Interesting results from a survey into Australia’s religious beliefs, indicating that whatever Australians call ourselves when asked by the census, what we actually believe is much more personal and varied – no matter what some might like to claim.
We’re coming up to a day that for many people is the only day of the year – or one of only two days – on which they remember the faith they check on the census form. Hey kids, it’s the day we go to church! And then there are those for whom it does have great religious significance – so much so that it makes them angry that anyone could celebrate the occasion without any attachment to the religious meaning their ancestors added to it when they took a pagan event and gave it a new name. They even see declining to call it “Christmas” as a personal affront and call it a “war” on their beliefs.
But it seems like there are a lot of different versions of any given religion, even beyond the official variations. I know people who call themselves “Christian” but don’t actually think Jesus Christ was literally God in human form. Or who say they believe in God but what they mean by that is a sort of guiding presence in nature, rather than an immortal all-powerful omnipotent being who interacts with human beings in the quietness of their minds – and who judges them according to a set of arbitrary rules laid down in a particular religious text. I know many who have, like the survey suggests, an eclectic mix of beliefs that you’d think were largely incompatible, and the way they reconcile them is by ignoring the parts they don’t like.
I’m curious – are there any readers of this blog who consider themselves Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or whatever, but don’t necessarily hold to the fundamental beliefs on which the administrators of that religion publicly insist? If you’ve added parts in from other religions, or other sources, which bits have you chosen, and how do you reconcile them? I know it’s generally considered not the sort of thing you discuss over the dinner table, but we’re all friends/anonymous pseudonyms here, and we’re all muddling through the issue together.
Even fervent believers can get confused which event they’re celebrating
As I’ve written before, I abandoned the religion with which I grew up because ultimately I couldn’t convince myself that it was real, that it made sense. That God would create minds that could reason and then tell us to abandon that reason on the most fundamental question of existence. That a God that loves us would decide how we spend eternity based on whether we guessed right on an impossible riddle. That I wasn’t just fooling myself because I desperately wanted this short life not to be all that there is.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that I’m absolutely convinced of the opposite, either. The only thing I’m confident of is that it’s impossible to be certain. As a bumper sticker on the back of my car used to declare – “Militant agnostic. I don’t know and you don’t either!”
Of course, that’s why they call it “faith”. Still, it always surprises me how little you can tell from what religion a person claims to follow, about what they actually believe on the questions of life, the universe and everything.