This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
- Louis Nizer, lawyer (1902-1994) What Nizer called true religion, some today call spirituality. Or something close. We don't have a good word for someone who is spiritually in touch with God but doesn't conform to the dictates of a religion. Many people equate "religion" with organized religion. They feel so strongly about membership in an organized relgion being the only definition for "religion" or for being religious that they consider another who is not a member to be an atheist or a pagan. Christianity even adopted the word pagan to mean anyone who does not believe in the God of Christianity. If membership in an organized religion is what determines whether or not a person is religious and organized religions have been guilty of heinous crimes and violations of their own principles, it's no wonder that people have trended away from "religion" in recent decades. To understand statistics regarding religious affiliation as iterated in the media, we need to understand that not declaring affiliation with an organized religion does not make a person non-religious, nor does it make them atheist. It just makes them non-practising adherents of a total religious belief set. It means that a person has beliefs that are not expressed in accordance with the doctrines of major religions. Being accused of being a member of a religious sect, for example, makes a person a social pariah, so people would rather declare no religion than admit to being part of a small religious group that might be called a sect. What name do we have for a person who has sought out their own spiritual identity, who believes in a power greater than that of humanity and who has committed their life to follow a life course that is in accordance with what he or she believes is the right way to live? Atheist? Agnostic? Heathen (another favourite word of Christianity, though Jews and Muslims use it as well)? That's religious namecalling, something that the principles of organized religions insist should not be done. Some people call themselves "humanists." These people often do so less because they don't believe in a supernatural power and more because they reject the teachings of organized religions about the supernatural. They don't commit themselves to belief in a supernatural power, instead preferring to help other humans in ways that would have made Jesus of Nazareth and the Prophet Mohammed proud of them. In a sense, religions have soiled their own beds. Then they condemn others who refuse to join them. Cutting through all the semantic crap, Louis Nizer said that what is important is how we live, not what we say we believe in. For there are many who profess their beliefs openly and strongly, but fail to act in ways that would affirm their oral commitments. They are people that Jesus would have condemed as hypocrites (he used the term 24 times in the Bible). No doubt the Prophet would have used similar terminology. Often a person who claims that he doesn't believe in God, when questioned intensively admits that he believes in God, just not in the kind of God that members of organized religions profess to believe in, the kind of God they have given unreasonable and unprovable characteristics and attributes and one that
inevitably disappoints because He doesn't live up to the advertising of His loyal followers. God is not who the Pope or the Ayatollahs say He is. God is not who religious fanatics say He is. God is not who the religious faithful say He is. God is who He is. He doesn't have to explain Himself to anyone or prove Himself to anyone. For those who are unable to see the existence of God around them or to feel His extraordinary presence within them, God probably doesn't exist. God can live with that. Just don't live like a total screw-up. Bill Allin Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put life in perspective. Learn more at http://billallin.com