S+L logo

Religious: What does that mean?

January 30, 2012
In recent months I’ve had many conversations about what it means to be a “religious” person. Not in the sense of a religious vocation or the priestly life, but as one of the majority of those who profess the Creed from the pews on Sunday – the laity. These conversations have come from across the spectrum, with close friends and first encounters, with young people like me and older generations, with those who enthusiastically practice their faith and those who claim they have no faith to practice. Interestingly, the majority of these conversations occur with people from the last group. I grant that today this group is a majority in our society, especially among young people, but this is not the real point of interest. What is so fascinating about this particular conversation with this particular group of people is the genuine curiosity emanating from them about religion. They have questions.
Of their own point of view many say that it is important to be in touch with our spiritual nature in some form, however each individual chooses to do so. But there is a great skepticism of institutionalized religion, and in particular of the three monotheisms which significantly influence our world: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. This skepticism is especially strong of Catholicism, in part because of the way it’s portrayed in the secular media which seeks to subvert the Church’s influence and tends to thrive on controversy. For this reason, the skeptical point of view is often superficial and seldom based on a critical analysis of the Creed or the history of our tradition. We cannot underestimate the influence of forces at work in our societies which misconstrue the real nature of the Church.
The truth is that many of these people that I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the question of religiosity with have a very limited understanding of Catholicism and the other great traditions which have shaped human history. And in the absence of such knowledge, many have adopted a position of spiritual relativism or scientific materialism. But their genuine curiosity of religious questions seems to suggest a sense of dissatisfaction, perhaps with their own philosophy, and certainly with their current level of understanding. So when the opportunity comes to share my thoughts about what it means to be a “religious” person, I tend to challenge the many misconceptions. And I find that the most meaningful conversations come, not when we discuss fine points of theology, but rather the characteristics of a religious person today. The perception is that such a person is detached from society: primitive in their understanding of modern culture, traditional in their social values, unprogressive, morally stringent, and condemning of other creeds. Evidently it is baffling that someone who goes to church on Sunday might also have been to a hockey game on Saturday or a bar on Friday.
This is the kind of superficial perception that must change if the deeper theological questions are to be discussed meaningfully.  In this sense, the average person who professes no particular faith must be able to relate to the average person who does.  Then, once this connection is made, the conversation can open to any topic including the question of religion and religiosity – the thing everyone seems to want to talk about.
Credit: CNS Photo
Related posts
My Personal Journey Through Lent
Read 'My Personal Journey Through Lent', A Lenten Reflection written by Rosina Di Felice on her personal experiences and goals for this Lenten Season. ...read more
Pope Francis, the death penalty, and the development of doctrine
Pope Francis just did something that few Popes have ever done. He wants to update the Church's teaching on the death penalty. Is this a development of doctrine? ...read more
Deacon-structing Love Part 3: The Family
The last two weeks we’ve been looking at love (part 1 and part 2). Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and to love neighbour (Matthew 22:36-40). He also said we have to lov ...read more
Deacon-structing the Sacred Heart of the Father
I wrote this 5 years ago. This year the Feast of the Sacred Heart falls five days after Father’s Day, but I think of this every year since I first wrote it. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot ...read more
Taking the Gospel of Life to the Streets… in Ottawa and many other cities
Last month on April 11, 2014, Pope Francis addressed the Italian Pro-Life movement with these provocative words: “We know that human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil right rests on the ...read more