What if There Were No Religions?

FPCSRLogoWhat if there were no religions?

I like John Lennon as much as the next guy, but this line had to be his low point. Nevertheless, it’s still alive. I saw it on a bumper sticker: What if there were no religions?

I can understand wanting a world without the Santa Claus god – the one who’s making his list and checking it twice. That view of God, a view so many haven’t yet replaced, has done enough damage. I’m heart broken every time I talk to someone in crisis and they wonder if God is punishing them. So let me see if I can say this clearly: THERE IS NO SUCH GOD.

Anyway, I can understand imagining a world without that. But no religion? Sadly we don’t have to imagine that. We’re living it with all its attendant consequences. Religion – I know it’s a dirty word, but when religions do their job, they offer a context of meaning, a reason for being, a framework within which to live our lives. If I don’t know why I’m here, then it simply doesn’t matter what I do.

This week’s cover article in the Pacific Sun describes the youth culture of “sexting” in Marin. This is texting with a highly charged sexual edge. We’re talking about 14 year old girls sending, (how shall I put it?), inappropriate pictures of themselves from their cell phones.

So here’s my question: Why shouldn’t they? What’s the big deal? Any convincing answer will inevitably come from within a religious context. Mine would go something like this: “Because you are a beautiful and valuable young woman. God created you to be a lover, one who experiences the profound erotic pleasure that comes from living into relationships that reflect the creative power of a God who draws all things together in perfect harmony. Degrading your body this way works counter to that purpose.” (Granted, I’d have to find hipper language.) If you have grown up outside of a religious context, that answer will sound hollow. Within one, you may make mistakes, but you will be able to discern when your life is missing that mark.

Imagine no religion? Are we crazy? Without religion we have only animal instincts and pop culture to guide us; hence the youth culture of sexting – just to pick an example.

I know that religion can’t make verifiable claims to truth – that’s why they call it faith – but faith has power. For tens of thousands of years, people have discerned the presence of God, the power driving creation forward, and they have described God within their “worldview.” Did they get it right? Can we? I don’t know; right and wrong aren’t words I use in this context. But we’re fools not to try because they were pointing towards something real, and that something provided a context of meaning that sustained them when crisis overtook their lives. That’s what religion does. Do we really want to imagine a world without that?

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About Sam Alexander

Sam Alexander is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael and also serves as Adjunct Instructor in Homiletics at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

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    • http://experts.patheos.com/expert/samalexander/ Samuel Alexander

      Thanks for the link

  • Matthew Dancz

    I don’t mean to start an argument, but you talk about “God” as being the only religion to have ever existed. There have been plenty of religions that don’t hold true the values provided by the god of Abraham. Many had child sacrifice and believed the only way to enter the afterlife favorably, was to send as many other people as they could to the afterlife first. Even the Christian religion is a very dangerous thing, because it can create degenerates. Take for example the religious criminal that not only knows they are going to hell, but relishes in that fact. They can, will, and do commit many acts of evil with glee for no other reason than they are going to please their fictional master. An Atheist may not answer to an almighty god, but an Atheist must answer to their fellow men. To an Atheist there isn’t another chance, there isn’t an ever lasting place of rest or torture for a person. Death is final for an Atheist. However an Atheist has no automatic reason to sacrifice children, no automatic reason to kill, and plenty of reason to have human feelings. We also know that we have the power to silence dangerous psychotic personality, if the need arises without having to feel guilty to a higher power. Atheists also have control over their own destinies, because of reason, logic, and science.

    • http://www.revelation4radicals.com/ radicalrevelation

      The above is denying all that is good to God and ascribing it to man.

      A thought on atheism to counter the glowing review above:

      Atheism appears to be a fad, it’s ‘cool’ at the moment, but has never had legs and will probably not carry more than the tiny % of adherents it has today.

      Here is an article stating that atheism is actually in decline. Yeah, the source is Christian – which does not automatically exclude the study from being accurate or the data being sound.