While working on another essay, I looked up a quote to make sure I was remembering it correctly, and I inadvertently found this in a collection of quotes about “clear thinking.”
Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration —courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth. – H.L. Mencken (attributed)
Actually, I’d have to agree that much “religion” often rises up in postures that oppose the things Mencken listed. And, the more I experience—either from within, or at arm’s length—of “religion,” the less interest I have in that per se. The thing is, there is something that matters a lot more than “religion.” (I’m trying here to be a little bold, to think clearly, and to be open, honest, and fair in pursuing true things.)
I can manage a mostly polite tolerance for religion, but I think it’s quite sad that some people think Christianity is a religion like that.¹ Authentic Christianity, I would say, is actually very supportive of the things listed as venerable in the above quotation. When I ponder friends and acquaintances who seem to have less faith than I (or no faith at all), I sometimes wonder what they include under the “religion” umbrella. What do they think I support or believe in or even champion? Do they assume I’m into “religion” because I’m into the God of Abraham and and Jeremiah and Jesus and Paul—along with the responsible study of the scriptures that deal with each of those and more?
Some friends might be wasting energy putting a deadbolt and bars on a door to a house that only a few would be interested in taking out a mortgage on, anyway. That old house may not be condemned by the city, but, as it stands, it’s not a place I want to live life. I’m not really into remodeling and “flipping” that kind of house, either. (Now speaking non-metaphorically: I think I’m done with house ownership and am renting!) Thom Schultz, an astute observer, and the founder of the Christian publisher Group, has produced multiple pieces (in audio and blog format) about a Christian subset labeled “the dones.” (He also identifies the “almost-dones.”) I’m not sure if I quite fall in either category, but it’s worth thinking about.
I wish those who fancy themselves atheists would have come to know genuine, responsible, thoughtful Christianity and not a falsely² religious manifestation of it. I think there would then be fewer atheists . . . and more devotion to Jesus (or at least more willing support for those of us who want to follow Him). Real Christian religion has nothing to do with false fronts, denominationally handed-down decisions, hidden injustices, or dishonestly glossing over realities for the sake of appearance. And of course authentic Christianity maintains an energetic interest in truth.
In a follow-up post, I’ll share a few tidbits about “religion” words/passages in the Bible. (Spoiler alert: there aren’t many.)
¹ I realize here that there’s religion and there’s religion (and maybe religion, too, on top of those!). In other words, what is called religion on TV might not be religion in the mind of a given individual . . . and real religion might be something yet different from either of the others.
² I specify “falsely religious” because there can be such a thing as true religion. Here, I think not only of the pat saying found in James 1:26-27, but of those souls who go about doing all sorts of good because of their devotion to Jesus.