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True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess.

- Louis Nizer, lawyer (1902-1994)

What Nizer called true religion, some today call spirituality. Or something close.
We don't have a good word for someone who is spiritually in touch with God but
doesn't conform to the dictates of a religion.

Many people equate "religion" with organized religion. They feel so strongly about
membership in an organized relgion being the only definition for "religion" or for
being religious that they consider another who is not a member to be an atheist or
a pagan. Christianity even adopted the word pagan to mean anyone who does not
believe in the God of Christianity.

If membership in an organized religion is what determines whether or not a person

is religious and organized religions have been guilty of heinous crimes and
violations of their own principles, it's no wonder that people have trended away
from "religion" in recent decades.

To understand statistics regarding religious affiliation as iterated in the media,

we need to understand that not declaring affiliation with an organized religion
does not make a person non-religious, nor does it make them atheist. It just makes
them non-practising adherents of a total religious belief set.

It means that a person has beliefs that are not expressed in accordance with the
doctrines of major religions. Being accused of being a member of a religious sect,
for example, makes a person a social pariah, so people would rather declare no
religion than admit to being part of a small religious group that might be called
a sect.

What name do we have for a person who has sought out their own spiritual identity,
who believes in a power greater than that of humanity and who has committed their
life to follow a life course that is in accordance with what he or she believes is
the right way to live? Atheist? Agnostic? Heathen (another favourite word of
Christianity, though Jews and Muslims use it as well)? That's religious name-
calling, something that the principles of organized religions insist should not be

Some people call themselves "humanists." These people often do so less because
they don't believe in a supernatural power and more because they reject the
teachings of organized religions about the supernatural. They don't commit
themselves to belief in a supernatural power, instead preferring to help other
humans in ways that would have made Jesus of Nazareth and the Prophet Mohammed
proud of them.

In a sense, religions have soiled their own beds. Then they condemn others who
refuse to join them.

Cutting through all the semantic crap, Louis Nizer said that what is important is
how we live, not what we say we believe in. For there are many who profess their
beliefs openly and strongly, but fail to act in ways that would affirm their oral
commitments. They are people that Jesus would have condemed as hypocrites (he used
the term 24 times in the Bible). No doubt the Prophet would have used similar

Often a person who claims that he doesn't believe in God, when questioned
intensively admits that he believes in God, just not in the kind of God that
members of organized religions profess to believe in, the kind of God they have
given unreasonable and unprovable characteristics and attributes and one that
inevitably disappoints because He doesn't live up to the advertising of His loyal

God is not who the Pope or the Ayatollahs say He is. God is not who religious
fanatics say He is. God is not who the religious faithful say He is.

God is who He is. He doesn't have to explain Himself to anyone or prove Himself to

For those who are unable to see the existence of God around them or to feel His
extraordinary presence within them, God probably doesn't exist.

God can live with that. Just don't live like a total screw-up.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving
to put life in perspective.
Learn more at