I remember as a child growing up that it was a given (in my circle of family and friends, at least) that you were “religious.” You went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night…and the church was what your life revolved around–and the reason you lived the way you did (at least mostly!). Sometimes you wanted to leave it all behind and be the proverbial “bad girl”–but not enough to really follow through on those thoughts.
It was just part of who we were.
So when did religion become a “dirty word”?
Was it when we realized that too often people (especially televangelists, it seems) lived life as “Do what I say, not what I do” experience?
Was it when we began to find out that the ministers and other religious leaders we put up on pedestals had feet of clay? that they were just “normal” people like the rest of us?
Was it when archaeology and scholarship pointed out that some of our beliefs could not really be supported? and our teachers demanded that they must be–creating a gulf between science and religion that persists to this day…and causing us to fear education?
Possibly all of the above…
But I think there’s a more basic reason–at least for Christianity.
Jesus lived at a time when religion was important to his people. There were lots of laws that needed to be kept, if one was going to be truly religious, according to the spiritual leaders. Yet when someone asked him which of the law (or laws) was most important, he focused on only 2 out of the 613. The most important, he said, was to love God with everything we had. The second was to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Then he made the comment that I think is the foundation…that all the law and the prophets hung on these two laws.
I think religion began to become a “dirty word” when we reversed what Jesus said–when we began to focus on all the laws and say that they’re the most important…and that if we live them we’ll somehow learn to love ourselves, each other, and God. “Right beliefs”…”correct doctrine” began to take priority–rather than right relationships with each other.
So can we reverse the process? By focusing on living what Jesus said… Then everything else will (I believe) fall into place.