Whether you are a Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Hindu or a follower of any other religion determining your religiosity is easy. All you need to do is look deep inside yourself to gauge how committed you are to following the tenets of your faith, then look around and see if other disciples of your religion are just as dedicated as you are.
I figured this out for myself before I was 25. I grew up Lutheran, converted to Seventh Day Adventism at 21, and quickly understood that to be the top dog in my faith I needed to become an ordained minister. Bear in mind that I didn’t go all-in to earn the most bejeweled crown in heaven. I loved my faith and couldn’t get enough of it. I merely determined that being a minister would be the best way to devote more time to learning and expressing my beliefs.
I suppose this is true for disciples who follow any religion. There’s an observable spectrum of commitment one can easily understand and see. One can know how personally committed they are to their faith simply by looking within themselves, then ascertaining how much their faith has become a part of their thinking and how they express it in their daily lives. They can also “judge” just how committed other disciples are by observing their actions.
Do you think like an atheist?
I’m always skeptical of people who claim they became atheists within a few months following years of being active and committed to a religion. Becoming an atheist is a process. One just doesn’t have an “aha!” moment and switch off a belief in God like turning off a lightbulb. Yes, there comes that time in one’s life when he or she recognizes a clear delineation from the moment they held onto a belief in a god, to the moment they knew they no longer believed.
I’m also skeptical of people who claimed to be atheists, then suddenly claim to be converted to Christianity (or other religions). Again, there’s a process involved with becoming and unbecoming an atheist, and this process is dependent on how much the tenets of a religion have entangled themselves within a person’s thought processes. For those who grew up in a church, who spent decades thinking and living as a faithful disciple, it usually takes years to unlearn and purge oneself from religious beliefs, myths, superstitions, ideas and concepts, behavior patterns, and overall worldview. My own “aha!” moment took 14 years. It just took that long to clear my head.
A challenge for Atheists
If you claim to be an atheist, can you safely conclude that you have purged your mind of all religious ideas and thought patterns? For example, what are your current views regarding abortion?
We tend to think of abortion as a religious issue, a pro-life cause that is championed by religion and backed up by the Bible and other “religious” concepts regarding the sanctity of life. Yet, there are many secular arguments advocating for both the pros and cons of abortion that lie completely outside systemized religious thinking.
The same holds true for issues like suicide, euthanasia, climate change, the death penalty—and so forth. There are “religious” ways to think about these issues. There are completely rational and scientific ways to view these issues. But there are also right and wrong ways of looking at these issues that bridge both religious and secular viewpoints.
To complicate matters, American culture is saturated with Christian ideals and norms. As I am reminded of often, America is a Christian nation. Virtually every aspect of our culture is dominated by Christian ideologies and theology. In a similar manner, a country like Afghanistan can be considered a nation of Islam, whereas a country like Japan is a culture influenced by a variety of ideologies such as Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism.
As Christopher Hitchens said:
“Religion poisons everything.”
“Poison” might be too strong of a word to be used here. My point is that the influence of religion in any culture makes it more difficult for atheists to determine whether the thoughts and ideas they express are religiously or philosophically based, whether their ideas are driven by rationales based in science and rational thought, or whether their ideas are a hybrid of sorts; grounded by both science and supported by religion.
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