God yes but religion no? PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 February 2017 11:29

REFLECTION

 

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

 

WE have to be clear about this. We cannot have God without religion. They go together as far as we are concerned. Religion is precisely our relationship with God. It’s an unavoidable thing, whether we like it or not. It has its laws and requirements that flow from God himself and that ought to be followed. Without religion, what would God be to us?

There are some people who profess that they believe in God but not in religion. Perhaps what they mean is that they indeed believe in God but do not want to be hampered by certain “requirements” that religion demands from them. Or they do not want what they call as “organized religion” with its doctrine and practices.

It’s like saying that they want a God that is according to their own liking, their own designs, their own terms. They do not want to be told what to do in their own so-called relation with God.

Of course, they are quick to say that these “requirements” are simply man-made, or are mere legalisms that really have nothing to do with the essence of our relation with God. They seem to be the only ones capable of knowing how their relation with God should be. No one should intervene.

Worse, they are quick to point out the many inconsistencies that people who occupy positions in the Church and those who call themselves as pious, holy and religious make, to justify their rejection of their own idea of religion. They are deflecting the issue, as if the mistakes and sins of these men and women detract from the objective need for religion.

This is unfortunate because such understanding of God and religion is fatally flawed. While religion is personal in the sense that it is unique to each individual, it is also personal in the sense that it is by definition relational and subject to the laws of God and the laws that the divinely founded Church stipulates.

To be personal is not only to be a unique individual but also to be related to God and to everybody else. A person is always a religious and social being. That is how a person is wired, and in these relations, there are universal God-given laws that need to be followed.

Of course, these laws are articulated in human terms and therefore cannot fully capture the mysterious laws of God. That is why they need to be updated, improved, polished, enriched, etc. as time goes on. But they have to be followed just the same, unless it’s clear that a particular law does not apply to a concrete situation of the person.

Some people say that they believe in God but they do not want to do anything with the Church. But God without the Church is not God. He would be a man-made god. The bishop-martyr St. Cyprian expresses this truth well: “You cannot have God as your Father if you do not have the Church as your mother.”