Alfred North Whitehead, Religion in the Making

Marked Passages
― But as between religion and arithmetic, other things are not equal. You use arithmetic but you are religious, Arithmetic of course enters into your nature, so far as that nature involves a multiplicity of things. But it is there as a necessary condition, and not as a transforming agency. No one is invariably “justified” by his faith in the multiplication table. But in some sense or other, justification is the basis of all religion.Your character is developed according to your faith, This is the primary religious truth from which no one can escape. Religion is force of belief cleansing the inward parts. For this reason the primary religious virtue is sincerity, a penetrating sincerity.

― You cannot abstract society from man; most psychology is herd-psychology. But all collective emotions leave untouched the awful ultimate fact, which is the human being, consciously alone with itself, for it’s own sake.
 Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness. It runs through three stages, if it evolves to its final satisfaction. It is the transition from God the void to God the enemy, and from God the enemy to God the companion.
Thus religion is solitariness; and if you are never solitary, you are never religious.

― It is not until belief and rationalisation are well established that solitariness is discernible as constituting the heart of religious importance. The great religious conceptions which haunt the imaginations of civilised mankind are scenes of solitariness: Prometheus chained to his rock, Mahomet brooding in the desert, the meditations of the Buddha, the solitary Man on the Cross. It belongs to the depth of the religious spirit to have felt forsaken, even by God.

― The emergence of rational religion was strictly conditioned by the general progress of the races in which it arose. It had to wait for the development in human consciousness of the relevant general ideas and of the relevant ethical intuitions. It required that such ideas should not merely be casually entertained by isolated individuals, but that they should be stabilised in recognisable forms of expression, so as to be recalled and communicated. You can only speak of mercy among a people who, in some respect, are already merciful.
 A language is not a universal mode of expressing all ideas whatsoever. It is a limited mode of expressing such ideas as have been frequently entertained, and urgently needed, by the group of human beings who developed that mode of speech.

― The life of Christ is not an exhibition of over-ruling power. Its glory is for those who can discern it, and not for the world. Its power lies in its absence of force. It has the decisiveness of a supreme ideal, and that is why the history of the world divides at this point of time.

― It is not true that every individual item of the universe conforms to this character in every detail. There will be some measure of conformity and some measure of diversity, The whole intuition of conformity and diversity forms the contrast which that item yields for the religious experience. So far as the conformity is incomplete, there is evil in the world.

― This question of the ultimate nature of direct religious experience is very fundamental to the religious situation of the modern world. In the first place, if you make religious experience to be the direct intuition of a personal being substrate to the universe, there is no widespread basis of agreement to appeal to. The main streams of religious thought start with direct contradictions to each other. For those who proceed in the way, and it is a usual form of modern appeal, these is only hope – to supersede reason by emotion. Then you can prove anything, except to reasonable people. But reason is the safeguard of the objectivity of religion: it secures for it the general coherence denied to hysteria.

― This universalisation of what is directed in a particular instance is the appeal to a general character inherent in the nature of things.
This intuition is not the discernment of a form of words, but of a type of character. it is characteristic of the learned mind to exalt words. Yet mothers can ponder many things in their hearts which their lips cannot express. These many things, which are thus known, constitute the ultimate religious evidence, beyond which there is no appeal.

― It is a curious delusion that the rock upon which our beliefs can be founded is an historical investigation. You can only interpret the past in terms of the present. The present is all that you have; and unless in this present you can find general principles which interpret the present as including a representation of the whole community of existents, you cannot move a step beyond your little patch of immediacy.

― The actual world, the world of experiencing, and of thinking, and of physical activity, is a community of many diverse entities; and these entities contribute to, or derogate from, the common value of the total community. At the same time, these actual entities are, for themselves, their own value, individual and separable. They add to the common stock and yet they suffer alone. The world is a scene of solitariness in community.
The individuality of entities is just as important as their community. The topic of religion is individuality in community.

― Standardised size can do almost anything, except foster the growth of genius.

― The limitation of God is his goodness. He gains his depth of actuality by his harmony of valuation. It is not true that God is in all respects infinite. If He were, He would be evil as well as good. Also this unlimited fusion of evil with good would mean mere nothingness. He is something decided and is thereby limited.


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