“Give me that old-time religion. It is good enough for me. It was good for my old mother. And it’s good enough for me” – Old Time Religion by the Fisk Jubilee Singers
Religion (say it with me now). Dude, such a compacted noun! It’s been a platform for human interaction since the dawn of time. Oh the things that have been done with this word. You either love or hate religion. In many cases, people define religion as just one particular construct. I don’t think it’s that easy. When we look at the term, there are really three types of definitions: 1.) worship in a higher power, 2.) a belief system and 3.) secularism. All Peoples (Christian, Muslim, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, American, Democrat, Republican, Black, White, LGBTQ, etc.) fit in these three definitions of religion in one form or another, in my opinion. Let’s look at these three definitions, shall we?
Worship In A Higher Power
Worship is a very interesting word when it comes to its usage of etymology. In a religious traditional sense, the ones who relate to God/gods through (not solely) sacred scripture (Torah, Christian bible, Quran, Vedas, etc.), the term worship boils down to various acts of homage. This can be demonstrated through “rites and rituals”: raising hands and singing through music, praying x amount of times per day, blood sacrifice, offerings, etc.
This is done in order that the God being worshiped will grant blessings, peace, bliss, etc. This is where it gets dicey. What if different religions don’t adhere to the same type of worship? History shows, the reaction to different worship in God leads to vicious boundary lines in which people who don’t tow them eventually get hurt or killed.
If we don’t conform we are doomed. This “controlling power” has been detrimental to our evolution as a species. All religions from every tradition have committed this monstrosity. “Might is right” or “survival of the fittest” (controlling power) is not how to live as a social structure. Jesus showed another way of doing worship: In spirit and in truth. His worship was internal to better understand the truth of reality–thus, bringing about outward action. It was also non-sacrificial. This way let’s go on becoming people who scapegoat our dark side onto the shedding of innocent blood. He said “deny yourself”, as in letting go of our ego (controlling power) which then will lead us to a healthy way of doing worship (which literally means “worth” or “adore”) to God AND creation (I.e. existence).
In other words, love each other and help the helpless for f sake! So does all the human race “adore” the cosmos? I would say the majority do in one way or another, indeed. This is where the term religion still plays an important part of bringing about a peaceful existence in the universe.
A Belief System
Putting trust in a way of seeing the world can be a very productive instrument within a community setting. As the individual seeks out paradigm shifts and inner contemplation, this will enable her/him to progress in a social setting. Education, careers, sports, church, family, etc. all are wrapped in how the individual trusts in what he or she is pursuing. No matter what discipline we take on, faith in “the process” takes shape and becomes our mode of being.
The downfall to this thinking is believing that our faith system trumps another’s faith system. This brings about endless contention that leads to factionalism. This is most destructive when a faith system becomes the ideology of a country. This is where lives are lost in the name of civil religion. We can’t take it if someone else’s beliefs are different from ours so we put up barriers and blockades: KEEP OUT! We will never learn from each other if we cast out one another for not thinking the same way. We need to learn to become a community that is united in its diversity if we ever want to thrive as a species.
Jesus hung out with the outcasts and the prestige of society. He spoke truth into both spectrums. His belief system offended and healed. But, no matter what, he didn’t let his beliefs get in the way of interaction with others who didn’t see eye to eye.Is it good to have a faith system? Yes! It’s whether or not we let our faith systems be measuring sticks to cast out others or let them be beacons to help others when they need it most.
Where do we find the most interest/importance in? Sports? Family? Church? Career? Friends? Parting? Drugs? Sex? The list goes on and on in the world of secularism. What we put our interest in, really shapes are day-to-day experience with others. If we get caught up in an interest that leads to positive streams of progression and stability, that’s great! But even that can turn sour if that is only helping us and nobody else. Same is true for interests that don’t help oneself or others. This leads only to death and destruction. It takes great wisdom to find an interest that really provides growth and joy for all parties in one’s life. So, what interest is best?
In his book: Seculosity, author David Zahl put it this way:
“The objects of our seculosity—food, romance, education, children, technology, and so on—aren’t somehow bad. Quite the opposite—they are by and large great. It’s only when we lean on these things for enoughness, when we co-opt them for our self-justification or make them into arbiters of salvation itself, that they turn toxic…
Poking fun at our secular pieties, including my own, is part of disarming them.” Pg. xxiii introduction-Seculosity
That’s it! Seeing our sense of humor as important helps us not to take our interests so seriously. We have to realize that we are all connected in one way or another. This isn’t only true for the human race but for all of Gods creation. To the smallest molecule to the humpback whale, what one does and invests in, has and effect on all. Does our interest bring life or death (dramatic I know)? It really does come down to that simple question. Or this one (better question): “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”
So, is religion evil? It can be. Is religion good? It can be. Regardless, we cannot deny that religion is ingrained in us as a species to better understand and create our reality. I think we can’t cast it out or just let it be that same old-time religion it always has been. We need to explore, progress, and hold onto whatever this religion “thing” has to offer. I think something new awaits! This is where healthy religion shines—where laughter springs out of the wallows and we become liberated from our driery selves…
Alan Watts said it best:
“A priest once quoted to me the Roman saying that a religion is dead when the priests laugh at each other across the altar. I always laugh at the altar, be it Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, because real religion is the transformation of anxiety into laughter”.