In response to my blog post “Let’s get secular”, a second Christian commented and wrote that “religiousizing a belief is the worst thing a believer can do […], because it turns a personable relationship into a study […].” He explained how no relationship on Earth compares to the one he has with Christ and that this is a two-sided, not one-sided relationship, and then also listed miracles that irrefutably prove God’s existence. Face, meet palm.
Let’s start with the definition of religion, which is, according to dictionary.com, a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. Oxford Dictionaries define religion as the belief in and worship of a superhuman, controlling power, especially a personal god or gods. Merriam-Webster defines religion as an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods.
Religion is unanimously defined as belief and worship in a god or gods. All sources don’t say it has to be organized, which means that any belief not based on fact and involving superhuman beings is a religion. Even so, when we think of religion, we think of organized religion. The Christian who commented implied that Christianity is not a religion, but a personal (not personable) relationship with Jesus Christ. He said it shouldn’t be treated as a religion, as that would turn it into a study, when it should be a relationship.
He gave the example that a marriage is two-sided, give and take, but as soon as you “turn it into a study of the other person it becomes one way and you only see half the picture.” I’d first like to note that, in a marriage, your spouse actually exists (hopefully), and I’d rather have the love of an existing woman than that of a long-since-dead man, who may or may not have even existed. Furthermore, in a relationship, you usually get to know each other, or in other words study each other. Arranged marriages, in which you don’t meet your future spouse prior to your wedding day, are not the way to go.
But my counterargument is that his claiming you are not part of a religion but only have a “personal relationship” with a religion’s deity is not a sound argument. The specifics of the religion, such as the distance of the gods, if they just observe or if they have a “personal relationship” with you, does not make it “faith but not religion.” It doesn’t make it more rational. I could say I have a personal relationship with a unicorn, but that wouldn’t validate my belief in unicorns, if I had one.
Even if his faith is a “personal relationship” with Jesus and somehow not a religion, it doesn't make Jesus any more real than the god of any other faith. All those who believe in a higher power, without any evidence, “know” they are right; they are sure they are right. Obviously someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus thinks they are right because they are SURE of it, but people who believe entirely differently are also SURE of their faith.
We are all free to believe as we wish, although belief occurs subconsciously more than consciously, if consciously at all. But we must turn beliefs into a study, even if it makes believers uncomfortable. I know theists like to say it is on faith, but with so many different faiths that contradict each other, that’s just not a rational position to take. Even if there were only one faith, it wouldn’t be rational to say it is fact without any evidence. Personal experiences feel real to oneself, but one should consider that people who believe differently also go by personal experiences—even people who believe they were abducted by aliens.
Either we must believe ALL unfounded claims or we must believe no unfounded claim—until it's been proven. Which option is more rational? Blind faith will never make a better case than empirical evidence and logic.
The Christian also listed miracles that happen every day and that science cannot explain or duplicate. He said no other belief in the world can duplicate them, or even tries to do so. He said he has witnessed miracles in his “walk with Christ.” He said that “limbs regrow, sick are healed instantly, people are raised from the dead…”
I don’t know how he can say no other belief in the world can duplicate the miracles of Christianity. Plenty of religions claim that miracles have happened and that their superhuman deity is responsible. I guess he refers to faith healers and such, but fraudulence hardly counts as evidence that miracles happen; there are plenty of debunked frauds out there, which are still widely believed by those too ignorant and indoctrinated to know better.
No miracles have ever been recorded and confirmed in history, except by those with a bias toward construing anything they don’t understand as the work of their specific deity. All that which we’ve not understood has been explained rationally, logically, and scientifically throughout history. To say one must have faith is not a valid argument. Plenty of people with contradicting beliefs claim one must take it on faith; all of these beliefs cannot be correct, but all of them can be incorrect.