How Not to Choose a Religion

How Not to Choose a Religion

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Ever look at a dinner menu and have a difficult time deciding what to eat? I have eaten out at a local eatery called Standard Pour. More than once I have had trouble picking out what I wanted to eat because I was tempted to try something new, but more often than not, I personally tend to stick with something I know I like. So do my oldest daughter Sarah and my son Jed. My youngest daughter, Rebecca, and my middle daughter, Beth, will usually try something new.

So Many Choices

Some people look at all the options of religions, and consider it a buffet. No surprise when we look at the short list of choices: Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Hare Krishna, Judaism, Bahai’, Islam, Scientology, Wicca, New Age, Christian Science, Seventh-Day Adventism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, and Christianity. We have something for everyone, and if you formulate a criteria for choosing a religion you will find one according to your likes, dislikes, and even your political affiliations.

There are three main mistakes that people make when looking for a religion to fit their personality or lifestyle.
• Smorgasbord approach
• Always leads to a picture of God that matches the person doing the choosing
• Rarely requires major changes in lifestyle and allows a God that does not require change

The first mistake is something I touched on up above. People adopt a smorgasbord approach to religion. They survey all the choices and look for something that pleases their palate. Their choice might not be one item, but several that they add to their plate. They might take something from Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, then mix and match and create their own religion. The problem with this strategy is that not all religions can be true. For example, Buddhism believes we are all gods, Islam believes in one god, and Hinduism believes in millions of gods. They can’t all be right.

If I asked three men how tall Liv, one of my 8th grade students was, (assuming they have never seen her), one might say she is 4’2” tall, another might say she is 5’2” tall, and the third might say she is 6’2” tall. Of course it is true they could all be wrong, but what if she was 5’2″ tall? It would be impossible for all of them to be correct.

Pick What You Like

The second mistake is when people pick a religion based on likes or dislikes, it always leads to a picture of a higher power that matches the person who is deciding what religion works for them. This works well when you pick your boyfriend or girlfriend, or your spouse. You want someone that has many of the same interests you do. Generally, you like the same movies, books, sports, and other hobbies or activities. Herein lies the problem with that method. Do people go to their doctors to hear what they want to hear, or do they want to hear the truth? Does it matter? Of course it does. If you have cancer and your doctor tells you that you are fine and have nothing to worry about, then that mistake could cost you your life.

If the purpose of choosing a religion is to make you feel better about yourself and the world you live in, then you probably are not interested in the truth. Who would choose a religion that would require them to give to the poor, put others before themselves, argue in favor of life for the unborn, and consider homosexuality a sin? Talk about making yourself unpopular with the current culture! How intolerant! Who are you to tell a woman what she can do with her body? How dare you tell someone who they can love or not love!

If the purpose of picking a religion is to find a reason and purpose for your life, then you should be interested in the truth behind the various religions. You don’t want to pick one because it fits your worldview; you want to find one that is founded in truth, and then you change your worldview to match the truth.

Match Your Lifestyle

The third mistake people make is finding a religion that matches their lifestyle. For example, if you have the view that all life, plants, animals, and insects are of equal value, then you will not choose Christianity, Islam, or Judaism because they all value human life above all other life.

Having to change your lifestyle, having to disagree with popular opinion, and being considered unloving and intolerant is not an easy choice to make. So if the religion you are considering goes against the current culture or opinions you have on hot topics like abortion or same-sex marriage, odds are you will not consider it or even adopt that kind of change without some significant event or shift in your thinking.

If you are seeking truth and considering that one of the world religions might be true, then you need criteria to weigh, and guidelines to help you select the one that has the best answers. Remember you don’t go to a physician to hear what makes you feel better, you go to to hear the truth and by doing so you will find answers and solutions to what ails you. Choosing a religion or worldview is no different. If by chance there is only one God, you want to pick the right one.

Others are less concerned with the truth and more concerned about satisfying some deep seated feeling that somehow goes beyond the natural. John Calvin called this desire the ‘sensus divinitatis’ or a sense of the divine. Thomas Aquinas said, “We all have a predisposition to believe in God implanted in us by nature.”1 Others look at this and call it the God gene and do their best to explain this inclination biologically.

The God Gene

In a Huffington Post article, Elizabeth Devita-Raeburn wrote, “I think I’ve got the God gene. (I can’t know for sure; although testing for the gene is pretty straightforward, no one’s doing it commercially right now.) But since I didn’t grow up following a particular religion, I have no ready outlet for my spiritual drive. Which explains, I guess, the hodgepodge of alternatives I’ve dabbled in—the psychics, mediums, and all the rest. Still, through meditation, yoga, and guest appearances at Passover seders, Easter sermons, and Ramadan feasts, I satisfy my spiritual cravings—and likely stay mentally and physically balanced. It’s a bit messy, a little unorthodox—but for me, it’s religion.”2

Does this example look familiar? Sound like something described up above? Is she interested in truth or simply satisfying spiritual cravings?

Meaninglessness

Ravi Zacharias observed that those in pain or suffering often earnestly seek answers for what they are struggling through. On the flip side, often those in a position of ease, comfort, and pleasure rarely seek God with any sincere convictions. A life of pleasure seems to put the ‘sensus dininitatis’ on hold until there is a need to find answers. Zacharias wrote, “Have you noticed that people who say ‘My life has no meaning’ are rarely ones who suffer real pain? Meaninglessness doesn’t come from being weary of pain but from being weary of pleasure.3

If you are seeking a religion, do you pick and choose? Do you have some kind of generic faith, the kind of faith that costs less then the name brand? If you are a ‘believer’, then give some thought to what you are believing in. Is it something that allows you to stay the same, something that is acceptable by the current culture? Does your ‘god’ agree with your way of thinking? If so, then give some thought to what kind of god would agree with your perspective and opinions. Is that the kind of God you would want to get behind? Is that someone you would want to praise and honor? Is that kind of God big enough?

 

Sources:
1. Stokes, Mitch. A Shot Of Faith To The Head. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. Print.
2. Devita-Raeburn, Elizabeth. “Choosing Your Religion.” Huffington Post. Huffpost.com, 17 November 2011. Web. 10 June 2016.
3. Zacharias, Ravi; Johnson, Kevin. Jesus Among Other Gods. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000. Print.

 

Creative Commons License
How Not to Choose a Religion by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

 

Two and Out

Reading Time: 5 minutesTwo and Out. That is a wrestling term I have learned since my son Jed started wrestling in High School. It is referring to wrestling tournaments in which a wrestler who has two losses is out of the tournament. The past couple days were both a two and out for he and I. We both went to Sacramento for wrestling, but I also went to visit some Hindu temples in Sacramento to chat with the Pandit, (priest), and inquire about their religion, beliefs, practices, and how it compares to Christianity.

We were up about 4 AM and I drove him early to school. The team left before 6 AM, but I left a few hours later, after a relaxing morning with some coffee and some time spent Googling the location of a couple Hindu temples. The first one was the Laxmi Narayan Mandir Temple on Elder Creek Rd in South Sacramento off of Highway 99. Laxmi Narayan Temple

When I arrived, the parking lot was about empty, and it looked like there was some construction work going on in the back of the temple. I walked up to a side entrance where a door was slightly ajar. I also noticed quite a few pairs of shoes and sandals outside the door. I quietly opened the door and peered in to a very large carpeted room. Toward the front of the room was a large gold statue, (Vishnu, one of their main gods), very ornate and decorated. Several people were near the front in some kind of ceremony, so I quietly shut the door and retreated.

I walked around the building in the hopes of finding an office or someone I could ask about talking to their head Pandit, but no luck. After walking around, the only activity was in the large room that I first peeked into. So I returned, took off my shoes, and walked in.

What had been going on seemed to be over and I only saw two gentlemen in Hindu garments sitting across the room on a raised platform. I walked across the room smiling and asked if there was someone here I could ask some questions of about their religion. One of the men got up and walked toward me with a rather guarded expression on his face. I stuck out my hand, smiled, and introduced myself. He walked up to me, facing me squarely, and said, “Yes?” while crossing his arms, letting me know he had no intention of shaking my hand. His expression? Probably the same you would give a stranger who just walked up to your child and offered them some candy and ride in their car: angry distrust. My hand was left hanging for a moment and I dropped it. My expression must have changed as we were looking at each other for a long moment, when suddenly he folded his hands together as if in prayer and gave a couple quick, short bows. “Yees, yees” he said. “Pleased to meet you, pleased to meet you.” In a very heavy Hindu accent.

I thought I might as well just spell it out so as not to waste any time. I replied, “I am a Christian and I would like to talk to someone here about this temple and the Hindu religion.” He explained in a very heavy Hindu accent that if I came back Sunday, I could talk to someone who spoke better English. I explained that I lived a couple hours away and would not be back any time soon. He replied that he could answer my questions and just stood there looking at me, arms folded across his chest again. Since I was not planning on a short interview, I asked him if we could sit down and I motioned to some chairs along a wall. I was trying to look as non-threating as possible, since he had left my handshake hanging in midair. I am sure my expression was not one of loving kindness, and I had some ground to make up. He agreed and we sat down, his arms still folded across his chest.

I asked him some personal questions first. Things like:
-Have you been a Hindu all your life?
-Is everyone in your family a Hindu?
-Were you born and raised in India?
After just a few questions like that, he visibly relaxed. I was genuinely interested and did not have to feign a curiosity for him and his life. I am sure he sensed that and was quite willing to share with me, but I had a very difficult time understanding most of his replies. He was born in India and had been raised in a Hindu family. He had been a Hindu all of his life and so was everyone in his family. There was more, but I could not understand him.

I motioned to the statue in the front of the room, and asked if that was one of their gods. He said it was Vishnu and explained to me that they had one god, (this surprised me), but gave an analogy to explain what he meant. He said that some people wear gold earrings, some people wear gold bracelets, some wear gold necklaces. They are all made of gold, but all are different items. This, he said, was the relationship of Vishnu and the other gods. He also explained that they come several days a week to pray to Vishnu and to other gods and that is what they had been doing. He spoke on this for two or three minutes, but unfortunately, I could not understand most of what he said. I can’t complain since his English was a whole lot better than my Hindi.

When he was done, he got up and I thought he was probably more comfortable standing, but I had been concentrating so hard on what he was saying, I had not seen several people come back into the room, preparing for more prayers. It was time for me to go. I thanked him for his time and left with the stares of several people following me out.

My 2nd attempt at locating a Hindu temple the next day took me away from the wrestling tournament. After driving around for well over an hour, I located the Vrindavan Dhaam, but it was not a temple. It was a residence. Unfortunately, the parking was non-existent and I had already missed several matches and was pressed for time to get back. I drove around looking for a place to park, but each cookie cutter house had only one spot in front for a parked car and they were all taken. I was done. Two and out. I am planning on returning for another go, but this time I will call ahead and try to chat with someone ahead of time and set up an appointment.

My son Jed won his first two matches, but then lost the next two, so he was out. I returned and pick him up and we headed home.

Why am I visiting some Hindu temples? With all I have been reading about my Christian faith and the evidence for it, I want to talk to others about their religions and see what evidence they have, what beliefs they hold, what answers they have for some of the tough questions religions have to answer and share it here.

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