On Religion

I was raised Episcopalian (which, for those of you who don’t know, is a branch of protestant Christianity). I’ve gone to church since before I can remember, but recently, I haven’t gone to church nearly as much as I used to – and while I’m inclined to say that it’s because I’ve been busy (which is part of the reason), it’s probably more because I’m a bit disillusioned.

To be fair, I’m not disillusioned by the Episcopal church itself, because I’ve always found Episcopalians to be incredibly welcoming toward all types of people (we elected the first woman priest and the first gay priest, both of which caused quite the uproar among Catholics) and the people at my church are like my family, I’ve known them so long. So I guess I don’t go to church because I’m confused, not because anything from my own church has turned me off.

I’m disillusioned by the hatred that Christianity in general has brought to this earth. While it has brought many good things, they seem overshadowed by the anger, hate, and destruction it has caused. I am disillusioned by some Christians preaching randomly selected Bible verses as they fit their hateful needs, and I don’t particularly want to be a part of that.

It’s hard for many people to distinguish between hateful “Christians” who threaten to burn Korans and loving Christians who might not even believe in God but who love their fellow man and do good to each other in the spirit of Jesus. It’s not necessarily hard for me to distinguish between these two groups, but it’s hard for me to say that I’m a part of something so conflicting and potentially destructive. I don’t need religion to be able to make the world seem better than it is or to make my life seem like it has purpose. My life has purpose, and I see the beauty in life and love a lot better than many so-called Christians.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the best people I know are extremely religious. The dean of my church is one of the most intelligent, wonderful, thoughtful men I have ever met. But, as he said in his sermon yesterday, most of the world “endorses the notion that peace comes from the barrel of a gun, justice at the point of a sword, and that this is God’s will.”
If this is God’s will, I don’t want to be a part of it. And if it’s not, which seems more accurate, then people need to stop thinking that it is. We cannot stop violence with violence, hate with hate, destruction with more destruction.

If I’m Christian at all, I’m Christian because I believe in love and goodwill to all mankind, not because I hope I’ll get to heaven or because I think I need to save all the heathens of the world from eternal damnation. I believe in Jesus’ teachings of peace and equality, not in misconstrued beliefs of anti-gay scripture or vengeful justice-seeking. I don’t know if there’s a huge omniscient spirit in the sky, watching over me and determining my fate, and if there is I don’t think it matters much to me. What matters to me is this:

I hope for a world that will one day be free of violence in the name of God, and I hope for a day in which everyone is treated equally with love and fairness. That’s the meaning of Christmas, but I think it’s the meaning of life, too.

13 thoughts on “On Religion

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  1. I was raised Catholic (or rather traumatised into Catholicism) so I have a very negative view of religion. I don’t think we need religion. What we need is love and understanding towards each other. If you’re a good person that cares for others, then it doesn’t matter if you do or don’t go to church. If there is a God/s up there, I would imagine him/her/they to be a bit more open minded and understanding than the hideous Catholic god I was forced to believe in, he was one scary idiot, he can sod off (oooh I’m a blashemous heathen…don’t care lol)

    Like the Beatles once said: All you need is love :-)

    1. Haha exactly! I don’t like the Christian view that if people don’t “know Jesus Christ” then they’ll go to hell when they die. I think if you lead a christian-type lifestyle and love people and do good, you’ll be just fine.
      The Beatles were so spot on. I love them.

  2. I think that that isn’t exactly how it is… God is up there. He is watching and loving and an active part of our lives, but what you are describing is a belief in goodwill, not a belief of God’s will. I do agree that I don’t want to be part of a religion that uses God’s name to justify unjust acts, but I think that those people just don’t get it. We do need God, we just don’t want to be a part of the religion he’s associated with. I do agree that we cannot speak without authority for God in an explanation and allowance of violence, but I don’t think that we can only believe in goodwill, cross our fingers and hope for the best. I believe that we need God more than we will ever know, or ever think that we need him, and that he loves us and wants us to love him back.

    1. I think that was a very eloquent way to put it. I totally agree…I think what I have a hard time with is people who do horrible things in the name of God. And I personally have always had a really hard time understanding or maybe even accepting the concept of God, which I’ve understood is what many religious people also feel. It’s a pretty tough topic that I’ll continue to struggle with for the rest of my life.

  3. I’m a complete stranger killing some time on WordPress this morning, but I hope you won’t mind if I leave a comment. Thank you for sharing your views so frankly and thoughtfully. There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t thought about God and religion, but not everyone is willing to talk about it, whether they doubt or believe or whatever.

    I’m likely not going to win you back to the Church, but you make an argument against established religion (Christianity, specifically) that is fairly common and about which I have done some thinking. This is where I find myself:

    1) I, like you, was raised Episcopalian. As a child, I was always charmed by all the stuff in the back of the prayer book, maybe especially the first sentence of the preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer: “There was never any thing by the wit of man so well devised, or so sure established, which in continuance of time hath not been corrupted.”

    2) I don’t have the book in front of me, but I vaguely remember a bit in C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters where the middle-management demon advises his underling (who is charged with keeping some individual away from God, basically, right?) to get his human to focus on the people in the church, rather than on God, and how imperfect they all are. It is hard to look at any person alive and see any clear evidence that we are perfected through Christ, because everyone is a hypocrite or a jerk or annoying or something.

    3) Christians have done bad things. But Christians have also done very good things. The abolition of slavery was largely a Christian movement (even as there were people who sought to justify slavery using the Bible), and the civil rights movement was very Christian. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor.

    4) Further, there are other scales upon which we can examine Christianity. Compared to other religions, it does OK. Buddhism is probably the most innocuous of religions, but even it has its rare violent elements. Burning Korans is nasty behavior if you ask me, but decades of suicide bombings in the name of God are worse. Female genital mutilation is worse. Honor killings are worse. Islam has some wonderful parts and some horrible parts. In my opinion, the horrible parts of Islam are worse than the horrible parts of Christianity. In today’s political atmosphere, it is unacceptable for me to say that I don’t care for Islam simply because a minority of Muslims think it makes sense to kill people in the name of their religion (After all, it is a religion of peace and they are just extremists, right?). I observe a double standard in society’s conversation on the subject.

    The folks who gave us the Anglican Church understood that the church is a human institution and therefore imperfect. For that matter, I think there is no institution or organized group on Earth about which one could say that all of their actions or all of their members are consistently good. I don’t think that means we should remain entirely unaffiliated. In religion, especially, maybe. What that preface to the Book of Common Prayer says is that we are striving toward something, but as fallible humans, we have to keep working at it. We have to weed out corruption as we go along, all the time.

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I really appreciate that you shared your views, and you made some great points. I think I’ll constantly be searching to know what I believe religion-wise, so it’s gonna be a long road. But it’s good to know that there are level-headed people out there doing good!

  4. Cappy- I have two blogs. One is related specifically to my walk with God. I question things too, even though I state that I am Christian. This wasn’t always the case, since I was raised Mormon. I tread carefully when I talk about Mormonism… it’s hard not to offend the defensive.

    I have another blog (a link is provided in my About Me section) where I do not write about God or religion at all. I love that we as humans are so multi-faceted and can have so many dimensions of who we are, what we believe, what we love, dislike, etc. I enjoy reading your thoughts on Christianity, and overall religion. It’s such a complex topic. Thank you for being transparent with your beliefs.

  5. Wow, Cappy, your words hit a chord with me. Your point of view is what I’ve tried to explain to people over and over about how I personally feel about organized religion. I’ve never come across this eloquent though.

    I may just print this and hand it out whenever I’m next asked why I refuse to align myself with anyone that believes there’s an asterisk next to “Love thy neighbor!” – (*as long as – 1) they believe what we believe; 2) they don’t rock the boat or question us; 3) they actively convince others we’re right. Otherwise, we reserve the right to crush them in the name of God and we’ll be righteous in doing so, and their souls will be damned to hell for eternity, AMEN!).

    Religion/faith/spirituality shouldn’t come with fine print. I’d rather continue on a (solitary if necessary) journey to enlightenment than be in a flock of sheep that has such a skewed interpretation of what I consider to be Godly or just or fair.

    Ultimately, as long as I know that I’m striving to be the best human being that I can be – that I treat others as I wish to be treated, that I practice compassion towards others, that I can reflect honestly on and hold myself accountable for my own behavior and attitudes, and most importantly: that when I screw up I acknowledge my mistakes and make amends – then I’m not concerned if my lack of religion doesn’t sit well with those who’d consider themselves a “Good-fill-in-the-religious-affiliation-here” in the same breath as preaching hate, violence, and bigotry. If that makes me a heathen, so be it.

    Que sera, sera!

    ~ Mel :)

    1. Haha feel free to print it out and hand it out! Ha, I think you did a pretty good job explaining why you’re not religious just in this comment! I completely agree, and I’d rather just try to be a good person without worrying about Heaven etc. Thanks!

  6. First of all, Hi! I saw one of your posts on FreshlyPressed and have thoroughly enjoyed reading what little of your blog I’ve been able to go through in this short amount of time. That being said I completely agree with what you’re saying; the split between hateful “Christians” and loving Christians really is something vile, and is unfortunately not only turning away non-Christians but people from within the churches themselves. (I know it’s awful rude in terms of blog-etiquette to bring up one’s own post, but I ranted a tiiiny bit about this a couple months ago http://dryamusement.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/i-am-not-a-bible-thrower/)
    I guess it’s the same problem as with any large category of peoples with stereotypes though (nationality, race, gender, etc). The only way to get by it is to be a positive example and show the world that not all of “us” (whoever “us” may be) are complete jerks that fit the ugly image.
    Thanks for the post, and great blog~

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