Religion is a fact of life. Here’s why – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) — Over the decades, we have all heard this famous phrase many times:

I’m spiritual, but not religious.  


I’m not into organized religion. 

Often when these phrases are expressed, it is in a tone which suggests that the speaker thinks that they are saying something original. 

In reaction to this tendency amongst ex-Christians, “post-Christians” and those who have never accepted the Gospel, some have themselves embraced this idea themselves as a rhetorical argument for Christianity.  

Back in 2012, a young Evangelical Protestant went viral with a rap video about how he hates religion, how, according to him, “Jesus came to abolish religion” because Christ too hated religion.

Part of this rhetorical method of talking about the Gospel is a presupposition that religion is indeed bad, stifling, man-made, and focused only on externals – and, importantly, that either Christianity or following Christ does not constitute a religion.   

But this is very far from the truth in almost every point.  

What is religion? 

Cicero claims that the word religion comes from the Latin word relegere, “to pay careful attention.” The third century Father of the Church Lactantius says that it comes from the word religare, “to bind.” But whatever the actual origin of the word, St. Thomas Aquinas defined religion as that which “indicates the relationship of man towards God.”   

In other words, religion simply signifies all our relations and duties towards God.  

Catholic writers think of religion both as “a thing” and as a virtue. As a “thing,” it is the body of truths, laws and actions that make up man’s worship of God. As a virtue, it is the habit which disposes each of us to fulfill our duties to God – by giving him the honor, worship and love which he is owed.  

It should be clear that there is nothing sentimental here, or anything that depends on emotions, wishful thinking, intuitions, and feelings – good though those things may be.   

On the contrary, we need to be clear: religion is simply a fact of life. To deny this is either to misunderstand what the word religion means, or to deny that man has any duties towards God.  

The latter idea – that man has no duties towards God – should be ridiculous to anyone who recognizes the existence of God and his action in the world. Even those who think that following Our Lord Jesus Christ consists solely in a Protestant idea of trust in him as savior are still practicing a religion  

As such, the rhetorical arguments which set up an opposition between religion and following Christ are misleading, confusing for many, and should be abandoned. The problem that this rhetoric presumes to address is not religion per se, but false religions and distortions or abuses of true religion. 

Natural and supernatural religion 

In his series on natural theology (listed here), Matthew McCusker has been explaining how it is that natural human reason can arrive at certainty about the existence of a supreme being – God – and can attain knowledge of several of his key attributes. 

This process ends with us realizing that God not only exists, but that he must exist: he is a necessary being, whether anything else exists or not.  

As a result of this process, we come to know that God is good and omnipotent, and that he is the creator, preserver and ruler of all creatures.  

Everything else that exists (including us) is dependent on him. Our status as creatures (created beings), depending on God for our existence in every moment of our lives, indicates what some of our duties to him are.  

We are thus led to the certainty that God made us to know him, love him and serve him in this world. 

This is the basis of “natural religion” – the body of truths to be known and actions to be observed in the worship of God. 

Supernatural religion  

The reasoning process that leads us to natural religion also leads us to realize that God is infinite, and thus infinitely above us.  

Unaided human reason can get us so far, but it does not follow that it can provide a comprehensive knowledge of God.   

On the contrary, the infinity and transcendence of God may lead us to suspect that there are many things about him which we cannot attain by our reason alone.  

Corresponding to this suspicion is the possibility that God may choose to reveal truths about himself to us, and to elevate us above the order which is natural to us, and to establish us in a higher, supernatural order – with a corresponding end (or goal) also above our nature. 

If he were indeed to give man a divine revelation of truths above our reason, this would be the basis of “supernatural religion” – also referred to as “positive religion” or “revealed religion.” 

As we know – and as we shall see how to explain and prove in due course – this is precisely what has happened.  

There really is a supernatural revelation 

In the meantime, let’s take a quick overview of what has happened in human history. 

God has indeed revealed to us truths which our unaided natural reason could never attain, including the triune nature of God, the incarnation of the Second Person of this Holy Trinity, the redemption which he achieved for us, and the judgment to which he will subject us in due course (along with various other truths). 

He has also revealed natural truths which reason might have attained without revelation, but may have struggled to do so. 

But God has not just revealed truths to us. He has indeed also elevated us to a supernatural order of existence, and ordered us towards a supernatural reward – namely, adoption as sons in the Son himself, and a blissful eternity of the beatific vision and living the life of the Triune God. 

When it comes to such divinely revealed truths, we assent to them on the authority of the all-truthful God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.  

This assent is certain, unshaken and irrevocable – because it is based on what the supremely good and true God has revealed to be so.  

This assent is what is meant by “faith,” which could be called a sacrifice or genuflection of the intellect – not because the intellect is destroyed or humiliated in such assent, but because it is subjected to God in a way that is right and proper, and in keeping with reason itself. 

It is in faith, in this sacrifice or genuflection of the intellect, that human reason is elevated and perfected. 

Conclusion: The role of fundamental theology  

One of the purposes of fundamental theology is to demonstrate that God can and has made a supernatural revelation to mankind, and to show where the supernatural religion can be found.   

When we return to the common phrases mentioned at the beginning, we can see that while natural religion might well have been more or less disorganized and interior, a supernatural or revealed religion will be as organized as God wants it to be.  

We should shrink from the presumption of declaring, based on our own private lights, what kind of religion we think that God would or would not give to mankind. On the contrary, we are obliged to look for what he has actually established in the world, and to submit ourselves to it.  

Diligently finding out whether God has indeed established such a revealed religion, and submitting ourselves to it if so, are two supremely important tasks in the lives of every member of the human race – even if what we find might not be in accordance with our own preferences, tastes or expectations. 

This is the reason why we are exploring and explaining the arguments of fundamental theology: to enable readers to see how it is that we can know, with certainty, that the claims of the Roman Catholic Church are unassailable; and that the Catholic religion is indeed the religion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

This series is drawing on classic works of fundamental theology and apologetics, and explaining the concepts in simple terms. This article was inspired by the relevant chapter in Mgr Glenn’s Apologetics. 

Fundamental Theology Made Simple (Ongoing) 

Christians have a strict duty to develop their understanding of the faith 

See also: 

Natural Theology Made Simple (Ongoing) 

God exists. But is His existence self-evident?  

Is it possible to prove the existence of God?  

God’s existence can be known by the light of natural reason  

Without God nothing else could exist  

Created beings cannot be the source of creation. Only God can be  

The Catholic Church teaches that men can know God exists through reason alone  

False philosophies can’t solve man’s problems. Only the true philosophy can  

Nietzsche and Kant won’t lead you to truth. Scholastic philosophy will  

How the wonders of creation lead us to God  

How God helped get Catholic philosophy started 

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