“Is current religion serving its purpose?” is the 10th question in Matador’s list of “20 Questions For Every Spiritual Seeker”. This is a difficult question, as there are so many different religions. Churches have routinely done amazing, even miraculous things in God’s name, while too often there have been others who misused the trust and passion of their followers to do things most of the rest of us are quite sure God does not condone. These examples always sadden me, regardless of the situation or the religion, as they add to the mistrust and cynicism of religion. But religions, just like governments or communities or any other human-created and human-led institution, are only a reflection of our own simultaneous capacity for both awesome love and abject evil.
So given its capacity for both good and bad, is religion serving its purpose? Let’s first examine the purpose of religion. Webster’s definition of religion is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”. If religion’s purpose is to provide us with a belief system, then it is not possible to pass judgment on how it’s accomplishing that purpose without examining every affected heart. I think the real question is for each of us to answer: Are we getting what we should out of whatever relationship we have with our religion? Our religious institutions are there to meet a universal, human need for meaning. But while churches are there to help us meet that need, they cannot do for us what we cannot or will not do for ourselves. If we are to find that meaning, we must first have some level of openness to finding it. I find this to be perhaps the most ironic paradox of all of life: for us to find the faith to believe, we must first have the faith to believe. This does not mean that there is no hope for us in finding faith, it only means that we may have little hope of finding it until we are first ready to find it. I am very lucky that others ahead of me had that openness and were ready to help lead my way.
“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of that faith is to see what you believe.” –Saint Augustine