Religion is made up; all religion, not just other people’s religions.
Religion is made up. God didn’t choose the Jews, have a baby, or ask Mohammed to recite.
Religion is made up, but Reality is not. Yet religion trumps Reality in the hearts and minds of millions, maybe billions of people.
Religion is made up, but Truth is not. Yet religion blasphemes Truth with self-serving tales of power and exploitation.
Religion is made up. Once you know this it is hard to be religious. You just can’t justify all the rules and ruckus. I know because I keep trying. I keep telling myself religion matters. But it doesn’t.
You know what matters? Love matters. Compassion matters. Justice matters. Peace matters. Humility matters. Nature matters. Truth matters. Reality matters. You matter.
So what do I do when I know religion is made up? First I remember that all philosophy and literature is made up as well. Second I remember that just because Plato invented the dialogues of Socrates, and Shakespeare invented Hamlet and Lear doesn’t mean that Socrates, Hamlet, and Lear don’t speak Truth. Fiction may preclude fact, but in no way does it obscure Truth.
Religion is made up. At its best its stories have the potential to capture our imagination and feed our souls by revealing the best to which we humans can aspire. At its worst it can strip us of our humanity and invite us to make real the darkest fantasies we can conjure. Torah, Gospels, Qur’an, and Gita contain insights of such power, grandeur and wisdom that we say them come from God. They also contain the obscenely violent, misogynist, and xenophobic rants of fearful frightened men climbing to power over the dead bodies of their enemies.
We can’t free religion of either genius or madness, but we can free ourselves from mistaking them both for the Word of God. How? By realizing that religion is made up. No one goes to war over the meaning of Hamlet. No one kills another to decide whom Shakespeare loved best.
If we admit that religion is made up we can enjoy it without being abused by it. If we admit that religion is made up we can honor myth without having to flatten it into fact. If we admit that religion is made up we can shake off the fear and violence it sanctions and address its one timeless message: do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.