Religious Belief. You know… I’ve spent the past few weeks researching definitions of religion and religious beliefs in hopes of being able to give you short and simple definitions for the Temple encyclopedia. The result of all of my research is… that it’s not as easy to define as you might think. Which is why I’m writing an article about it rather than trying to sum it up into just a couple of sentences.
Note: Throughout this article I use the term “church” repeatedly. In this context, the word church is used generically to mean either church, temple, mosque, or any other religious group. If you notice any errors, please let me know in the comments section. If I have offended you, please see the Hurt Feelings Disclaimer at the end.
Defining ‘Religious Belief’
If you ask ten different people to give you the definition for religious beliefs, you will probably get quite a few different answers, most of which are just partially correct at best. One thing that most people will probably get wrong is that religion and religious beliefs are not the same thing. Also, a religious teaching is not the same as a religious belief. A person can be taught something by their church, but it might not be a religious belief or it might not be their religious belief. Just as one can have a religious belief that is not shared with their peers or the church, and that’s okay.
Before I can explain what a religious belief is, first you need to understand what religion is. Many people go to church on the holy days, and memorize their religious texts, but still don’t truly understand what a religion is. So try not to feel bad if you are one of those people.
Religion is defined as ‘an organized belief system with a particular set of rules and lessons.’ Depending on the religion or organization, often the believers are required to trust and follow those rules and lessons with the understanding that the information is true and accurate, even if that information may be contradictory or against the individuals’ personal opinions or ethical views. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (to name a few) are religions.
Religions typically have a consolidated text of guidelines and stories such as the Christian Bible, the Islamic Quran, or the Hindu Gita. Although some religions are taught through oral history or guidance from elders, such as most native cultures do. This text or guidance is to be studied and followed, and used to direct the life choices of the believers. Whenever additional guidance is needed or a piece of the text is in question, an elder or group of elders will translate the text to provide clarification. Religions are typically very structured, so to provide the desired direction to the followers and give support when needed.
A religious belief, sometimes called a spiritual belief, is not as well documented or clearly defined as a religion or a religious belief system. Some religious followers don’t necessarily believe in the teachings being provided, or choose which teachings they want to believe or follow and which they don’t. Although the church or temple may not condone the practice of picking and choosing, it is human nature anyway.
Religious beliefs should not be confused with an opinion or a personal preference. A religious belief is something that comes from deep in your soul. You may feel like it’s coming from down in your heart or heart chakra area, but it is a belief that resonates with your eternal spirit rather that simply your brain or your bodily thoughts, and it is not something that you follow simply because that’s what you were taught.
Ideas that come from your brain are opinions rather than beliefs and can be easily changed with additional or conflicting information. However, religious beliefs typically form at a level that cannot easily be changed. Many people do not create or learn true religious beliefs, but rather they just come on like an epiphany or a sudden realization as ‘this is what feels right to me’. This difficulty in defining can also make it very difficult for a person to explain to others.
The U.S. Department of Labor Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines religious beliefs to include “theistic beliefs (i.e. those that include a belief in God) as well as non-theistic moral or ethical beliefs about right and wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views. In most cases, whether or not a practice or belief is religious is not an issue. However, generally, religion typically concerns “ultimate ideas” about “life, purpose and death,” while social, political and/or economic philosophies and mere personal preferences are not “religious” beliefs. It is important to consider that an individual’s religious beliefs may change over time. Additionally, individuals may choose to adhere to some tenets of their religion but not others, and/or individuals may have a sincere belief in a religious practice that is not observed by other followers of their religion.”
There are many challenges over religious beliefs in today’s society which can cause a person to question their own beliefs. Whether it be from the mainstream media sharing stories of like minded people doing things that you don’t agree with; from people in your own church having drastically different opinions than you do; or maybe you discovered a part of yourself that your chosen religion does not agree with. Any of these or other reasons could make you question why you follow that particular religion or are a member of that particular church. However, your religious beliefs are still your own regardless of what group you belong to or even if you choose not to belong to a religious group at all.
Unfortunately in a society such as the current ‘first world’ societies, people who do not completely fit in with the popular ‘cookie cutter’ belief system are often harassed or shunned and forced into hiding or made to feel like their true beliefs are not acceptable. At times, these people have been labeled with derogatory terms such as bigot, heretic, heathen, or witch. Some were even mutilated or put to death simply for thinking differently.
Religious Beliefs do not have to originate from an organized religion, or from a particular culture. Sometimes they come to you when your own deity or spiritual guide speaks to you, or sometimes a person will realize it on their own. No matter were they came from or how they came to be, if you truly believe, then they are genuine and deserve to be respected and treated as such.
Just because an influential person is on TV or social media saying that it’s okay to compromise your sincerely held beliefs, that doesn’t mean that you should. If you know down in your soul that something is right or wrong for you, that is the guidance that you should follow. As some would say, “follow your heart.” That is the true guidance. That is the real “word of God.” If something doesn’t feel right, then it’s not right for you.
Here at the Temple of the Holy Beard all are welcome, especially those who don’t feel like they belong anywhere else, so long as you share our core values. The Holy Beard recognizes that an individual may add or modify a belief or multiple beliefs throughout their lifetime. It is rarer, yet also acceptable for an individual to realize that a belief is no longer right for them, and toss it aside. That is okay, and you are still welcome here.
Leave a comment below to let us know what you think. Do you agree or disagree? Tell us about it.
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Hurt Feelings Disclaimer
We at the Temple of the Holy Beard recognize that some of the topics that we write about could be controversial, or may contradict the story that you accept and are accustomed to hearing. While it is not our intention to offend you, The Temple of the Holy Beard cannot be held liable for your interpretation of our content, or any hurt feelings that you may suffer as a result of said content.
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