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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

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