What seemed to happen is that I became…
Less interested in religion and more interested in life
Less interested in doctrine and more interested in truth
Less interested in piety and more interested in love
Less interested in heaven and more interested in peace
Less interested in hell and more interested in suffering
Less interested in church and more interested in people
- Jim Palmer
I’ve been experiencing growing discontent with “religion” in a general sense lately. A lot of this has come from engaging those of various religions. While I do get a lot of enjoyment from understanding other’s beliefs I also find a lot of judgement.
I don’t like it.
I don’t like when people imply that I might be going to hell for not believing exactly what they believe, regardless of the actual number of people they would be condemning by making those accusations. Usually it’s a LOT since there are so many different denominations. No wonder people are sick of Christians. I was raised Christian (of the Catholic variety) and really didn’t know much else until late in my college career. Now the more Christians I talk to the more I find that they all think each other are completely wrong. Why would someone listen to any Christian when they’d have to pick from 30,000 different interpretations of the same story?
When I dug for an answer to the question “What do you have to do to go to heaven?” I received various responses, generally centered around “Believe in Jesus. Actions are useless.”
When I asked if you had to be baptized I got various answers ranging from yes to no. Same with receive the Eucharist/communion or going to reconciliation/confession. Prayer didn’t show up as a requirement to often either.
I also found that a lot of the above things weren’t bringing a ton of enjoyment to my life.
I was told by at least 3 followers of their respective (different) religions to “try it and see if it works for you”. If that’s the best you got I’m not buying! “If it works” is a very subjective measuring stick for anything. Kim Jung Un would say that his ruling of North Korea is working for him but few people would say it’s the right thing to do. I say few because there are some people that have argued with me that he’s doing a good thing, or at least that it’s not bad!
I looked around and found that what I was really missing was love. I didn’t truly love others. I knew others. I liked some people, but I didn’t really love them. I didn’t act like I loved them and I certainly didn’t think I loved them. I remembered the following quote that I read one time.
“When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” C.S. Lewis
Maybe “trying it” would work for this? It has! Now I’m not saying that I perfectly love everyone I meet, or even do it particularly well. What I am able to do is ask myself everyday why I didn’t love the people I encountered that day.
It is sort of difficult today to walk around loving others. Especially if you are a single guy. Depending on who you are talking to it can be seen as unwanted advances or perceived as an advance when it’s not meant to be. For people who the age gap is big enough, it can come off as you are trying to get something from them or take advantage in some other was.
What I’ve found is it’s difficult to love people if you don’t know them. To know people takes time, time most of us don’t think we have. I often ask myself how I am showing love to the people I already know. Often I find that I’m lacking in that area. If I don’t love people I already know how can I love people I don’t know? Seems like that’d be pretty difficult.
On getting to know people, that is another place where I see religion being misused. People will meet someone and assume they know them if they practice the same religion. They will feel safer around that person. I understand why. As I said above, we all think we don’t have any time to “waste” getting to know someone we aren’t sure about, if they do some of the same things we do certainly they are more like us than those who don’t go to the same church every week. This often leads to people only having a very small group of likeminded friends. This is a dangerous practice as pointed out in “Reasonable Atheism” by Scott F. Aikin & Robert. B Talisse
“Groups of like-minded people who discuss their common views tend to unwittingly radicalize – they cause each other to adopt more extreme beliefs.” P36
If that doesn’t describe many religions and denominations I don’t know what does. Here the thought of a radical belief doesn’t necessarily have to be that everyone else is the devil, but it often does manifest in “Everyone else is wrong and only we have the Truth.”
At one time, I would ask others what they believed so I could tell them the truth of what I believed. I am slowly working to break that habit. These days, if I ask what you believe it’s not because I want to convert you to what I believe. I legitimately just want to know what you believe and why. I can see why people would be suspicious though as many people are still in the same mindset I was and ask only to share their own judgemental beliefs. Once you do share your beliefs with me I will ask some pointed questions that might offend you a little, depending on how thick your skin is. I will do that only to get you thinking though, not to be actually offensive. It is to really get to know you and perhaps to help you know yourself.
With that background laid, I ask you the following questions.
Have you really been living like Jesus (If you are a Christian and are telling others how they need to be living like Jesus.) To get thinking about this more I highly recommend the book “Being Jesus In Nashville” By Jim Palmer (quoted at the beginning of this article).As usual, if anyone actually reads this and wants me to buy the the book just let me know and I will! email@example.com
For those non-Christians (who likely don’t care about being like Jesus), I just ask you to recognize your group of friends. Are you unintentionally (or intentionally!) self-radicalizing? If so what? Is it a reasonable position? How can you find someone who holds differing views from you? What can you learn from them?
For everyone I ask, how are you maintaining the relationships you have? Are you truly sharing love? Who are you neglecting?
If we all took some time to think about these types of questions more I think the world would be a better place.