Religion: It ain’t just Belief

This post will be for those who misunderstand how religion works. I am not contending that I have a clear idea about all the aspects of religion, but it certain ain’t just about beliefs. Most of my readers clearly understand that.  But oddly enough, this misunderstanding blinds many theists and atheists alike.  So, over time, I will build up links on this post to help broaden the perspectives of those who try to boil all religion down to belief.

Recently, visiting some atheist blogs where “I hate all religion” Atheists abound among their commentors. (Atheist Revolution and A Friendly Atheist).  I am running into this opinion over and over. To educate those fiery Atheists about religion is difficult — they think they already understand religion perfectly. But I will try.  So over time, I will build up links here for the precious few who will want to jump out of their echo chambers for a bit.

So to start this post, let me point you to this link I saw today:


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

14 responses to “Religion: It ain’t just Belief

  1. Reblogged this on Doubting Confessions and commented:
    Looking forward to the additions to this post. I always enjoy Sabio’s perspective.

  2. john

    The problem with religion lies in their actually believing that their own dogma is the undeniable Word of God. Unfortunately, you can’t get past that issue with many believers. Freud expounded on man’s psychological need to believe in a higher power which Voltaire described thusly, “If God didn’t exist, He’d have to be invented.”

  3. I’ve come to see religion as more political than spiritual. I have certain spiritual beliefs, but I don’t adhere to any particular religion. I don’t think that the powers that be give a tinker’s damn about people worshiping them, and I’m quite certain they would find us killing each other over whose misinterpretation of them is right either laughable or offensive.

  4. @ john:
    When someone states “the problem with religion”, it is already too general. I agree that many religionists feel that their scriptures can not be doubted and that such thinking is very dangerous. But certainly all religionists are not like this, fortunately. In fact, most of the Christians I know, don’t even know their Bibles at all. You see, their religion really is minimally about any beliefs.

    I am talking about what “Religion is”, not what anyone thinks it should be. Describing the many way religions are used is important to understanding the phenomenas. I certainly don’t see any evidence for “powers that be”.
    But I agree, it does seem odds that gods would care about our worship — UNLESS, the creator of gods (people) created gods needing worship so as to build tribal belonging rituals and tradition respect and all that sort of stuff.

  5. Sabio, I am pretty certain that I will never see churches turn into community and/or non-believer centers in my chunk of the world. In fact, I have seen a few abandoned Churches remain empty my three plus years living in Tennessee. I don’t believe religion to be beneficial to our culture, morality or over all social well being either. I have personally and repeatedly found religion to be divisive, not just politically or believer versus non-believer, but in it’s own so called places of worship. I’ve seen this so much that I believe high school is more mature and capable of operating with much less drama than church. I wasn’t anything remotely popular as a teenager, so, that’s saying an awful lot in and of itself. There’s just way too much programming going on in the name of religion. As someone who has been apart of so many denominations within the Christian faith, I found it all to be one over-inflated gimmick. Religion is binding, zealous, and controlling on a good day. However, I don’t know if it would actually be a good idea to have non-believing churches. Wouldn’t they all end up being like the dead religions they replaced in the long run? I don’t know, I’m still relatively new in my de-conversion. I’m here by way of Michael’s blog, and thought I would read your post and the article you’ve referenced. Thanks for this post.

  6. rautakyy

    @Sabio, yes I agree, that there are a lot of oversimplifications about religion being made both by the theists and the atheists. Especially in blogosphere, where everything said has to be confined into very short space.

    However, I do think it is fair to present some siplifications about religion, even in cases where not all religisiosity falls under that particular banner being represented. For example I recently referred to religion being a form of politics rather than about beliefs. granted, in my view allmost everything in large scale human conduct is politics, and even that is a crude generalization. 😉

  7. @ rautakyy,
    It all depends on who we are talking to and for what purpose. If the generalization is accurate enough for the listener, then there will be no complaints. In an echo-chamber, therefor, we can say as we wish. But generalizations which don’t capture all the things thing pretend to describe are rightfully challenged when a listener does not agree with the speaker.

    Religion is a human activity and thus it is political, economical, psychological and all that, of course.

  8. Hello Charity,

    And welcome. I am a former Christian too. I run into Christian bigotry all the time in my community. I have to hide my atheist opinions to get along well in several circles and even use an anonymous name for this blog to protect my profession (my livelihood).

    I’ve had charismatic background, conservative background and some plain ole vanilla Evangelical background. So we probably share a lot of experiences.

    I have also lived many years with Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Shintoists. I also have been to Unitarian churches and since blogging, I have run into progressive Christians.

    So for me, religion is very broad and when I speak of it, I try to remember all these groups. I understand your frustrations, but I am careful with generalizations.

    I see churches doing lots of good in various communities. I see my casual believer friends using them a ‘be nice’ tools. I still hate the exclusivity, the anti-science stuff and much more. But I have rarely met a person or an institution which does not come with bad and good mixes — myself included.

    So I find it helpful to point exactly to the problems rather than making over-generalizations — both in talking to people and to religions.

  9. Is it possible that another person (e.g., an atheist who comments on another blog) might understand religion as well or even better than you do and still manage to disagree with you? Might be worth considering before you embark on your mission to educate them.

  10. Let’s see vjack, I am guessing that is not a question but instead you are saying, “Sabio, you shouldn’t try to educate atheists on other sites because they not only understand religion as well as you, but probably better.” or, more strongly, “Sabio, I understand religion better than you, so don’t criticize me on my site.”

    Yes, someone could understand religion as well or much better than me. But I would not hesitate to criticize if I disagreed with expectation of reasonable conversation thereafter. Hell, I could be wrong — I’ve been wrong lots of times. Your site does invite readers who hate anything that sees any possible good in religion and who do so in very self-righteous ways. When these folks overgeneralize, I am quick to jump in and try and illustrate their parochial perspective. I don’t mind when others do the same to me. I make inaccurate statements and have wrong thoughts all the time.

  11. Hello Sabio, thank you so much for your great input on several topics on my blog. I will respond to those comments when I can, right now my husband and kids are around. I would much rather take the time I have now to address your response to my reply on your blog first.

    I have been to plenty of places myself, and I know that I know that no one can come to an authentic conclusion about anything or anyone within just a few conversations or visits. I have lived in Dallas for two and a half years, and in Nashville for two years. I have visited the UK several times, and during my second visit I decided to stick around for a couple of months. I have resided in Hawai’i for three and half years, and spent three years in southern California. I have also lived in a couple of other places throughout the South in the US. So, I am well aware of all kinds of cultures, races, denominations and religions.

    I’d like for you to consider looking at religion as a whole through my eyes as a woman. I am the oldest of seven daughters, and was born to “Jesus People” parents in the early 1970s. I was also an executive director for a Christian pregnancy center years ago. You can look at my “who is this lady?” section of my blog and see that I was an immensely dedicated Christian for years and walked away from all things religious at 39.

    I too have been apart of those super, duper vanilla churches. For a few months I was heavily involved in a Methodist church that was very spiritually vague, and could totally be seen as progressive. It’s in Hawai’i, and the pastor was a Korean-American man from California, and the assistant pastor was a White woman from California as well. They both seemed laid back, super smart, and understanding. However, as someone who was on the worship/music team I had to continually answer to a music leader who was a bit chauvinistic. Grant it, maybe it was because he was a traditional man (he was my age, btw) from Hawai’i or because his background was Pentecostal, I don’t know.

    While living in Hawai’i, I later became a member of a non-denominational, seeker-friendly mega-church with campuses throughout the state, nation, and even Japan. They allowed me to begin my ascent into leadership with my husband, as a couple. I quickly discovered that they didn’t care about all the conflict and questions my husband continually presented to them, but the very moment I bring up a couple of on-going concerns about the pastor, my husband and I get HEAVILY rebuked immediately! What hurt so much was the pastor using his assistant, who was a dear male friend, as his bitch to basically tell us that we could forget about leadership altogether, and we were “going to be watched closely.” That same friend also repeatedly said to my husband in that two hour meeting “I can’t believe you let her do that!” There wasn’t an issue until I spoke up. I’ve seen this plenty of times in churches through out the US in various denominations as a single woman and as a wife.

    I have discussed misogyny a great deal on my blog in the short time I’ve had it and in the comments section of other people’s blogs. I have seen it repeatedly in Church, and in so called holy books such as the Bible, Koran, Talmud, and the Torah. I don’t believe anyone who tells me that they don’t take such books literally if they’re still apart of an Abrahamic religion. For when people continue on as a Christian, Muslim or Jew they are telling me that their specific holy book is fine. I also am not a big fan of Buddha for ditching his responsibilities as a husband and father to go find himself or start a revolution.

    You can say that I’m generalizing all you want, but I know the truth, religions and cults are often much the same because they control and demonize human beings, especially women and children. I might make an exception for New Agers, and Wiccans, but that’s about it.

  12. “Recently, visiting some atheist blogs where “I hate all religion” Atheists abound among their commentors” -Sabio
    Yes! Me too! I don’t have a handle on it in my own community (granted we’re congregationalists and that’s kinda how it should be) let alone the wider Christian religion. I haven’t even gotten to the interfaith level yet! Anyone who states, “All religion is just…” is automatically wrong.

    “All religion is about control!” Save for the times where it’s the resistance. Buddhism and Christianity come to mind in many spots.

    “Religion is about resistance then!” No… save for the time when it’s about control. Church and slavery, women’s rights, etc. And even then, it’s also about resistance!

    “Well, then religion doesn’t exist!” Wait, what?!

    Good post.

  13. @ Charity,
    I understand how hugely oppressive most of the world is toward women — religious or not. Thank you for sharing just a small part of your stories.

    I still hear your anger.

    This statement, for example, was telltale:
    “I don’t believe anyone who tells me that they don’t take such books literally if they’re still apart of an Abrahamic religion.”

    Again, I hear your anger.

    @ Luke,
    People use religion to oppress, people use religion to free. Religion is a tool — but an ugly tool when it uses “God-talk” to try to manipulate people — manipulate them for the good or the bad. I prefer plain talk.

  14. Plain talk?! What are you some sort of Quaker?! 😉

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