Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Come, look at me!

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

Too often, organized religion is too….well, it’s too organized. Big business, as I said yesterday. “Let’s build a new church because we’re so big. Bigger is better, right? So if my church is growing, that must be a sign of how good we are, how religious we are. Look at us! Now we’re really growing, a really huge group of religious people. We need a bigger building. And, let’s make it real fancy, to show how religious we are.”

I can think right offhand of two, no, make that three, large “churches” here in the orlando area that are really huge complexes. Yes, filled with people on a Sunday. And, yes, filled with good and decent people, people who are religious, who are devout. And these are good people…they’ve found a house of worship that fills there needs. And that house of worship demands things of them. It demands bigger and better buildings, bigger and better programs and services, bigger and better preachers, until that “house of worship” has grown to become a big business itself. Why, I’ll be they have financial planners and accountants on staff, too.

That’s great. But it’s not really what spirituality is all about, I think. Spirituality is what a person does in their own mind, in their own little part of the world. A person can go to church on Sunday and get great comfort from it. But a person can also stay home and “pray” in their own way, and be just as spiritual. No, maybe even more spiritual, because at home they are fitting into their perpective of god and spirituality, and not having to adapt to someone else’s model.

If you’re really spiritual, if you really are in tune with the “hereafter” or the “other world,” you don’t need to do it with a group of people and follow their form of spirituality–you can do it by yourself, in your own little world, in your own little way. Think about it!

Religion as (big) business

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

Yes, Religion is–or at least, can be–big business. Look at Judaism–it’s not only religion, but also national and ethnic identity.  And, of course, Catholicism is the poster child for religion as big business. I mean big as in huge. Really, really big. For a time in the Middle Ages, the Pope would crown the emperor. Talk about power. And think of the treasures of the Vatican. The fiscal power of the Catholic church has dwindled some, but it’s still big business.

Is religion as big business a problem? I think so. When you start running your religion as a business, you lose sight of what religion is and start focusing on making a profit, keeping yourself financially afloat, expanding by building, and the like.  Seems to me that Jesus never had a CFO (chief financial officer), never had a real estate office, never built a new church, never claimed tax-exempt status, and never, ever asked for donations (“render to Caesar…”).–all things that modern catholicism does. Unfortunately, most “big” religions have lost their heart and soul in the search to protect their basic precepts. In doing so, they have lost their way.

I think some of the most “true” religions are those that have no organization, no “elders” or bishops or hierarchy of any kind, no tax exempt status, and no churches. Perhaps we could learn a lot about the “other world” if we focused more on these religious people and/or religious experiences, rather than taking up a seat at church on Sunday and dutifully plopping a few dollars in a collection basket.

Don’t get me wrong, organized religions can do some good, and often times do make a contribution to society. They do this because they are composed of good people who are looking for–and have found–some structure in their lives. These people “belong” to a religion and it gives them a framework in which to do good works, like visiting the sick, working for charity, etc. But it’s still so “organized” that the focus becomes on the organization rather than on the spirituality that it should embody.

Is there a solution? Only each individual person can know when they examine their hearts and their beliefs. Organized religion can provide a framework for spirituality, but that same framework can be limiting–if you let it.

What is religion?

Monday, August 14th, 2006

What is religion, anyway? And why are people religious? And why can religious people belong to different groups that have such widely varying beliefs? Thing about the differenced between Catholics, Buddhists, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims, for example? People espousing to these various beliefs can all be said to be religious, yet their beliefs can vary so much.

Religion is man’s attempt to explain something that can’t be explained in words. Most all religious have the concept of “god,” of some higher power that lies beyond what can be seen and comprehended in every day life. Most also have some sort of afterlife belief. There’s an emphasis on the “spirit world” in some way in all religions. All are trying to talk about these things. But, since this “other” world is just that–other–it cannot be talked about in ordinary words.  Thus, each religion is just a particular way of talking about basically the same things. Unfortunately, most “religious” people and their religions codify this belief, and enforce a strict set of prescriptions regarding their beliefs.

I’m not a big fan of this. I believe all religions are attempts to talk about somethign that is real, but that can’t be talked about. I believe that all religions have good parts and bad parts, that all religions have some fundamental understanding of what lies beyond, so to speak. But I also believe that all religions generally only touch upon some small aspects of what lies beyond, and then fail when they try to solidify this into some rigorous set of beliefs. It’s the codifying of religion that really invalidates it. As soon as Moses wrote down the 10 commandments, religions stepped outside of contact with what lies beyond, because people started to focus on what they had to do or not do.

Perhaps to some extent Marx did have it right. Religion gives many people somthing to hang onto as they search for meaning in life. It’s not a bad thing, religion is a good thing. But, when a person stops their own search for meaning and just blindly adopts the precepts of some set of rules and guidelines that we call an organized religion, then that person stops experiencing whatever lies beyond (call it god, or spirituality or the afterlife or whatever)–that person stops trying to reach it and understand it on their own and does it by someone else’s experience.

Thus, I am not a big fan or organized religion, mostly because they are too…well, too organized! A little less organization, and people would be free to experience life and all it entails to a deeper level. Think about it!