Glawe: We don’t always need religion for empowerment

Michael Glawe

Recently, I’ve been reflecting upon some of the great minds of the past, and often I wonder if I could ever aspire to their level brilliance and produce something worthy of admiration. Somehow, when I try to produce something great, such as in my writing, I fall flat on my face. It seems I cannot possibly find the personal inspiration that will drive me forward, over the hump and into eternity.

My friends and family have directed me towards the divine for the inspiration I require. As you may well know, I hold a silent contempt for the utterance of such frivolity. Surely a person can gain inspiration from something other than a god figure or a religious order. After all, doesn’t inspiration emanate from many sources? Religion can be a source for empowerment, but have the great minds of the past actually relied on divine intervention?

Albert Einstein, for example, found inspiration in nature, not religion. By religious, I mean the belief in some divine agency that gives purpose to the universe through a personal relationship with humans. There are some who think he was indeed religious, but by examining his writings, surely this cannot be the case. Einstein was a man who greatly admired the orderly processes of nature.

As he conveyed in a March 24, 1954, letter to a newly self-proclaimed atheist, “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God, and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious, then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

I cannot possibly draw inspiration directly from God through some “miracle” because I do not believe in miracles, but perhaps I can find it through pure empowerment. Is this what Einstein was talking about when he said, “But what possible difference does it make to anyone if we use the word ‘God’ in place of ‘order’ or ‘harmony,’ except perhaps to avoid the accusation of having no God?” Perhaps this is the inherent source of inspiration that all humans find at one point in their lives.

Einstein saw the incredible vastness of attainable knowledge, and evidence shows that he came to his theories of relativity because of his view on religion. Without the need for a superhuman-human relationship, Einstein found, by himself, awe in the very substance that makes us human — natural order. Having drawn this conclusion, choosing the path of Einstein, it is possible that our role in the orderly process of nature is to explain the complexities we are presented with. By that standard, inspiration is seemingly endless.

I don’t think, however, that this will require us, as a whole, to go on one big nature hike, and experience the very beauty Einstein spoke of. By some weird impression, experiences such as this are cliché. Looking out my window from my desk, as I write this very sentence, I see the sun beaming on the trees, confirming their existence to me, and reminding me that somehow, in some way, I am connected to that tree. As his writings suggest, Einstein saw his scientific work as the light beaming upon unknown elements of nature, revealing its eloquence to the world.

This eloquence is the purest and most honest. It does not draw from religious institution. In some ways, it’s more personal than the divine agencies religion gives us. By this I mean the divine is revealed through the great harmony of nature and humans. That is where I throw my hat in the ring with the religious. Like Einstein, I do not need a personal god to pamper me. All I need is purpose, and nature indeed sets me in the right direction.

Many of the great minds of the past have found the personal inspiration they needed from religion. That is completely fine, but I find that I myself have exhausted those avenues. Mozart, for instance, grew increasingly impatient with Christianity, but still retained the motivation to produce beautiful liturgical works.

People such as Mozart still have that bridge between religion and inspiration, walking across it everyday. It is almost causal. Yet, the non-religious, such as Einstein and myself, have found solace in the orderly harmony of nature, whether it be controlled by the divine or not. As Einstein saw it, divine intervention makes life too easy for us. Einstein strove for something that did not require inspiration passed down from the divine. He strove for the very substance of our existence, nature.

In some respects, we do not need to be heavily reliant on religion’s faith-based inspiration to find a purpose in this world. We can produce great works simply by looking out the window and observing nature progress before us.