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I and Thou

Part III, aphorisms 15–17: Revelation through Action

Summary Part III, aphorisms 15–17: Revelation through Action

Under some other religious conceptions, entire parts of life are not touched by religion. Traditional Christianity and Judaism often separate everyday life, such as business transactions, from praise of God. Also, in mystical movements that claim that man merges with God in the religious moment, man must separate from God once the moment is over. He must return from the holy to the mundane, which can only be a terrible disappointment. Even if he himself is somehow better off for having been unified with God (for instance, we can probably assume that a man who has merged with God no longer feels alienated or oppressed by the meaninglessness of life), he is left with no way to translate his benefits into a cure for societal ills and no way to bring all of his actions into relation with his religious experience. The conception of religion as a feeling of ultimate dependence is similarly limited. We might feel better off believing that there is an ultimate caretaker who will love and support us, but we cannot really translate this relief into a healthier society or into a belief that all our actions are essentially religious in nature. Only Buber's vision, a vision of religion that brings the holy into everyday life through the building of community, allows man to save both himself and his society though a relationship with God.