Superstitious Religion in an Unfair World

Sometimes I think it’s a strange juxtaposition that we need to believe we are at the same time totally in control of our own destiny, and yet also completely at the mercy of fate.

We do all we can to be sure God is “happy” with us. We work to be good “enough” people in various ways.   It’s as if we are back in the days of offering sacrifices to the gods in the hopes of abating their anger.

The worst part about this superstitious “religion” is how incredibly self-centered it is. It becomes all about doing everything we can to be sure God “blesses” our life. And being self-centered, we believe God is blessing us when we have everything we want in our life.

It’s simple, really. We do good, good comes to us. We don’t do good, bad comes to us.

But just like any other superstition, the whole point becomes to get something.

And just like any other superstition, since it’s not based in reality, every inconsistency has to be explained away.

It’s a system that insists that life IS fair, so when it appears not to be, there is a reason. This self-centered, works based, superstitious religion makes us very judgmental

We can’t stand the idea that we could do everything right and still have bad happen, so we start to blame people for their own hardships.

So, when a good friend loses a child to cancer, instead of realizing that the game of trying to do everything right to get what we want from God isn’t how it works, we secretly blame our friend for obviously doing something wrong. Poor people don’t work hard enough, sick people didn’t take good enough care of themselves, and depressed people don’t think positively enough.

At the same time, we have a totally different reaction to tragedy in our own life. We either write it off as a necessary part of some great plan to make our life better, we are furious that it isn’t “supposed to be this way”, or we believe we somehow did something to deserve it.

There are so many problems with this form of belief, it’s overwhelming. Yet, I truly believe it is the way many, many of us live out our “faith”. We know better than to say we expect life to be “fair”, but it is definitely what the underlying tone is all about.

If you look up the terms Religion, Faith and Superstition in the dictionary and you will find they are amazingly similar – yet not exactly the same. Maybe you’re not a big fan of the term “religion” and so you’re thinking “Religion = Superstition”, but I beg to differ. I am not a fan of the term “religion” either, but the terminology is not the point here.

What is the point? Religion or faith or belief or whatever you want to call it – is meant to make you a better person. It’s meant to connect you with a higher being, a creator. It’s meant to help you understand your place in this world and to learn to love the Creator and the creation, including all the other people. It’s not something that you should practice for the purpose of getting your own way, of going the “right direction” when you die, or having a “good” life including health for you and your family and avoiding any big tragedies. It’s not a game to try to do just well enough at that you don’t fail. It’s not even a game to try to win. It’s not a competition at all.

Here are some thoughts that are floating around in my mind…

God doesn’t bless materially…

If material things are blessings from God, why are so many people around the world living without them? The way God blesses is so much better than “stuff”. Comparing how much “stuff” we have with other people and thinking it determines how “blessed” we are by God is missing the point entirely.

God doesn’t punish anyone for anything anymore…

Jesus paid for all of that. Seriously, that’s what the cross was all about.

We’re already forgiven for anything we have done, are doing or will do…

Again, because of the cross. We are under no obligation to live any certain way, or to do anything including attend church, read the Bible or pray or give to the poor.

Blessings from God look like…

If we really stop to think about it, God blesses with what will last forever. Love, hope, peace, joy. These are the best blessings. We want these, but we run right by them in favor of what we think matters more. Our pursuit of the good life of success – whatever that is to you – stands in the way of what we ultimately desire.

We need to move past living life in the realm of reward and punishment. Doing what’s good and right

and loving for the benefit of others is something we need to focus on consistently, whether we are ever “repaid” for it, or not.

The good news? God’s love isn’t conditional upon our behavior. No amount of “good” or “bad” behavior is going to change how he feels about us.

The bad news? There are tragedies that come to all of us in life, whether you believe in God or not. There is no magical way to avoid it. God has only promised to help us through. No way to work our way into being a “favorite” of God. No way to be considered more special than anyone else in this world.

God loves us all the same. Every one of us. Every. One.

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6 thoughts on “Superstitious Religion in an Unfair World

  1. Love your general perspective on our relationship with God. However, here are a few things for your consideration:
    (1) We are not at the mercy of fate. We have free will which is god’s gift to us. What we do with it, is our gift to God.
    (2) It’s true that God doesn’t punish anyone anymore. However, he never did! The concept of Original Sin and punishment was the creation of man, not too dissimilar to the fact that man invented God in his own image.
    (3) Yes, we are already forgiven for everything that we are going to do. However, there are consequences for our actions. It’s the universal law of Cause and Effect or as the Bible says you reap what you sow.

    It’s true that people generally don’t have a very clear picture of God (he’s not an ATM). The problem is that their understanding of God comes from the Bible and the god of the Bible is not truly God.

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    • I totally agree that we have free will. I just find it interesting that people want to say we do until something doesn’t go well – and then it’s somehow “fate”‘s fault. I also totally agree that we suffer consequences for our own actions. Most of what we blame fate or God for is usually from our own decisions. I find it interesting, though, that you say the God of the Bible is not truly God. We have to take our belief about God from somewhere. Do you find other religious writings more reliable?

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  2. “God doesn’t punish anyone for anything anymore…” I know it and I believe it, but I’m still trying to understand it. It’s so easy for me to fall back into assuming that I can control everything in my life and that if something has gone wrong it’s obviously because I made a mistake or failed somewhere. Especially when it comes to judging my neighbor.

    Great perspective on what God blesses with. Reorienting your life to what God deems as priorities is a continuous motion. Probably like a compass in a steel lined room looking for it’s true north. (I like that line I may have to use it later. :)) I think this might also be a bit of the answer on why I am developing such a trigger to all the comments about being #blessed when it’s a trivial meaningless thing that has happened. For a while now I’ve been struggling with the thought that just like you can’t attribute all ‘bad’ things to God, you shouldn’t be able to attribute ‘good’ things to God. I just didn’t know how to say it. Maybe the way to define it is to understand what ‘good’ really is – which is what you were pointing out. I’m not blessed because Starbucks gave me a large (is that grande?) instead of a small (tall?) – I just experienced a situation that pleased me. I’m actually blessed because someone cut in front of me in the line and I had an opportunity to develop patience and grace. And if you are really aligning your priorities with God, that situation would please you as well. I guess in that moment we would experience that topsy-turvy world called the Kingdom and experience the Gospel first hand.

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  3. Wow – love your thoughts on this. Yes – I also cringe when I hear stories about how “God” gave someone a parking spot or a downpayment for a house when there are people around the world – and around the corner – that don’t have money for food. I believe God cringes at being so badly misrepresented that way, too..

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