Religion is most positive to me as a spiritual practice or discipline which reminds us to do our best while accepting our limitations, as per the Serenity Prayer. Great teachers like Moses and Jesus have helped us to understand good values, or what doing our best means in practice.
Most religions and their holy books try to explain big concepts in lay terms, using ancient anthropomorphic stories, metaphors and symbolism, still often valid though requiring modern interpretation. Jesus, as an itinerant teacher of illiterate peasants two millennia ago, may have been the all-time best at this, obviously having a huge influence on not only his contemporaries but on Western thought ever since. I don’t believe he was any more God’s son than the rest of us are God’s children, but I think he was a remarkably gifted rabbi. Rev. Earl Holt helped me to understand that Jesus said “follow me,” and didn’t say, “believe in me.”
In general, I think religion can be helpful in interpreting big concepts in an accessible way. Sadly, however, most religious traditions go too far in promoting dogma which limits spiritual growth, and is divisive. Consider the 30,000 Christian denominations in the US alone, often working against spirituality, or even mental health, by focusing on dogmatic differences, rather than seeking to develop adherents’ own relationships with God. Sadly, dogma inevitably includes flawed human spin, often enforced by fear, with very human objectives, such as concentrating power among a few, usually male, insiders.
To me faith is the opposite of fear… acceptance of what we cannot change balanced with courage to do our best, praying to know God’s will and do it as we can, while reminding ourselves often that our personal control is limited, that God--not our own ego--is the Ultimate Reality.
I love thinking about beliefs and belief systems, and love King’s Chapel’s freedom of conscience. I also love the Anglican language and liturgy (King James Bible, Anglican Book of Common Prayer) of my childhood (Episcopal) tradition, and the beautiful music inspired by Christianity, especially Bach and traditional English-German Protestant hymns. I would love to discuss personal beliefs more at KC and would be truly thrilled if King’s Chapel were to declare itself non-denominational.