The Church is not a tribe for the improvement in holiness of people who think it would be pleasant to be holy, a means to the integration of character for those who cannot bear their conflicts. It is a statement of the divine intention for humanity.
As the twentieth century began, science equaled a materialistic worldview. As the twenty-first century began, the worldview of science, at least of physics and astronomy, may have traded place with that of religion. Consider Einstein's famous equation E = mc2. Nothing of matter dies but continues on in another form, elsewhere. The church divines and theologians for two thousand years have devised arguments and "proofs" of immortality but nothing equal to this.
The church is a vast institution with roots reaching wide and deep into the social order that now is. It is so integral to society as a whole that any social reconstruction would mean a reconstruction of the church. It would have to reconstruct itself in order to reconstruct society. But it cannot reconstruct itself until society is reconstructed. So it is caught in a vicious circle so far as concerns leadership in achieving any change in the basic institutions of society.
An educator is not merely a giver of information; he is one who points the way to wisdom, to truth. Truth is far more important than the teacher. The search for truth is religion, and truth is of no country, of no creed, it is not to be found in any temple, church or mosque. Without the search for truth, society soon decays.
Since the time of separation of church and state they have been classified as voluntary associations: they depend in principle upon voluntary membership and voluntary contributions. The collection plate in the Sunday Service is sometimes objected to for aesthetic reasons, but it is an earnest, a symbol, of the voluntary character of the association, and it should be interpreted in this fashion. It is a way of saying to the community, "This is our voluntary, independent enterprise, and under God's mercy we who believe in it will support it. We do not for its support appeal to the coercive power of the state."
When the soul, then, in any degree possesses the spirit of solitary love, we must not interfere with it. We should inflict a grievous wrong upon it, and upon the Church also, if we were to occupy it, were it only for a moment, in exterior or active duties, however important they might be. When God Himself adjures all not to waken it from its love, who shall venture to do so, and be blameless? In a word, it is for this love that we are all created. Let those men of zeal, who think by their preaching and exterior works to convert the world, consider that they would be much more edifying to the Church, and more pleasing unto God — setting aside the good example they would give if they would spend at least one half their time in prayer, even though they may have not attained to the state of unitive love.
Among the best traitors Ireland has ever had, Mother Church ranks at the very top, a massive obstacle in the path to equality and freedom. She has been a force for conservatism... to ward off threats to her own security and influence.
No longer able to believe in the Church religion, whose falsehood they had detected, and incapable of accepting true Christian teaching, which denounced their whole manner of life, these rich and powerful people, stranded without any religious conception of life, involuntarily returned to that pagan view of things which places life's meaning in personal enjoyment. And then among the upper classes what is called the "Renaissance of science and art" took place, which was really not only a denial of every religion, but also an assertion that religion was unnecessary.
People go to church for the same reasons they go to a tavern: to stupefy themselves, to forget their misery, to imagine themselves, for a few minutes anyway, free and happy.
Behind the repudiation of the ceremonial by the reformers lay a radically different conceptual world, a world in which text was everything, sign nothing... would take centuries for the Church of England to acknowledge and try to recover what it had lost... its place text ('the word') became in its own way a different sort of worshipped image, one which sometimes excluded feeling and the deep movements of the unconscious mind which ritual had faithfully fed. It is not, of course, that poetry or powerful preaching cannot express feeling, but that part of our human consciousness is pre-literate, both historically and in our personal childhood experience, and the whole of our experience cannot necessarily be captured by words. It may be important to lay wordless experiences alongside the wordy ones, as in music, colour, form, movement and smell.
I advise you to guard against atheism and materialism. The biggest blunder made by Europe was the separation of Church and State. This deprived their culture of moral soul and diverted it to the atheistic materialism.
The roots of such fears which choke love like weeds need repeated examination. Partly they spring from failures in loving within the family and within society; partly, also, from horror of the body and its desires which the Church has done much to encourage. The exaggerated emphasis on the sinfulness of sexual intercourse has led many sensitive people to a terror of any situation where they might lose control. This in turn leads in some cases to a fear of the opposite sex, or a dislike of even the briefest and most casual physical contact. Yet to be comforted, to be assured that we are valuable and important, we need to be touched. We need our hands to be shaken, our cheeks to be kissed, our shoulders to be embraced, with the quick sympathy and affection of friendship or of kinship.
Each of us who came here with wisdom must learn from this school. Heaven does not come from building beautiful churches, mosques, and temples. Man must build his church, mosque, and temple within himself. The house of God must be built within. The place of worship must be seen within. The completeness of God must be built within the self. If man can understand his story and the story of God and then build a church within himself, that is victory.