Just Practising Their Beliefs

Recently, I read an essay in which an individual sharply commented on the presence of “religions” in our world. Rather than being a positive reflection, or even a cautionary against dangerous religions, the message was more sweeping. According to the author, our world would be a far better place, if and when, it was entirely devoid of religions. According to the author’s lights, human history has been the unqualified recipient a host of ills that can all be placed at the feet of formal religions.

Granted, there is something enticing about this line of thought. It is easy for many to read an essay such as this and suddenly be swept in a world depicted by John Lennon in which we have no ills including religion. We have instead only a utopian warm fuzzy universe populated by Teletubbies and the offspring of Barney the purple dinosaur. Nevertheless, is religion really that bad, or is it the straw man for a very different matter? I remember years ago when religion as a term was first defined to me in a comparative religions class. The term religion was defined as all the “Discrete modes and methods by which one lives out or practices their belief system.” In my opinion, this is a good definition, for it encompasses all religious practices, formal and informal. Such religion may be organized or disorganized. It may be well thought out or rather random. It is all religion by the link to a belief system.

With that definition in mind, I would suggest that the writer was being religious in the act of expressing a disdain for religions. By this, I mean that the writer had a belief system that was formed by a collection of ideas, concepts and anecdotes which led to the conclusion that all religion is a plague upon human existence. In the act of living this ideology out through thought, word, and possibly deed, the writer was practicing a belief system. In short, the writer was one more example of a living religion in our midst. By this definition, there are most likely multitudes of religious people around us who do not consider themselves religious. However, they are and daily they act out their belief system with lesser and greater degrees of fervency. One might remember this the next time someone goes on a tirade against the presence of religion in our world. They are just practicing their beliefs; they are being religious.

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