IDEMA: Does religion bind us or divide us?

The root of the word "religion" means to bind together. But does it?
Mar 12, 2014


SB 1062, recently passed by the Legislature in Arizona, if it had been signed into law instead of being vetoed by the governor, would have led to discrimination. SB 1062 would have given people, such as restaurant owners, the right not to serve people, such as gay people, whose way of loving may conflict with a proprietor's religious beliefs. 

The focus in the media was on the LGBT community, but the implications of SB 1062 run even deeper. Could a Christian decide not to serve Jews or Muslims in his or her restaurant? A Jewish restaurant owner might decide not to serve Christians or people who eat pork. 

The absurdity of the law soon became evident, and reminded people of the Jim Crow South.

The law was vetoed more on the basis of money than principle, however.

One issue that was not discussed was how a restaurant owner would have been able to identify a member of the LGBT community. I had a solution, which thank heavens is now not needed. I thought that the state could help religious restaurant owners by  requiring gay people to wear rainbow arm bands, just like the yellow arm bands and yellow stars Jews had to wear in Nazi Germany.

Then perhaps non-gay people might have demonstrated their displeasure as Christians did in Denmark when Hitler conquered that country. Christians wore yellow stars of David. Seeing Christians united by wearing rainbow arm bands would have given much needed unity and compassion to Christianity, which desperately needs those things.

The veto of SB 1062 makes such identifying badges unnecessary. But the underlying issue remains, that religion divides us more than it binds us together, and "religious" people seem to emphasize our divisions more than what unifies us.

Jesus prayed for unity among his disciples and followers, but divisions emerged even before he was crucified when Judas betrayed him.

The history of Christianity is a history of wars and divisions. It is not alone. Islam is divided into warring factions. Judaism is fractured, too. So are Hinduism and Buddhism.

How do we account for the failure of religion to unify people, even people within the same religion? I blame human nature, illuminated by the doctrine of sin and the numerous insights of psychology and psychiatry. 

Religion does not exist apart from human souls. Religion is not a building or a text or a liturgy — without human beings who worship together and read those texts and enter those buildings.

Sadly, human beings are filled with desires for power and money, filled with insecurities and temptations to use violence. The Bible contains numerous examples, as do our newspapers today. Or just look at history, such as with the Crusades when religion stirred up deep hatred in order to conquer and murder. The Nazis were experts in this regard and even put crosses on German airplanes.

Religion has tremendous power to inspire the human heart to love and demonstrate great self-sacrifice. Religion provides us with a GPS device to steer us along and correct our wrong turns.

SB 1062 would have fueled the fires of resentment and discrimination, and would have further divided us, not bound us together. SB 1062 would have led us down the wrong road.

My only hope for the future of religion is enlightenment based on our powers of reason and the practice of education. Only a fool would declare that any one religion or any one faction of that religion is right and everybody else is wrong. Anybody who makes such declarations is putting him or herself in place of God and making judgments no human being has the right or perspective to make.

— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune community columnist



Someone once suggested to me that there are 10,000 religions.


I think that people who believe religions divide us are ignorant unless that religion, in 2014, requires non believers to subjugate themselves to it, requires female subjugation, approves of killing in its name, and bullies nations to ignore these facts.

I believe religion also divides people when it strays from the textural tenets of its beliefs to bend them to support Caesar's causes, like birth control, global warming, gun control, and basically beliefs that the non-religious state has the right to force non-believers to toe the line to Caesar's requirements.


The Reverend is correct when he states that religion can our does separate or divide. To imply that such division is inherently wrong or orchestrated primarily by man may be a mistake. If we are specifically talking about passing a law that is discriminatory towards people that we don't agree with, such as refusing to serve them in your restaurant, then I would say that is wrong and is a poor testimony to the teachings, power, and love of Christ. However if we are talking about other forms of division one might want to read what Jesus says in Matthew 10:34-36. It describes a division that is a direct result of a personal belief in Jesus Christ and the natural manifestation of His Holy Spirit through the power of God. The Reverend's last paragraph is very troubling, especially when he doesn't support any of his statements with specific scripture. Anything else is simply an opinion. The insinuation that it is foolish to believe that there is only one way to God certainly does not seem to be supported by God's word: John 14:6, Acts 4:12. No one should be or can be forced to believe God's word or anything else. The Bible says God will reveal Himself to us if we seek him: James 4:8, John 14:21. Depending on "our powers of reason" and "the practice of education" to provide us "enlightenment" is real foolishness.


"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on it's shoes" Mark Twain
Would you bring a pig to a Kosher or Muslim butcher and expect them
to prepare it for you?


Most of the modern day churches have turned away from the teachings of Christ. Where is the outcry about taking from the poor, the sick and the old? Once a church has stopped caring for the poor they become just a club of uncaring people who think they are better than everyone else.


by the by, the word religion as used in the book of Acts and James
(transliteration threskeia) refers to our outward expression of worship. sk007 is right in echoing James 1:27 "the religion that God the Father accepts as pure and faultless is to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
This basic principle of Christianity lays the burden of welfare to the poor and needy directly on the Church, the Body of Christ.


You bring up a good point. Many Christians today actually follow the teachings of Paul, especially the Book of Acts, rather than the teachings of Jesus.

Barry Soetoro

Imagine my relief when you chimed in as an authority on this subject. And, yes, there is a t-shirt for this, too.


Hahahaha.....can you hear me laughing? Although I assure you I don't claim to be an authority on anything of a religious nature, you, Barry, are definitely an authority on t-shirts! What's your secret?....years of study and research? A cataloged inventory? A t-shirt designer?


Lani, actually Paul was just doing a brief commentary on what Jesus said in Matthew 25:31-46. Just Paul echoing Jesus.


Thanks for your input. There has been much written about Paul and the early Church; the direction of the early Church and the adoption of the Gospels; and, the idea that there are conflicts between the teachings of Jesus and the writings of Paul. But I was told never to argue politics or religion, and, since I've more than strayed from the former, I'd better not the latter!


If one will not reap from the bountiful Holy word for themselves and choose instead to feed only upon scraps of the harvest from those who have seated themselves at the altar all the while having lust for the things of this world, they may find they are led like ignorant sheep. Happily going to their end finding out too late they knew only an evil man who cannot save them instead of the Son of Man who is the Way to eternal life, BTW studying Paul or Mary in depth affords nothing in the afterlife either.
Knowing the Son of man through the Holy Scriptures and emulating his example is not religion, it is faith at work.
Following a well read and well-spoken teacher while entertaining to the ears and emotions without personal and sincere relationship with God it is nothing more than good feelings and doing things you perceive as good or nice is religion or being religious in “todays” terms, all flash and no substance.
For the casual (Lukewarm) Christian that wants to ease guilt it’s great, but Jesus said he will spew you from his mouth, he will not add your name to the book of life…remember the faith that saves you changes you even after you leave church!
As usual his arguments show no connection to Scripture or faith, only a humanistic approach that looks like faith mostly to non-believers, it’s a good way to get tax exempt status but it will avail you nothing in the afterlife.


Starting with the Basics....God created man in his image...which image binds us..?


Starting with the Basics....God created man in his image...which image binds us..?

ray Paget

Adherence to a particular religion is the right of everyone. Historically speaking, however, forcing one's religious beliefs on others has been the cause for much blood shed and grief throughout the world. Jesus Christ invited people to follow him. You can't force someone to be a disciple of Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. And, by the way, Jesus did make exclusive statements about salvation and access to eternal life. According to his own testimony, belief in him as Lord and Savior is the only way to the Father in heaven (John 14:6).


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