Saturday, June 7, 2014

What is religion for?

If religion is not about the belief in a supernatural god and attempts to get to heaven and avoid hell as most of us have been taught, then what is it? Rev. Guengerich asks in his book, God Revised, "What is the human predicament that only religion can resolve?" p.17

My answer is that religion helps get from here to there. Religion helps us create and experience the Good Life. Religion is the support for our "faith" in how to live a more satisfying, fulfilling life for ourselves and our fellow human beings and all the creatures of the planet. Does your religion help you do that? If not, then you need to work with others to create one that will.

Rev. Guengerich writes, "... we'll discover that religion is not mainly a set of beliefs. Rather it is first and foremost a way of life. For this reason, the comprehensive religious question is not, "What do you believe?", but rather "What do you do?" How do we spend our time and money? Fill in this sentence stem, "What matters the most to me in my life is_____________." Whatever you answer is the basis of your personal religion.

Once we are honest about what matters the most to us in our lives, we will understand what we consciously or unconsciously worship. Human beings have all kinds of idols and in our contemporary life, usually don't recognize them as such until they are asked how they spend their time, energy, and money. Rev. Guengerich writes, "The hallmark of a religious community is the experience of worship." p.17 Worship is experienced at the casino, at the football stadium, on black Friday at the mall. Sometimes it is experienced on internet porn sites, at the bar, at work as we put in our 60 hours in pursuit of the promotion and a "atta boy" or "atta girl".

Some of us who are more philosophical have taken Socrates' words to heart, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Many of us might say, "I would love to live an examined life but who has the time?!" Often we don't take the time, until we hit bottom and Life forces it on us and then we have to choose between live or die? Hitting bottom, experiencing an existential crisis often leads us to examine our lives whether we wanted to in the past or not. As we realize that we can't continue to go on in the way we have been going, we know that we have to get our lives on a better track, and we start to imagine what that better track might be. At this point, many people "get religion". We start looking for others who can help us find the way, and in this search we join with them in what, I think, Guengerich is calling, "the experience of worship."

I asked an acquaintance of mine one time, "Why should I go to church?" and she replied, "Because someone there might need you." Good answer if you are co-dependent or of a mind to be of service because you have something to give which will make you feel good in the giving, but maybe, I am the one in need and I need them. Worship is where we help each other understand how to get from here to there in Life. As the Beatles sang, "I'll get by with a little help from my friends."

When Rev. Guengerich asks the rhetorical question, "What is the human predicament that only religion can resolve?" I answer, "To support my spiritual quest for happiness and to create the Good Life for myself and others." This is an internal not an external journey. This is about removing the obstacles and blocks to the awareness of Love's presence in myself and others. Religion is about helping each other not get to heaven but to find heaven within ourselves and amongst us. The next question, of course, is how? As Rev. Guengerich suggests, it is not about what I believe as much as how I live. It is not just about intellectual understanding, it is about experience.


  1. Excellent article. This is a sermon which should be preached throughout the UUA churches and the world. If more people saw religion in this way, there would be a growth in our denomination because this kind of religion everyone needs at least at some points in their lives. Thank you!

  2. A socialite with a debutante daughter went to the florist and said, "I'd like ten dozen roses for my daughter's coming out party."

    The florist said, "Sure thing. If you don't mind my asking, what was she in for?"

  3. It is written in A Course In Miracles in the second chapter:

    “Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however, dimly, that there must be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point.” ACIM, T-2.III.3.:5-7

    While Unitarian Universalism and A Course In Miracles are not the only ways, they do offer a lot for people searching. Thank you for what you are doing here.