On my way to work today I was listening to "O Holy Night" on a local radio station that plays Christmas music nonstop this time of year. It is a beautiful song that was composed in 1847. The religious subject gave me pause for thought and reason for hope. Religion can only be enjoyed by suspending rational thought. I cannot pretend it is still alive and well in the world today. No, it is sick and diseased. It cannot withstand the assault of criticism, a fact that atheists take much sadistic delight in pointing out. Reformationists like John Shelby Spong and Gretta Vosper are engaged in a futile struggle to salvage anything after allowing criticism to do its work. Christianity will not survive, it is an anachronistic world view, a misrepresentation of reality, and faith in it can be a very dangerous thing to have. We should never mistake illusion for reality, or place our faith in something that has no rightful claim to it.
But we live in a world of illusion, not just in religion but everywhere. And though we try to escape it by pursing physicalism, the philosophical perspective of science, I think honesty demands we admit that illusion pervades everything. It may be true that all we can be assured of in life is naked experience, but I think illusion is not something to be ostracized from our minds. It should be acknowledged and enjoyed for what it is. Illusion is, after all, the mother of reason. This Christmas season, I plan to acknowledge illusion and enjoy it. If believing religion is reality has led humanity down the wrong path many times before, perhaps believing it is illusion will take the teeth out of it and prevent us from doing so again. We don't need to get rid of it or substantially change its content, but just change the way we look at it. Then we can still enjoy it in much the same way we did before. Fact or fiction has little to do with pleasure.