“I don’t believe in organized religion.” “I’m spiritual, not religious.” These are common statements put forth by the ever-increasing population of “nones,” or, those who would check the “none” box for religious affiliation on a demographic form. Let’s look at the objection to “religion” in general and “organized religion” specifically.
Every type of relationship has “rules,” either spoken or unspoken. These rules establish certain boundaries and expectations for the relationship. For example, being fired from a job typically indicates a failure to abide by particular employer/employee relationship rules. Genuine marriage requires specific boundaries such as sexual exclusivity. Avoiding extramarital affairs is a “rule” that comes with marriage. There are rules that define the boundaries of sports and games. Without the rules, the players have no boundaries, and the game devolves into chaos.
The same people that object to “organized religion” typically have no problem with organized employment, organized marriage, or organized games and sports. In fact, much of their lives are organized around routines and expectations of behavior. Even driving around town requires a level of organization that most people accept as necessary for safety and efficiency. However, when it comes to spiritual things, somehow organization “has no place.”
If one believes in God, why assume that God is against order and organization? One look at creation affirms God’s approval of order and organization. It makes no sense to say that a relationship with such a God should be “unorganized.” In families, we call such relationships “dysfunctional.” What makes such families dysfunctional? The dysfunction is a lack of ability to form consistent, cohesive, constructive bonds with each other. They are families with disorganized relationships.
No organization is without flaw due to the human element. Religion is no exception. Interestingly, when a referee makes a bad call in a sports game, people object to that particular referee. They do not completely reject the game. In fact, they cast their objections at the referee for the sake of preserving the game’s integrity. They love the game, and they don’t want a bad referee to mess it up. However, when a “religious” person does harm, people are more likely to reject the religion entirely and bemoan “organized religion” as the culprit. This is akin to blaming football for a referee’s bad call.
Religion boils down to relationship. If one is going to have a genuine relationship with God, one must know God’s terms for the relationship. How horrible would it be to marry someone completely on your own terms? Shouldn’t your spouse have some input into the relationship? So, why believe that a relationship with God needs to be solely on your terms? Doesn’t it make sense to know and understand what God expects from the relationship? Without religion there really is no relationship. Good relationships require definition and boundaries mutually agreed upon.
Being “spiritual but not religious” is akin to being an athlete with no rules for any game. There is no real commitment to anything but one’s own athletic prowess. There is no real order to such spirituality. One has chosen disorganization over organization. One is essentially a religious denomination with a single member. Does it make sense to believe that the same God that organized the entire universe would desire a disorganized relationship with people?
Jesus established a religion. He said he would build his Church. The only way to build anything is to organize it (a fact known all too well by anyone that has ever experienced the headaches of building a house with a poor contractor). This is why the Catholic Church has been organized since Christ established it. It is also why the enemy has attempted to dismantle the Church by various means throughout the centuries. The enemy breeds confusion and disorganization in our lives and in the Church. Nevertheless, we have Christ’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. The Church is God’s organized relationship with us. All are welcome, not solely on our own terms, but on Christ’s terms.