Ever look at a dinner menu and have a difficult time deciding what to eat? My wife and I have eaten out at a local eatery called Standard Pour. More than once I have had trouble picking out what I wanted to eat because I was tempted to try something new, but more often than not, I personally tend to stick with something I know I like. So does my oldest daughter Sarah and my son Jed. My youngest daughter Rebecca, and my middle daughter Beth will usually try something new. My wife? Gloria is the only balanced individual in the family who will try something new now and again, or stick with something she likes.
Some people look at all the options of religions, and consider it a buffet. No surprise when we look the short list of choices: Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Hare Krishna, Judaism, Bahai’, Islam, Scientology, Wicca, New Age, Christian Science, Seventh-Day Adventism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, and Christianity. We have something for everyone, and if you formulate a criteria for choosing a religion you will find one according to your likes, dislikes, and even your political affiliations.
There are three main mistakes that people make when looking for a religion to fit their personality or lifestyle.
• Smorgasbord approach
• Always leads to a picture of God that matches the person doing the choosing
• Rarely requires major changes in lifestyle and allows a God that does not require change
The first mistake is something I touched on up above. People adopt a smorgasbord approach to religion. They survey all the choices and look for something that pleases their palate. Their choice might not be one item, but several that they add to their plate. They might take something from Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, then mix and match and create their own religion. The problem with this strategy is that not all religions can be true. For example, Buddhism believes we are all god, Islam believes in one god, and Hinduism believes in millions of gods. They can’t all be right.
If I asked three men to describe my wife, (assuming they have never seen her), one might say she is 4’2” tall, another might say she is 5’2” tall, and the third might say she is 6’2” tall. Of course it is true they could all be wrong, but it so happens my wife is 5’2” tall. It would be impossible for all of them to be correct.
The second mistake is when people pick a religion based on likes or dislikes, it always leads to a picture of a higher power that matches the person who is deciding what religion works for them. This works well when you pick your boyfriend or girlfriend, or your spouse. You want someone that has many of the same interests you do. Generally you like same movies, books, sports, and other hobbies or activities. Herein lies the problem with that method. Do people go to their doctors to hear what they want to hear, or do they want to hear the truth? Does it matter? Of course it does. If you have cancer and your doctor tells you that you are fine and have nothing to worry about, then that mistake could cost you your life.
If the purpose of choosing a religion it to make you feel better about yourself and the world you live in, then you probably are not interested in the truth. Who would choose a religion that would require them to give to the poor, put others before themselves, argue in favor of life for the unborn, and consider homosexuality a sin? Talk about making yourself unpopular with the current culture! How intolerant! Who are you to tell a woman what she can do with her body? How dare you tell someone who they can love or not love!
If the purpose of picking a religion is to find a reason and purpose to your life, then you should be interested in the truth behind the various religions. You don’t want to pick one because it fits your world view; you want to find one that is founded in truth and then you change your world view to match the truth.
The third mistake people make is finding a religion that matches their lifestyle. For example, if you have the view that all life, plants, animals, and insects are of equal value, then you will not choose Christianity, Islam, or Judaism because they all value human life above all other life.
Having to change your life style, having to disagree with popular opinion and be considered unloving and intolerant is not an easy choice to make. So if the religion you are considering goes against the current culture, or opinions you have on hot topics like abortion or same sex marriage, odds are you will not consider it or even adopt that kind of change without some significant event or shift in your thinking.
If you are seeking truth and considering that one of the world religions might be true, then you need criteria to weigh, and guidelines to help you select the one that has the best answers. Remember you don’t go to a physician to hear what makes you feel better, you go to to hear the truth and by doing so you will find answers and solutions to what ails you. Choosing a religion or world view is no different. If by chance there is only one God, you want to pick the right one.
Others are less concerned with the truth and more concerned about satisfying some deep seated feeling that somehow goes beyond the natural. John Calvin called this desire the ‘sensus divinitatis’ or a sense of the divine. Thomas Aquinas said, “We all have a predisposition to believe in God implanted in us by nature.”1 Others look at this and call it the God gene and do their best to explain this inclination biologically.
In a Huffington Post article, Elizabeth Devita-Raeburn wrote, “I think I’ve got the God gene. (I can’t know for sure; although testing for the gene is pretty straightforward, no one’s doing it commercially right now.) But since I didn’t grow up following a particular religion, I have no ready outlet for my spiritual drive. Which explains, I guess, the hodgepodge of alternatives I’ve dabbled in—the psychics, mediums, and all the rest. Still, through meditation, yoga, and guest appearances at Passover seders, Easter sermons, and Ramadan feasts, I satisfy my spiritual cravings—and likely stay mentally and physically balanced. It’s a bit messy, a little unorthodox—but for me, it’s religion.”2
Does this example look familiar? Sound like something described up above? Is she interested in truth or simply satisfying spiritual cravings?
Ravi Zacharias observed that those in pain or suffering often earnestly seek answers for what they are struggling through. On the flip side, often those in a position of ease, comfort, and pleasure rarely seek God with any sincere convictions. A life of pleasure seems to put the ‘sensus dininitatis’ on hold until there is a need to find answers. Zacharias wrote, “Have you noticed that people who say ‘My life has no meaning’ are rarely ones who suffer real pain? Meaninglessness doesn’t come from being weary of pain but from being weary of pleasure.”3
If you are seeking a religion, do you pick and choose? Do you have some kind of generic faith, the kind of faith that costs less then the name brand? If you are a ‘believer’, then give some thought to what you are believing in. Is it something that allows you to stay the same, something that is acceptable by the current culture? Does your ‘god’ agree with your way of thinking? If so, then give some thought to what kind of god would agree with your perspective and opinions. Is that the kind of God you would want to get behind? Is that someone you would want to praise and honor? Is that kind of God big enough?
1. Stokes, Mitch. A Shot Of Faith To The Head. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. Print.
2. Devita-Raeburn, Elizabeth. “Choosing Your Religion.” Huffington Post. Huffpost.com, 17 November 2011. Web. 10 June 2016.
3. Zacharias, Ravi; Johnson, Kevin. Jesus Among Other Gods. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000. Print.
How Not to Choose a Religion by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.