Religion and Faith

I had originally thought I would spend more time thinking and writing about religion than about guns. (There are many people out on the internet writing about guns. A few even know what they are talking about.)

Anyway, I have a lot of thoughts about religion and faith. These thoughts start with some thought about the meaning of the words.

A man who does something religiously may be doing it because he thinks it is necessary to placate the Universe, or the Creator. Or he may do so because he has noted that his life will be much easier in some way if he does that certain thing carefully and regularly.

If he religiously tracks of his expenditures by credit-card is not likely to have problems with his credit-line being maxed out. Nor is he likely to have problems with interest-payments becoming larger than his salary.

Such usage is rarer now than it once was; but it does point to a core meaning. A practice done religiously is something more than a habit, it is often a conscious choice that affects all of a person's life in some way.

Working backwards from the adverb to the noun: a religion is a set of practices that have been chosen. It is the framework for a lifestyle. It reflects a set of values chosen. Often, there is a story that supports or clarifies these values.

This blends over into another usage of the word religion. It is often used to describe a group of people who remember (and re-tell) a specific group of stories. These stories aid in describing the meaning of life, and support actions which seem nonsensical (or counter-productive) to non-members. After all, many Americans tell stories about the King, his life, death, and many devoted followers. But Elvis doesn't have much in the way of moral teaching to follow. Is that a religion, or is it an obsessive fan-base? (Considering the etymology of fan from fanatic, that distinction may not have much value...)

Religion is sometimes used to describe any such group of believers, often with the overt assertion that religion is irrational, meaningless, or actively antagonistic to the good life. A person giving this description will tell a story about good people, evil influence, rescuing the gullible (or the Fallen) from bad influence, and bringing about a better world. If these people weren't so antagonistic to traditional religion, I'd call them religious. (For example, I will mention a biologist named Dawkins.)

Then there's the word faith. In the pejorative, it is often joined with the word blind. In the affirmative, faith is often described in terms of wondrous joy and miraculous power.

And in the descriptive, faith is part of phrases like "full faith and credit." In that sense, it describes a level of trust that is very high, joined with an extension of credit. (Does this make the use of a plastic card issued by Visa as a form of payment an act of blind faith? What about the use of custom-printed cloth notes, endorsed as legal tender by the U.S. Dept. of Treasury?)

I find that religion is common even among the irreligious, and faith is important for a society to function.

Religions remember stories that attempt to explain what the good life is, and the why/how of attaining it. Faith is a kind of trust; it points towards a thing/object/person/idea which is considered helpful, powerful, or useful.

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