each of these acts is a means of opening themselves to hear more clearly their own voice and the voice of the Other in nature. Make a commitment to your spouse or to a friend to not read newspapers, watch television, listen to the radio or stereo for a week or more.

Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth
New York: Harper and Row, 1978
Page 1

Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.

Page 8

When disciplines degenerate into law, they are used to manipulate people.... Once we have made a law, we have an “externalism” by which we can judge who is measuring up and who is not.

Sine, Tom.  Mustard Seed vs. McWorld
Baker Books, Michigan: ISBN 08010-9088-1
Page 23

Defining the ultimate :

McWorld :
Defines the ultimate in terms of economic growth and efficiency

Mustard Seed :
Defines the ultimate in terms of spiritual and societal transformation