Monday, March 22, 2010

When I Speak of Religion

My friend responded to my latest, "If Your Religion..." post and I felt that it deserved more than just a response in the comments, as it's a very valid point. I have lived inside my growing awareness of spirituality for a while now and so there are concepts that I take for granted when talking about what I have learned. Anything that makes me better at getting my point across is very much appreciated.

This what she had to say...

"It is my firm belief that there are morons in every religion on the planet. That's just the way humanity is. Most religions are trying to help with this problem, but the fact is that little can be done to help someone who doesn't feel like being helped. Many people think they're part of a religion just because their parents told them so, and it's just a cultural thing, and they have a shallow understanding of their own supposed theology.

Anyway, that's just my long-winded way of saying that I'm a little worn out on the cliche of rejecting a religion based on its followers. I don't think there's a single faith system out there that hasn't had someone leave because they were disappointed in the actions of that faith's adherents. Sometimes people are just morons, and you can't blame God or the Buddha or Athena or whoever for it."

I agree with everything she said, 100%, and it got me thinking that I missed something when I was talking about religion...

The word religion is used interchangeably with spirituality or belief system, I've been guilty of this myself, and for the most part, it's not really wrong. It is the meaning of other words that gets lost when the difference between religion and spirituality isn't explored and understood.

Spirituality is the connection to things outside of the purely physical, the connection to deity, to that spark that makes us uniquely individual, the energy that animates us while living and is glaringly absent after death. It is created by the individual, for the individual.

Religion is the politics of prayer, of worship, it is the politics of connection with deity. It is created by people for the consumption of others. The motives of those who create religion are sometimes altruistic, sometimes they are just controlling. People are flawed, and so are religions. When I complain about a religion, I'm not pointing my finger at "God or the Buddha or Athena...", but at the people who do things in their names.

The God of the New Testament is supposed to be the great good father of all things. He is supposed to be all love, all joy, all grace...and yet people have committed amazing atrocities in His name. Do I blame God? No, I blame the people who were capable of the actions, or who set up the system that allowed the actions. I blame the religion who got Him wrong.

Paganism connects to the ancient cycles of life, death and rebirth, drawing divinity out of the golden lined clouds and settling it firmly within. And yet, there are people who have simply swapped the names and genders of their gods, changed the words of their pleas, but have fundamentally changed nothing, and are still as frustrated as before. Do I blame any of the multitude of pantheons Pagans recognize? No, I point my finger at the religion, or lack thereof, that did not help explain these things.

So you love God, Jesus, Buddha, Athena, but part of what I have said somewhere along the way rings true for you, and your religion makes you afraid...what then?

Change it. Reject that which scares you, and revel in that which brings you joy. Be conscious of your religion, how it impacts your life and the lives of those around you. Try to do the least amount of harm possible. Participate in life, be conscious of the thousand joyous moments you will have and how they add up to a happy life. Let your religion evolve with you, so that it will always meet your needs.

Can it be just that simple? I think so. And yet, not, because I have to be more aware, more conscious, more active in how my decisions ripple away from me. It is admittedly harder somedays to follow my religion of one than to let slip my responsibility and relax under someone else's direction. But I choose, and will continue to do so, every day. That sort of freedom is sweet, and worth the work.

I hope this helps you to understand better the things I say, whether you agree with me or not.

Till next time, be well,


  1. Hurray, a long response to my response! I'm afraid I will have to respond in kind =)

    "Change it.... Let your religion evolve with you, so that it will always meet your needs."

    There is so much that I joyfully agree with in this whole paragraph (including the parts covered by the ellipsis), and yet I think this paragraph also contains the boundary of "agree to disagree" between you and I.

    The way you speak about religion/spirituality often seems to boil down to those last four words: "always meet your needs." This is the part that I can't quite get past. My whole faith revolves around God, not around me (or at least this is what I strive for). Of course I believe that God loves me more than any human ever could, and that God wants absolutely the best for me, and that God will take care of me and my needs. So my needs do end up being met by my religion/spirituality. But that's just not my starting point, nor is it my bottom line, nor is it the centre of what I believe. My faith is a response to something outside of myself, and to me it seems sad and small to imagine a spirituality that revolves around an individual human.

    I hope that my last sentence there can be well-received, or at least not be hurtful. I understand of course that you are happy with your religion and that you're not sad about it. I also know that you are not at all a self-centered person and that you care very much for others, and that this is even an important part of your spirituality. I am just trying to be honest about my reaction to your blog post, and hopefully in gentle words. Like I said, I think here is where we arrive at the boundary of "agree to disagree" between you and I.

    I should also point out that I think your religion and mine cover much of the same ground, in terms of caring for others, oneself, the world, and having a greater sense of purpose, etc. It's just that we come at it from different directions, and I think these different directions do end up with different end results. I feel like I should be using the word "path" somewhere in this paragraph. But it's way past my bedtime, and I think (hope?) you get what I'm saying by now. So I will stop.

  2. Sorry, I had another thought. I really liked this sentence: "Be conscious of your religion, how it impacts your life and the lives of those around you." It's really important to me that we can't just shut off our brains in matters of religion, as if we've somehow arrived at our end destination and that's that. Even when we arrive at a few core truths (as I believe I have found in Jesus), there is always more learning and more refinement and more angles from which to see the same thing. Religion is a challenging thing, it's not a stagnant thing.

    Hey, that's my own "if your religion" statement! And here I thought I didn't like your premise of defining your own standards for religion. I'm such a hypocrite. Okay, here's my suggestion for another post that I'm sure will be all "agree" and no "disagree" from me:

    "If your religion doesn't challenge you, you're doing it wrong."

  3. I have thought of a simpler way to say what I was trying to say.

    To the extent that I agree with your "if your religion" posts, it is always because I agree that what you're saying is also what God wants for us. I do disagree with the starting point/bottom line/core belief I am perceiving in your posts that a person's religion must serve their needs. I am theocentric in my beliefs, not anthropocentric. Our ends are often the same, but our means seem to be different, and I believe that the means do matter.

    I apologize for my 1:00AM rambling response when this would have sufficed. Hopefully I didn't stick my foot too far into my mouth.