Do you believe your religion?

Having come to some understanding, or definition, of what a religion is I can understand how a person’s religion really doesn’t define their beliefs. PauaPrincess pointed this out in Is your religion your belief? This might have some consequences as we normally do assume religion defines belief.

Seeing religion as a tradition, rather than a belief, helps explain why religions become identified with different countries and societies. So a person’s religion may be an accident of their birth (location) or family history. These religions are inherited.

But people do actually adopt religions. Again, this doesn’t necessarily imply acceptance of the belief system. A common reason for adoption of a new religion is marriage. Some religions actually require an intended spouse to accept the relgion and/or agree to raise any children in the relgion. Christopher Hitchens (in God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) relates how he had adopted the Greek Orthodox and Jewish religions through marriage.

Social reasons

Social reasons may also be a reason for adherence to a religion. People often require a religious tradition to provide the ceremonies required at the different stages of life. Birth, christenings, circumcision, coming of age, weddings and funerals require ceremonies which religions can provide. The people involved may not accepted the beliefs implied by the ceremonies but feel compelled to undergo them for social reasons. And, of course, there are those who love the tradition and beauty of a ceremony (and its location) despite rejecting the beliefs.

Of course, it is possible to have secular ceremonies for these occasions and, in my opinion, such ceremonies can often be more meaningful than the religious ones because they dispense with the hypocrisy. For example, a non-religious funeral can concentrate more on the memory of the deceased without dilution by dogmatic statements bearing no relationship. However, there seem to be many non-religious people who “put up” with a religious ceremony because they think it would be offensive to family and friends (and society) not to do so.

Related Articles:
What is religion?
Trends in religious belief in New Zealand
Religious diversity includes “non-believers”
Religious Diversity Statement

12 responses to “Do you believe your religion?

  1. We need to seperate the different parts of religion, there is myth which opposes scientific fact and they have no right to teach this has true, however this doesn’t mean the morals side to religion is untruth, on the contary I think it is plays an important part of our society and tradition, teaching love, respect and forgiveness are essential.
    Those who blame religion for all the ills and predujice in society are wrong, unfortunatly this has always exsisted, but the Bible actually does tell us to tolerate other lifestyles.

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  2. Unfortunately, Amie, the Bible also tells us to do some pretty horrible things – and there are believers who take this seriously and use it to justify inhumane actions and beliefs.
    Religions have codified morals, ethics, etc., – it’s been an important role for them. In today’s age we have other codified sources of these. We can find the sources of our ethics and morals without resorting to mythical beings. We can adopt a tolerant attitude to others without the Bible, and in fact the Bible tends to argue against toleration.
    I agree, religion has not been the only source, or justification, of evil. But it has been one of the ways used to justify it.

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  3. I’m interested in what you said, Ken: “the Bible also tells us to do some pretty horrible things.” Could you please tell me more about this andf perhaps give some examples? Thanks

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  4. Anonymous – have a look at these videos by people more authoritative than me on such questions:
    The Terrible Texts of the Bible. is a video lecture by Bishop John Shelby Spong on the “terrible texts of the bible”.
    Also look at the video in Religion and violence for a talk by Jill Carroll who is the Associate Director of the Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance at Rice University. She describes how the Bible shows violence is strongly enmeshed in the Jewish and Christian traditions.

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  5. Ken, did you watch that first video yourself? Bishop John Shelby did a lot of critisizing of Old Testament events and writings, however, if you watch until the end he speaks about how the Christian church must embrace the Gospel (in the New Testament). I still do not have any evidence of the Bible telling “us” to do any horrible things. The Old Testament law does not directly adrress “us”. According to the Christian faith, after the death of Christ the burden of law is removed. The Gospel is directed towards us. I am really interested in any scriptural evidence wherein the Bible tells “us” to do horrible things. Examples of Old Testament violence is no good, since theoretically the wrath of God is justified given the act of salvation has not yet occured. I can elaborate more on this last point if you’d like, but I am really curious about the claim you made and for the time being would like to remain on the subject.

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  6. Can’t understand the problem, Anonymous. You seem to be arguing away the “terrible texts” that Spong referred to. No-one argues that there are not positive texts in the bible (and yes, I agree the final section of Spong’s video gave a very positive message about Chrsitianity). Most people seem to select what they want – for good or bad justifications.

    There are people today who do select these “terrible texts” to justify, for example (Michael Bray from the Army of God), advocating the death penalty for homosexuals and adultery.

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  7. So you have nothing for me, then? All I wanted was a passage in the Bible that suggests that I should do a horrible thing. I am not arguing away anything, just asking you to back up your claim. In fact, I think it is horrible that Christians take these Old Testament passages (completely out of context by the way) and apply them to this post-crucifixion time. The “terrible texts” present the problem and consequence of sin before salvation. Christians who use them to justify murder and immoral acts are just wrong; they are not justified by the Christian faith. According to the Gospel, the law became obsolete with salvation. It is not the Christian God, but the Christians who have perverted truth. There are some pretty horrible and immoral athiests out there, but that in itself gives me no justification to condemn the athiest doctrine. I disagree with the doctrine because of the doctrine itself not because of the people. I care about them, in fact, and I hope you can see the problem of your misunderstanding. Nowhere does the Bible suggest that its reader do a “horrible” thing.

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  8. Can’t understand you, anonymous. You are acknowledging these terrible texts and the way they are used by some Christians to justify immoral actions. Surely you don’t expect me to go out and purchase a bible just so I can give you a specific example! I can’t see where you think my “misunderstanding” is.

    The problem with a ‘faith’ based world view is that unreasonable actions can be justified by appealing to faith or a “message from god” (interpreted from the bible or by direct messages into one’s head).

    Sure, non-theists are also capable of immoral and inhuman actions. And they will no doubt justify them with irrational arguments. It’s just that they have less arguments to fall back on as the theist ones are denied them.

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  9. No, what I am saying is that these texts are being taken out of context by your Bishop in the video as well as by Christians who use them to justify their immoral actions. I guess all I wanted to hear was an example from the New Testament. If you do not have one though, that is okay. In fact, I did not expect you to.

    Anyone, your Bishop and as well as modern Christians, should not even begin to think that they can take Old Testament examples without applying New Testament principles. Christianity, hence its name, is centered on Christ. Christ lives and dies in the New Testament. Christianity is based on the Gospel, the teaching of Christ’s salvation which itself makes the Old Testament law obsolete. My single agenda in replying to your post was to hear an example from the New Testament. Clearly you do not have one. As for going out and purchasing a Bible, if you are going to refute it, it might be a good idea to study up on what you are refuting. Start in John.

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  10. Aren’t all the biblical texts (good and bad) quoted by people taken out of context – after all we are talking about mythology from the bronze age and yet people try to apply them to the space age? They may, or may not, be appropriate – but they are taken out of their context.

    The fact remains that people are using biblical quotes (and yes Koranic quotes) to justify evil acts. They are taken out of context but it still happens – textural quotations like these are always a matter of justification, not a source of instruction.

    Anonymous, the point of the post was not (as you claim) to refute the bible. I’m really not interested in that argument. It was to argue that religion for most people is a tradition, rather than a belief. In fact many people seem to “put up” with the “required” beliefs because they value the tradition and ceremony.

    It’s interesting that in New Zealand about 46% of people claim to believe in a god (in the traditional religious sense) yet about 56% or so claim to have a religion. Of the 52% who claim to be Christians perhaps 70 – 80% would actually believe in a traditional god.

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  11. I guess next time just make sure you are able to back up your claims. Yeah, it’s pretty horrible that people twist biblical texts to justify immoral acts. Doesn’t mean that the Bible truly advocates those actions.

    I agree with you that religion for most is a tradition. Just like church, for many, is a ritual. I understand that the modern-day view of the Christian church is tainted by such hypocracy on the part of Christians. Too often, though, do I stumble upon accusations aimed at Christianity itself or Christ himself rather than the “Christians” distorting these Biblical texts.

    I know that the purpose of this post was not to refute the Bible, but within the post you did attempt a claim against the Bible. I think you should consider the implications of the statistics you gave me. It is an argument about the imperfection of the people– that I understand– not that of the Word of God as you implied when you state that the Bible tells us to do horrible things.

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  12. Obviously, Anonymous, I don’t believe there is such a thing as “the Word of God,” so I could not possibly imply it is imperfect.

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