fear and loathing in las iglesias
So I come to a chapter entitled "The Essence of Religion," in a subsection simply titled, "Love." Russell begins with a basic division between two types of love, with which I believe most Christians would find themselves agreeing:
Love is of two kinds, the selective earthly love, which is given to what is delightful, beautiful, or good, and the impartial heavenly love, which is given to all indifferently. The earthly love is balanced by an opposing hatred: to friends are opposed foes; to saints, sinners; to God, the Devil. Thus this love introduces disunion into the world, with hostile camps and a doubtful warfare. But the heavenly love does not demand that its object shall be delightful, beautiful, or good; it can be given to everything that has life, to the best and the worst, to the greatest and to the least.
He follows with an extension of this thought that may be harder for the contemporary Christian to grasp, whether it be due to the awkward conflict of living in a pluralistic society or to the marriage of Christianity to American politics and, more importantly, American capitalism...
Though it includes benevolence, it is greater than benevolence: it is contemplative as well as active, and can be given where there is no possibility of benefiting the object. It is love, contemplative in origin, but becoming active wherever action is possible; and it is a kind of love to which there is no opposing hatred.
Do not misunderstand my comment to be directed toward capitalism as an economic system. My suggestion is that capitalism has even found itself tangled with Christianity in such a way that we imagine spirituality even as a sort of economy, with which we can assess or assign value even to people.
In the first step of the economization of religion, I see a society increasingly bred to see themselves on an individual basis as consumers. The various marketing tools used to inseminate these formerly active citizens were built on basic psychological foundations eliciting feelings of inadequacy in one form or another, with the ultimate and non-inevitable result of an intense but unspecific feeling of separation. We said we were a global community, but still barely knew our neighbors. We increasingly know global brands, yet are still only scratching at the surface of cultural understanding - most often marring and obliterating it in exchange for something that is more easily assimilated into the masses.
This is putting it simply, of course, as this is neither the main point in my line of thought nor a chain in this line. Suffice to say that the sheer size of growing capitalism is bound to bleed into our religion and transfuse it with a similar sense of paired uncontrollable expansion and, at the same time, separation. Perhaps the church's intellectualization of spirituality was an effort to understand this shift, but soon found itself climbing into abstractions to escape from it.
The point is that capitalism has found great fodder in competition. Impartial heavenly love has no place where partiality finds one of its greatest expressions - which is again not a problem in an economic system so far as it is separated from spirituality or, to a lesser extent, even politics.
I say a competitive spirituality is no spirituality at all.
Competition implies lack and limit - if one person gains a penny, another loses it. This is not so with God's favor. While "the finite self aims at dominion" (as Russell says), "the infinite nature is the principle of union in the world, as the finite nature is the principle of division."
Russell has something even more challenging to say on the topic, bringing this division to the root of insecurity that I mentioned earlier. I realize it may be a bit out of context, but I encourage you to glean from it what you can. I will weigh it down with no further additions of my own, save for bolding my favorite piece. Read it and read it again.
The animal part of man, knowing that the individual life is brief and impotent, is appalled by the fact of death, and, unwilling to admit the hopelessness of the struggle, it postulates a prolongation in which its failures shall be turned into triumphs. The divine part of man, feeling the individual to be but of small account, thinks little of death, and finds its hopes independent of personal continuance.
...The divine part of man does not demand that the world shall conform to a pattern; it accepts the world, and finds in wisdom a union which demands nothing of the world. Its energy is not checked by what seems hostile, but interpenetrates it and becomes one with it. It is not the strength of our ideals, but their weakness, that makes us dread the admisssion that they are ours, not the world's. We with our ideals must stand alone, and conquer, inwardly, the world's indifference. It is instinct, not wisdom, that finds this difficult and shivers at the solitude it seems to entail. Wisdom does not feel this solitude, because it can achieve union even with what seems most alien. The insistent demand that our ideals shall be already realized in the world is the last prison from which wisdom must be freed. Every demand is a prison, and wisdom is only free when it asks nothing.