Golf, Syria & Stamp Collecting: Why I’m Not Religious- Guest Post

Editor Note: A friend of mine (and published author no less) offers his two cents on religion in our first ever guest post.

Why I’m Not Religious

It should be an easy question to answer, right?

Is it because after my baptism and excluding my attendance at weddings, my parents took me to Church exactly zero times? Perhaps it’s my logical and analytical mind that finds it easy to poke holes in most religions’ core beliefs. Then again, it might simply be that I prefer spending Sunday morning bonding with my spiritual self out on the golf course.

 

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The real answer is D; all of the above. That along with continued negative portrayal of religion in the news. From religious-based violence in Syria and other areas of the world to further reports of priest-involved child abuse cases across the country. Unless you pay close attention, it’s hard to find the positives in religion as someone who sits well beyond the reach of religious gospel today. Could I be swayed otherwise to embrace religion in my lifetime? Perhaps. Let’s explore three foundational aspects of religion.

Religion provides an answer for what lies beyond our physical death

You know, I’m ok just living my life in the current world and making the best of it. I anticipate that I won’t fear or embrace death any differently due to my lack of belief in the after-world. What if there is something waiting for me beyond this life? Well, I’ll accept that as bonus time after living a complete and satisfying life here on earth.

Religion guides our moral compass, helping us to live righteous lives

I don’t need the bible to tell me if a choice I’m about to make is morally right or wrong. And if I make a mistake along the way, I still have to forgive myself whether or not I choose to ask God’s forgiveness. Plus, the cynical side of me can quickly point to all the believers out there that are breaking the law, or otherwise choosing to ignore their religious teachings.

Religion creates a sense of community

Hmm…this one has potential. I don’t know any of my neighbors beyond a quick hello and a brief synopsis of the week’s weather. I rarely find myself talking on the phone anymore in the world of email and text messages. My network consists of Facebook and LinkedIn, where meaningful conversation is nonexistent. And I don’t belong to local Rotary or stamp collectors club. While I have a great relationship with family and a strong core group of friends, maybe there is something missing here. Stating that I’m not religious is perhaps an incorrect statement. It might be more accurate to say that I’m approaching my 40th birthday and I’ve yet to find the religion for me.

Questions:

  • Will people like me ever accept religion in its current form? If not, how can religious groups evolve to become more attractive to people in my shoes?
  • What risks are there for religions that stick to their traditional beliefs and don’t evolve?
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Christian. Father. Hawkeye. Pursuing truth... frequently in a minivan.

5 thoughts on “Golf, Syria & Stamp Collecting: Why I’m Not Religious- Guest Post

  1. All I am going to say is, I believe it is people and their greed and bad traits (sins) that give religion a bad name. I don’t think it’s fair to blame religion (or God) for the bad works of people any more than it fair to blame baseball (the pure invented game itself) for players cheating with PED’s.

    As far as being ok with just the life here on earth, I look at it as when we lose loved ones in our life some unexpectedly and some after a long life after we have cultivated strong emotional connections it’s comforting to think you will one day see those people again. I think deep down, we all would love that.

  2. Great questions all. The most eloquent and straightforward answers to those questions can be found in Andy Stanley’s book entitled Deep and Wide (creating churches that unchurched people love to attend). Initially, he explains how the original word for church was “gathering” and through the centuries, got changed to “building or location”. Significant change; from assembly to assembly hall. So your community potential would have some legs when the assembly becomes the focus of faith based groups. And, confusing religion with one’s faith is pretty common these days.

  3. Thanks for posting, I appreciate you reading and love to get others engaged. It is a well written piece that I can take much from.

    Were I to summarize your posting, here is what I take from it.

    1. You don’t need religion to live a good life
    2. What’s in it for me?
    3. Religion has caused many bad things
    4. I’m still seeking something anyway

    Here is my take on each (no theology master, not ordained, just a dude trying to figure it out like you). Don’t take this as a rebuttal, just take it as another opinion to consider.

    1. You don’t need religion to live a good life.
    Agreed. Though I’d question how you define a moral life without the Christian faith. What we take for granted as obvious morally, is all rather counterintuitive and all has roots in the bible. We are a Christian nation, our Constitution is even a Christian document.

    2. What’s in it for me
    The deep dark secret about Christianity (one the recruiters won’t lead with) is that while it has many rewards, in this life it is more about sacrifice and servanthood. What’s in it for you is a relationship with your creator and eternal life, but the value prop will seem like a loser in this life– namely living as a servant and measuring yourself to a standard you can’t possibly live up to. It’s not really about you.

    3. Religion has caused many bad things
    So have cars, but you still drive. So has alcohol but you still drink. Guns are bad, but without them we’d have never defeated the nazis. My point is that broad brushes are dangerous. The more pertinent question is how does Christianity net out? The good minus the bad. To do this, all you have to do is look at the top charities in the country. Salvation Army, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Compassion International, Catholic Charities, World Vision, they all have a common thread. Christ. Even the YMCA can attribute the C to JC. You may not like all religion, and they may have been misused, but The net for Christianity is wildly in the positive. WILDLY!

    4. I’m still seeking anyway
    Great!!! God built human beings for fellowship with one another. It is inherent in us all. Furthermore he built us for a relationship with him. In fact that is the one thing that the entire bible is about. God’s pursuit of a relationship with his creation. We can’t be complete without it. That feeling you have for something more, the one that led you to write this post, it’s real and it isn’t going away. I’d encourage you to look into your heart and see if there is room to dip your toe into a faith community. I can assure you the fellowship is greater than rotary.

    Regardless thanks for sharing. I love the food for thought.

  4. I think the braoder question could be “why do people have any type of faith or religion?”.
    It may start with wondering about creation, why inherent moral values exist, or what happens after our life here on earth.

    For those that do not have a faith or religion, but are curious, they owe it to themselves to dig further through research and gaining understanding from others that are professionals with a given faith (your local rabbi or pastor). Furthermore, gaining an understanding of the differences between the various faiths that do exist.

    For the Christian faith, the Bible is a good start, but where to you start? The gospels make the most sense (John and Matthew are always ) but only if you have someone to ask questions about what you are reading, since there is so much historical perspective that comes into play, as well as translation concerns when many of these historical texts were orignially written in Greek and Hebrew.

    Be prepared for even bigger questions. Legalism or grace? Free will versus predestination? Let go of control and trust in a higher power?

    The big question I have is why does Jesus take a full swing with a putter?

  5. Stephen’s comment about PED’s in baseball is a great analogy. As a baseball purist, I certainly don’t blame baseball for PED’s. However, I can understand the perspective of a non-fan that would question whether they want to follow a boring, slow-moving sport that is filled with drug-using players for the last 20 years that have tainted all the historical record books. While I personally disagree with that portrayal of baseball, it’s not an uncommon view of the sport from the outside; those who gain their information from the popular media. There’s no question that the good religion brings to the world far outweighs the negative, and I firmly believe that. However, as someone from the outside looking in, the media attention doesn’t help a whole lot.

    Blake, in response to your request to dip my toe in the water of a faith community, I asked myself, “How would I recruit someone like me into the church?” Here is how I would devise a recruiting strategy. Step 1 – Start with the community aspects, the hook being the ‘What’s in it for me?’ answer. Invite me to a job/career networking meeting with fellow members. Have my kids attend a bouncy house party, as in my case, my kids will have a lot of sway in deciding where we spend our time. Sell me on the community aspects and show me that it’s a quality group of people and I’m missing out on this great community. Step 2 – Give me the sermon without the gospel. Call it the ‘minor league’ services. Invite me to a discussion on parenting in the internet and social media age. Bring in a local professor for a guest lecture on the history of Noah’s ark and provide a free screening of the recently released movie. Step 3 – Move me from active participation to active service. Invite me to help out with the weekend habitat for humanity project. Ask me to speak to a group of college kids about finding a job out of college in the business world. Step 4 – If I’m still engaged at this point, I’m likely sold on the community aspects and personal benefits. Now someone could engage me on the question of faith, and maybe I’m now ready for my first Sunday service. I probably still have questions about by faith, however this approach is more about letting God in, vs. leading with God.

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