MY THOUGHTS ON RELIGION
Religion is something I struggle with every single day. I’m not talking about doubts regarding the existence of God—of that I have no doubt: He exists and He answers prayer. What I struggle with has more to do with my healthy concern as to whether or not I’m on the right path, and my serious disappointment (that’s putting it very mildly) regarding some of the attitudes and behavior exhibited by many as they practice religion.
Normally I’m an extremely quiet and private person in regard to religion. So much so, that a lot of people assume that I’m either agnostic or atheist. In fact, I am neither: I believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the power of prayer—I’m just very low-key about it. I was raised in the Protestant tradition—specifically, the Baptist tradition—but I haven’t been a member of any church for the past thirty-five years and I don’t currently align myself with any particular denomination. I made this choice a long time ago and I stand by my decision today. Although I’m saddened at times by the isolation that accompanies such a choice, I believe it to be the appropriate one—based on what I’ve seen and heard over a long period of time, and who I am as a person. Please allow me to expand some on this.
For the record, I take religion dead seriously. I hold practitioners of organized religion—be they laypersons or leaders—to a very high standard: a standard which is not often met. As far as I’m concerned, if you preach something to others, you better darned well believe and practice it yourself, and you darned well better be right about it.
In no way do I intend the following to be a blanket condemnation of organized religion, but over the years I’ve witnessed far, far too much smug, self-righteousness (confidence is good, self-righteousness is not), hypocrisy, false piety, greed, racism, intolerance and out-of-hand dismissal of those who are different, by “religious” folk and “religious” institutions. I want no part of association with such things, even if it means isolation from a group. I don’t think this is what the practice of religion should be about.
I’m not perfect—not even close. I’m no religious role model, but I try hard to behave as I believe—to walk the talk, if you will. You’ll never catch me claiming to have all the answers (because I don’t) and you’ll never catch me blindly trusting those who say they do know all there is to know about God and how others should live their lives.
So what do I think, personally? Let me begin with saying that, philosophically speaking, I’m inclusive: I believe that no single camp, faction, or brand-name has the monopoly on God. As I believe there is more than one path to approach The Divine, I expect to encounter people of many faiths and practices when I eventually reach Heaven. Related: I don’t believe God is wasteful. I don’t see him damning masses of good people—most of His creation, in fact—to eternal hell because they didn’t practice religion according to a certain set of rules laid out by “man.” In practice I’m nonsectarian, spiritual, and private. My beliefs are personal; my relationship with God is personal as well. I firmly believe that attempting to live a good life and trying to do the right thing counts—and that it counts for a lot. Having said these things, I fully realize that, to many, I’m not everyone’s idea of what a Christian should be. To be honest, I’m perfectly fine with that: it’s God, not man, who gets to define what I am . . . and what my fate will be for it.
I invite comment.
ADDENDUM – January 2, 2012
I’m adding the following quote from novelist, Jack McDevitt, to this, my Religion page. It appears in his work, Firebird (an Alex Benedict novel). It’s extremely well written and expresses my thoughts exactly. Chapter 24 of Firebird begins with these words:
The essential problem with our beliefs is that we tend to fall in love with them. They become a part of who we are, and we defend them in the face of all contrary evidence. They are the rock on which we base our identity. I cannot help but think how much less damage would be done were we to view them rather as pliable clay, tentative conclusions subject to revision when more evidence arrives on the scene.
Well said, Mr. McDevitt!