If our religion is based on salvation, our chief emotions will be fear and trembling. If our religion is based on wonder, our chief emotion will be gratitude. ―Carl Jung
This quote by Carl Jung and the following video clip of Carl Sagan are a perfect complement to one another. Sagan was pretty gentle with those who believed in gods and religion in comparison to the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. It’s almost as if he gathered the fallible human race in his arms to explain as gently as possible why belief in God(s) and religion was not rational. His humility and patience rivaled that of many religious faithful. What stood out about Sagan most, though, was his sense of awe and humility before the vastness of our cosmos. His awe and enthusiasm were almost like a peak religious experience! Through the perspective of ‘the pale blue dot,’ we are able to let our differences melt away and see we truly are all in this experience together.
The above quote by Jung highlights the contrast between salvation-based religion and religion based on the love of nature. While he leaves out the word Christianity, he’s clearly pointing that way in this statement. Why would a salvation-based religion be mingled with ‘fear and trembling’? It may be safe to suggest the fear and trembling in the face of an unpredictable world may have preceded it. Humans that face dangerous, unpredictable nature are often given to fear and reaching out to deities in the spirit realm. Lacking power, we wish for help and comfort. We want it so badly that we will even imagine it to set ourselves at ease.
It seems Jung may have been blaming salvation-based religion on the fear, but it seems humans have no trouble feeling fear at what we do not understand without the help of religion. Many, it could be argued, are comforted by the idea that God or and angel will be with them in times of need, fiction or not.
The last part of his quote is wonderful! Gratitude is arguably the most healing and pleasant emotion humans experience, and it is something attainable to anyone with the proper perspective. Nature certainly provides many opportunities for wonder and awe! Even without adding fairies and gnomes. The more we learn, the more profound our realization of ignorance is. Only the uneducated mind is so certain.
There may be no need to toss out our gods and spiritual helpers to gain a greater perspective on life that leads to wonder and gratitude. By broadening our perspective through education, time in nature, meditation or any number of ways, we may find the wonder and humility of the endearing scientist Carl Sagan.
In the following video, you may gain that warmth and appreciation simply by watching Sagan show us the ‘pale blue dot’ we call home along with millions of other life forms.
Please take the time to enjoy this short video clip by the astronomer and friend of the cosmos Carl Sagan.