This week’s “Texas Faith” question from the Dallas Morning News asks “What don’t most people understand about religious faith?” The panelists gave some good answers, but I have a particular thought that the experts only touched on briefly.
In my mind, the biggest misconception about religious faith is the idea that faith consists of affirming a set of supernatural propositions, that faith = belief. This concept (which is accepted unquestioningly by most people I encounter) is unique to Christianity in general, Protestantism in particular, and especially the modern American versions thereof.
You see little of this concept in Judaism and Islam and virtually none in Hinduism, Buddhism, and the remaining indigenous religions. For most of the world, religion and faith is about who you are, whose you are and how you live, not what you think about God or life after death.
As Pagans living in a predominately Christian society, we need to be careful not to fall into this trap. I’ve done it myself – spending far too much time worrying about the nature of God / Goddess / Ultimate Reality (which are ultimately unknowable, at least intellectually) and too little about living a good, helpful, connected life here and now. I’m eternally curious and I can’t help theorizing and speculating, but at some point worrying about belief stops being helpful and starts carrying you away from true religious experience.
As for the Christians who insist that religion is all about having the “right” beliefs, I offer the words of the prophet Micah: “what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”