Did you know that you have a religion whether you want to or not? That is, you believe something about what your life means and what the rules should be for people. Some people try to say a religion has at least some of these traits:
- involves supernatural beliefs and/or practices
- involves positive thinking in terms of “having faith” to gain outcome
- involves lies and manipulation
- involves a system of authority
- involves specific belief in a higher being(s)
- involves teachings of a “wise” man to gain a true sense of self
The subject is often treated as something so complicated that the common man couldn’t possibly understand or come to grips with it. But, to put it more succinctly, religion really has to do with what is judged as “right” or “wrong.” Religion is the choices that are necessary in order to validate and follow through with what is believed about life. This is something that everyone makes decisions about, so everyone has some sort of “religion.”
No matter what anyone says about everyone “finding their own truth,” everyone has at least a few things that they claim (vehemently) are just wrong. Period. Things like beating up people or stealing someone’s food are fairly universally recognized as evil. Some people might try to ignore these type of generally accepted morals, but a major clue is how most of us want to be treated by those in our lives we value.
If there is right and wrong, how does it apply to defining religion.? Well, it makes it easier, in some ways. People have to get past how they have seen concepts abused or distorted. They have to get past habits and traditions that may be fun or culturally significant, in order to declutter what has been done to obfuscate truth. If there is no truth, there is no right and wrong. All of those other trappings confused with religion are only fluff when it comes to core beliefs. What you wear or exactly which days you have a party have little bearing on whether or not a higher being is going to punish you or if you will become vapor in the cosmos when you die. Man made “guidelines” of this type are more like cult control than actual manifestations of what is thought about the meaning of life.
There has to be truth about:
- how the world came into existence and is maintained
- why you are a person
- how you should act toward others
- what will happen when you die
Everyone has ideas about this from “I don’t know” to “Isn’t it obvious?” Whatever your attitude and answers to these questions is your religion, culturally speaking. But only one thing can be the truth.
It is important to define “religion” and religious vocabulary when discussing these ideas. So much has been “adapted” for use by groups, that they can be using the same words and meaning strangely different things. Cliches and lack of understanding can make it difficult to speak of the idea of religion without a careful pre-agreement on semantics. That doesn’t mean the basic idea of religion is complicated or that the truth is hard to comprehend. It only means that people can have a lot of trouble communicating because of biases and assumptions.
When it comes down to it, there are only three types of religion.
- Those which tell you that you can be good enough if you will do things a certain way or do certain things to make up for all your lack of good. (very frustrating because a person must be constantly wondering if they have done enough “good” things. There are generally all kinds of gods, aliens, or less than perfect human leaders running around in these religions)
- Those which tell you that nothing matters and you have no meaning. (Not many people really adhere to one of these, as they lead to despair; however, some people don’t realize that their stated beliefs lead to this final conclusion.)
- The one which tells you that you have been made on purpose, you can’t be good enough on your own, but you can be accepted by a Higher Being hugely greater than yourself, and everything is ultimately under control.
You get to choose, which leaves plenty of room for delusion and pride. You can choose a category and name it anything you want to. You can be pretty sure that all the variations have already been represented for numbers 1 and 2. Number 3 is exclusive. There can only be one Absolute Being. It is worth noting that what you can’t do is choose one category and try to meld it with another. That doesn’t hold up under pressure.
There is often a desperate struggle to get others to accept a particular religion, due to a need to feel right in our choices. Sometimes this morphs into a need to rule the world, sort of like the ultimate desire for validation, but more than likely using religious creed to rule the world is just an excuse to oppress people and isn’t really about the meaning of life. It is a smoke screen and a source of soldiers. I would even wonder if many tyrants don’t find themselves in the number 2 category, which gives them the excuse they need to destroy and conquer. I suppose some of them might think they are doing good, but I have already mentioned delusion… (I am not equating this with fighting for the protection, although discussing that would lead into another discussion of “what is protection” and when is it time to step in.)
No one can claim that they don’t believe something supernatural. All right, they can claim it, but I don’t believe them. Each of the 3 categories of religion requires some sort of admission of what is beyond us in scope. Even category number 2 begs the question of explaining where this life with no meaning came from and what will happen to the universe in the future. Some people don’t want to choose category number 3 because they only see the misrepresentations of it. Or they think they personally have higher intelligence than an Absolute Being that can make and control everything, but still gives us choices in this life. Most people are living with some variation of category number 1. I hope that more people will consider category 3 (read about the real simplicity of Jesus here.).