Let's Move Away From Religion

NPR did a story on how More Young People Are Moving Away From Religion. In the piece David Greene asks six "young people" (they're all about my age) about their move away from the religion they were raised with. I think you should go read or listen to the article. If you are not moving away from religion then you should think about why. If your religion is not meaningful or true then it is about time you give it up and look for things that are meaningful and true. My heart is moved toward those in my generation who are seeking answers and not quite getting them. I took the time this morning to consider how I would respond to the concerns of these six people. I share these thoughts now addressed directly to them.:

Thank you all for openly sharing part of your story with the world. I'm offering these responses not to offend or take advantage of your openness but simply to continue the discussion. None of you are alone in your doubts, but not everyone comes to the same conclusion. If you ever come across this post (caught you Googling yourself! Ha ha!) I would love to discuss these things further.

Miriam Nissly
I would love to hear more about your religious practices and why you enjoy them. You seem to at least appreciate that there is something a bit mysterious or unanswered within you. I recognize that in myself as well. For me that feeling of being connected with a culture is a clear sign that I was made to be connected—to be in relationship. As I have sought to find and know God I have discovered that Jesus answered the questions I have about God and how to relate to him not only with his teachings, but also with who he claimed to be, how he died, and…you know, all the stuff that followed. It’s probably that stuff that prevents you from believing the stories about Jesus. All I can say in a brief space is that the more I look at it and apply it to my life the more it looks and feels profoundly true.

Yusuf Ahmad
I was unaware of the Koranic account of Abraham’s son turning into a goat. I’m sure you are aware of the older version of the story recorded in the Bible where God himself provides the goat. Still, people have struggled for ages over the moral implications of this story. Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? I’ve read lots of explanations. Some say God was testing Abraham’s faith. Some say God was revealing his uniqueness from other gods of the time in that he would not allow the sacrifice of children. It is an ancient story full of meaning. Many Christians understand the story as a revelation of God’s character. Romans 8 talks about God sacrificing his own son, Jesus, as a sacrifice in our place. I’m sure that just leads to more questions, but you should realize the story of God goes much deeper than a magical goat!

Kyle Simpson
“What about love? What about the ideas of forgiveness?” Evolution and science say nothing about those things. “Evolution and science” in fact, say very specific things that have nothing to do with your questions about God. While there are some prominent scientists, journalists and authors who declare science has disproved God, there are also many who are committed to science and truth who fully believe in God. It was belief in an unchanging God that led western philosophers to form the methods of science. There was a time when men and women became so confident in reason and science that they thought it would eventually solve all the questions and difficulties of life. This optimism has faded as science hasn’t been able to answer questions about or solve problems for evil and suffering caused by human nature. Science has no answers about morality, fairness, forgiveness and yes love. There are worse mistakes an 18-year-old can make than to commit to something that you admit is bigger than yourself and has the ring of truth in your heart.

Melissa Adelman
Faith is a very complex issue. From your brief description I see you have moved away from Catholicism,  but I do not know what you have moved to. I believe one of the greatest and most surprising things about Jesus is that he told people they can talk directly to God. He spoke to a society full of priests and rituals and lots of religious procedures, but he told his disciples to pray in his name and God would listen. This is revolutionary because while our faith in God must be rooted in the community of faith to help us and protect us along the way, it is also a deeply personal and intimate journey with God. Jesus did not give people a complex system of moral rules to follow. He simply asked people to follow Him. The rest is all part of the journey. My point is that isolated issues that you find distasteful because of your culture should not prevent you from seeking Jesus. The Bible says things that bother everyone. Remember the Bible doesn’t just speak against homosexuality. It condemns adultery, murder, lying, hate, oppression of the poor, injustice, and on and on. The Bible is the book that reformed Western society. It bears further and deeper understanding.

Rigoberto Perez
I too am heartbroken over the amount of suffering humans face. There is an injustice to life that can feel like a heavy weight on our hearts that will not go away. Unfortunately, many have used religion to explain away these feelings. In fact, I would argue that is the basis for all man-made religion everywhere. Even the Christian religious establishments can’t help adding layers of man-made nuance to the Gospel message. The fact is that Jesus never taught that prayer would bring an end to anyone’s suffering. He taught that we should pray in spite of suffering. He taught us to look for and expect God to do miracles, but more importantly to trust God whatever this life may bring. The symbol of the Christian faith is a cross. We all too often forget that that symbol represents suffering and death. God’s answer for the suffering of mankind was not to magically remove it leaving us to feel nothing at all, but to give it real meaning and, when all is said and done, to replace suffering with joy and restore all things to perfection. Hope is an interesting concept in that it seems completely and increasingly foolish and unfounded right up to the moment when it is vindicated. I’m truly sorry for the loss of your brother, and I hope that you will continue seeking meaning, Truth, and comfort in God.

Lizz Reeves
Suffering, death and loss leave all of us searching for meaning. Isn’t it interesting that comfort and prosperity rarely cause us to evaluate what we are here for? I don’t believe that the Bible teaches “there’s a reason for everything.” That concept is a crutch even for believers who cannot accept that God allows bad things to happen to good people. When Jesus gave his famous speech imploring his followers to love their enemies and bless those who curse, He also reminded them that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” So in essence Jesus revealed that circumstances are not usually the result of your moral decisions. His teaching guides us to deal with our circumstances come what may.
I think you are absolutely right to seek purpose and meaning in your brother’s death. There is no better way to honor and remember your brother than to live your life differently because of him. That is exactly what Jesus asked his followers to do after his death. For me, seeing suffering, death and loss around me serves as a reminder that God has taken personal action to put a stop to it, He is at work in this world to heal and rescue,  and will one day vindicate us and restore all things. That last part may sound religousy and preachy, but it is a desire within me that is beautiful and deeply true. It serves as evidence for God in the face of other doubts. 

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