You May Not Believe in God, But You Could Have Religion
Author : Tom Graneau
Religion has been, and continues to be, the most complicated subject in the world. This is partly because every culture has its own way of defining it, based on a unique set of beliefs and practices.
If you’re a Christian, my hope is that you have the right God sitting on the throne of your faith because knowing whom you worship is foundational to your overall spiritual success. Equally important is that you can differentiate your religion against the various dogmas of the world.
On the other hand, if you’re unclear about the identity of your god, or find it confusing to pick the right one, the problem is understandable. Centuries of human grappling over the meaning of life have led to a number of religious concepts that have spanned the ages. Back then, it was common for budding civilizations to erect deities that they believed would pacify their spiritual cravings.
Historically, these gods assumed various forms, based on the religious interpretation of the specific culture. For example, the Semites of Mesopotamia worshiped mountains, springs, trees, and stones; and the Egyptians worshiped the sun of the Nile, the pharaoh (after death), and animals—bulls, cows, cats, baboons, crocodiles, and various other creatures. The worship of the Canaanites took a more barbaric approach. Their chief god was the personification of life and fertility, which conjured acts of adoration that embraced demoralizing practices such as prostitution, snake adulation, child sacrifice, and other heinous behaviors. All of these practices were, and are still, considered “religious worship.”
Even so, the most common view of religion today is a more narrowed interpretation. The majority of people in the world visualize a church body that’s devoted to worshiping God, a universal being who they believe controls the lives of his followers. Many people shun this concept of religion, hoping to avoid any type of subtle manipulation beyond their control, particularly from such a being.
While it is true that religion has become synonymous with various denominations that appear to have some connection with God, the meaning of the term is more universal. In actuality, the practice stretches far beyond the walls of the church. In fact, all of us are entangled in one form of religion or another without even realizing it.
The definition of religion
According to the dictionary, religion is the belief in, and reverence for, something in the universe—a supernatural power, for example; a system grounded in a belief or worship; a set of beliefs, values, and practices of a leader; a cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal and conviction (American Heritage Dictionary, 1993, p.1153).
Based on this rendering, the act of worshiping God is, without hesitation, a religion. In other words, Christians cannot say that they have salvation and not religion. The very act of sincere devotion to God requires our conviction, zeal, belief, reverence, and so on. What is also true is that these same attributes are seen in various other forms of commitment that support an ideal, cause, movement, or philosophy that have nothing to do with God. For instance, few scientists, politicians, environmentalists, animal rights advocates, and others will admit to being entangled in a religion.
Admitting to such an idea would be ridiculous. These days, it’s much more appealing to be politically correct than to align oneself with God: To speak about a specific profession that promotes a set of beliefs and values that are in sync with education, animal rights, and similar concerns; that takes place during the work-day as oppose to Sunday; that pays a salary or wage; and more importantly, that has no affiliation with the church or God.
Secular religious concepts
If the definition of religion is considered thoughtfully, human communities can’t survive without religious activities. They are essential to every aspect of life. Consider some of the following scenarios, for example:
- Science is an enormous religious organization. There are more than 40 different categories of science, covering everything from aerodynamics to zoology. Each has its own individual theories, disciplines, and applications which must be meticulously followed. All of them are sub-denominational components of the same ideal, which are evidence-based applications, excluding anything and everything that suggests spirituality, faith, and suppositions. Obviously, those who believe in the principle have their god, which is the model itself, and it requires unwavering commitment, conviction, and zeal for perpetuity. Most people who believe in God also realize that there is a place for science in the world. On the other hand, most scientists have no regard for God because they are convinced that their model, which is their god, is superior to any metaphysical mumbo-jumbo in the universe.
- Politics is another big religious group. Typically, there are two opposing parties with different points of view. In America, they are Democrats and Republicans. Democrats are driven by an emotionally-based concept, which suggests that people need more government in their lives if they are to survive. Comparatively, they seek to achieve peace through negotiations as oppose to taking military action in solving tough situations. Conversely, Republicans believe that people are genuinely able to thrive and become successful with less government intrusion. Also, they are more likely to resort to military action to resolve difficult conflicts when negotiations fail. These two separate ideas are, in fact, the spirits or gods of these political parties, and members are convinced that their respective view is “the solution” for human problems, especially in the Unites States. I can only imagine the same goes for other political parties around the world.
- Environmentalism is one of the newest religious movements in the world, and it’s likely to grow in coming years. Fear of gross contamination of the air, soil, water, and other precious resources has everyone concerned about the future. While leaders of the group continue their sermons on global warming or climate change, ordinary believers chain themselves to trees as they demonstrate their fervency for what they believe. Their passion is to save Mother Earth at all costs, even when it means getting physically hurt in the process.
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) would undoubtedly consider themselves a religious organization. The group claims to have over two million workers focusing on a specific cause—advocacy for the ethical treatment of animals—which is a god in itself. Their goal is to prevent or minimize animal suffering as a result of personal neglect, laboratory research, and human exploitation.
As you can imagine, the above list can be stretched to include a myriad of other categories of human involvement, each representing an ideal, a principle, or a cause through which people find meaning for themselves and others. For self, the need may involve moral support, friendship, self-fulfillment, self-righteousness, and so forth. Additional purposes may include the need to help others (people, animals, or things). In all cases, however, the requirement is basically the same: There is a philosophy, which is the spirit or god of the movement, and believers must possess a high degree of conviction and commitment to push the agenda forward.
Frankly, some of these religions have their place in our world. Many of them form the infrastructure from which our communities survive. Even so, they should never presume to take the place of the God who gave us life.
The real God of the universe
People of all ages in various cultures have many regrets, most of which are associated with missed opportunities of all types that can never be regained. Those who eventually discover the real God of the universe, they often look back on the wasted time, money, and energy expended on other forms of religion that took them nowhere. Such a realization usually comes immediately after the first encounter with the real God of the universe whose name is Jehovah and later became Jesus Christ. A similar experience occurred with the prophets of Baal. They had spent a lifetime worshiping carved images that seemed to comfort them. But when the prophet Elijah tested the power of images against his God, the prophets of Baal quickly admitted that Jehovah is God. “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!” they cried out in unison (1 Kings 18:38-40). You may read the entire account in 1 Kings 18.
Like the various religious movements in the world, God represents an ideal, a principle, or a cause. He has a voice and a message. People follow him because of what he can do for them and others. Following him also requires our conviction, passion, and love.
One of the many characteristics that differentiate God from any man-made deity is his ability to bestow spiritual blessings on those who follow him. The value of these benefits is known to exceed all monetary compensation, all self-endorsed accolades, and all personal rewards that come as a result of hard work. In short, he fulfills the needs of the human soul with an inner peace that can’t be achieved from any other source in the universe.
To achieve it, a person must go through a process known as repentance that results in a new birth. “Most assuredly,” said Jesus to a curious mind, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This new birth is a spiritual conversion that occurs within the soul when a person truly connects with God. It’s a gift from him, which is easy to obtain.
If you are a Christian, my assumption is that you have experienced this born-again phenomenon. As such, you should have no doubt who sits on the throne of your faith. It should be none other than Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate in human flesh to bring us salvation. That said, not only should you resist any form of intimidation by those who attempt to criticize your belief, but also boldly proclaim your faith in God as the only gratifying religion in the world. It is he who provides the basis upon which you’re confidently standing and hoping for a brighter future.
What are your thoughts on the matter?
Who is your God? Does he fulfill all your spiritual needs, including your heavenly expectations with regard to life-after-death? If the only God of the universe is your Lord, how did you come to know him? Is there another god or religion in your life that competes with him?
If you believe that the Devil is only a symbol of evil…think again.
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