What does it mean when your life, your existence is defined by religion? This is the first post in a series that will explore this question.
Even though I have spent a good portion of the last 15+ years with my life focused on God and Christianity, I wouldn't say that my existence in society has been defined by religion. As most of that time has been "the Bible Belt" you might find that surprising.
I have always thought it was because of the "freedom of religion" guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. I thought that it contributed to a United States (US) culture where people really didn't care what you thought when it came to your public life.
Much of that attitude came from the fact that there was no change in my social status when I went from being an agnostic to a professing Christian. The only change was how I spent my Sunday mornings and my free time. There was no change in my ability to get or hold a job, my ability to find a place to live, how I was treated at the grocery store, etc.
It didn't matter whether I was in the north or the south. My religion was considered a private affair. I was firmly agnostic when I lived in the north, and the only difference that I noticed during my frequent visits after becoming Christian was that there were a lot more people practicing their religion there than I had ever realized.
Perhaps, I didn't experience any difference to my public life because Christianity was the dominant religion. Any discrimination that I observed toward people of other faiths, I attributed to racism (Muslim, Hindu, Buddist ...) more than due to the religion itself. Not that I didn't try to combat those attitudes in any case.
What brings all of this up, you ask? I am now living in a place that is predominantly "European" (like 95%), and Mormons or member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) make up the majority. You may have heard of them. It's come up from time to time during the Republican presidential primary process. ;)
I can tell you, it makes for a very different social dynamic where many of the other variables have been removed.
On Thursday for the next several weeks, I plan to explore this question of being defined by religion. I invite you to come along.