Losing My Religion

The PBS exploration of the Question of God through the iconic personalities of Freud and C.S. Lewis, combines a look at their life stories interspersed with a panel discussion on the issues of the “leaving, staying and returning” humans do in regards to their religion. It is a must see and if you missed it you can buy it from PBS.

Family, the dogma of one’s childhood religion, personal life experiences, scriptural interpretation, mentors, education a whole complex of factors play a role in the decision to stay in or leave one’s religion.

My own conclusion is that when people leave their religion it is usually due to internal or external factors they are unable to reconcile with their religious tradition. Freud thought religion and science were irreconcilable. Lewis thought the death of his mother could not be reconciled. Each left religion, but one came back. Asking how and why that happened is important as we consider our own choices and those of people we love and care about.

This much is certain, when God is not central, humans will worship something else. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way: “A person will worship something, have no doubt about that¢â‚¬¦ We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character¢â‚¬¦ Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming”

Look no further than REM’s “Losing my Religion” and you see what Emerson means. The religion REM is losing is a romantic attachment romance had become religion. The same religion has taken center stage in STING’s life (photo above). In “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You” he reports, “You could say I lost my faith in science and progress¢â‚¬¦You could say I lost my belief in the holy church¢â‚¬¦You could say I lost my sense of direction..You could say all of this and worse; but If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do.”

More recently in post 9/11 he explores a return to Jesus in “Dead Man’s Rope,” but also pumps out “Sacred Love” which is perhaps the fullest lyrical alignment of religion as replaceable by human love. Look at the lyrics and identify how much religious language he hijacks:

Take off those working clothes
Put on these high heeled shoes
Don’t want no preacher on the TV baby
Don’t want to hear the news

Shut out the world behind us
Put on your long black dress
No one’s ever gonna find us here
Just leave your hair in a mess
I’ve been searching long enough
I begged the moon and the stars above
For sacred love

I’ve been up, I’ve been down
I’ve been lonesome, in this godless town
You’re my religion, you’re my church
You’re the holy grail at the end of my search
Have I been down on my knees for long enough?
I’ve been searching the planet to find
Sacred love

The spirit moves on the water
She takes the shape of this heavenly daughter
She’s rising up like a river in flood
The word got made into flesh and blood
The sky grew dark, and the earth she shook
Just like a prophecy in the Holy Book
Thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not doubt that this love is real
So I got down on my knees and I prayed to the skies
When I looked up could I trust my eyes?
All the saints and angels and the stars up above
They all bowed down to the flower of creation
Every man every woman
Every race every nation
It all comes down to this
Sacred love

Don’t need no doctor, don’t need no pills
I got a cure for the country’s ills
Here she comes like a river in flood
The word got made into flesh and blood
Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill
But if you don’t love her your best friend will

All the saints up in heaven and the stars up above
It all comes down, it all comes down
It all comes down to love,

Take off your working clothes
Put on your long black dress
And your high heeled shoes
Just leave your hair in a mess

I’ve been thinking ’bout religion
I’ve been thinking ’bout the things that we believe
I’ve been thinking ’bout the Bible
I’ve been thinking ’bout Adam and Eve
I’ve been thinking ’bout the garden
I’ve been thinking ’bout the tree of knowledge, and the tree of life
I’ve been thinking ’bout forbidden fruit
I’ve been thinking ’bout a man and his wife
I been thinking ’bout, thinking ’bout Sacred love, sacred love:

Nobel Laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn poignantly describes the obsession the human ego has with itself, “the Universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it.”

Ultimately every departure from religion involves a human self, displacing one God with another. Choose wisely.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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