Here it is. The essential religious message in three words: stuff is inadequate.
Materialism is insufficient to explain the world. There is more to you than synapses. The marvelous, multicolored universe is not just an accident of ancient chemistry, or a random collection of molecules. There is an animating spirit that moves the world, barely glimpsed. Soul force comes from within us, but more, it moves through us. Because we only have words, we call it “God.”
Traditions aid us in living in harmony with the intangible essence of things. This is never easy, though at times it may be simple. Remember that we are constantly moved by things that are not physical — love, justice, hope, ideas, dreams, destinies — and no explanation of life that sees the world as “things” alone can capture the marvel of this created world.
Science is powerful, wonderful and limited. It is not antagonistic to spirit. Science is the investigation and explanation of the material world. Religion is the ordering of our lives, the perception of intangible networks of connection, and an intuition of greater mysteries.
There is more than we can see, or measure, or touch. To expand the message to four words, stuff is not enough.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. His latest book is “Why Faith Matters” (HarperOne).