Religion Needs to be Wrong - Dare to Consider Not Believing

I ran across an online article about how "Religion and faith can be good for you." It is an interesting read and mostly got me thinking about how difficult it is to have a conversation about religion among those of divergent opinions.

I'm in sales (yes, you've been warned) and many good sales people will tell you to stay away from two topics: politics and religion. It is a tricky minefield - talking about politics and religion. It isn't the same as discussing an alternative driving route from home to work. We are very willing to listen to something that might lessen our commute or make it more enjoyable, or at least give us an alternative if traffic is bad. Not so much with religion.

Part of the challenge is that many of us consider the route dictated by our religious path a single path to a singular destination. There is only one way to get to the one place. What is more, we tend to be rather cautious about considering that our route might not be THE one. It is understandable, in part. If the metaphorical alternative is a ride that will take you off a cliff to your death - exchanging religious ideas might be dangerous.

The part that doesn't make sense to me is that historically speaking, we have all been down the wrong path. There isn't a religious tradition or denomination that hasn't, at one point or another, driven full throttle over the cliff all the while insisting that it was on the right path. Consider - the crusades, the US Civil War, Civil rights, and any number of pseudo-political religious actions.

However (and this is a really BIG however), what about the value of open mindedness? What about the momentary suspension of one's personal convictions in order to hear, understand and perhaps learn from a contrary point of view? One of the greatest freedoms available to us as citizens of the USA is freedom of speech - yet, we seem to be among the last to freely exchange ideas and contrary opinions without going all fisticuffs on each other.

While in college, I was vehemently opposed to atheism. The thought of disbelief in God and all of the trappings of my personal faith was appalling and, well... terrifying to me. Somehow I had thrown up a wall around my mind and if the conversation turned to anything that smacked of atheism, I was gone - as fast as my little doctrinal legs would carry me.

One day a religion professor - a educated, kind and openly Christian man - suggested I take the risk and talk with one of the better known atheists on campus. He suggested I NOT talk with him with the intent of changing his mind, but rather seek to listen and understand why and what he believed. I forced myself to listen, to ask questions and allow myself to hear another point of view.  At one point he said, "I don't believe in God." Seeking to be open, I asked him, "Tell me about this God you don't believe in." He talked for an hour or more . When he was done I could honestly say to him, "It is interesting. I don't believe in that god either." When spent many hours together over the following years talking about our personal beliefs and similar hopes and fears. He never came to believe as I did (perhaps he did admit a few times he had grown to be more agnostic than atheist),  and I never lost my faith (although I did learn some difficulties with my beliefs). We would both agree, however that we were better because of the friendship.

Perhaps there is something to fear in the failure to listen to others of different beliefs and traditions - that's scary!



For your Lenten pondering, I'll direct you to a nice post by Elizabeth Cottrell.

Enjoy, as well, her poem, cast artfully below.


Finding God in Artistic Angst?

After attending a faculty concert at the University Of North Carolina School Of The Arts in honor of Mozart’s birthday (great music), my wife and I decided to rent and re-watch “Amadeus.”

The movie is a master piece and tells the story of Mozart’s musical genius through the eyes of the aged, embittered Salieri, a court composer and contemporary of Mozart. What struck me profoundly was Sallieri’s struggle – he speaks of holding within himself the appreciation of and desire to create, divine music and yet, he must live with the reality of his inability to do so.

I believe many of us struggle with similar tensions, unrealized passions. I believe we often find ourselves frustrated by the limitations of our craft to contain something larger than us. Yet, I also believe that it is this desire to manifest something greater than ourselves that can make us truly a vessel of Divine love and empowerment.  It is a reoccurring theme and one perhaps worth acknowledging…

I like the way Harry Chapin dances with this idea in his song, "Taxi."

“…Oh, I've got something inside me,
To drive a princess blind.
There's a wild man, wizard,
He's hiding in me, illuminating my mind.
Oh, I've got something inside me,
Not what my life's about,
Cause I've been letting my outside tide me,
Over 'till my time, runs out. “
-Harry Chapin, “Taxi”


Get Up. Move. Live.

Hanging on the wall in my office, there is a picture of a tree that changes color and definition to reflect the four seasons. As you walk by the angle of the print causes the tree to shift from a winter scene of bare branches and snow, through sprouting spring foliage, the full greening of summer and then the autumn leaves of fall. From my desk seat, it always looks like autumn.

I like seeing the different images of the picture. The variety, changing colors and shapes offers a nice change from what is often the static unchanging art of an office space. There are times when I will just move to a different place in my office to see and enjoy the picture differently. It isn't that I don’t like seeing the fall tree, I do. I like seeing the other images, too.

Here’s my thought: My living is often the same way. It is easy to settle into the same routine, the same patterns of moving through life and soon – everything seems to look stagnant. In the same way I have to get up and move to a different place in my office to see the variety of the tree picture, I can move to a different place in my living to see life with new colors.

From a simple move, like visiting a different coffee shop, to a more dramatic change, like ending or starting a new relationship, we can experience the very different seasons of our living. I’m not advocating change for change sake, but I am encouraging myself to remember that sometimes I need to move a little and change my perspective in order to appreciate the rich variety of life.

I sat in a meeting yesterday with a successful local entrepreneur – a very rich man. He was clearly tired, almost exhausted throughout the meeting. After we had finished our business discussions, the conversation shifted as he explained his fatigue. He had spent the previous evening volunteering at a local homeless shelter. As he begin to tell the tale of his time helping others that night his energy lifted, his spirit soared and the conversation moved me to a different place. The business of life glowed more brightly than the drab hues of the previous conversation about his business.

Get up. Move. See. Enjoy.