Our thoughts on religion and cognitive dissonance

Are we confusing ourselves? Or are we shooting ourselves in the foot? As Christians we regularly hear phrases like, “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship,” or as Youtube spoken word poet Jeff Bethke says, “I hate religion, but love Jesus.”

Many of us are still going to church where we hear these words, even while we meet in a building, and have an arranged ceremony celebrating God. Perhaps we even go to extra curricular gatherings, such as homegroups, Bible studies, and the like. Somebody has to “organize” these things. How do our brains handle this apparent contradiction?

6 thoughts on “Our thoughts on religion and cognitive dissonance

  1. I don’t feel confused, nor do I see it as shooting oneself in the foot. I think it’s about neither religion or its manifestations inside a church environment or doctrine – following the path of Jesus is about love. Love that is caring without passing judgment, love that seeks to connect rather than separate, love whose central doctrine is: “How may I serve?” Extra-cirricular activities such as those mentioned above are not necessarily problematic, insofar as developing relationships are concerned. But one needs to be mindful of the fact that while such dynamics as homegroups represent an environment of active engagement in our relationship with Christ, it also presents the risk of being “cloistered” from the very folks we need to connect or reach out to: those not part of our inner circle of friends or acquaintances or colleagues.

    1. Hey Dave,

      I suppose the question for you then is, have you avoided this cognitive dissonance because “religion” is not a bad word in your vocabulary, or have you navigated the seeming contradiction of religion being a bad word and going to church in another way.

      There are many post-evangelicals struggling with “going to church,” because “organized religion” has become a bad word phrase for them. The potential cognitive dissonance appears to have been relieved by avoiding gathering in a church building, or joining a group or denomination. Some notable Christian leaders illustrate this. George Barna being a prime example. The solutions to the dissonance are not necessarily right or wrong. I am just considering what it might mean – not for me – but for Christianity as a whole, and its relationship with a world looking on.

  2. Hey Phil,
    If I have to choose between suppositions, I would defer to your latter assessment. This does not mean I came to this conclusion without a great deal of cognitive dissonance of my own. As you are familiar with my backstory, I was raised in a traditional Roman Catholic dynamic, and stepped away from church (as a building) until three years ago – organized religion has done enough damage on its own to incur a bad name.

  3. The last time I was in Salem, your sermon was on the church growth seminars and how your church numbers never even came up to their definition of a small church. It got me to thinking, maybe they should have had seminars on Church division. Not division in the Church, but division like a cells. Jesus had 12 disciples, and with their help pastored a Church with 70 members. So if Jesus Himself didn’t have a mega-church, how could any of us do it? They did win 3000 converts one day and a few days later 5000, but it doesn’t seem they built a mega-church for them. The early Church met in houses, not much room for mega-congregations.I don’t think it’s possible to pastor more than a handful of people. For on, a pastor has to minister to his flock. Also, pastors of large congregations tend to get filled filled pride. Kind of like when Herod spoke, and they said, behold the voice of a god and not a man. Accepting that praise didn’t have a good effect on him. He was consumed by worms.

    Jesus said that our relationship with one another is a reflection of him. So a pastor, mega-church relationship would be the image of a relation with a distant God.

    1. I agree with your thoughts Mark. There have been cell church conferences in more recent year’s. The 80’s had the church growth movement, and the 90’s became the cell church movement. Unfortunately, the cell church sometimes was presented as a means to reaching the mega-church.

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