Stanford Review - Archive - Volume XXVIII - Issue 3 - Opinion
Religion is Serious: Take it Seriously
by Nels Hansen
In my 19 years of life on Earth, I've so far found many people willing to 'discuss' religion. By 'discuss', these people mean they would like to repeat essentially verbatim something they heard from their minister, their parents etc. without actually processing or thinking about the words which are coming from their mouth. I find this both offensive and disturbing. Offensive because the implication is that I am not intelligent enough to figure out what they're doing and ignore them; disturbing in that they aren't intelligent enough to figure out what this religious leader was doing and ignore them. Isn't it at least worth thinking about? I mean, if you're going to go around believing something regarding eternal salvation or damnation, oughtn't you to consider its implications, its source, and whether it makes enough sense for you to go around spreading it? And to believe it, as well?
These people tend not to apply what they're hearing to their daily life; they suppose that somehow by 'believing' it and stating it to enough others their place in the afterlife will be assured. I'm not sure how impressed God will be with this sort of 'believer', but given that God is omniscient, just because you're able to fool yourself doesn't make it a given He'll fall for the same trick.
Consider those biblical literalists out there. Perhaps some of these individuals have actually examined the book which they claim to regard as Truth, and factually accurate. However, my experiences with such individuals have not indicated that this is true of very many of these people. Biblical literalists who have not carefully examined the Bible, and ensured that it squares with itself as well as God, are nothing more than Idolaters. Please, please, if you're going to be a biblical literalist, read the Bible many many times. Otherwise you're polluting the theological landscape of America with meaningless ramblings.
Not enough conversation occurs in many Protestant religious 'discussion' groups. Few if any of these groups actually discuss religious issues; most merely pay lip service to discussion by asking rhetorical questions such as "What does this passage mean?" and then proceed to 'explain' what it means without allowing people to discover the magic of the Bible for theirselves. Of what use is this? Do these people even read the Bible, or are they merely paying attention to the words of their leader? Often these groups focus only on parts of the Bible which create a skewed and incomplete picture of the theology espoused by it, and if one is to believe what is contained therein, this is problematic. This applies to most theologies as well as any lack thereof. If you don't believe in God, it is important to reexamine this lack of faith, as there are billions of people who believe it will do eternal harm to you on the individual level.
Good, evil, and God are ideas which deserve our careful attention and merit a considerable time commitment. At worst, we may end with the same beliefs we start with - but if this is our conclusion, this doesn't have to be a bad thing.
Regurgitation of rhetoric without digestion does not constitute belief. If, however, after careful examination of that rhetoric we come to the conclusion that it is deserving of our support, this has not been a meaningless exercise - we have transformed what was mere imitation into belief, lip service to faith into understanding and acceptance of faith (or the lack thereof). Truly, "the unexamined life is not worth living," as Socrates said, for if we do not consider these important choices and values, we do not harbor them within the core of our being. We keep them at a superficial level and distance our selves from them with ignorance. What kind of spiritual life is this? Would we treat our friends and significant others in such a fashion as so many treat God?
The problem with all previous religious reformations has been that they center on one individual's interpretation of a text or mystical tradition. Spirituality must come from within, otherwise it will fade as the charismatic leader who spurred it on does. To that end, it is important to follow in the footsteps of people like the French and American Catholics, like the Reform Jews, and like Martin Luther: discover religion for yourself.
If you see your relationship with your religion, whatever it might be, in what I've said, please investigate your faith. Discover the Bible, or whatever other religious texts pertain to your conception of God. Read them for yourself; find what meaning you can from them. Lip service to your God may work in terms of impressing similar individuals with your 'faith', but I have a feeling God may not be so easily convinced. Religious discussions must progress beyond the point of an exchange of rhetoric in order for them to become meaningful - participants must consider what they and others are saying on a deeper level, and be able to derive meaning from their faith lest they lose it, for the degree to which we may maintain our grasp on faith is only the degree to which we know and understand it. Ignorance may seem like bliss for a time, some might say that too much education can be a bad thing, but surely if what we accept as truth is truth, we shall not fail in our attempt to understand it and ultimately believe it.
Nels Hansen would like to discuss Theology rather than listen to a tape recording of someone else's argument.
Page last modified on Thursday, 02-Mar-2006 00:17:45 MST.