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I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

13 February 2011

Faith v Religion

I've heard my whole life that there is a difference between religion and faith. And I always believed that to be true, even at times when I couldn't see the difference.

I've just finished the book Tribes by Seth Godin, and he puts it very neatly: "Faith leads to hope, and it overcomes fear." "Faith is demonstrated by the actions you take." (Funny; I think I remember reading something similar in James 2.) By contrast, "Religion... represents a strict set of rules that our fellow humans have overlaid on top of our faith."

Mr. Godin isn't writing about Christianity; his book is about leadership. But I think he's hit on a crucial point; faith is what allows believers to soar. Faith is what allows people to take risks. Faith says that it's okay to refuse to go along with what everybody's doing.

Religion can be the one to tell us to colour in the lines. Religion can tire people out and send them on their way discouraged. I don't think it must be that way ... but it happens.

The first group to be called Christians were noticed because they stood out. They did things differently than other people. They didn't go along with the crowd, and refused to do so even when threatened with death, because they had faith. But as time went on there were rules built around the faith, and someone had to be the hall monitor for the rules, and one day this movement that had stood against the culture became the culture, and to oppose it meant dire consequences.

How sad the things that can happen when we turn to religion, instead of to faith.

So today I encourage you: Be different. Do what you believe in. Soar, hope, love, and dream. Have faith.


Unknown said...

Lovely post, I am a casualty of a religion that had an unpleasant face. Religion has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ. Carole.

Danielle Ellison said...

I like this. VERY true. I like this a lot. I like in the north where people are "religious" or whatever. The word faith is rarely used in conversation outside of your own circles. Living with, teaching and believing these two principles are very different things.

I read that book and had to agree that his leadership principles are very transferable to Christianity. As it should be. Christians ARE leaders. It's sad when we aren't.

Brad Jaeger said...

I completely disagree. I think faith placates or otherwise masks fear. It's easy to be unafraid when you earnestly believe in your heart of hearts that you are specially chosen and loved by some omniscient deity that has a plan for you, and that a pleasant life of bliss awaits you in the afterlife. Who in their right mind would be afraid if they honestly thought that?

Conquering fear requires nothing but bravery and determination -- neither of which require religion or faith.

Tony Benson said...

Interesting thoughts. To some extent it depends on your definition of the two words, but I think what you say hits a really important point, and I completely agree with your conclusions. I think in some way we all have faith in something, and it's an important part of us and our lives.

Kari Marie said...

Su, I couldn't agree with you more. My husband and I have been having this discussion with people for years. Religion is a man made interpretation of what it means to be Christian. You don't need religion to get you into heaven. You need Faith and a willigness to follow the path Christ laid out for us.

Religion can help us find one another in faith and give us a support system. It can also divide us. I come from a strong Lutheran background and my husband was Catholic. When we got together, my parents were adamant that the Catholics were wrong.

My cousin delayed joining a church for over five years where she lives. If she joins another church when she goes home, she will not be able to take communion with her family at the church she was raised in, baptised in and got married in. It's against the rules because she is no longer a member of the correct synod. Her answer to the problem is to not tell her parents she's joined a church. Essentially she's lying, which is a wrong on top of a wrong.

Phew. When people ask me what my religion is I tell them I'm Christian. It's as simple as that.

Su said...

@Carole: I'm so sorry to hear that. :(

@Danielle: That's a great point!

@Brad: And yet I would argue that bravery & determination require faith in something, be it yourself, your circumstances, etc. I'm speaking of faith in God, as you noticed, but faith comes in a lot of packages.

@Tony: My husband & I talked the two words over after he read my post this morning (he doesn't usually get a preview), with the same conclusion: A lot depends on how you define the words. And I certainly don't intend to make "religion" a dirty word, but it is certainly something that has been misused.

@Kari: So sad about your cousin being stuck in that situation! I don't have a lot of patience for Christian turf wars, because it leads to stuff like this. :( And I do the same when people ask me; follower of Christ = Christian, no matter what building I go to on a Sunday.