Mar 10, 2012

Religion For Atheists?

Early Christians celebrating Communion at an A...          A friend of mine from our Church's men's group gave me an article written by an atheist entitled Religion for Everyone. The author's premise: "even those who aren't religious can find religion sporadically useful, interesting, and consoling and should consider how we might import certain religious ideas and practices into the secular realm." Religion serves two central needs where secularism fails, first, "the need to live together in harmonious communities", and second, the need to cope with the vagaries of life. Without going into detail, the author uses the Catholic Church and its Mass as an example of successfully using rules for people's interactions, and fostering "a sense of communal intimacy... through a tightly choreographed agenda of activities." But most of all, "the Mass was a meal or agape love feast originally, until the end of the 4th century and was banned because of excessive exuberance." The author's historical account of these feasts is debatable and best left for another day. He does, however, feel it "especially relevant to talk of meals, because our modern lack of a proper sense of community is importantly reflected in the way we eat... Religions are aware that the moments around the ingestion of food are propitious to moral education." Therefore "with the benefits of the Mass and the drawbacks of contemporary dining in mind, we can imagine an ideal restaurant of the future, (yes, you guessed it), an Agape Restaurant". I won't quibble with the idea of moral education and dining because I personally know many holy Secular Franciscans that are quite adept at "cafeteria catechesis". I can try to fill this empty attempt at harmonious community and coping with life's ups and downs with a sporadically useful proposition: the Mass is more than just a meal, it is also the greatest re-presented Sacrifice the world has ever seen.  The word Religion comes from the Latin "religio" meaning respect for what is sacred. This is where the Ten Commandments, ignored for too long, answers and fills the void left by the absence of God at those "Agape Restaurants". The first three Commandments teach us of our relationship with God and the last seven, our relationship with everyone else. Our relationship with God must come first or we won't be able to realize harmonious relations with other human beings. Let me explain. The First Commandment tells us we can only have one God who is primary. How can we possibly treat our neighbors right if we serve false gods like money, power, sex, reason, and science. What do we value? We can never have our neighbors best interests at heart if our gods are vices or distractions. The Second Commandment deals with how we speak about God. Do we use profanity, blasphemy, ridicule, and lies in our speech. How might our neighbors react to this derision especially when inflicted on them. The Third Commandment asks us to keep holy the Sabbath, in other words, we must embody our beliefs in action. It was called "the Sabbath mind" by St. Augustine, a concrete, respectful, prayerful action  in every sacred moment, without which a cohesive community is not possible. Agape Restaurants are still, and always will be, just restaurants because they can't lend themselves to sharing in the most sacred Love and Sacrifice of the most sacred of all Beings - God Himself. Only then, our flawed, finite communities might truly flourish. Consider this your tip, GOD FIRST. Now pass the steak sauce! JMJ. Mick, OFS