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Columns

May 5, 2012

Learning the dance between faith and religion

Faith and religion have been dancing for millenniums, quite often stepping on one another's toes until they bleed.

Blame for the bleeding usually gets placed on religion, so much so, that the last few decades have been chalked up as the post-religious era. But, the decrease in people who express no religious preference does not mean an increase in atheism, faithlessness or unbelief. It seems every thinking person has faith, whether they have faith in God, goddesses, the sciences, or the air they breathe.

Although the concepts of faith and religion can be separated -- we can have eyes but no eyesight -- a percentage of the population sees faith and religion as inextricable -- like eyesight and eyes. Even spirituality and religion are interpreted as one and same to many people who don't buy into the trendy "spiritual but not religious" philosophy.

Faith is a springboard, used to advance to that which we understand. So we ask: Do I want to advance to an understanding of hate or love, of superstition or truth, of sickness or wellness?

Religion has been stereotyped with other social groups, e.g. political parties, fraternities, AA groups, online spirituality forums and so on. People join social groups because of the perks, whether the perk is a sense of connection the understanding of a higher cause, a better standing in the community, or friendship. Because of the plethora of social groups available to us, we're learning we don't have to go to a church to religiously devote our self to an ideal or agenda.

Faith and religion have to a debatable degree brought reform and improved moral and physical standards over the centuries. Faithful members of religious organizations offer guidance. They feed and clothe the needy and visit the sick. But then the problems they create -- polarity, stringent social norms, terror -- are global in nature and very much in our face.

The collective damage done by faith and religion seems to have reached a tipping point where harms cancel out benefits. This conclusion is compelling but hard to quantify. Our accounting systems do not allow us to calculate the true costs of faith and religion, which have a way of rippling out through society in myriad ways, while profits are concentrated at the source.

There are no panaceas for the predicament faith and religion present, two steps forward, one step back, however wishing or assuming they are going away is one step forward and two steps back. Faithlessness or spite toward religion will not allow for an easy transition to living within our means. To lose faith or religion is not workable. But we can lose blind faith and false religions.

The solutions are local. If we want to meet the faith/religion challenge, we'll have to do it in our own communities and be open to new methods. The faith and religion of today is dramatically different from yesteryears. I certainly don't sacrifice thousands of animals to God like King David did eons ago. I will not be hanging on a cross like Christ Jesus did. I don't attend a ritualistic church service dead to the world today. But, the dance continues. Faith in the understanding of constructive purposes and wellbeing flows with the religion of truth and love. Within my own consciousness I develop that which is promising and realistic. We have a chance to create a workable faith and religion compatible to support ourselves and our descendants with dignity.

Cheryl Petersen's book is "21st Century Science and Health." She freelance writes on spirituality from Delhi. She can be reached at 4CherylWrites@gmail.com.

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