The Virtues of Religion


Religion is a complex class of human activities and emotions that have to do with some of the most important goals imaginable, including such vital matters as the life and health of oneself, of other people, and of all living things; the survival of the species; and even the cosmos itself. These are goals that cannot be left to chance, and the protection of such goals requires the existence of religions. Religions are thus systems for monitoring, coding, protecting, and transmitting information that has been shown to be of the highest value.

In the strictest sense of the term, therefore, a religious virtue is faith. Faith is a reverent disposition to submit the human mind to Divine authority and to accept on that authority what has been revealed. The exercise of faith requires the concomitant virtues of hope and love. Hope is the expectation of securing and maintaining bliss-bringing communion with the Deity; it rests on the conception of a Divine personality inviting confidence. Love is the affection for the Deity that arises from a knowledge of His immensity, goodness, and excellence, inspiring feelings of devotion.

In addition, the exercise of religion includes a recognition of sin and the desire for repentance. The sins are both natural and moral, and they include a wide range of offenses against the Divine. Modern civilization, in removing many of the scourges that once were considered supernatural and in binding nature in many ways to beneficent service, has tended to create in man a feeling of self-sufficiency, a feeling that tends to enfeeble the practice of religion.