When people enter their religion, they usually enter for very simple reasons:
- family tradition
- mimicking admired people
- pursuing lovers or friends
- crisis, illness
- depression, anxiety, fear of hell, fear of death
- status, supportive community, economic security
- moral network for children
- rebellion, a niche
- sense-of-identity, felt need for a worldview
… and many more mundane reasons. However, as they “mature” in their new-found faith, religious specialists (pastors, priests, fellow-believers) will tell them why they should actually be in the faith. The ‘growing’ believer learns to leave behind their mundane, raw, basic reasons for embracing their religion and the specialists will offer them more palatable reasons to explain their new faith. For example, Christian specialists will suggest to new believers that they use any or all of the following as their real motivation for being a Christian:
- love of God, love of the Bible
- forgiveness, unconditional love, carrying for the poor …
- God-and-Country, God’s justice, God’s law
Over enough time, believers forget completely why they originally became Christians (and perhaps they never knew) and instead their religious self-history is filled with far more noble motives. Good believers learns to play in step with the band.
Rather than engage a believer in debate about their dogmas, I often like to explore this phenomena instead of getting too distracted by the later layers of theology that cover the raw, concrete and real human motivations of the believer. By returning to our shared humanity, conversations can often be more productive. Ideas do not exist in a vacuum — peoples’ real lives are attached to them.
This re-writing phenomena happens in all of us, in many realms: why you start a hobby, join a club, get married, have children, hold a job and much more. We begin for one set of motivations but suppress these with correct layers of orthodox ideology and forget who we are.
Question for readers: In coming posts I will explore both mundane and religious ways I have done this. But for now, please share how you yourself have done this in your past or your present. Don’t tell us how you have seen others do it, tell us about yourself.
Related Post: “Re-writing our Histories with Head Nods”