I have heard comments from some who have visited RJsCorner that seem to believe that I am anti-religious. This post will hopefully dispel that belief. Learning of things spiritual is a very fundamental part of what it means to be human. The primary method to accomplish to start this journey are religious establishments. They are the holder of the history of mankind in that context. In my grade school times I spent seven years being taught by Jesuit priests about Jesus. While at that young age I couldn’t fully comprehend what I was being taught, it did teach me to later be able to question some of what I learned.Read more
I seem to get a fair share of email and comments about my “religion” posts here at RJsCorner and also over at RedLetterLiving. Some are in agreement, some take the post where I never intended it to go. And then there are others who assume that I hate religion and see me as attacking what they hold as sacred. In this post, I want to try and address those issues.
As I mentioned a few posts ago I lead a joyous life as a nuanced skeptic. That is, I see small and sometimes not so small slices of various topics that I question. I don’t hate religion.
The graphic here pretty much sums my overall beliefs about religion in general. In my mind, God is not attached to just one religion. In fact, I have come to believe that all the various religious beliefs in the world today, and there are thousands of them, are for the most part made my man.
I realize it’s nice to be around people who believe as you do. Religion meets that need for those who require that. When I was part of a couple of different versions of religion in past years I did enjoy the hymns, some of the traditions, and the short-term friends we made there. I was enlightened by some of the group studies, but there were some I had to voice an opposing opinion of and I sadly found those opinions not very welcomed. I am not against religion.
I do believe that the church serves a valuable purpose of teaching young minds the fundamental beliefs. But after the basics, it should not be so condemning of the next step a person might take. Do we really need to believe so many things that were invented by men?
But more fundamentally, I do sadly believe that most religions almost totally focus on what you are supposed to believe instead of how you are supposed to live your life. Maybe even more damaging is the belief that many have that they are the only ones who have it right.
In closing, believe it or not, it is possible to love God and even be a “follower of Jesus” without being religious. I am one of that group.
At one time or another everyone who is true to their thoughts doubt religious beliefs. I found it surprising to see that even Mother Theresa doubted on a regular basis that God even existed. The more I studied religious documents including the Bible the more doubt I had as to the beliefs of the variety of religion that I was then a member of.
…according to a recent study in the journal, Society and Mental Health, individuals who consider leaving a faith, but do not, tend to experience more depression than those who decide to leave…
There are good reasons to not underestimate the instability of doubt, says Lack.
“Doubt is often framed in religious communities as showing that you aren’t a ‘good’ Christian or that the devil is tempting you and you are too weak to resist,” Lack explains. “Given that, many people who have doubts either get shamed by their communities when they express doubt or feel shame at their ‘weakness.’”
I am just not a person who allows others to think for me. If you say “Take it or leave it” I will most assuredly leave. But, at the same time, I can relate to the quote above. For many if not most Christians, their church is also their country club. It is where most if not all of their social life happens. In that regard, many are willing to just look past things that they really don’t believe in order to stay on good grounds with the club rules.
Ignore the “belief” stuff has a name in Catholicism, it is called “Cafeteria Catholic”. For them, one of the toppers is birth control. They say that the vast majority of Catholics in the US practice birth control and just ignore the edict from the church that it is a sin. But Catholics are by no stretch of the imagination the only cafeteria Christians.
Most Christian churches have a creed that you have to swear allegiance to in order to be a member of that tribe. I’m sure the leaders of the churches take those pledges very seriously but I don’t think most of the member really even think about what they are pledging. To them, the allegiance ceremony is just the right of passage into the clubhouse and its social advantages.
But of course, there are others like me who know they are really not aligned with what they pledge but do it anyway. That fake belief does cause depression until it is finally voiced. Although I had seriously considered it, I did not leave my church voluntarily. It was only after asking too many questions and voicing “forbidden” thoughts that I was stripped of membership by a very fundamentalist pastor. I would have left myself but I knew the damage it would do and did to my wife.
When I finally was able to come out of the closet with the fact that I had serious doubts about what some Christian beliefs, I felt the tension and depression with that false allegiance wither away. I no longer had to hide things like being convinced that the earth is millions, or maybe billions, of years old instead of the 6,000 or so as my church demanded I believe.
This is the fifth post on this series about the Bible. If it is not obvious by now I want you to understand that I put my Christianity on Jesus Christ not on a book about him. I will try to keep this brief as it is really a wrap-up of the past posts.
About the Literalists:
- Panic – In some cases I see almost total panic in people when I say not all the words in the bible are literally true. This belief is so ingrained in the foundations of their faith they cannot imagine it could not be true.
- Irrational – Some say if you doubt any words in the Bible are not literally true than you must doubt all of them and therefore the Bible would be worthless! Nonsense..Living with that sort of belief makes life itself totally unlivable. There is nothing in this life that man has touched that is 100% accurate. This is like saying that I must throw out everything I know about George Washington, and I have read a lot about him, because someone wrongly wrote that he chopped down a cherry tree.
- Acceptance? – Eventually the literal and absolutely true belief will be totally disproved even to the current day doubters. What will happen to those who tied their Christianity on that belief? Will they lose their faith? I just pray that when that day comes they will realize that Jesus should have been their total focus all along not a book about him. What would happen to me if the Bible proved to be totally inerrant as they claim? I would be very surprised but it would not cause me to take my eyes off Jesus as the absolute center of my faith.
- At Jesus’ Feet – To be able to read stories from those who actually sat at Jesus’ feet is just so valuable in our walk with Christ. It helps us to understand why he came to earth and became one of us! He did that to teach us how to live and how to love the God of the New Testament.
- A Brother’s Narrative – There is one person who wrote part of the biblical text that most likely spent almost his entire life with Jesus and that was his brother (or maybe cousin depending on which theologian you might follow). It saddens me that James did not provide us more info about Jesus’ earlier years. But, then again maybe he did and it was not uncovered during the search or canonic documents. If not, I guess he chose to concentrate on just what he thought was the most important of his brother’s messages. To hear James say that faith and works are one and the same and that faith without works is a dead faith is good enough for me.
- About the Founders – To be able to read all the stories in the book of Acts about the first few years of Christianity is very enlightening. It certainly helps us to understand how Christianity got started and how some of its beliefs were formed primarily by the Apostle Pau. But, all of those things that occurred during these early years were not necessarily meant to apply to future Christians. Some are just for lessons learned and taught at the time of the writing and should be understood as such.
- Early Conflicts – To see how Paul dealt with some many of the problems in the early church is interesting. But again we cannot assume that all the solutions he proposed apply to all circumstances today. One size does not fit all.
- Keep your eyes totally focused on the lessons of Jesus. Everything else is simply a distraction.
- To tell others about Jesus and how he lived his life. That is the purpose of the Bible.
- Tell other about Jesus and how he taught us to live. That is the purpose of the Bible.
- Tell others about Jesus and what he commanded us to do. That is the purpose of the Bible.
- Use the Bible stories as lessons in these matters and don’t become fixated on the words themselves. When you do that you may end up treating words as idols and that is definitely not what Jesus intended.
Never take your eyes off Jesus.
My intention going into the new RJsCorner was that I would use Sunday to sometimes post about things religious. With that in mind I thought I would start a new series about the founding of the U.S. by people escaping religious persecution in other countries. I probably have a couple of dozen of these type communities I have visited over the years of traveling across this country. This post will start us off on this direction.
These posts will probably be more about our country’s history than religious beliefs. They will highlight communities throughout the country that were started by groups of people with a particular set of beliefs that oftentimes differed from sect they originally belonged to. So, it is hard to categorize them in one particular category. They will often be “Reports” in my journey In Search of America.
When most people, especially those from outside looking in, see Christianity they think of one homogeneous community with one set of religious beliefs. In reality that could not be further from the truth. There are over 35,000 different versions of Christianity and that number is increasing year after year. There always seems to be reason for one segment of a sect to separate from another. To many, like Martin Luther, latch onto one particular sentence of the Bible and disregard much of the rest.
Of course my personal bias will show through in these reports. How can that be otherwise? So, I want to tell you a little about my beliefs here. I currently do not call myself a “religious” person but I am an avid follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ. To me it just seems that most, if not all, of the current religious denominations almost ignore Jesus’ teachings and instead fixate on some words invented by someone long after his death.
Closing this post, this will be an interesting series for me and I hope you will learn a few things from it. In Search of America is a broad topic indeed and this is an important segment…