Religion Isn’t

This was my contribution to the Faith Forum column in the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper for Saturday, October 9, 2010.  I’m posting it here for the benefit of at least one person who missed it in the paper and wanted to read it. The prompt–“religion isn’t”–seemed random, but proved to be an interesting topic.

Religion isn’t just in your head. True, religion is based on a set of beliefs, but for truly religious people, those beliefs deeply influence actions. Your most deeply held beliefs will impact who you are and what you do.

Religion isn’t certainty of belief. Many–probably most–deeply religious people live with doubts.

Religion isn’t about you. Religion is actually an acknowledgement that the world does not revolve around you.

Religion isn’t meant to be convenient. Orthodox Jews might want to drive their car on Shabbat, but they don’t. Muslims might be in the middle of something when it is time for Salah, but they stop and pray anyway. The people at Peace Mennonite on any given Sunday could have slept in, but they got up and came to church. The commitments and practices of a religious life are engaged in for reasons other than immediate gratification.

Religion isn’t beyond critique. We should examine and question religious teachings. The fact that your pastor or imam or rabbi says something is right doesn’t necessarily make it right.

Religion isn’t a ticket to heaven. I do not claim to know much about heaven, but I feel confident in saying that St. Peter will not hand you a religious checklist before you get into the pearly gates. “O, gee, too bad. You worshipped on Friday nights–the correct day is Sunday. If you would please step through that door marked exit and just take those stairs down.”

Religion isn’t an excuse to act hateful. If you hate gay people, by all means carry a sign that says “I Hate Gay People.” Don’t blame your ignorant prejudices on God.

Religion isn’t something to kill for. Something to die for? In certain historical moments, yes. But never something to kill for.


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