I have talked to several people who have abandoned their religion for one reason or another, but the result is often the same – they used to practice a particular religion, and now they do not.
There are a number of good reasons for abandoning a system of beliefs or practices that you used to adhere to, but there are also a number of good reasons for continuing to practice a religion.
Here are a few reasons why your religion just might be worth keeping:
Your Religion is Worth Keeping if it is Simple
If your religious system is so complex that you aren’t exactly sure what you believe, or if the rituals are so obscure that you can’t explain why you practice them or what they mean, chances are your religion is not benefiting your heart or your mind. Study hard to figure out why you do what you do and what you believe, or find a system you understand. If your religious practices and beliefs are simple enough that you can explain them to a child, chances are good that you understand them and they have meaning to you.
Your Religion is Worth Keeping if it Helps You Forgive
We all have people in our lives we will need to forgive from time to time. Practicing forgiveness is good for the one forgiven and good for the one forgiving. If your religion makes you more divisive and less forgiving, it’s causing you harm. If your religious beliefs and practices encourage forgiveness, though, they’re worth holding on to for your own good and the good of those around you.
Your Religion is Worth Keeping if it Makes You More Inclusive
Ultimately, any system of religion that does not include a vision for the entire world, for your healthy relationship with all people, will not serve you well. Our world is often perceived as smaller and more connected, and we need to understand our place in it and how we will relate to the diverse people we will interact with. If our religion makes us better prepared to live in a vast and shrinking world, it’s worth keeping.
Your Religion is Worth Keeping if it Fosters Growth
Are you the same person you were a year ago? Five years ago? Ten? Of course not. Are you the same person religiously that you were a year ago? Five years ago? Ten? I hope not. If your religion is stagnant and unchanging, chances are that it is dead and possibly dragging you down. If your religion encourages personal growth and development, if the you five years ago might think the you of today is a heretic, your religion is helping you.
Your Religion is Worth Keeping if it Encourages Questions
Sometimes the means of practicing a religion are confusing or don’t make sense to later generations. It is appropriate to ask why some things are they way they are, if for no other reason than for better understanding. Still, some religious practitioners think questions are evidence of a lack of faith rather than a lack of understanding or a desire to make things better. If your religion welcomes questions and adaptations, it’s worth holding on to.
Your Religion is Worth Keeping if it Envisions Who You Can Be
Religions are good at reminding us of who we are and where we came from, but it seems like some religions struggle with casting a vision for who we can be. Life is about change and struggle and growth, and our religious beliefs and practices should reflect that. We, as individuals and as societies, are changing and struggling and growing into our better selves. Our religion should promote that vision of a mature self and help us reach toward it.
Your Religion is Worth Keeping if it All Comes Back to Love
Above all, a religion worth keeping all boils down to love – not a hippy, feel-good, no pressure love, but a love that challenges us to forgive our enemies and practice non-complementary behavior. This love is not about what feels right to ourselves, but about self-sacrifice, empathy, and treating people the way they want to be treated. It is anything but easy and the only thing that will make our world worth living in. The religions of the world have different names for this practice and belief: “loving-kindness,” “compassion,” or just “love.” Regardless of the name, though, the concept is easy to understand but so difficult to live out every moment. If your religion points you back to love, keep it.
Whether you’re looking for reasons to keep your religion or to shed it,
may your motivation be to become the best, most compassionate person you can,
and maybe make this world a better place along the way.