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What is religion?

Lisa Oz
Health Education

The Latin root religio means "to bind fast." There are lots of ways in which modern religions attempt to bind us. Ritual, collective history, mythology, and social dictates all serve to solidify our attachment. My question here is, "To what?" If the purpose of an organization is to help us conjoin with God on a profound inner level, then I'm all for it. If instead its objective is to help us identify more firmly with a particular group, tribe, or set of opinions, excluding all others, then I'm not sure I want to be bound.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-religion at all. If I'm anti-anything, it's the narrow-mindedness and personal ambition of people who manipulate religion to further their own aims. And of course, there's always a Bible-toting sociopathic killer, who gives anyone wearing a cross a bad name. Like anything powerful, religion can be abused by both individuals and groups to control, repress, and persecute those who threaten them. That doesn't mean religion itself is bad. I'm always slightly annoyed by people who try to discredit Christianity by pointing to the Inquisition and the Crusades, or think Islam is violent based on the behavior of a few radical sects. In my opinion, they might as well ban sex because of rape and incest.

Much of the way we practice religion today merely increases our ego identification rather than freeing us from it. Religion becomes a means of building false confidence and not a path of surrender and trust. Worst of all, it's used to separate us from our fellow men instead of bringing us into closer relationships.

This sort of faith tends to be based on fear - fear of the unknown, fear of "the other," and fear of who we truly are. Rather than addressing their insecurities, fearful people claim salvation and continue to act with hatred. They pinpoint the faults of others to avoid dealing with their own. There's a cool word I just learned that describes this exactly: antinomianism. It means "using God's grace as an excuse to sin."

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.