The idea of religion is a good thing. Religion is how we worship God. As a concept itself, I find it attacked by Atheists, who object to it on the basis that they do not believe in the existence of God. I find their views disturbing, not because they disbelieve what I believe, but I wonder how they KNOW there is no god, as they claim. Its one thing to say,”I don’t know, its another thing to say, there is no god, as if its a fact.” I asked several atheists why they oppose religion for others who don’t share their disbelief. They claimed religion has been the source of all men’s sorrows throughout history and therefore, in their view, it is something evil.
I pointed out to them, that under communism, an absolutely atheistic model of society, more people were killed than under Western religious societies. They said that communism was not a good example. At that point, the discussion broke down to denying the validity of each other’s points and fruitful discussion was over.
It did give me pause to think about the role of religion itself. Religion at it’s best, is a good thing. It teaches us meaning of life and purpose. If gives us a sense of faith heritage, connecting us to others who have worshipped the same God the same way. It has been a canvas to express the best of humanity’s love for God. I frequently find myself carried away by the majesty of God and am fully aware that He is so far beyond my ability to express what I believe and feel. The worship service helps me express those feelings as I seek to know and glorify my creator. In doing so, I find that I am changed, and transformed into a better version of myself. It is a thing of beauty, and I am a better person for it.
It is for this reason that I find it incredibly ironic that so much evil has been done in the name of religion. Religion, should have the effect of transforming people for good, and as a result, society should be better because it is populated by transformed citizens. The fly in the ointment, of course, are the religious wars through the centuries. While there are piles of beautiful liturgical, devotional materials produced, there were also piles of dead bodies, slain “for the love of God.” This is not religion. It is a murderous ideology cloaked in the garb of religion. Killing people for the “love of God,” is like eating ham to be Kosher. You can eat ham if you want, but whatever that is, it is NOT kosher. Similarly, you can kill whoever you want, but if you do, its not an act of faith, and it is not religion. It is murder, and your ideology is not to be confused with religion. How can I say this? I know what Kosher is, because I experience it, and Ham is not it. I know what faith is, because I have it, and I encounter God through it, and belief in God does not engender or inspire murder or baseless hatred. Whatever those things are, they are not religion.
True religion is not something toxic like a quart of milk gone bad. In the book of Jacob 1:27, it says “Pure and undefiled religion before God … is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” If religion makes us better people, it will result in us helping others in their times of need. It should make the world a better place. My focus is not to spend my time convincing people that religion is good. My energies will be directed to helping others, and trying to be a blessing and have a positive impact in the lives of others. My religion is not toxic. This is not because “I found the right one,” but because in my encounter with God, I have yielded to Him and let him transform me. It is this transformation that is a work in progress, but makes me better than I would have been had I not encountered Him.