a new reality

Religion is a subject that more often than not evokes impassioned debate, dogmatic intransigence, and fiery rhetoric; its mere mention guaranteed to incite controversy and condemnation. What it seldom elicits is any semblance of reasoned dialogue or sanguine attempts to develop a common understanding. And yet, religion is in its broadest application, universally embraced and practiced by quite literally every human being who has ever existed, is alive today, or who may come into existence in the future. And that, in and of itself, ought to add fuel to the flames and stoke the fires of indignation and vehement denial from just about everyone. If so, so be it. It is what it is.

Defining cake

Defining cake

Discussions concerning religion are seldom discussed, but are often vehemently argued over which religion carries the truth, which religion is the best or the most correct or the truest or whatever. Yours is wrong, evil, and false, while mine is right, good, and true. And always, always, always, religion comes entwined with connective tissue that firmly attaches humanity to a supreme being, a higher power, gods or God.

One definition for religion is a belief in and the worship of a higher power, Supreme Being, gods, or God. It may also refer to a particular system of faith or worship. But acceptance of this definition narrows and constrains the understanding of it, much the same as defining cake as a chocolate dessert, which would be perfectly acceptable as long as there were no other flavors or types of cakes to be baked, which of course we happily know to be untrue.

In order to truly understand what is meant when we speak of religion, it is critically important to accurately and completely understand the context and meaning of it. The broadest and perhaps least controversial model for religion is to call it a cultural system or an anthropological category, that is, a specialized subtopic within the study of humankind, especially the study of cultures. In every sense of the word, religion is a belief system that carries its own specific portfolio of interests, tenets, and beliefs. In this rudimentary understanding then, that is to say to what anyone ascribes importance, whether it be a specific pursuit (a sport, avocation, or career) or interest (cooking, philately, or gardening,) can thus be defined as religion.

This is assuredly an uncommonly held view but carries with it an abundance of new avenues to further explore while alleviating us from the burden of controversy or dissent that consistently arises whenever that more prevalent notion of religion, one associated with a supreme power, is considered. Defining religion as a cultural belief system significantly alters the calculus and adds both new and interesting dimensions to those indigenous concepts which so often surround it.

A religion thus defined must necessarily encompass belief systems heretofore excluded from our acknowledged purview. Seen through new lenses it becomes increasingly obvious that those who believe there is no God are de facto members of the religion of atheism, those who ascribe to a secular society are themselves members of the religion of secularism, and those who hold fast to a belief in socialism or communism or fascism are de facto members of corresponding religions as well.

Religion used solely as a vehicle for uniting the faithful with a supreme power, while accurately attributed, places religion squarely in the crosshairs of those who would prohibit its free exercise. Of far greater import, it has tacitly provided for the establishment of the heretofore unacknowledged and unrecognized state-sponsored religion of secularism without garnering as much as a whimper from the governed.

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: http://deaconscorner.org. 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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