I looked and, guess what, there are a lot of definitions and opinions as to what religion is. Imagine that.
To quote the sarcastic Iago (go way back to Aladdin) “I think I am having a heart attack from not surprised.”
However, the way people use the word today has given it a definition that is helpful for the whole “God” conversation. Let me explain…
Imagine that I decide to buy my wife some flowers, but I am not sure what to get for her (this would not happen, since I know what her favorite flowers are, but pretend with me). So imagine that I started asking around to figure out what flowers to get her.
So, let’s envision me asking my friends, the men I meet with every week, my family, etc. They all have ideas. “Roses are always a winner,” “carnations are cheaper and last longer,” “get her something more exotic, like iris’s,” “Wildflowers are perfect…” and so on.
This is religion.
I think the best definition for “religion” is something along the lines of “humans trying to figure out what God wants.” Something like that.
If that is the definition, then it makes perfect sense why we treat it the way we do… as if everyone’s opinions were equally valid (or invalid) to everyone else’s… because by this definition, they are! Maybe you could argue that someone would come up with some valid reasons (carnations are cheaper, roses communicated love in the romantic era, etc.) but no matter what information or opinions that my advisors have, unless they have a very specific insight…
So, who’s opinion would matter (as to what kind of flowers are my wife’s favorite)? ONLY ONE PERSON’S.
As to a question of her opinion on ANY matter, only her opinion of her opinion matters. Everyone else’s opinions are equally valid and invalid.
Now, if someone had special insight into my wife’s opinion, if they had heard it from her before, then (and only then) could their opinion be a guide for me. If they happened to say the same thing she did, then they would be right (even if by luck)… and if they chose something different from her, then they would be wrong.
Until we knew her opinion, though, no one gets to be sure of being right or wrong, as I can see it… and so long as we are only at the stage of religion, of each person’s opinion, we are stuck with the way we talk about it now. It makes total sense, that most people think of God as NOT HAVING AN OPINION, so that no matter what we do, it is impossible to be any more or less right or wrong than anyone else! This way of thinking is only true IF God doesn’t have an opinion as to how to love, serve, worship, live in a way pleasing to Him.
Years ago, I stopped being impressed or even interested in human being’s opinions on God, and instead started studying to see who, or what, if anything, had any insight into God’s opinions on things, since then I would have the standard I needed for figuring out the right flowers to get, so to speak.
This also protects me from any excuses created by my understanding of other humans.
If a minister or a member of a “religion” is a hypocrite or even a monster, I don’t have to throw out the belief that way… nor does the number of followers affect me… if 99% of the people said I should get my wife roses, since those would be her favorites, then 99% would have been wrong. I am searching for truth, not consensus.
As should be obvious, given my proclaimed faith in the work of Jesus Christ (explained in plenty of other articles and blogs), I consider that the Holy Bible has the best and most reliable insights into God’s opinions and insights into Himself. There is plenty there that I don’t get, to be sure, but my understanding is a work in progress as well.
Maybe at one time, religion was better defined as “trying to figure out what God’s opinions are…” and some faithful of one view or another still sees it that way… but I really think that most Westerners at least, think of it as “one opinion or another about God.”
We must be aware that this is what most people around us think of when they hear “religion.”
By the way, if you would have chosen tulips in the spring, and lilies (or maybe iris’s) at other times, you would have been right.