Sunday, February 5, 2012

True Religion

Ingrid and I were strolling through Macy’s on our way to the food court in NorthPark mall. We walked by the men’s cologne section and I decided to stop to see if there was anything new on the shelves. I sniffed around a few things and finally sprayed on a little True Religion. It’s been around for awhile but I liked the scent.

The rest of the afternoon whenever I would get a whiff of the cologne I kept thinking about the whole idea of true religion.

I spent a lot of years studying religion, talking and writing about it, trying to figure out its mysteries and contradictions, its deep thoughts and arbitrary rules, its beautiful ideas and ugly prejudices.

I am a Christian by family tradition, by parental influence, by focused exposure, by environmental coincidence, and as an adult, by choice. Had I grown up in India or Iran, Africa or China, Russia or Israel, I’m sure I would be something else.

I do not believe any of us are destined or foreordained to be a Christian or to follow any specific religion. Nearly all of us are what we are because of where we were born, who our parents were or are, and because of the social influence around us.

And after all of these years of searching and asking questions and trying to figure it out I am convinced there is no true religion. I believe every religion offers fragments of truth about where we came from, who we are, and why we are here. They all give valuable insights into who God is and what it is that God wants for us and from us. You can try to piece together all of those fragments if you want and make that your faith or you can simply settle on a particular religion and find what is in it that helps you be a better person and find meaning in life and stay with that.

Or you can choose to not believe any of it which I respect as well. I can see why people are no longer interested in religion at all. I though remain tempted to stay in the search for some deeper truth.

Christians of course always point out those certain passages in the Bible that say Christ is the only way to God and so convince themselves there is no true religion except Christianity. But you find that in all of the sacred texts. Islam’s the Koran, Judaism’s the Torah, Hinduism’s the Bhagavad Gita, and others all have passages somewhere that claim to have the supreme and sole truth.

There is a great thought out of the Eastern religions that asks, “What has he found who has lost God? And what has he lost who has found God?”

I am fascinated with that statement. I am convinced there can be valid discoveries in both of those questions. And it’s a powerful way to measure one’s religious beliefs.

It seems to me religion offers us a certain vantage point from which to view ourselves and our world. Whatever religion we embrace and follow ought to at least give us insights into who we are and into the world in which we live. It ought to help us understand and respect our differences. It ought to teach us humility and compassion. It ought to show us examples of love. If it only serves to make us think we alone are right about everything, or morally superior to others, or empowered to control the world our way, then it seems to me to have lost any value. It seems void then of any sacredness or divine spark or transcendent truth.

The promotional pamphlet on True Religion cologne says it is “modern and timeless…breaks all the rules” and provides “a darkly rugged feel with a vintage of vibe.”

Well said. In fact, those are the same ingredients I want in the religion I follow.

© 2012 Timothy Moody


  1. What you say is so true. I became a Christian by family tradition. While I was not raised in a strict Christian sense, we did go church on Sundays and I believe my parents always tried to do the right thing and instilled solid, moral values. As a Lutheran, I had the obligatory two years of catechism so I could take communion in the Lutheran church and become a “member”. I was so excited to learn more and understand. I expected the two years of catechism to provide a forum for openness, exploration, and understanding. I never anticipated the ENTIRE focus to be indoctrination of rules, memorization of the 10 Commandments and “what does this mean? We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.” Yes, I see the importance of such things, but shouldn’t there be more? I was looking for an avenue to understanding the “why” and the “what if?” I had so many questions, “if what I am to believe is true, does that mean that people with other beliefs are wrong? Are they going to hell? What about the people who do not know about God? What about the children born into homes without Christian tradition?” Unfortunately, I found out you do not really question in the Lutheran church. My traditional, Lutheran pastor was clearly uncomfortable with a 13 year old asking those kinds of questions. But how can we understand without asking questions? To question is not to challenge, but to gain insight and to seek understanding.

    Twenty-seven years later, I still have so many questions. So, Unclad Soul, I absolutely agree with you. My true religion is one that is willing to question not for the sake of disproving, but for the strength in having a better understanding of not only what I believe, but also the beliefs of others. I want my true religion to give me those insights into who I am and into the world I live in. Yes, above and beyond everything, I want my true religion to show me examples of love. To me, those qualities are without a doubt, “modern and timeless” and clearly, break the rules.

  2. Thanks, Anonymous, for your good thoughts. So open and honest and wise. I really like your last sentence! Your journey as a Lutheran is one many of us from other traditional denominations can identify with. Your questions as a young teen and the ones you have now were and are valid. Keep asking and searching. The answers only come to those who do.