We’ve all seen it. The form that asks “What is your religious affiliation?” And on it is the choice “NONE”. According to the recent Pew Forum on Religion, NONE is the fastest growing “religion” with most identifying themselves as SBNR - Spiritual but not religious. (http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/) Orthodoxy’s version of this is OBNR. I’ll let you figure that one out.
Regarding religion and church, Americans seem to be echoing Europe. When the topic of religion does come up, the discussion is no longer about which church I should attend or which religion I should practice. Rather, the question is whether it’s even worthy of meaningful discussion. Now that’s not to say that there aren’t thousands of devout Christians, but there are many who feel they have outgrown what Karl Marx dubbed “the opium of the masses.”
As a degreed engineer, before the priesthood I spent my life in a corporate setting. We looked for truth only in what could be studied, analyzed and proven. Religion had its place and was fine as long as it did not interfere with my daily duties and desires, which was work and play. Sure, I enjoyed the customs and symbolism that came with Orthodoxy, but I did not sacrifice much of my personal being into the faith. I saw myself as the solution to my own problems and happiness. As my father would say – the captain of my own destiny.
But now here I am, an Orthodox priest. With a deeper and more complete understanding of the place and importance of Christianity in my life, and a love of the beautiful Orthodox faith. The idea of being SBNR is now totally alien. However, before I could get to this point in my life, the biggest hurdle was not which church or religion I should practice, but the more basic question of “Who is right?”
Are Marx and Nietzsche correct in that God is dead and religion is an opium created by man to help alleviate the suffering of humanity? Are St Basil and Tillich correct when they state that the ultimate purpose of Man’s existence is the recovery of our immortality by being in communion with God, and that the Eucharist is the medicine by which we achieve immortality?
Which brings me to the point of this blog series. To explore and discuss these points so that we all may either use our God-endowed reason to figure this out for ourselves, or to properly, intelligently, and humbly relate to those who struggle with the meaning and purpose of Christianity, and answer the question of how is the Church our ship to salvation. My hope is that this blog will lead to many avenues of discussion and I welcome any and all comments…especially those who are in the “None” category.