All sorts of people are ready to save our soul-not least among them being those who would plunder it. Being set free from religion is a process that unfolds to us as we contemplate the saviors who have supposedly come to our rescue. All of them pose as our friends, and few of them will settle for anything less than submission and servitude.
Absolute freedom maddens them.
You see, religion socializes us. By that I mean it puts us into a group of people where now we belong. We are family, we have identity, we are accepted. I follow the rules and they approve of me. I break the rules and they chastise me (for my own good, of course). This process is not unique to religion; it is the most basic description of how society operates. We become so dependent on the group, which has now become our reference point for what is right and wrong, that our very self becomes a reflection of the group’s values and beliefs. In fact, our self-worth is measured by our perception of what the group thinks of us.
The process of socialization, then, is the means whereby we learn the rules of the “in club” and then adjust our lives accordingly.
Religion’s socialization process is lethal. It not only offers us the acceptance and affections of a specific group of people, it also offers us the acceptance and affection of God. We become secure in our religious sense of self and vigorously join with the others in defending the fundamentals of our worldview. This is what much of our Christian education is about… a certain percentage of Sunday School classes, sermons, doctrine courses and seminars are not as much about pursuit of truth as they are about religious socialization.
The acceptance and affection of God offered to us by religious socialization come with high stakes. Any rejection of this religious group’s values and behavioral expectations will bring down upon us the wrath and rejection of not only the group but also God.
To become free people is to unleash the indignation of religion.
We must be clear that the journey to freedom is at times a bleak and lonely path, one that offers us few of the familiar comforts that came with religion. We are left to ourselves to discover our true salvation, and we are often confronted by the animosity of those who find our freedom a threat to their religious tranquility.
From the book, “Cages of Pain” by Gordon Aeschliman.
I picked up this book some time around 1992 when I was visiting Westmont College in Santa Barbara with a small group of youth pastors on retreat. Little did I realize how much it would mean to me during the following year. No book has meant as much to me as this one and I return to it time and again to find solace, encouragement, and hope.
In the next few posts I plan on sharing some of it with you. It is a powerful story and one that will bring healing and empowerment to those in the process of gaining the freedom they seek from religion. I hope it also brings understanding to those surrounding us.