“Why Are You Religious?”

by Bill Brenner on May 21, 2014

A security industry friend and self-proclaimed atheist asked why I’m religious. She ‘s surprised that there are so many religious people in an industry built on a foundation of technology and truth, of only believing in what can be seen and proven.

Specifically, she asked:

I want to ask you why you’re religious. It’s odd. I’ve been in tech for almost 20 years, and infosec seems to have the highest concentration of religious people of any sub-section of technology. As an atheist, it’s hard for me to reconcile such diligent pursuit of truth and provable evidence as comes with technology and religion. It just doesn’t parse for me.

This is my attempt to answer her question.

Mood music:

History

I’ve always believed in God. As a kid hospitalized multiple times with dangerous Crohn’s Disease flare-ups, I asked God to make the pain stop. Whenever I got better, I did what a lot of people do and stopped praying. I was born Jewish, but mine was a fairly secular household. We celebrated Jewish and Christian holidays alike, but God had little to do with it.

A lot of people become religious after life-altering events like a heart attack or the death of a loved one. I know people who found religion after nearly getting killed on a battlefield. There’s also the belief in a higher power that’s central to 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

I’ve been around the block, seeing the death of a sibling and a best friend to suicide. I’ve had scary medical problems. I’ve experienced deep, dark depression and addiction. I fell in love with a Catholic woman.

Those things shaped my faith, but there was no aha moment. My beliefs evolved over time. The more I experienced the Masses, the more I believed. So I converted.

What I Believe

That history led me to these beliefs:

  • I believe that Jesus came down here and sacrificed himself to give sinners like me a shot at redemption.
  • I believe in the Sacraments, and that through them, Christ lives in me. His teachings of kindness, charity and self-sacrifice  — the Golden Rule, if you will — are principles I try to live by. There have been times where I’ve failed miserably — lying, giving in to temptation and anger and letting fear keep me from doing the right things.
  • I’m a sinner who strives to turn away from sin, and I have a long way to go.
  • I believe Christ never gives up on me, or anyone else for that matter.

If that sounds crazy to you, so be it. Just as you don’t have to justify your atheism to me, I don’t have to justify my faith to you.

I don’t think it’s possible to give you a satisfactory answer, anyway. You’re set in you’re beliefs, as am I. We won’t change each other’s minds, nor should we.

Jerks in Every Belief System

What matters to me is that people accept each other’s differences.

I don’t like when people force their beliefs on others. Talking down to someone because they see things differently pisses me off. I’ve seen a lot of Catholics do that and I’ve called them on the carpet for it. I’ve seen atheists behave just as badly.

Some believe you can either be religious or be someone who, as you said, diligently pursues truth and provable evidence; that you can’t have it both ways.

I disagree.

I don’t see it as an either-or proposition. You can practice faith and still be a seeker of physical truth.

Sometimes, one pursuit helps the other. Sometimes not.

cross shadowed by rising sun

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica May 21, 2014 at 9:56 am

As someone who identifies as agnostic this makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t look down on those who believe so fully in any religion. In a way I envy you (them) because I know religion can bring comfort during hard times. However, despite my religious upbringing, I just never “felt” God the way so many people proclaim to. While I respect religion and religious people what I can’t stand is righteousness.

On the other side, I can understand why someone would be an atheist and I tend to lean this way. But it pisses me off to no end when non-believers assume someone who believes in God or practices a specific religion are stupid or naive.

To be honest, I find both super religious people and militant atheists to be very similar in personality. They both try to push their beliefs on others, and assume if you disagree you are dumb or evil in someway. Both groups are so arrogant they believe they have the only truth – and to me that is crazy.

Fernando May 21, 2014 at 2:02 pm

A very thoughtful post. My heartfelt thanks for sharing your perspective.

It would be wonderful if we could leave our relationship with religion on the personal sphere, but the challenge is that often we don’t: both atheists and theists alike use their beliefs as the justification for policies that affect more than their own selves. That is, to me, the crux of the problem.

Respectfully.

Fred Avolio May 22, 2014 at 9:29 am

You know, I always –well often– enjoy your posts and this is no exception. I try to avoid using the term “religious,” because it is an overloaded term. My pastor calls himself a Christ-follower, and I typically use that description. It’s not so much religion, as relationship. It’s not about what I do, it’s what he has done.

Anyway… As you know, I appreciate you. Thanks.

Branden Miller May 22, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Refreshing post.

Debby January 7, 2016 at 5:02 pm

Really appreciated this post – as Brandon commented – it was refreshing.

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