What do I mean by ‘inexact religion’ anyway? Many religious people treat religion as the secular world treats science. There are indisputable answers, all equations are balanced, and the universe makes sense.
So where does reason fit into religion?
Religious and social reformer Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf once said that “nature is full of different creatures of different inclinations, and it is the same in the spiritual world. We must learn to regard various ways of thinking as something beautiful. There are as many religious ideas as there are believing souls, so we cannot force everyone to measure up to the same yardstick. Only God, according to His infinite wisdom, knows how to deal with every soul.” (1)
In General, Are We Too Specific?
- Belief in a higher power can be represented as God or nature or otherwise. Religion or Spirituality
- Religion can be nature based, polytheistic, monotheistic, or based on philosophy. Eastern or Western
- Western religion is divided primarily into three Abrahamic religions. Judaism, Christianity, Islam
- Christianity is divided into Catholicism and Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy
- Protestants are divided into Anabaptist, Anglican, Baptist, Calvinist, Congretional, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Quaker (2)
- Baptists, which are the second largest religious denomination in the U.S. (the first being Roman Catholics), are divided into Conventions. Southern, National, or Progressive National
- Baptists are further divided into even smaller fellowships, groups, and organizations. General, Particular, Freewill, Primitive and others. (3)
This is just one example of how religion can be divided and categorized. Modern religious subcategories are seemingly endless. Each branch on each limb feels differently about equality and tradition among other things. Yet many believe and act as if they are the single leaf that holds the truth, the accurate history, and the keys to the future; without recognizing a shared history or common doctrine.
Why is everyone so ‘I’m right you’re wrong’?
Is it Faith, or Blind Faith?
Religion requires faith. One definition of faith is “belief that is not based on proof”. (4) However, many believers treat religion as an unquestionable source, guidebook, law and/or component of life that we cannot ignore or live outside of.
The ultimate paradox: religion is simultaneously beautiful and ugly.
The ugliness lies only in irresponsible and/or harmful religious beliefs and practices. Any religion that has lasted for a few years has encountered differences in opinion and practice. The early Christian Church disagreed on whether Jesus was God or man, whether Mary was a perpetual virgin, and whether circumcision was a requirement for the indoctrination.
Each time there is disagreement, there is potential for divide. Each divide has the potential to polarize and anger. Ignorance can perpetuate these negative feelings and the only remedy is an acknowledgement of common origin or shared ideas. The stained glass in the sanctuary is not meant to shut the world out.
Christians, in particular, believe that mankind has a responsibility to lead others to Christ through witness and example. Living by example requires discipline, courage, and study. Believers should know who wrote the scriptures and doctrines of their belief system, when they were written, and how they have changed over time.
While religious dogma is divinely inspired, it is ultimately man-made. The books that make up the modern Bible were not originally compiled in one volume together. Church histories are written by human hand. Biblical translations are likewise filtered through human minds and are often changed to serve earthly objectives.
Believers have a responsibility to accept this truth. If one can know the truth and yet retain one’s faith, the belief becomes worthy of exploration. But, if one is required to ignore and/or degrade in order to be faithful, the belief itself becomes highly questionable.
Rather than divide ourselves in an attempt to conquer souls, we can choose to celebrate our diversity. We can choose harmony over conflict. This is the beauty of having free will! The mere fact that so many people (even of the same faith) disagree on vital issues (such as the treatment of LGBT people) is proof in and of itself that religion is highly subjective.
We can live our faiths and speak via our actions rather than spewing hateful words, or literally using weapons as tools of our faiths. Let us trust [God] and acknowledge our similarites. Believers can choose coalescence over competition, because there is no single correct way to believe or worship. Religion, after all, is not science.
(1) Benge, Janet and Geoff. Count Zinzendorf: Firstfruit (Christian Heroes: Then and Now). Seattle: YWAM Publishing, 2005. Print.
(3) http://www.astudyofdenominations.com/denominations/baptist/#variants https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptists_in_the_United_States
(4) Stein, Jess, ed. “Faith.” Def. 2. The Random House College Dictionary: Revised Edition. Revised ed. New York: Random House, 1975. Print.