Faith and Religion 9/1/19

Opinion on Religion by Richard Bleil

Previously I’ve blogged about the fact that I’m a minister. Well, honestly, I’m also a saint in the church, but, okay, whatever.

The church is one of those online churches that, for a time, was a tax dodge. There was a time that ministers paid no taxes, so they capitalized on this to sign up ministers. Eventually, the government got wise and decided that ministers have to pay taxes on everything they make except what is made in the execution of their ministerial duties. The church has changed its advertising, for the better in my opinion, saying that you can be married by a loved one if they register to become a minister. Frankly, I believe this is a very sweet thing.

I don’t have a congregation, but I’ve married a few couples over the years. I don’t take religion seriously, but I do take my duties with the gravity they deserve. I am a man of great faith, but I’m not religious. The two often go hand-in-hand, but not necessarily. In fact, I’ve known plenty of people who are religious, but clearly do not have faith, which is very sad.

It’s pretty common these days to read stories of ministers stealing from their congregation. Sometimes it’s overt, sometimes, not so much. In June, the story of a minister stealing $800,000 from a Baptist Church was published. Others are somehow under the legal radar, driving Mercedes and purchasing private jets because they were being sold by a wealthy friend “cheap”. Seriously, do you have any idea how much the upkeep and expense of flying those are? They can be FREE and most of us could never afford them!

Anyway, that’s kind of beside the point. The fact is, churches are businesses. They intentionally make money, but, to be fair, there’s no choice. They must make money in order to stay in business, and they are important to many people, so I can’t really be upset by that. Yes, there are hypocrisies. As far back as the middle ages, the homeless and poor were starving to death on the steps of churches with gold domed roofs. But, such dichotomies aside, churches also do a lot of great work, at least when they’re allowed to do so.

I’ve often thought one of the other roles of religion to be reigning in human habits that are counter to morals or health. Have you ever really read the old testament? There’s a passage in there about segregating those with symptoms of an outbreak from the rest of the community, and avoiding foods with cloven hooves. This is just good health practices, especially in days when proper handling and preparation of pork was dangerously poor. But how to get people to avoid eating foods that lead to illness and avoiding spreading of diseases? The easiest way, of course, is to say it’s a sin.

I’ve been intrigued in how religious people behave who lack faith. You know those jokes that start, “a priest, a rabbi and an atheist walk into a bar…”? The funny thing is that this happens quite a lot among people of faith, and they usually get along very easily. At least true faith.

The priest, the rabbi and the atheist all know what the others believe, and they accept it. This is how faith looks. Faith means that one trusts in God, or the Universe, or whatever you believe, and that everything will work itself out. God will take care of us, and judge others. This means it’s not our job and we can simply accept others and their beliefs as they are without judgment.

I’ve been associated with religious institutions off and on for my entire life. Catholic, Jewish, Seventh Day Adventist and more, and what I’ve truly enjoyed about these institutions was their acceptance of students of all faiths and beliefs. Oh, sure, in these institutions all students, regardless of personal beliefs, had to take certain courses where the intention was to be sure that all students understood their belief structure, but they didn’t try to convert students. It was very cool. I loved debating with the priests and rabbis in a manner wherein we each respected the beliefs of the other. I learned an enormous amount, not only about their faith, but about myself as well.

Churches, however, often preach that theirs is the only true religion. They push to have families all belong to the church, be baptized or otherwise formally brought into the religion, to swear a faith, and that if they ever leave they’re leaving the only pathway into heaven. This is important, though, because without membership, there would be no donations and the church goes out of business.

Religious people who, I assume, lack faith are the most interesting of all. These are the ones that cannot accept people having a belief different from theirs. Worse than that, they often snipe at each other, sniping and judging the other people within their own religion. This probably stems from doubt in their own belief system. If they can convince others that they are correct, then that helps them justify what they believe themselves. So if you don’t agree with me,, then you’re a sinner, and you’re going to Hell. My first lover literally told me, “I can’t believe you’re so stupid as to not be Christian.” Frankly, I can’t call myself Christian because of judgmental Christians like this statement showed her to be.

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