Sunday, April 22, 2012

True Believer/Make Believer

So I shared an infographic, the World of Religion, showing the breakdown of the world’s religions on Facebook. Most of the comments I received were from my agnostic and atheist friends who were heartened to see the size of their numbers on the chart. One of them remarked that they were gaining on the “make-believers,” a play on the term “true believers.”

Although I didn’t take offense, the phrase did give me pause. Sure, to someone outside of a religious tradition worship practices can seem pretty silly. And it can look like it’s all made up. I’ve seen similar attitudes among practitioners of one faith regarding those of another.

And when we label a group a cult, aren’t we saying that their beliefs aren’t grounded in any theology, but are just “made up?”

I agree that ultimately one’s belief in a deity comes down to faith. Personally, I arrived at my current beliefs based on my background (Methodist), personal experience, and study of both Scripture and related theological writings from theologians such as Bothius, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Bunyan and others.

For me, my religion provides a structure to the world, and a blueprint for how I should develop spiritually. I didn’t make it up, nor did any other one person. Our worship service is carefully structured. Every element is symbolically significant, guided by Scripture. And perhaps because it has that weight of tradition, it feels right, somehow.

Taken collectively, the infographic shows that most people in the world have some type of religious belief system. We seem to have a natural urge to make sense of the world, and look for a higher purpose that might be behind it all.

Make-believe? Perhaps.

But I wonder who put that urge in us in the first place…

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