Don't kid yourself; you are RELIGIOUS.

There has been some good and bad discussions that have been taking place in one of my latest posts. (We are all bent towards God) One thing that I am realizing is the unbelievable similarities that we all have. We all seem to have a belief system in which guides our thoughts, actions and ultimately our lives. We all hold tight to a philosophy; I may hold tight to the teachings of the bible and Christ following scholars while others may hold tight to the teachings of other books and Secular scholars. None-the-less, we are all being driven by information and logic that we hold dear to us.

The most noticeable thing that I am seeing is the difference in opinions on the following terms. Christian and Religion. On one occasion, someone labeled Hitler as a Christian (which according to my definition of a Christian, cannot be true) and on another occasion someone mocked people who are religious. I seem to have a very different opinion about the definitions of these two terms (Christian and Religious) than some of the people who read my blog. This brings up a couple of very important questions. What is a Christian and what constitutes being religious? I will address one of them below.

Lets start with Religion. In the comments that I receive, it is very obvious that we tend to view religion as a belief in God. Try telling that to a Unitarian or Buddhist. Unitarian Universalists believe in spirituality but not God. Buddhist' do not believe in God at all, but ultimately a pursuit of happiness. Religion cannot be a belief system in God because not all religions believe in God. Instead, religion is a set of answers to the major questions concerning our existence. Religion sets out to answer questions like: Why are we here? How did we get here? What is our purpose in life? What happens after we die? Within those questions, most religions tend to lean on an answer that includes God or Spirituality but other religions do not.
In essence, all belief systems are religious beliefs. None of us are exempt of religion and being religious. Some religions gather for worship, others do not. Some religions hold to sacred literature, others do not. Some religions worship science, knowledge, intellect, and uncertainty while others worship God as creator and Jesus as Savior. Similar to us all being religious; we are also all worshippers. By worship I mean, holding something as ultimate in our lives. Those things can be money, sex, family, God, intellect, knowledge, our image, security, Jesus, morality, and the list can go on forever. (Again, that is based upon my defination of worship.)
The thing that bothers me is that the agnostic and atheist will arrogantly point the finger at someone like me for being religious, without having the humility to admit that the very thing that pushes them to label me as religious is their own set of beliefs, which in themselves are religious beliefs (That was a run-on sentence I think.) According to my definition above, I am religious…but so are you. Lets try not to avoid the FACT that the same things that drive me are the same things that drive you. A set of beliefs. Even to say that you dont believe anything, is still a belief.
Before I talk about my definition of the word Christian; I would first like to hear your definition. I am specifically talking to the following people (Brian, Drew, Edgar, Paul) but would also like for others to chime in if you have a chance. Feel free to answer anonymous if you'd like.


Brian Hebert said...

I have thoughts on this, but if Edgar is invited to participate, I won't. Sorry, Matt. Like you, I have precious little time to invest in discussions like these, and I value the critical thinking process too much to waste my time on his antics.

Drew said...

If you want to be technical, it's defined in the Nicene (or Nicean depending) Creed.

That's what you have to accept to call yourself a Christian and have the rest agree with you. When I said Hitler was a Christian I meant that he called himself one. In Mein Kampf, Hitler himself says that he believes he is doing "The Lord's work" (his words, not mine).

I would contest that to define "religious" as you have makes the word pretty much meaningless. Definitions come from how words are used, not the other way around. If everyone's religious, then no one is.

Drew said...

I would like to further expound upon the marked differences between those who consider themselves religious and those who do not. You could use the term superstitious interchangeably with religious in this case.

The issue with beliefs out of which a person cannot be reasoned (because he did not reason himself into them in the first palce) are that they are not susceptible to amendment. If I hold something to be true, and I am presented with evidence that shows that I am wrong about it, I will revise my opinion on the matter. This is true in every single area of our lives, except religion. There are certain things about which we are just plain forbidden from asking questions. You haven't done your due diligence in the name of honest inquiry if you just take The Bible's word that it's the word of God. Sorry, you just haven't. There's an enormous body of physical evidence to examine, about which the Bible makes very measurable claims. There is also the matter of studying its origins, because I don't think it's quite possible to describe how incredibly different ancient Greek and Hebrew are from our language to someone who's never studied them. The Bible is riddled with translation errors even though most translations actually do a pretty good job of getting the original meaning right.

Can you think of another book in existence about which you would say "I know it's true, because it says so right in it!" I certainly cannot. I've read the Bible in multiple languages and versions many times, cover to cover. I've read the Book of Mormon many times, cover to cover. I'm on my second reading of the Qu'ran and I'm looking for decent copies of the Bhagavad Gita and the Tibetan Book of the Dead so that I can finish reading those. Let it never be said that I haven't done my [i]research[/i] into religion.

A good example is the Greek word "logos" (and you'll pardon me for picking on Greek but I read Greek a lot better than I read Hebrew). We translate "logos" to mean "word" in English. Think of the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the word he uses to describe Jesus is "logos" which we translate into "word". But the plain fact is that logos can also mean "thought", "philosophy", or a couple of other Greek concepts for which I don't think we have English words. In this case, I think the translation is very accurate and conveys the original intent of the author. In the case I pointed out to you, where the author of First Corinthians uses a strange word for "your [body]" in chapter 6, I consider it a bad translation.

Anyway, all that to say you need to be careful. A healthy bit of scepticism never hurt anyone either.

Drew said...

I'm just anticipating responses to my comment that cite inner revelation or the sensation of a relationship with a deity as "proof" that an individual's religious beliefs are valid.

Please don't bring this up. If you feel you must bring this up, you cannot simply cite your personal feeling of "god" without acknowledging the fact that the adherents of every other religion on earth claim the same thing, that they claim your religion is false and you claim theirs is false, and that one of you has to be wrong but you have exactly equal evidence of the truth of your religion.

Edgar said...

Nice post Matt. I agree that sometimes people use religion and christian interchangeably as words when they should not.

I also agree with Drew when he says that your definition of religion is a bit too broad, although I get your point.

What is the first image that comes to mind when I read the word religion? What is my first gut feeling? I imagine lots of people together talking about God to put it simply. I imagine an organized group of worshipers in a church or something similar.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that I think "organizer religion" with no particular sect in mind.


"The thing that bothers me is that the agnostic and atheist will arrogantly point the finger at someone like me for being religious, without having the humility to admit that the very thing that pushes them to label me as religious is their own set of beliefs, which in themselves are religious beliefs"

Don't let this bother you at all. It's entirely natural. Psychologically speaking the Ego needs to feel secure. It yearns for security which is why we adopt systems of thought and raise them to the point where we consider them infallible.

That's basic psychology right? But with this process is an accompanying process in which the Ego has to defend all threats against it's thought system, even in the face of evidence.

Some people really believe that the world would be much better off if belief in religion ceased to exist. They believe that there is nothing more than the material world. Period. Therefore religion is a direct threat to their system of thought and the ego feels compelled to defend itself.

Same goes for the religious. They feel that everyone should belong to the one true religion and those that don't will go to hell. They believe that whole world would be better off if everyone would convert to their specific type of religion.

So these religious people view materialism as a direct threat to their thought system.


"If I hold something to be true, and I am presented with evidence that shows that I am wrong about it, I will revise my opinion on the matter. This is true in every single area of our lives, except religion."

I'm not so sure I would so hastily single out religion in this regard Drew.

There is a state of mind that psychologists call Denial. People exercise denial for many reasons and not just religious ones. For a quick example just look at an alcoholic who denies he has a problem even after it has ruined his life. Same with other addicts.

Denial is exercised whenever anyone's thought system is threatened or feels threatened. The Germans had a thought system that was flawed but beyond reproach in their time and country. Same with communism, a thought system that denied your right to question it!

Both the atheist and the religious (in the normal sense of the word) person have this in common: they both defend their thought systems AT ALL COSTS! Even in the face of absurdity sometimes.

I think people collectively need to realize that the Ego and it's tendencies needs to be dragged out from where it hides in order to rise above the tensions created by opposing thought systems. Perhaps that will be a new era of enlightenment that we will see come to pass?

Drew said...

Thank you for your appropriate and respectful response Edgar. I will try to afford you the same courtesy from now on as well.