Belief and Religion: An undefinable and strange relationship

Earlier, I wrote a post about the difference in being spiritual and being religious. I took the post down before I publicized the blog because it discussed a particular event involving a particular person and while I didn't use their name, I think that they (and any one who knows them) would know I was talking about them. I didn't want that. So I'm going to try this from a different angle.

One of my most frequent sayings, though not particularly nice, is that you don't have to tell someone you're pretty (or handsome). I feel this way about most traits people exhibit. You don't have to tell me you're smart or nice or honest... If you are in fact these things, it will show through your actions. The same is true for those on a spiritual journey; you don't have to wear an I Jesus shirt everyday to inform the world that you know Him.

I think for me the most annoying statement people make is "he/she/I go to church every Sunday" in a context where they are validating their spirituality or righteousness. My first thought is so what? What do you do Monday through Saturday? Better yet, what do you do Sunday after church? Deeper question, why are you celebrating the Sabbath the way you do on the day you do? Many will quote the 4th commandment—well maybe you'll quote the 3rd commandment if you're Catholic (hmm... even deeper question did you know Protestants and Catholics have a slightly different set of commandments? #FoodForThought—don't take my word for it, add it to your to do list). But the Bible says "remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work..." (Exodus 20:8-10 KJV) and "And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a might hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath." (Deuteronomy 5:15 KJV). No where does it say anything about Sunday and no where does it say anything about a church. My question is, if you must validate your worship with words instead of actions, can you demonstrate knowledge instead of presence? I mean, in all honesty, when I was a kid I use to color in church—I was there though!

Many people are religious. They go to church on Sundays, they attend Bible study on Wednesday, maybe they teach the youth programs, maybe they're in the choir. They don't use profane language, or listen to vulgar music. Some of them won't associate with people they consider "ungodly" or enter places they consider "ungodly" (like the club). The question is, can you differentiate a religious practice—a man made tradition—from a spiritual necessity?

It took me a long time to realize that when people claim to be Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim, etc), we associate both spiritual belief and religious practice to the term. However they are not equivalent. Pardon the math major in me but, you can't say a person believes if and only if they practice religious traditions. For my non math-majors, the use of if and only if ensures that the statements are equivalent and thus if one holds true, the other must be true as well. In this case that would mean a person who practices religious traditions must be a believer and a believer must practice religious traditions. Well, there are no shortages of hypocrites to prove that the first statement may not be true (and let's not forget that Pharisees and Sadducees of the Bible who were keepers of religious tradition but never saw eye-to-eye with Jesus...). Furthermore, the guy that Jesus saved while hanging on the cross was clearly not a religious man, which disproves the second statement.

I consider myself to be a believer and highly spiritual. At times I wonder why I didn't go to school for theology and history. I think I could easily write a dissertation in that field (no idea what I'd do next though). On the note of religious tradition, however, I'm not necessarily a fan. Many of my concerns with various religious traditions will appear eventually in the blog.

So how do I answer the question "what's your religion?" especially when religion, to me, refers to prescribed traditions not necessarily belief? I took Intro to Religion my freshman year in undergrad and was shocked to find that class took a very strange course I didn't quite understand until almost 6 years later. It helped open my eyes to the difference between spiritual and religious. Well, generally I just say I'm Christian, but on a technical level, I guess we haven't quite come to a phrase that fully expresses what I believe.

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