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Sri Aurobindo

Archives and Research

a biannual journal

April 1977

Volume I; No 1

Passing Thoughts1

Religion in Europe

There is no word so plastic and uncertain in its meaning as the word religion. The word is European and, therefore, it is as well to know first what the Europeans mean by it. In this matter we find them, when they can be got to think clearly on the matter at ail, which is itself unusual, divided in opinion. Sometimes they use it as equivalent to a set of beliefs, sometimes as equivalent to morality coupled with a belief in God, sometimes as equivalent to a set of pietistic actions and emotions. Faith, works and pious observances these are the three recognised2 elements of European religion. From works, however, the ordinary work of the world is strictly excluded. Religion and daily life are, in the European opinion, two entirely different things which it is superstitious, barbarous, unenlightened and highly inconvenient to mix up together. Altruistic works are sometimes brought under religion, sometimes excluded from it. The idea of knowledge being part of religion is a conception which the European cannot receive into his intellect; religion and knowledge are to him two things absolutely and eternally unconnected, if not opposed and mutually contradictory of each other. The place of knowledge is taken by faith or belief stripped of any reason for the belief. The average Christian believes that the Bible is God's book, but ordinarily he does not consider anything in God's book binding on him in practice except to believe in God and go to Church once a week; the rest is only meant for the exceptionally pious. On the whole, therefore, to believe in God, to believe that He wrote a book, only one book in all these ages, and to go to Church on Sunday is the minimum of religion in Europe; on these essentials piety and morality may supervene and deepen the meaning.


1 Written for the Karmayogin early in 1910, but never published in that journal


2 2003 ed.: recognized