Monday, July 16, 2012

Why Religion is a Crappy Hobby

I grew up with Legos.  You know, the plastic bricks with which you could build a plethora of multicolored glorious artworks.  To this very day, I love Legos.  Legos were (and, when I have the chance, still are) one of my favorite hobbies; they were right up there with finding creative ways to use firecrackers and launching model rockets piloted by an unsuspecting grasshopper (who always managed to survive!).   Legos were a hobby, one that brought me much joy, were a great conversation starter, and allowed me a creative outlet that both inspired imagination and didn't involved pyrotechnics.  However, that's all Legos were for me:  A very fun, very good, very passionate hobby.  I would have never died for the good of Legos, nor were Legos a formative source of my life.  I dictated my interaction with Legos, I held the reins of my relationship with Legos, not the other way around.  Don't get me wrong, I really really liked Legos, I got the catalogs and magazines and read them through and through, and when I found a fellow enthusiast, we would chat and build for hours.  But ultimately, I controlled the experience, and I never the experience control me.  Such is the way with any hobbyist's relationship with his hobby.

"I like this.  Rock on"
Such is not, however, the relationship between a man and his religion, however, all too often, that's what it ends up becoming.  More often than not, a man's religion (at least, the religion names) becomes a hobby, and he treats and is expected by others to treat it as such.  Hence the common modern sentiment of religion being a "private affair"  and the party rule that we should never talk about religion or politics.  The public generally tends to view religion as a hobby, typically a very odd hobby (because really, who makes a hobby out of telling single old men your secrets and calling it forgiveness.).  Our culture tells us that our religion is equal to everyone else's religion, that the only difference is purely subjective and they ultimately distill to the same essential values and lessons (which, evidently, one can learn without the usage of religion.)  Hence, when I say someone "I'm Catholic" they are disinterested and when I say  "I'm a committed, hard hitting, live-holy-or-die-trying Catholic" they give me looks reserved for the guy who only leaves his mother's basement for Comic-Con.  Catholics are hobbyists and die hard Catholics are fanatics, or so modern society would suggest.  And, if the last 11 years of fighting terrorism have taught us anything, its that fanatics are dangerous.  Thus, modern society has made religion into a hobby and fanaticism into something frowned upon at least, damnable at worst.

And, for the most part, many people have accepted those terms.  Religion stays in church pews and remains a one day a week affair (or more likely, a one hour a week affair).  We'll turn our thoughts towards religion in Mass, but then we'll quickly check those thoughts at the door (Because once you leave the church, it's perfectly acceptable to flip the bird to that guy who cut you off in the parking lot, irregardless of whether you just shook his hand 15 minutes earlier with the words "Peace be with you").  Even worse, more often than not, religion isn't even our favorite hobby, usually, its our least favorite hobby, one we cling to out of family tradition or insurance for eternity.

I'm going to be blunt here:  Religion is a terrible hobby (especially Christianity).  As C.S. Lewis once said, "I didn't go to a religion to make me "happy".  I always knew a bottle of Port would do that.  If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don't recommend Christianity."  If we choose to make religion, especially Christian religion, a pleasant hobby, a sort of sport for your moral and emotional health that ultimately, you're wasting your time and missing the point.  You cannot wield your faith like a tool for your use.  Faith forms men, not vice versa.

To be completely honest, every man has a religion, whether he realizes it or not, and more often than we'd like to admit, its not the religious preference we put down on census forms.  Every man worships at the feet of something.  Some bow to gods, others bow to men, still others craft their own gods and worship them.  The ancient Druids worshiped trees, many a modern tween-age girl worships Justin Bieber.  You judge which is more ridiculous.  We worship, its what we've always done.  The religion, the true religion of a man is judged by the extent to which he gives his soul to it.  The man who worships money is the man who's soul is driven towards and by money.  The man who roams the world shouting in the forums "God is dead!" has not killed God, but merely made his message his religion, because his soul is invested in that cause.  Man does bow.  As Loki notes in the Avengers, man's natural state is to kneel, even if we think we're standing tall, free and powerful, we're only kneeling to the idea that we are gods ourselves.

If every man is bound to be a religion man, then why not let him be a truly religious man?  Let him worship something worth worshiping, something to satisfy his desire for religion.  He worships at man-made altars, let him worship at the Altar built for men.  He kneels to man-made gods?  Let him kneel to the God who made man.  My point is: if we stopped making ourselves into religions and our religions into hobbies, we'd understand why we have religions, why we are religious, and why our hearts are truly "restless until they rest in thee" (St. Augustine of Hippo, 1600 year old and you've still nailed it!)

 I invite you:  Rather than letting your faith (especially Christian faith) sit on a shelf until Sunday morning (or Saturday night, if Jesus and hangovers just don't mix for you.) make your religion more than a hobby, more than something you keep around for special occasions, more than something you comfort yourself with in hard times and comfort children with before bedtime.  Choose to worship, choose to make your religion your religion, not your pastime.  Commit, surrender, and repeat every moment of everyday for the rest of your life.

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