ANOTHER VOICE is back and online again….

For many people, a vacation is a time of R&R: Rest and Recuperation. For me my days of R&R were that but also another kind of R&R: Reflections about Religion – with serious concerns about contemporary religious distortions, like QAnon.

QAnon is particularly alarming. The QAnon conspiracy movement uses overt religious language linking itself directly to the Bible, to Christianity, and to God’s work in the world. The current US president does not question the truth behind the claims of the QAnon conspiracy movement but offers them his help, praises them for “loving their country,” and for supporting him. QAnon members in fact are a politically-focused religious cult and they believe the current US president is a divinely-sent Messiah who is working at great personal cost to defeat “leftist evil” people and to usher in a great golden age American Utopia. QAnon, like a contemporary virus, is unhealthy religion.

All religions are organized systems of beliefs and practices (symbols, rituals, codes of conduct, etc.) that, ideally, point people to the Divine and help them find answers for the ultimate questions of human life. Ideally, religion interprets and strengthens authentic faith experiences. Sometimes however, religion focuses more on ideology than faith and becomes a an unhealthy cult that worships its leaders and controls people through emotionally-charged rhetoric, falsified information, and unquestioned obedience to authoritarian leaders.

The signs of healthy religion and unhealthy religion are very clear. Healthy religion maintains a balance between belief and moral behavior. When this balance is lost one risks slipping into a form of religion that becomes an impersonal and dehumanizing ideology.

Some R&R : “Reflections about Religion” for contemporary consideration:

1. Healthy religion is grounded in contemporary Reality with all of its ups and downs. Unhealthy religion is grounded in fantasy and longs for the good old days, which of course were only good for a select segment of society. Consider, for example, nineteenth and early twentieth century white, Anglo-Saxon, male-dominant, Protestant America.

2. Healthy religion builds bridges between people. Unhealthy religion builds walls and creates barriers separating people into qualitative classes of people.

3. Healthy religion promotes a basic sense of trust and relatedness to people and to the universe.

4. Healthy religion stimulates and encourages personal reflection, questioning, and responsibility.

5. Healthy religion promotes human sexuality as a mutually affirming way of living and being with self and others. It does not use and abuse others just for personal (“Grab ’em by the pussy”) genital gratification.

6. Healthy religion encourages intellectual honesty and a serious examination of doubts and uncertainties.

7. Unhealthy religion stresses feelings rather than thoughtful reflection. It is afraid to question.

8. Healthy religion supports and empowers people.

9. Unhealthy religion imposes power OVER people in often dismissive and demeaning ways.

10. Healthy religion promotes hope-filled love, compassion, and collaboration.

11. Unhealthy religion demonizes one’s opponents and validates hatred, cruelty, and violence.

12. The historical Jesus practiced and advocated healthy religion. Healthy and genuine Christians follow his example.

9 thoughts on “R&R

  1. Welcome back, Jack. We have missed you but are happy that you had your peaceful time for reflection.

    Your list of “healthy” versus unhealthy religion is so clarifying and challenging. I felt like there should be boxes that I should check to see how successful I am in living the faith. As I read, a niggling question bothered me that I wonder if you could address. One can assume that ordained priests, because of their training and lifestyle, would have a better grasp on how to live a healthy “religious” life and demonstrate that by their words and behaviors. How is it then that Cardinal Timothy Dolan has aligned himself with the policies and practices of Donald Trump and gave the invocation at the RNC? It is one thing to forgive another and demonstrate mercy but public advocacy for a clearly inhumane policy structure seems to me inconsistent with a healthy practice of religion. It seems to me that Dolan’s public stance does two things: 1. It diminishes his credibility as a leader in the Catholic religion. 2. By extension, it diminishes the image of the Catholic religion because of his prominent leadership position as a designated spokesperson.

    Of course, I realize that each of us has our own faith journey but I am forever reminded of the dire warning in my Catholic education that one of the greatest sins was to bring scandal on the Catholic church. I would love to have Cardinal Dolan read your list.

    Bless you again, Jack, for your inspired words.

    1. Many thanks Frank. Good to be back on line and great to hear from you.
      There is absolutely no way to justify or approve Tim (I know him well) Dolan’s actions.
      Warmest regards. Jack

  2. I am a Catholic nun of 50 years and clinical psychologist. This article offers a clarifying view of what true religion ought to involve. As for Dolan, I agree with Frank’s observation. It is unfortunate that he has such visibility with the RNC. Cardinal Dolan has offered a reflection in the past for both Democratic and Republican conventions. However, this time around there is so much that President Trump stands for that is clearly out of sync with what Jesus proclaimed, both in terms of his comments and his behavior, that it is difficult to see how anyone who professes to be a leader in any Christian group could support this president’s re-election.

  3. A friend of mine called me the night of Dolan’s prayer with a single terse comment, “Catholicism has reached a new low.”

  4. Great to have you back, Jack. Your reflections are spot on. I heard a comment the other day and it stuck with me: “The basic difference between religion and cult are simple. In Religion, your Savior dies for you. In a cult, your “savior” asks you to die for him.”

    Have a wonderful week.


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