Religion Isn’t Optional

I’ll be honest about the Faith Forum column below: I just started writing “religion isn’t” statements and then quit when I hit the 300 word limit. But I could have kept going. I think next on my list would be: “Religion isn’t optional.”

It was interesting that the other pastor who responded to this prompt stated, “Religion isn’t for everyone.” It would seem that we disagree, but I think we are just defining religion a bit differently.

If religion means acceptance of the tenants and practices of a per-established faith; if it means participating in worship every week and saying your prayers every day; then I would agree that religion isn’t for everyone. At the very least not everyone seems to think religion is for them.

But here’s the first dictionary.com definition of religion: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe . . . usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

If we use that definition, then I say religion isn’t optional. Everyone has beliefs about the universe—even if those beliefs are that we can’t know much and/or it doesn’t matter anyway.

Everyone has ritual observances. How many cups of coffee do you drink in the morning? What side of the bed do you sleep on? What TV shows do you watch religiously?

Everyone has a moral code. It might be “do no harm.” It might be “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” It might be “do whatever feels good.” Our moral codes differ widely, but we all have them.

So I do believe that religion isn’t optional. Which seems to me an argument for choosing your religion carefully, thoughtfully.

Because the fact is that there are plenty of people out there who would love to make their products, their media, their political ideology into your religion. And many of these people have a lot of money and some really savvy advertising agencies.

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