I often hear when I speak to unbelievers about God: “I’m not religious!” Last year for example, David Shannon and I went to see the movie The Brand New Testament at the French Film Festival. The film portrays God “as a curmudgeon from Brussels whose spiteful excesses are only restrained by the actions of his plucky 10-year-old daughter” (needless to say I don’t recommend it!). At the end of the screening, we met this lady who, much to my surprise, enjoyed the film. I asked: “What did you like about it?” She said: “Well, I’ve always thought that God should be a woman” (yes, God is replaced by his wife in the end, I warned you!) Then she asked me if I enjoyed the movie, I tried to find something positive to say but I couldn’t help stating that it was theologically wrong! That’s when she told us she hadn’t watched the film from a theological point of view and that she wasn’t religious anyway.
I think I see what people mean when they say they’re not “religious”: they just don’t believe in God. But is religion just a belief in God? If so, Zen Buddhism isn’t a “religion” since it doesn’t believe in God, and Zen Buddhists are therefore not “religious” people! In fact, if religion isn’t simply a belief in God but a series of beliefs we hold to answer the big questions of life, we’re all religious! Indeed we all have some answers, convictions, assumptions or at least ideas about the origin of the universe, the meaning of life, and life after death. So next time you hear someone say “I’m not religious!”, why don’t you ask him/her what he/she means by that. And why don’t you ask this person why he/she doesn’t believe in God and what he/she thinks of Jesus’ claims to be God?