What 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?