But if one needs institutionalized religion, one could do far worse, assuming one can stomach the secular-humanist liberal namby-pambification and wussification that the post-Vatican II church can't seem to resist, the dilution of doctrine and tradition that empties into the nauseating Church of Nice.
There was something profoundly stupid about the Vatican II 'reforms' even if we view matters from a purely immanent 'sociological' point of view. Suppose Roman Catholicism is, metaphysically, buncombe to its core, nothing but an elaborate human construction in the face of a meaningless universe, a construction kept going by human needs and desires noble and base. Suppose there is no God, no soul, no post-mortem reward or punishment, no moral world order. Suppose we are nothing but a species of clever land mammal thrown up on the shores of life by blind evolutionary processes, and that everything that makes us normatively human and thus persons (consciousness, self-consciousness, conscience, reason, and the rest) are nothing but cosmic accidents. Suppose all that.
Still, religion would have its immanent life-enhancing role to play, and one would have to be as superficial and ignorant of the human heart as a New Atheist to think it would ever wither away: it inspires and guides, comforts and consoles; it provides our noble impulses with an outlet while giving suffering a meaning. Suffering can be borne, Nietzsche says somewhere, if it has a meaning; what is unbearable is meaningless suffering. Now the deep meaning that the Roman church provides is tied to its profundity, mystery, and reference to the Transcendent. Anything that degrades it into a namby-pamby secular humanism, just another brand of liberal feel-goodism and do-goodism, destroys it, making of it just another piece of dubious cultural junk. Degrading factors: switching from Latin to the vernacular; the introduction of sappy pseudo-folk music sung by pimply-faced adolescents strumming gut-stringed guitars; leftist politics and political correctness; the priest facing the congregation; the '60s obsession with 'relevance.'
People who take religion seriously tend to be conservatives and traditionalists; they are not change-for-the-sake-of-change leftist utopians. The stupidity of the Vatican II 'reforms,' therefore, consists in estranging its very clienetele, the conservatives and traditionalists. The church should be a liberal-free zone.
Man is godlike and therefore proud. He becomes even more godlike when he humbles himself.
The central thought of Christianity, true or not, is one so repellent to the natural human pride of life that one ought at least to entertain the unlikelihood of its having a merely human origin. The thought is that God humbled himself to the point of entering the world in the miserably helpless and indigent way we in fact do, inter faeces et urinam, and to the point of leaving it in the most horrendous way the brutal Romans could devise, and from a most undistinguished spot, a hill in an obscure desert outpost of their empire.
If hell is separation from God, why wouldn't a body held in thrall by sensuous pleasure do as well as a body wracked with pain? Absorbed in sensuous pleasure, one is arguably farther from God than when in pain.
Memory compensates us for the passage of time, but it also ensures that we will never forget that we are subject to it. Yet better to be a man than an animal held hostage to the passing moment but oblivious of the fact.
Wherein resides the dignity of the king? At every time in every possible game, the king is on the board. He cannot be captured: he never leaves the board while the game is on. He alone is 'necessary,' all other pieces are 'contingent.'
But at game's end, he too goes into the box with the lowliest of the pawns, as if to demonstrate that the high and mighty in life are equalized in death.
Our incarnation is a fact, mysterious though it may be. Eating and sleeping are concessions to it. The animals we are are also social and so a bit of socializing is a necessary concession to that part of our mix. These concessions are not to be begrudged and may in moderate measure be enjoyed. Earthly man does not live by spirit alone.
We who thrive get used to being alive, and forget we have our lives on loan, a loan that can be called on the spot without advance notice. Compare James 4:13-17 (NIV):
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
He who is ever on the make will never have it made. He will never be a 'made man.' There is a time to strive, and a time to be. Is the universe trying to get somewhere? It already is everywhere. Are you any less cosmic? If you think you have a Maker, is he not a 'made man'? And aren't you a chip off the old block?
The dignity of the king allows no such thing. He never leaves the board during the game. When the game is over, however, he goes into the same box with the lowly pawns. Which is to say: all earthly dignity is as naught before the tribunal of the Great Equalizer.
Appreciate what you have while you have it. An actual shack is better than a remembered or merely imagined or expected or merely possible palace. Do not allow the present and actual good to suffer diminution by comparison to the modally and temporally and spatially elsewhere.
This is it. This is your life. Right here and right now. If it is good, appreciate it. If it needs improving, act right here and right now to improve it, but without failing to appreciate the good that is here and now yours.
We patzers can sport with Caissa and her charms without too much harm. It is the very strong players, who yet fall short of the highest level, who run the greatest risk. Chess sucks them in then leaves them high and dry. The goddess Caissa becomes the she-devil Impecunia.
Our relations with our relatives are too often like the relations of Arabs and Israelis: too much past, no future. But with the Arabs and Israelis it is even worse: too much history, not enough geography.