What makes/breaks religion?

My in-laws are Christian, and I believed them to be quite strict. That is to say: they regularly attend services, and most of them have done something for the church community (baby-sitting, an energy-saving group, a discussion group for youthful believers, selling fair-trade products, musicals etc). I am not out of the broom closet with them, because I previously believed them a bit too rigid to accept my views. Not that they aren’t nice or friendly or whatever, and they are by no means as strict as some families I know, but I was simply afraid. I still won’t tell them about my personal belief any time soon, but I’m more confident now they will understand when I do decide to come out.

Tonight, after dinner, my parents-in-law talked about a book-discussion they joined about believing in this century. One of the people who was also there was very clear about his view of Christianity: if you don’t believe the stories told in the Bible, you are not a true believer. While I didn’t expect them to hold the same view, I was amazed to find out they actually opposed this view! My mother-in-law claimed she told the rest of the people ‘she was one of the people who believed the least’. She holds the view that the Bible may be a good story and there is definitely truth in there, but in these modern times there are many other ways to be a Christian other than to believe the Bible to the letter.

The Bible has been written by people, and as we know, people are flawed. I do not know where the stories originally came from, whether someone made them up or whether it was divine inspiration, but they remain stories. Naturally, we can draw valuable lessons from the Bible. These lessons are about compassion and forgiveness, especially in the New Testament.

My in-laws and I agreed upon this: the lessons you have learnt and the way you put them into practice are way more important than following writings to the letter. That is what constitutes the essence of religion, what can make or break it. Fundamentalists, following the Bible or the Quran to the letter, hating people from different religions, are often in the news, but they are not the people at the core of their religion. No, people at the core of their religion understand that  taking care of nature and helping others are much more important.

Pagans and Christians alike try to preserve nature. Christians might do so to take care of God’s creation, whereas Pagans such as myself do so because we believe nature itself to be sacred or something to be grateful for. Community service is done by many people, and society can’t exist without it. My mother-in-law started working with people with starting dementia, walking with them, lunching with them and helping them in general. She may not go to church very often, or belief the words of the Bible, but she lives her religion by helping others.

This sounds very exaggerated and of course it somewhat is. People aren’t all good, we all have our ‘dark’ sides, but the way we act in life is the most important part of being human. It’s what can make or break a religion. Not what the Bible or any other religious book tells us, not what is in the news, not what we are told during services or by the ‘wiser’ people, but how we apply the lessons religion teaches us. It’s what we do that counts.


3 Responses to “What makes/breaks religion?”

  1. The Varied God Says:

    Dear Dutchwitch–I take it you have not read the Bible? Because in my experience, only someone who has not read the Bible can believe it to be full of compassion and forgiveness. The Old Testament is a book full of blood and violence. When God is not personally murdering people into submission to his will, he is instructing his surrogates–David, Joshua, etc.–to slaughter other nations in his name. Jesus teaches compassion in the New Testament, but as soon as that message passes into the hands of the Apostle Paul (most of the book), it becomes more about the submission of women, hatred for homosexuals and non-believers, and other less than kind subjects. Not in any way a book to base a moral life on.

    • dutchwitch Says:

      Varied God, if you read my blog post a bit more carefully instead of jumping to conclusions after the words ‘compassion and forgiveness’, you will realize I state we can draw lessons about these two things from especially the New Testament. Nowhere do I state I believe the Bible is “full of compassion and forgiveness” as you bring it. I’ve been raised Protestant, I am well aware of the horrors in the Old Testament and some of the views held by Paul, but that is not everything in the Bible. My point exactly is that you shouldn’t take the Bible to the letter, because that will spark hatred for those who are different. Yet even between these stories there are exceptions, lessons about compassion and forgiveness. These are the stories people who hold to the Bible ought to look at.
      I appreciate your comments, but I would appreciate it even more if you would read posts like this a bit better before you jump to conclusions about my knowledge. Right now, it feels like a (wrong, I hope you now realize) accusation.

  2. The Varied God Says:

    No, I’m very sorry Ms. Dutchwitch. Didn’t mean for it to sound accusatory or anything. I just have this lifelong wish that more people would read the Bible. I find your musings about religion interesting and engaging—and I think it odd that people would think less of old pagan traditions, which in many instances were truly more peaceful and human than the history of Christianity, especially compared to what is in the Bible. Half of what people think is in the Bible is not in it, and most of what is in it people choose to ignore. As you can see, it is an old pet peeve of mine, and I’m sorry if I seem too forceful when I talk about it.

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