… striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.

Viktor Frankl, M.D.

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Why do we need religion in culture?

Well, because the human person seeks meaning, a reason for living – a way to endure, prosper and understand – a way to life together, in harmony with others, a way to cultivate the best in what a human is capable of in a life: wisdom, patience, understanding, humility, forgiveness, mercy, cooperation, community, family, parenthood, sacrifice, courage, tranquility, hope, love … and so much more that makes a man or woman full, content and admirable.

Societies without a valued place for religion, that privatize religion, shun it – push it aside, treat it with disinterest or hostility push meaning and contentment away from men and women from each other, their inhabitants, and in so doing insure greater human “lostness,” pain, confusion, suffering, discontent and disorder.

Viktor Frankl was a man of great wisdom and insight.  He lived through Nazi concentration camps and wrote an 18 volume text to explain what he learned about the essential needs or the human person.

His collective effort was entitled From Death-Camp to Existentialism.  In it, he concluded that above all the human person seeks meaning. From this, he developed the third Viennese school of psychotherapy called logotherapy – with “logo” derived from the Greek word logos whose meaning is both “word” and “meaning.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

Jn 1:1-5

Think – logos and “Word” and logos and “meaning” and God and meaning, the human person and meaning.

Is it not quite possible to say our meaning is essential to our very being and that our meaning rests in God?  In relationship with God?  If so, is religion (in all its forms) not essential to healthy people and a healthy culture, to peace and community, joy and relationship, the capacity to endure and rise above suffering?

“… without him nothing came to be …” Without him, no meaning and the human cannot come “to be.”

Frankl saw meaning as what “defocus(ed) all the vicious-circle formations and feedback mechanisms that play such a great role in the development of neuroses” and that in meaning “the typical self-centeredness of the neurotic is broken up instead of being continually fostered and reinforced.”  Again, he is resting his work on Logos – on word, on meaning.  Religion.  Religion the source of meaning and the health of the human person and human society.

What Frankl saw was this: to be oriented toward meaning produced meaning, a fullness of the human person and life.  He saw as well that illness accrued to those who never found meaning, whose individual human efforts at constructing meaning from mortal existence failed them, created great difficulties for them and cut their life short.

Religion is uniquely able to focus the person on meaning and away from the will to power or pleasure – each of which is particularly common and especially destructive – as our present exclusionary secularism shows with all its disorders, addictions, violence, suicides, brokenness, abhorrent behavior, unhappiness, anger, hostility and utter confusion.

Why religion?  Meaning … and all that is positive and flows from it.

Shalom.

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