Religion And Associated Factors

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There are too many denominations. I view this as at times
impractical. Think of the groups that could use
one building and the waste of space and time as
these churches sit empty for most of the week
except Sunday and Wednesday night prayer meeting.

Different denominations are based on differences
in creeds or some other aspect of religion like
different forms of church government. But how
valid are some of the differences by which we
justify creeds?

Let me give you an example. The name of the
denomination will remain unknown. The big
creedal difference is that one group believes
that after death a person sleeps until Judgment
Day. The other denomination believes a person
goes to Heaven immediately upon death. Now
that is the big difference, the justifying
articles their denominations are based on.

Now I ask you, what difference does it make?
You don’t know which is right until you’re dead, while
the one way or the other in belief makes absolutely
no difference in their life style while living. I
suggest that is not enough difference to justify
a denomination.

Of course there might be subtle and devious additional
economic, class, regional, geographic differences
that nobody is really open about, so some different
item in creed is found, or created, and put forward
to hang the real reason on. Yes, churches do this.

This ability to stitch genuinely held religious
creedal differences to economic, class, regional,
geographic differences makes religion at times into
a crazy quilt that is very, very difficult to understand.

One problem is that in religious circles intellectual creedal
differences are considered respectable if impractical,
while practical reasons (nationalism, regionalism,
economics, class and others) are not considered
respectable. So they are not talked about.

It bothers me no little that we have to stick to
ideals or creeds in talking religion while the possibly truer
reasons, the practical ones, cannot be talked about because
of the tyrannical curtain of idealism that seems to dominate
social thought in the declining West. Honesty Not Allowed.

The result is it is practically impossible to talk about
religion honestly. Reasons that are practical but valid
will be denied vociferously, but reasons that are minor
creedal items will be put forward. Talking religion
is like playing a game of Blind Man’s Bluff. One is groping
around with mysterious strangers who cannot identify themselves.

The newspapers, being both superficial and liberal (the two
go together in my book) always blame it on religions: Religious
Wars. Usually a thorough investigation would show much
of the problem is caused by class, economics, geography,
and an unbelievable variety of other factors.

For example, in the early Middle Ages, the Eastern
Orthodox faith and the Roman Catholic faith struggled
over the “filioque,” a doctrine about if the the Holy Ghost
proceeded from the Father and the Son or a union
thereof. The creedal item was simply a token representation
of the fact the East and West were different societies
and largely despised each other. Provincial hate was
riding the back of religion or using it as a mask
to murder behind. Nothing new. It’s here today too.

The same thing or variations on the same theme go on today.
Original sin stays with us. The same mind set is going on
today. If the parties of that time have vanished, their
same strategies are marching on in newly named parties.
Human nature changes not.

However, I am sure you are wise enough to notice this
same thing is common to other aspects of human nature
beside religion. In America we have wide scale
hypocrisy. La Rochefoucauld, the French writer of
aphorisms, said hypocrisy was the homage vice paid
to virtue. Hypocrisy is everywhere with us today.

No one can be honest about their racial feelings anymore.
If they could, we might be able to solve more racial problems.
But it is not just race. The tyranny of imposed liberal idealism
on ambiguous, amorphous reality is everywhere. Someone
mentioned to me that if she said what she truly thought
on some subjects, she might be burned in the public
square. It is as if the Spanish Inquisition has
won at last. Or the principles of the Spanish Inquisition
have been accepted and transferred. And anyone who
violates the tyranny of idealism is a modern day
heretic who must be imprisoned, squashed or quashed.
The mind view changes. The delighted schadenfreude if
those differing from us are punished remains.

Today instead of burning, there happens some
social ostracism. I, on the other hand, am sure the Church
should stand up for the sinners right to hate as long as no
violence or harm is done.

Who started this idea God cannot win over the Devil in a free
market of discussion? Truth and God will win, it just takes
longer. So in patience, possess ye your souls. If we suppress
what we disagree with, how will the truth we do not know be
known? No one or group can know all there is to know. We are
too finite. God is too infinite. We have small minds.
God’s is bigger, far bigger, a galactic spread.

It was Augustine of Hippo who said to start the Inquisition,
“if you love them, burn them.” Do you think Jesus would
agree with that? Nonsense. I suggest Jesus would say to
love them, but let them babble. Sooner or later they
will grow up and talk themselves out of it. Or they
will talk enough rope to hang themselves. But
when they talk ugly, do not react by being ugly. Then
look at what a few words would have done to you. God
would rather you let them talk ugly than you be ugly.

The point I am trying to make is religion is a great
human resource, but it can be very confusing. It is
not enough to believe in a faith. You must think
morally about that faith. You must sort out what is
religion and what is riding the back of religion.
In a land of so many class churches, you ought
to be able to figure some things out immediately.
What is religion and is what is riding the back of
religion a spiritual figure or a grotesque?

I would not have you think that since I see guilt
by association of creeds with other variables that
I am for one massive universal Christian organization.
No, not at all. Denominations should be like bricks in a wall.

Some major items in creeds do justify the existence of
different denominations and faiths. I have no wish to be part
of a cemented universal monolithic super-organization that
thinks it is infallible on faith and morals. Unity cannot be
bought at the expense of sanity.

But we can see things uniquely and be supportive of one
another, learning possibly the single most important lesson needed
to be learned by a modern world: to tolerate. Tolerate does
not mean to be alike. It means to exist with and be properly
concerned, as spiritual people should, about one another’s well


Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.