IT’S intriguing how often people get defensive when talking to me, hurriedly explaining that they’re not religious, but do believe in God. And they then often become confused when I reply saying ‘me too’; for most people seem to presume that because I’m involved with the Church, write these articles and even take funerals, then I MUST be ‘religious,’ with all the connotations that implies.
And that confusion increases when I explain that neither was Jesus himself religious; that if he had been, he’d never have been crucified.
For Jesus taught the importance of a personal faith in God, rather than participation in religious activities, and this teaching undermined the authority of the religious leaders of his time. Add to that the fact that he was scathing in his attack on the hypocrisy of those same self-righteous leaders whose religion was all outward show, whilst their lives were characterised by uncaring, self-centred pride; so his murder became the inevitable outcome.
So whilst, along with many of those who are so at pains to explain that they’re not religious, I personally believe that life does not end with the grave, but that there is a great hope of eternity in the presence of God; I would argue that this faith does not, of itself make me any more religious than they.
And it’s the effect of that faith on our lives, that Jesus asserted was of greater importance than any amount of religious activity, rules or traditions. If that faith is genuine then, unlike the leaders of his time, we’ll be more aware of the needs of others than of our own desires and similarly more conscious of our own failings and need for forgiveness, than we are of the faults of others.
Far better, Jesus taught, to have a personal faith without being religious than to be very religious without a personal faith.
So, if you don’t consider yourself religious, but do inwardly have a personal, private belief in a God you acknowledge you don’t fully understand, then ‘join the club’ – you’re in very good company.