Carrying on very quickly from the thoughts of the last chapter, Pierre then has a conversation with Bazdeev, the Freemason. What’s fascinating about this conversation is that, even though the subject is Freemasonry, it actually represents fairly accurately the way many religions attract their followers nowadays.
I’ve noticed that certainly in Christian circles – at least up until recent decades – one of the big pushes for having people convert to Christianity was that it offered you a “solution” to life’s problems.
It’s a bit stereotypical, but many of the more popular stories of people who became Christians later in their life (as opposed to growing up with the faith) tell of people who were rampant alcoholics – until Jesus saved them. Or they were addicted to drugs. Or their family life was falling apart.
The problems and situations vary, but the end result was that they were having a major life crisis, and Jesus came along to fix things up. Of course, today in the West, we’re a bit more cosmopolitan, and so we draw from a vast number of religions, not to mention making up some strange things ourselves. So we have bits and pieces of Buddhism like meditation and mantras so we can relax. We have books like The Secret that show us how to put our desires out to the Universe and manifest our dreams. So there’s a sense in which we’re looking to something beyond what we can see and feel physically every day to help us with life.
But therein lies the problem, I think. The obvious thing that jumps out (at least to me) is that if religion or spirituality is just a “help” – then you don’t really need it if life isn’t too bad. I’ve found that several Christian friends of mine (and the thoughts have crossed my mind from time to time) struggle with wondering about the reality of Christianity, precisely because so many people don’t seem to need it.
In other words, anyone can point to someone who was an alcoholic who came to Jesus. That person was feeling so bad about how their life was going, that a religion that said they were sinful and offered a way out was bound to resonate. But for the average person out there, who is a “good person” – they look after others, they care for people, they’re a responsible member of society – there’s no real attraction to a religion that offers to fix problems when you don’t feel like you have any problems that want to be fixed.
I don’t want to launch into a huge sermon, but I think it highlights that at least for the last few centuries, Christianity went from being something that was considered true and real – as real as trees, buildings and people – and turned into something that was experienced in your head, without much bearing on the real world itself.
I think the real questions about any religion are to do with how truthful and real it is. I think that there are some grave limitations to having religion just as a “solution” to life’s problems.
Anyway, we shall be able to pursue this topic as we go through this part of the book and follow Pierre’s strange journey into Freemasonry. Will he find the solutions he wants? How helpful will it be?
Stay posted on this rather spiritual section of the one and only War and Peace.