is an oxymoron

Recently a good and dear friend of many years remarked how although he was not of my faith he enjoyed reading what I wrote each week. His brief remark gave me reason to consider and in some ways to reconsider what exactly is “my faith” and how “my faith” might or might not differ from his or yours or anyone else’s faith.

#193It is quite common practice, I have observed, to refer to one’s faith as belonging to a particular church, denomination, religion, or belief system. While I suppose it is, to a certain extent, acceptable to attribute some relationship between faith and an institution organized for the purpose of worship, it feels as though that relationship somehow falls wide of the mark. After all, what does it really mean to say that one is Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Mormon, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, or any other label that one may use to denote a religious practice or belief? How does a label define faith? Does the name of any religion conjure up a reasoned understanding or a considered image of the faith of its followers?

For example, I am what is often referred to as a cradle Catholic, born and raised in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. I must admit to total ignorance of the rituals, rites, and beliefs of any other church, denomination, religion, or belief system simply because I have never had a compelling interest in doing so.

While I have had some occasion to enter other places reserved specifically for worship (e.g. churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques,) I have never attended any of their services nor have I made any effort to discover exactly what goes on within their hallowed halls. They are simply mysteries for which I have no inclination to solve. My disinclination to delve into the dogma and tenets of other forms of worship is not meant to disparage or denigrate but merely to illustrate that I, just one among many, wish to worship in communion with likeminded souls and am perfectly content for you to worship with others who believe as you do.

It is of crucial importance, I think, to distinguish between religion and that virtue we call faith, for each has a distinct flavor and a unique character which both define as well as delineate them. Although many dictionaries will inform you that faith is a synonym for religion, I submit that that is a plebian mischaracterization which only serves to obfuscate their true meaning. That is not to say that there is no correlation or association between religion and faith, far from it, but merely to make the observation that faith and religion ought, by necessity, to stand on their own. We simply ought not conflate or confuse the two.

Religion, irrespective its organizational structure or its tenets, dogma, rules, and laws, is by its nature both communal and sectarian. Its principal functions are to bring together, as a community, those who share in common a belief in a power greater than their own and to provide a place for the community to unite in praise and worship. Just as a community must have more than one member, so must any religion. A religion of one is an oxymoron.

I will explain further next week.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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