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Faith is not Religion
bibliomaniac
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Blue Heron night

Periodically, I beat this drum. It seems especially appropriate now, with Christians waving teabag banners declaring that if you cannot afford it you do not deserve healthcare. These being the people who claim they follow the teaching of Jesus, a man who healed the sick for free, who hated capitalism as he watched it bleed the poor into chaotic despair and utter ruin.

Faith is not religion.

Although the two are often confused, faith can be found outside of religion. Religion cannot be found outside faith, or if it can, then that religion is the raving ranting of politics.

I spoke with a man who claimed he found God. Strange idea, I thought, as if finding God took nothing more than scanning his surroundings with the equivalent of a spiritual metal detector. Perhaps God was a glint of light, a diamond chip lodged in the bottom of his soul he'd not discovered earlier. Suddenly there was God waiting just for him alone.

When I asked how that occurred, he said he found God in his newly adopted religion. He made it sound as if God existed nowhere else. The longer we talked, the clearer it became that this was a man transformed by his discovery. He reminded me of a drug addict or alcoholic, transfixed after the first huff or drink.

I asked how this transformation made him feel. Unbelievable, he said with wide-eyed wonder. Reborn, he added confidently as he examined his hands as if they were not the same hands he bore at birth, his true birth.

For him religion was like a spiritual aphrodisiac. He could stroke it and find satisfaction, arousal, deeper and stronger than anything physical. I wondered if he would survive the first test life dropped at his feet, a tragedy, serious challenge, or would his shelter shatter like stacked crystals.

We walked different paths after that day. I chose the path of faith. He chose religion. You may not yet see or the understand difference, but faith is like a spiritual cloak. Once it's wrapped around you, you do not remove it. You cannot, nor will you want to, open a door and walk outside of faith. Faith is lived each minute, not just a few select hours each week.

Religion is like a trench coat. If life “rains” on you, you hastily don it. Yet you don’t really trust it completely so you pop the umbrella of readings. When you leave your House of Worship, it’s okay to take the trench coat off, set it aside, place it on the night table maybe, hang it up to dry.

Sometimes religion is dictated by leaders who demand more of you, or that you perform deeds you are unwilling to do. Yet a true follower feels compelled to obey, drinks from the glass that reads “Drink This” and wonders why nothing changes as a result but everything seems or looks distorted.

Faith makes no demands. Faith is understanding; accompanied by the desire to prosper spiritually. There is no guidebook for faith; no lesson plan, none is needed.

Religion is laid out in books, road maps that must be read repeatedly to be followed and understood. Without daily immersion, one might drown in misunderstanding, leave the path of dictated behavior, and make decisions for oneself. Frightening thought, making decisions for oneself without religion's God to blame, or to seek succor or solace from.

Faith-guided living becomes a teacher. Such a life requires self-examination. It promotes healing oneself as the first step to healing others. Accepting one's own flaws leads to understanding the actions of those around us. Forgiving ourselves directs us to learn the skills needed to forgive others.

Years passed before I heard from the man who found God. He had abused his body through poor eating, drinking, and too much sun. In the end, I wondered if he refused the medical care that might've saved him because of religious conviction, or because he decided to give up. Perhaps the two were interchangeable.

Religion offers guidance based on the words of men lost to history, words written and rewritten until the ink faded into the obscurity of politics, which was when religion began representing government not faith.

Faith is guidance. Words are unnecessary; action propels the faithful to make the decision best for their spiritual self. And the path lies open, lit by inner light seen by the faithful alone, carried along though eternity.

Comments
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I loved reading this because

I loved reading this because within it you captured the state that this country of Ireland is in at the moment. Clerical child abuse, sex abuse is rife and yet, people still bow down to the religious orders with reverence and fear. I like your words. They mean something to me. Thank you. m

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Your comment

Thank you, Mary.

As you may know, the situation here in the U.S. is the same. I completely agree with how you feel and wonder why such activities get buried under the purificator.

Larry

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Well Larry, the shit is

Well Larry, the shit is hitting the proverbial fan as I pen these words. Everything has come out. The country is in a spin, the truth never fails to reveal itself and the circle continues, although  with many lives ruined and sad and full of regret and despair because of lies and deceit within the church that represents a religion. I always ensured my boys would not suffer what a religion would possibly inflict on them, today I rejoice when I hear stories from them that in religion class in a jesuit school that they proudly announce they happen to be humanists and are well and able to translate what that means. This is the reward for sticking to your guns. m

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Courage

Often it is the youngest among us who teach the nuances of courage. I can only imagine what your boys must have felt making such an announcement in a Jesuit school. They offer hope for the future less focused on the narrowness of religion. I cannot imagine how any society might evolve without stepping outside the shell of an organization determined to oppress and control the innocent.

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Larry, yes though when all

Larry, yes though when all is said and done, I have found the school to be tolerant of difference and in a way encouraging the students to think independently with little interference.

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What you write makes sense.

What you write makes sense. I've come to despise the word religion - people being wrapped up in the philosophy of someone's interpretation of a flawed book.

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Your comment

Abe,

Thank you. I confess, I was slightly hesitant to post this, but now feel better about doing so.

Larry

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I love this post

This is a great post. There is a saying "Religion is for those that don't want to go to hell and faith is for those that have been there". I recently had someone, at the end of their life, ask me how can I not fear death. It is simple. I have faith, not religion. When I explained to him that in my wee mind I have concluded that I was somewhere before my conception but I don't remember. I was then conceived and was in a perfect, safe environment until I suffered fear and pain to be born to this life which I know...but I don't remember being in the womb. I figure that some of us have to suffer fear and pain to move onto the next adventure and this life I may not remember but since each birth was the death of what existed before that I have faith that my death will only be another birth. He thought for a while then spoke to me the most profound words anyone has ever said to me, "I can live with that...and more importantly, I can die with that." It made me realize the true difference between being religious and having faith. Me, I'll settle for faith.

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Your comment

Renee',

Thanks so much for your kind words. I had not heard the quote before and smiled as I read it. Perhaps we are required to walk though the fires of hell to truly understand the value of faith versus religion. And that faith functions better freed from the shackles of organized religion and the fear it generates to keep followers tucked in the "fold".

Larry