I recently came across a posting with this thought on friendlyatheist.com. Back in my earlier days I had used this argument as well. I remember sitting on the balcony of a highrise apartment down in Miami watching the boats go by and trying to win a relative to christ.
He made a comment that he wasn’t very into religion, followed by my canned comment of, “Oh, but it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” More recently I’ve heard that comment coming from someone close to me as well. At the time I had wondered why that had sounded so familiar, and it’s because I had used the same faulty logic myself.
Avoiding the word religion, for me, had seemed to stem from the desire to separate my beliefs from that of the nonbeliever. I guess it was to show that somehow all those other religions had it wrong because they were about rules and limitations, where Christianity was about a relationship with an invisible zombie named Jesus. How lucid that thought had been.
And how ludicrous it is now. Really, does any religion like to be called a religion? To flatten the playing field and bring one’s beliefs on the same level as other systems certainly takes out some of the punch. Aren’t there pseudo relationships in most religions? Allah with Islam; the Buddha inside yourself; the Tom Cruises in your Scientology. Each brings a sense of belonging to its participants.
The relationship angle is really a bad selling point for the Christians. I can’t fathom why it still bears repeating. I’ve heard it explained that the reality exists in that relationship, and the feeling of being close to god is proof of his existence. Well, the human mind is a complex beast with the ability to come up with all sorts of feelings that are “real”. I’ve had plenty of deep intimate moments with the invisible sky wizard back in the day that I realize were more of a mob mentality in groups, or that get-up-and-go feeling you get when you’re convinced to do something to change your life around. I don’t know whether to call it delusional, that seems pretty harsh. I think of it more as a placebo.