The lost dimension in religion


Paul Tillich


The Saturday Evening Post (June 14, 1958 )

"Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt. ….It is the state of being concerned about one's own being and being universally. "

"If we define religion as the state of being grasped by an infinite concern, we must say: Man in our time has lost such infinite concern."

"The loss of the dimension of depth is caused by the relation of man to his world and to himself in our period, the period in which nature is being subjected scientifically and technically to the control of man. Life in the dimension of depth is replaced by life in the HORIZONTAL dimension. The driving forces of the industrial society of which we are a part, go ahead HORIZONTALLY and not VERTICALLY . … The predominance of the HORIZONTAL dimension over the DIMENSION OF DEPTH has been immensely increased by the opening of space beyond the space of the earth."

"If the dimension of depth is lost, the symbols in which life in this dimension has expressed itself must also disappear."

"If the symbol of CREATION, which points to the divine ground of everything, is transferred to the HORIZONTAL plane, it becomes a story of events in a removed past for which there is no evidence, but which contradicts every piece of scientific evidence."

"If the idea of GOD, which expresses man's ultimate concern is transferred to the HORIZONTAL plane, God becomes a being among others, whose existence or nonexistence is a matter of inquiry."

"Under these pressures, MAN can hardly escape the fate of becoming a THING AMONG THE THING he produces, a bundle of conditioned reflexes without a free, deciding and responsible self. The immense mechanism transforms man himself into an object used by the same mechanism of production and consumption."

"The religious answer always has the character "in spite of." In spite of the loss of dimension of depth, its power is still present, and most present in those who are aware of the loss and are striving to regain it with ultimate seriousness."