Wednesday, October 8, 2008


For those (very few) who happen to stop by here, I apologize for not posting anything in a long time. I wrote several blogs and just haven’t posted them because they didn’t seem worth the time. I also started several more, but out of fear of breaking the fear of breaking the patterns in my life, I restrained from finishing them.

What I want to write a note about is our notion of “religion”. I’ve been asked several times “are you religious”, and that term is so weighted with the expectations and assumptions of our society. Religion is something that people cling to in order to bring meaning and order to a chaotic life. Religion is a group of people usually along socio-economic lines who meet together and try to make themselves feel better about themselves. Religious people are ones who bicker over inconsequential details about abstract concepts such as God and faith. But the most important assumption is that religions are all basically the same, even though they package the same basic philosophy in different flavors. Its almost like stopping by to buy ice cream: everyone has their own personal tastes, but we’re all eating ice cream.

I honestly hate this definition. Its impossible to answer, because I know that by the popular definition, I fit into the category of religion (I got to church regularly, I believe these things to be true, I talk about them, etc.) But I do not believe I fit that category because in order to accept it, you are accepting the full load of responsibility for all of these assumptions.

Lets just take a step back and examine these assumptions. First, lets just assume there is some transcendent being God who does in fact exist. If he does exist, then he has to have characteristics, first of these being the fact that he is in some way transcendent. Now whatever other characteristics are true about him, we can at the very least say they are his attributes. In other words, they are true attributes. We cannot just say that everyone’s concept of God is true, because if he really exists then he must have a specific set of attributes. There is no such thing as a being which is the catch all for everyone’s list of qualities.

But lets take it a step further. Lets assume this being God decided he wanted to reveal himself in some way to humanity. If this being has a specific set of attributes, then at the very least we could say it would be odd for him to reveal himself in a variety of ways. It seems odd that he would want one group to think he was white, and another black, when in fact he was truly orange. This means that if he exists, and if he chose to reveal himself, then how he revealed himself would be important to really know who he was.

But even more, if he exists, having a specific set of attributes, and if he chose to reveal himself, then it is likely that he would want some kind of response. Very few people do things just to be seen, they want a response, whether it be acceptance, money, encouragement, love, or whatever. But if all of these assumptions were true, then the response he wanted would be important to know who he is.

All of this is to say that it is impossible for the popular notion of religion to be true. God cannot encompass all of people’s beliefs about him, because each religion has very different beliefs about who God is. It is impossible for all religions to be different avenues to the same God, because each religion has very different definitions of God’s response. And for both of these, it is not just different, but outright contradictions. Is God triune as the Christian says, single as the Jew says, or are there really only many gods as some Asian traditions believe? These can’t all be true. If God exists (or the gods), then only one of these is true.

So “religious” is not fair, because it tries to lump together things that must remain separate. But even more so, “religion” in the popular sense attempts to trivialize the whole notion of believing in God. If he really does exist, and wants to reveal himself to humanity, then this is worth paying attention to. I can’t help but think that if aliens existed and had contacted humanity, most people would be very interested in their expectations and what they have to say. We would want to know the truth of their message and intentions. We could not have a plethora of interpretations, and be satisfied with “well they are all each person’s view” and leave it at that: especially if they had giant space ships that could do serious damage. More than that, we would not just be satisfied with the fact that “aliens do exist and want to talk to us, but each person has his own view”. This news would impact everyone’s lives, we would put everything on hold because of how huge it would be. It would be the most important thing on everyone’s minds, and it would change how we view our universe and how we live our lives.

Part of this is our own fault though. Because many have bought into the lie of pluralism, even though we might not believe it. Whenever we say we believe in God and trivialize it with the pop-psychology / neo-pagan / new age / whatever notions of faith and feeling better about ourselves, we’ve admitted defeat to the notion that God really doesn’t exist, or at the very best, does not matter. If God exists, then religion is not shopping for ice cream: It is the attempt to learn who God is, what his message is, and what he wants, and if this is true, then everything else is secondary: this is the most important thing we can know, and it changes everything.

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