- Posted January 28, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Faith vs. Religion and the challenge to take a closer look
I don't believe in religion. With that said, I do believe in the power of faith. Despite what you might think, they are not the same thing.
It's said that a larger population follows some sort of religion. Those who don't, largely fall under the atheist category. While everyone might not believe in religion, I do believe everyone has a faith.
This is how I define religion.
Religion starts out like faith in that it is the belief in something that concerns a person's views on eternity and deity. After that, it takes a very different turn. Religion generally sets up a bunch of qualifications to "get in good." I don't believe that anyone is capable of being perfect, so I don't believe in such a system. You are doomed to fail from the starting line.
Qualifications of religion might include things like giving away all of your money to a person so they can send you a magical healing cloth in the mail, or looking to a ceramic statue that was made by another man. To some, these things seem absurd, and yet to others, there is nothing they are more passionate about. I'm not trying to disrespect any person or group. Everyone is entitled to the freedom of their beliefs. The reason I am writing this is to present a challenge to look deeper.
Let's talk about faith.
It takes faith to make a decision one way or another regarding your views on eternity and supreme deity. If you are an atheist, you've resolved that neither exist. If you are wrong in your belief, you have a soul to lose after all but nonetheless, you take that risk because of what you believe. Not believing in God is much more risky than choosing to believe.
If we take a look at why atheists have chosen to believe as they do, there are 2 main groups of people. There are those who simply don't believe in God because of what they interpret of science thus far not adding up to a deity. I consider there are also others who were atheists and found science converting them to believe in God. Then, you can also consider that at one time, mankind thought the world was flat. We see dimly what the full picture is, we have yet to have figured everything out fully. Another reason atheists might believe as they do is because they only look at the people living according to religion who can't live up to its demands. They see "hypocrisy" or they see people just giving up cause those expectations can't be fully obtained. So, they say, what's the point? If I fail, I'm doomed. Or, perhaps they started out thinking there was a god and then a tragedy struck their lives, they may have lost someone dear to them and they decide that a loving God simply cannot exist if these terrible things happened to them. Biblical explanation for this is often not heard nearly enough. Biblical explanation says that if this world is now "fallen" because of man's decision to sin, everything that we experience in this life is simply the result of no longer being in a garden of Eden. We have thorns in our soil, we have hate in the hearts of man instead of love, and we also have sickness and death. It's not about what we deserve or don't deserve, it's simply the result of living in an imperfect world. I can speak freely on this subject because I experienced it first hand at the death of our first child. It takes faith for me to not blame God.
So what of the rest?
The Bible defines faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) Billy Graham quoted, "I've seen the effects of the wind, but I've never seen the wind. There's a mystery to it." To me, that is faith. If you fought for your country's freedom and suffered an injury and you're in rehab and the doctors are telling you that you might never walk again, it takes faith to put in the hard work to defy them. Without faith, you would never even put your feet to the floor and try to walk again. Faith is work. What direction we take in faith either works for our good our against us. It's easy if you lost someone close to put blame somewhere, even on yourself. It takes faith to forgive and cling to the idea of a greater purpose. We can't see the ending of our stories, they are still being written. With that said, we are only in the middle of that story. We had a beginning that wasn't up to us, it was in the hands of others. We decide what to do with that beginning - even if it was a terrible one. Sometimes the triumph is right around the corner, and sometimes that triumph depends on which path we take when it comes to our faith. Do we have to be bitter? It is a choice. Can we learn to trust again? Again, it comes down to faith. To me, faith is a lifestyle, it encompasses every aspect of our lives. It affects who we marry, what careers we pursue, what great things we accomplish or what low living we settle for.
For me, a religion doesn't dictate what I have to do or how I have to do it. I believe in freedom. I believe that faith and grace justify me and hold the key to my soul's direction. I don't believe this grace gives me a holy pass to live a corrupt lifestyle but it means that when I do fall short, I am forgiven and have a hope and strength to pursue being better than I could be without Him. Whatever I do in life to please God isn't for the sake of avoiding a fiery hell, it's out of love for Him, like a child wanting to make their parents happy. A loving parent loves unconditionally. To me, God is like that parent and what I do in life is simply a response to loving Him back. That doesn't exempt my life from bumps and bruises, but it doesn't mean He isn't there to help me get up again.
I chose to believe in the hope of eternity and the never failing love of God - even in the times that I can't understand everything that's happening around me. To believe in God means to trust that if He exists, He also created me. There is no purpose to creating something for nothing or without affection. And if He exists, and I am an imperfect human, and He is a perfect God - it's as simple as that. The created must resolve to understand one simple truth about it's creator- just like a parent and child - He knows better than I do, and life is a whole lot easier living if I just take His hand and have a little faith.