Sunday, April 17, 2011

Are some people just inherently religious?

So there's been a lot of talk on the faults of religion lately. It's been unfairly blamed for starting every war the planet's ever seen, enslaving races and basically being the root of everything bad on the earth. I hold on to the relatively common belief that religion is a construct of man, different than faith, and is therefore subject to all the weaknesses and faults that we carry within ourselves...I also understand that that theory is only palatable if a person believes that humans are, in fact, inherently flawed.

My cousin posed the title question to me the other day, after observing the behavior of a friend. He's agnostic, educated, works a job in business and is, like me, a foodie. She described how dogmatic he is about the uses and presentations of food. How he tries to "convert" people to his gastronomic choices and spread the gospel of his culinary experiences. How, when in his presence, she sometimes felt she got insight into the experiences of those who complain of the overbearing approach of some Christians. If you put his behavior into the context of the concept of non-theistic belief, it very much mirrors devout followers of any religion. 

I do not believe that a person has to believe in a deity to be religious...especially if you take the definition of religion to be a body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices. I believe that people worship at the temple of science, food, sex, pleasure, and even in Christianity at "sub religions" of leaders, churches, spiritual experiences, causes, earthly Biblical figures and even buildings. 

My first exposure to the concept came on the back of rapper KRS-One's "I Got Next" album. It included a brief introduction to the Temple of Hip Hop. If you read up on it, you'll see that it's not actually presented as a religion in the traditional sense...I believe the effort of the organization is one toward awareness and understanding of an often misunderstood form of, like many things, could satisfy the needs of a person who is inherently religious, or who wants to be a religious leader.

I see vegans and vegetarians elevate their set of tastes, health and dietary choices to the level of a moral code, berating, condemning and judging those who have "sinned" against their religion. We're all aware of judgmental behavior of some members of organizations like PETA, or we have a friend or friend of a friend who protests loudly against the consumption of meat or treatment of animals (things I actually disapprove of on a certain level myself). 

From dietary choices, to treatment of hair, patriotism, chosen art, science and everything in between...Yes, I do believe there are those of us that are more prone to "religious behavior" than others. Myself, I believe that I lean toward inherently non-religious. I've often said that if I weren't Christian, I'd likely be a Nihilist...not because I'm a naturally hopeless person, but because I simply don't see evidence of the inherent good of humanity, the infinite virtue of caring for family, and friends, nor do I have faith that all of our advancement over the short time we've been on this planet has done anything to solve any of our real issues. I've never understood people that come to church on a regular basis, yet openly confess that they do it out of pure ritual. That, however, is easy to say from this side of the fence. I really don't know how I would react to life if I didn't have the hope and purpose that God has blessed me with.

I do believe though, that religion has a purpose, and feeds a need that we as humans, at some level, all carry within ourselves. As Christians, I believe it gives us context for many spiritual concepts and a framework for the practical application of many forms of discipleship.  


  1. Megan. I like your thought process throughout this. Yes, we are all 'religious' to some point. And the "antis", "the atheists" are the most religious of all! Their zeal is amazing!

  2. It does seem to be true...I think the level of zeal is very much relative to the perceived power of the enemy in question. I have yet to see a Christian that was confident in God's power panic when confronted with different opinions.

  3. Very thought-provoking, Megan. I especially rang the bell with your comparisons to Vegans and certain animal rights groups. Yeah, it is SO like religious. It makes you wonder if people in general are just waiting for something to flock to, to put their heart and soul into, to give some meaning and context to their life.