Religion as Language

My faith is evolving from a religion of revealed truth to a religion of language and symbol. The faith of my childhood and young adulthood – taking for granted that a personal God is real, that scripture is God breathed, and that there is an after life – is now effectively dead. I question all of that, now. I don’t know what happens after I die, but I think “nothing happens” is the most likely answer. My understanding of God has expanding into something so abstract and impersonal that I can hardly call it God at all, and the personal God of my old faith is long gone.

All of this is hard for me. When I first encountered these irreversible deaths they did, indeed, feel like deaths. I felt like I was watching the death of my beloved grandmother all over again. I didn’t know how I was to live, think, or breathe without a personal God guiding my step.

And yet, I now find myself in church more than I ever have before. I find myself reading Scripture, praying, and even still speaking in tongues. I still feel the presence of God, though I know that it might all be in my head.

Somehow, even without faith and without belief in the supernatural, my religion lives on.

It is because of this that I still call myself a Christian. These practices are imbedded so deep that even without God they live on. Perhaps this is what I’ve needed and wanted the whole time, any way: a guiding myth and symbol, a tradition and cultural identity, but one that allows me the skepticism and scientific worldview that I so value. Perhaps I need religion, but not a personal God.

The fundamental shift in my religion is this: I no longer see my religion as a set of theorems and rules about the world around me, but more as a language. It is the filter through which I understand the world. It is my mother tongue. It’s the symbolism I dream in, move through, and gives shape to my thoughts. It binds me to a cultural identity that gives me great comfort.

Accepting Christianity as a language and not as fact or truth acknowledges that there are many languages. Christianity may not be the healthiest, most beautiful, or best language, but it is my language, and I will never be rid of it.

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