Part 3: My thoughts about Religion
The very word religion evokes such emotion in me that I have procrastinated writing this post. Before continuing, I need to define what I mean by religion. One use of the word I liken to spirituality, and it warms my heart. “Give me some of that old time religion” for example makes me feel good.
The religion I want to address is organized religion. From Wikipedia, “Religion is often described as a communal system for the coherence of belief focusing on a system of thought, unseen being, person, or object, that is considered to be supernatural, sacred, divine, or of the highest truth. Moral codes, practices, values, institutions, tradition, rituals, and scriptures are often traditionally associated with the core belief..”
My feelings about religions are similar in some regards to governments. They both have incredible power and potential to accomplish both good and evil. Unchecked, both seem to have insatiable appetites to have control and power over people.
If one were to rate the role of religion over recorded history, I think it would receive a failing grade, maybe a D- at best. Wars and horrible atrocities have all been done in the name of religion. In my opinion, one need not be religious to be spiritual. In fact, sometimes religion can dampen true spirituality. For example, when rituals, practices, and symbolism become the focal point in religion, they can detract from the very purpose for which they were intended.
Religion can also foster hatred, homophobia, bigotry, self-righteousness, discrimination, and a host of mankind’s baser morals and values when man uses religion to promote self interest or to exercise control or power over others. Hence, “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” Doctrine and Covenants 121:39
Much like government, however, religion can also be a force for good if, and only to the extent that, the people behind the religion exercise good moral character and possess the ability and desire of self restraint.
A few litmus tests of a good religion could include:
- Does participating in this religion draw me nearer to God?
- Does it encourage and help me to more effectively serve my fellowman?
- Does it encourage peace, understanding, tolerance and love toward others?
- Does it help me to be the best son, husband, father, and friend possible?
- Does it expand my mind and cause me to seek greater knowledge of spiritual things?
- Through following this religion, do I feel happiness and peace?
If a religion does not positively address these issues, it will likely cause more harm than good.