We want to keep the process of creating the first Religion-Free Bible open, fluid and accessible. More on that later in another post. So, the question came up, what is “religion” and what does “religion-free” really mean?
The word “religion” comes up a lot. It was in the title of my first book, Divine Nobodies: Shedding Religion to Find God (and the unlikely people who help you). It’s in an often-used phrase of mine, “Life is my religion.” Then there’s my latest endeavor – The Religion-Free Bible Project.
Whatever “religion” is, it certainly isn’t one thing we all agree on. For some people, “religion” is a dirty word while others equate religion with profoundly encountering, experiencing and expressing the sacred or divine. Sometimes people think of their particular religious tradition. There are an endless number of meanings people apply to the word “religion,” and it can sometimes shift meanings depending on the context.
The phrase “shedding religion” refers to the journey of deconstructing your faith and letting go or unlearning those mentalities, beliefs, attitudes and actions that corrupt our relationship with ourselves, God, others and life.
When I say, “Life is my religion,” I’m essentially saying that the sacred or divine isn’t something I have to insert into life or go looking for, but is inseparably part of everything, everywhere, everyone and all the time.
Today there was a discussion about what “religion” means with respect to The Religion-Free Bible Project. What is a “Religion-Free” Bible? Inside this context, we distinguished “religion” as an organized process for knowing God or the divine. That’s not to say that this is what religion is. As previously mentioned, religion is many different things to many people. This is just what we mean by the word “religion.” So, the reference to “religion” is a reference to an organized process for knowing God or the divine.
What we mean by “process for knowing God” is a process for things such as: seeking and finding God; overcoming our separation from God; proper conversion for becoming a bona fide child of God; measuring up to the expectations of God; striving to properly align ourselves with the will of God; conforming ourselves to the behaviors or characteristics deemed becoming of a man or woman of God; sin management; training for living a godly life; gaining forgiveness and achieving reconciliation with God when needed; properly relating to people inside and outside one’s religious tradition; etc…
This process often established for knowing God includes disseminating and indoctrinating a certain theology about God, usually a set of beliefs or doctrines, often encapsulated in a creed. It’s also a process that determines a set of practices and behaviors to adopt for knowing God, and organizes them in a system of meetings, programs, classes, activities, buildings and spaces to support them. Religious professionals are hired to develop, implement, manage and oversee this process constructed for knowing God.
“Process” is defined as, “A series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result.” It’s a mindset – all the things we must believe and do to achieve the result of having a relationship with God; all the things we must believe and do to achieve being accepted by God; all the things we must believe and do to achieve being the kind of person God wants us to be; all the things we must believe and do to achieve the fulfillment of God’s purpose for our lives; all the things we must believe and do to achieve staying connected to God and under God’s protection and blessing; all the things we must believe and do to avoid punishment and gain blessing; all the things we must believe and do to attain heaven and spared from hell, etc…
What we mean by “Religion-Free” Bible – is a Bible written without this mentality imposed upon it. What if this process is something we assumed and created, and called it “religion”? What if this process, rather than connecting us with God and the divine, only hinders it?
What if we are seeking to achieve what has already been accomplished? What if we are striving to become what we already are? What if we are working to attain what we already have? What if we are trying to cross a divide that isn’t there? What if we are trying to solve a separation that isn’t real? What if we are trying to find something that is already always present? What if we are trying to measure up when we already do? What if we are falsely dividing up the world in “sacred” and “secular,” and “us” and “them”? What if the whole idea that we have to get somewhere, achieve something, change something, improve something, add something, subtract something in order to have a relationship with God and the divine… isn’t true?
This is the conversation we are having about what “religion” is and what “religion-free” means. Let me reiterate, we are not saying that what has been stated above is actually what religion is. Religion is many different things to many people. This is just an exercise of what we mean by these terms. For the purpose of The Religion-Free Bible Project, we are taking the words “religion” and “religion-free” to mean what I have described above. It’s still a process of clarifying further, but this is a start.