Although the analogy that I am going to make is not the most appropriate, I hope that it adequately describes why I think religion is important. There are few, if any, who will argue against the importance of health. One of the ways that we try to maintain and possibly even boost our health is by taking vitamin supplements. Our desire or perhaps even need to maintain our health can be seen in the growing number of places where we can buy supplements; it can also be seen in the growing number of supplements available for us to buy. We can find vitamins in the water that we can buy now, in our cereal and even in places like candy bars (perhaps it is designed to make us feel less guilty in eating something we probably shouldn’t). One of the more popular vitamins is vitamin C.
For the longest time, I was one of the dwindling few who did not take Vitamins. I figured why spend extra money on something that can already be found in your food. In decreasing amounts of available vitamin C, and in the foods that I find myself eating not infrequently, vitamin c can be found in Green and Red Chili Pepers, Parsley, Broccoli, Strawberry, Orange, Lemon, Cauliflower, Garlic, Grapefruit, Spinach, Cabbage, Potato, Cranberry, Tomato, Pineapple, Grape, Carrot, Onion, Apple, and Eggplant. Not a shabby list.
Unfortunately, it is also true that human beings cannot synthesize vitamin C internally and need to “bring in” the vitamin. Most other animals can synthesize vitamin C internally, and their normal levels of cellular vitamin C are considerably higher than those achieved with the Recommended Daily Intake set for humans. Animals that produce vitamin C internally also produce more vitamin C when they are stressed. Vitamin C is necessary for the production of collagen and other biomolecules, and for the prevention of scurvy. Vitamin C is an antioxicant which has led to its endorsement by some researchers as a complementary therapy for improving general health.
Given all these advantages, it is no wonder why people go to the trouble of taking vitamin C even while it is possible to get vitamin C from the normal foods we should eat. Unfortunately, although it is possible to get vitamin C from foods, I do not always eat as well as I should. Because of this, there may be times when my levels of vitamin C, among others, may not be as high as it should be. Especially when I feel fatigued, I find myself naturally reaching for vitamins to supplement my diet.
Religion, I think, is very much like this. It is possible to “nourish” one’s spirituality by just “living” your life. But, especially given our lifestyles in the “modern” age, are we necessarily getting enough to appreciate, enjoy, and be able to share this life of ours? Or, are we simply living to work and work to live? If we find that we cannot nourish our humanity from within our “regular” lives, then perhaps we might want to consider supplementing that life with something from the “spiritual” life shelf. Perhaps we should take the supplement called religion. One such religion that I know I can recommend is Jodo Shinshu.
Rev. John Iwohara