Religion is not merely a cluster of truth propositions or doctrines that believers embrace. Sure, religious professionals may want their members to fervently believe their doctrines, and believers themselves may confess that they believe, but most religiosity (the way people actually hold their religion) is much more complex.
As I said here, beliefs are often used to support social relations in our lives and to strengthen our identity and psychological security more than they are to actually declare something we feel true. For instance, many people simply use the self-identity as “Christian” as a way to tie together these important elements in their life. To such people, if their specific Christian beliefs are severely challenged, they don’t throw out their identity as “Christian” but instead reshuffle, re-organize and re-theologize their beliefs so as to keep the label “Christian” intact.
My illustration above is my attempt to capture these thoughts visually.
Questions for readers: Did I succeed? Any challenges? Are you seeing how theories of religion matter?
Extra-reading: for a list of other explanatory theories of religion see Cris Campbell’s list here.