I am not religious. At times, I’ve wished I was. I always hear people talking about religion in a way that elevates it as one of the more important things in life. But so far, God’s great glory has never fallen upon my face. And I wonder, why? So many people are devout about something. People have such reverent emotions and thoughts about the world, and I, for the most part, have been completely left out.
My mom was Catholic when she was younger and is now a Unitarian (sort of), and my dad is Jew-ish. Realistically, that is probably why I don’t have an interest in religion. As much as I would like to think that my parents don’t, and didn’t, have a heavy influence on the way I think, their lack of religious fervor is most likely why I lack knowing the Holy Spirit. But they were far from closed to religious ideas and even tried to get me to go to different kinds of churches throughout my life. I just thought the concept was silly. God never made sense to me.
I remember as a 6-year-old explaining to my mom that I didn’t want to go to church, because the concept of God, in general, seemed unrealistic.
As I got older and the ceremonies of adulthood came around the corner, I felt a need to at least try to gain some religious experience. I started going to the temple every Friday to see what I could get out of it. After a few months of this, I decided that religion really wasn’t for me. It diminished my life experience rather than enriching it. I stopped going and didn’t try again. What I did learn about religion is that it’s about two things: community and ceremony.
These concepts are what make up religion for a lot of people.
Beyond that, people will subscribe to whatever works with their specific cultural association. We live in a Christian state, more specifically a Catholic state. Catholics here have a unique mixture of Spanish, Native and American beliefs.
Tome Hill, a 2,000-year-old local pilgrimage site, is a great example of what religion means. About the time Christ was born, there were Anasazi “heathens” painting petroglyphs in honor of the hill. And as religion has evolved, the hill remains the same. The hill is not a symbol of how much Jesus suffered, but of how hot magma can get. The main thing that makes it special for people from 2,000 years ago until today is ceremonial community acts that take place at the hill, not the actual hill, or what is literally being done on the hill.
If religion were gone, community and ceremony are the two things people would suffer from. Two things that could be replaced by something that doesn’t make you feel guilty for living your life how you please. Something that wouldn’t arbitrarily tell you things are wrong sometimes based on half-truths and other times just based on pure speculation. If people weren’t afraid of leaving religion, would they?
Religion seems to be on every level of explanation for natural occurrences that are either difficult to describe or almost impossible to prove. Whether it be Zeus or Yahweh, all gods embody something bigger that is natural. A sense of Holy Spirit, as I have heard it described by other people who claim to have felt it, is something obtainable through other means. A sense of spirituality and togetherness with something bigger than my physical form is how I feel when I look at stars. I think there is a higher power in life, not a person with linen robes. Why would God need to be contained in an old white man’s body? Why does something that everyone attributes to the creation of everything be limited to one person’s idea or perspective of it?
The concept of religion is something that most people, even religious ones, are aware of the flaws in theological rhetoric. That is what faith is for — to patch in the places that don’t make sense. But how do you argue or even have a discussion about faith? Faith is solidifying and blind. It has to be, and the true measure of success in religion is your level of faith. The more ludicrous something seems, and the willingness to accept it, is the test of religion.
The one thing that empowers religion most is its biggest problem. Religion creates martyrs. Soldiers of God are created through blind acceptance of dogma. What you can’t argue with, most people try to destroy.
A pretty common argument for religion is that without it we would all be filled with sexual deviancy and immorality. The last time I checked, religion never stopped anyone from doing much of anything. Priests molest little boys, and followers around the country, including senators and congregation leaders, do drugs and cheat on their wives. In not being religious, I am not living a life of “sin.” I don’t steal, lie or cheat. I believe in moral relativism and I still don’t break the majority of the laws out there. A lack of religion doesn’t make people “bad,” just as much as religion doesn’t make people “good.”
Religion is a tool to control people, and, for the most part, control is voluntarily given. That may be why people are so willing to accept religion in almost any form. People want there to be structure in life outside of the realm that they control. It is reassuring not to go through life alone. But if an adult safety blanket is what religion really boils down to, wouldn’t we be better off with something else? How many people have to die in the name of God? How many peoples’ lives need to be filled with shame and guilt before we, as a culture, decide that enough is enough and that the only man in robes dictating our lives resides on the Supreme Court?