At a family gathering last year, religion raised it’s weary head and I finally said I wasn’t a Christian…and that I don’t believe in God in the traditional sense. Naturally someone asked what I do believe. I don’t remember exactly but, more or less, it was that I believe in the unknown. I try to practice humility before the unknowable, and to live each day in gratitude for my blessings and the chance to participate in life.
But the very question raises another: What is the difference between belief and religion? Are you be a Christian, or a Muslim or Jew, if you believe in the precepts or teachings of the founder but reject the practices and mores that have sprung up around those teachings? I think a belief is distinct from a religion. Belief is rooted in the messenger. Religion–the dogma and practices surrounding a belief– is a product of society and culture.
Certainly much of what passes as Christianity nowadays is artificial. Jesus didn’t set out to start a religion, and he didn’t come up with what today passes as Christian practice. Apart from the question of his divinity, his message was simply one of compassion. Why is all the rest necessary?
This is one reason I think most of humankind conform to the religion of their parents. National religions are simply the result of socialization. And practices are easy to adopt. The work is in going further, to sort the origins from what we’ve been taught, then decide what we individually believe. That part’s hard. We don’t like that so much.