Toggling the Religion Switch

Hypocrisy and cafeteria-style belief systems.

Bible Quote
The way I read this is that you should stay humble and let God do the worrying. When God feels like it, He might make things better for you. Because He cares. Is that an accurate interpretation?

The other day, a friend of mine went into “Bible mode” on Facebook. He’s done this before, not long after I met him at a Meetup outing. I didn’t know him well back then and I just assumed he was a religious person. (Although I’m an atheist, most of my friends are believers in one form or another.) Then he broke up with his long-distance girlfriend and, six months later, was living with another woman in town. Bible mode ended abruptly. But it’s back now, and rumor has it that he’s engaged to yet another woman he met online and has seen in person only twice.

Whoa. (Honestly, I can’t make this shit up.)

“Bible mode,” in case you’re wondering, is my term for when a person starts posting social media updates that either quote the Bible or refer to Bible verses. I find it odd in general — almost as if they’re advertising their belief system — but have come to expect it of certain people, such as a young earth believer and a biblical scholar I know. It sort of makes sense for these people — who obviously hold deeply ingrained religious beliefs — to refer to the Bible in their daily life. But I find it extremely odd when it’s done by someone who normally seems to have little regard for the Bible, Ten Commandments, or the moral principles set forth in the Christian denomination he purportedly follows. You know: moral rules about things like adultery, sex before marriage, and lying.

Wikipedia defines hypocrisy as:

Hypocrisy is the claim or pretense of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviors, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not actually hold. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles.

The way I see it, if you pretend to be a devout, Bible-quoting Christian but have cheated on your wife or screwed women you aren’t married to, you are a hypocrite.

Unless, of course, you believe that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and therefore you can commit as many sins as you like as long as you’re sorry for them. Jesus has you covered, right?

You know, the Christian “Get Out of Jail Free card.”

This particular person’s flicking of the religion switch bothers me a lot and I’ve given it a lot of thought. I’ve seen the pattern — he turns on Bible mode when he’s hanging around a certain group of people. I’m thinking that he’s toggling the religion switch to the ON position to better fit in with these people. You know — to show that he’s a card-carrying member of their club.

Whatever.

I think it’s a shame that people have to pretend to be someone they’re not just to maintain certain friendships. If you can’t be true to yourself, you can’t be true to anyone. Who wants to live a lie?

Of course, maybe he really has “gotten religion” again. And maybe he’ll keep it this time. Turn over a new leaf. Get married, stay faithful to his new wife, attend church weekly, raise more children, and study the Bible with his family. Maybe the verses he’s quoting from the Bible will actually guide his life. Maybe he’ll remember and hold sacred all ten of the Commandments. Maybe he’ll be a “good Christian,” who actually follows the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Or maybe he’ll be another example of a “cafeteria-style Christian.” You know: the kind who picks and chooses from church doctrine to live his life the way he wants, no matter what his church of choice says he should do. And figures that just going to church and quoting the Bible will give him enough creds to get into heaven.

Of course, I don’t understand why we need organized religion or a book full of parables to guide our lives. George Carlin said it succinctly when he boiled down the Ten Commandments to just two. Other people have summed it up with just one: “Don’t be a dick.” Anyone who understands the difference between right and wrong should be able to live a good, morally sound life without worries about violating some church doctrine or pissing off an all-knowing God. But that’s my belief. Apparently, it isn’t widely shared in this world.

But what I’d really like to see is an end to religious and moral hypocrisy and the hiding of a person’s real self behind Bible quotes. Because seriously: who do you really think you’re fooling?

7 thoughts on “Toggling the Religion Switch

  1. Right on Maria, thank you for expressing my thoughts so thoroughly. We all know some of these “cafeteria-style” people and wonder how they have enough stupidity to refer to themselves as “Christian”.

    • I find it offensive, especially when these people put on airs, pretending to be so much better than me because they’re in God’s camp and I’m not. I know how to live a moral life — they’re just using God’s forgiveness as a crutch to help them live with their wrongful deeds.

  2. Maria,
    I usually focus on your flight related posts, but this one’s title jogged my interest.
    I find your analysis on many topics thoughtful and articulate, this one too.
    Yes, there are hypocrites in all walks of life. People who belong to a gym but don’t really put in the effort, for example. People who think they are entitled to high-paying jobs and free advice, for another. We certainly shouldn’t take their example as a model for how we should live our lives.
    The guy you are referring to is clearly struggling with knowing himself. And so he is playing the camelion. He cannot be true to himself or to his current girlfriend, he doesn’t even know himself. Not a good example for the rest of us (but maybe an example of how not to be, which is your point).
    Here is an alternate understanding of the meme, for your consideration: “be moral in your relationships with God and man and then don’t worry about the results of what you do, the results will take care of themselves. You cannot change the results by worry and will only give yourself an ulcer.” In the classic words of Alfred P Newman, “What, me worry?” But you must be upright (moral) to begin with, you cannot murder people and then try to play “the Christian ‘get out of jail free card'” it don’t work that way.
    respectfully submitted,
    KeB

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts on this.

      I agree that this person is sort of lost — too many people have too many doubts about themselves and don’t feel whole unless they’re part of a couple or a group. He’s using the means he’s familiar with to latch onto others. I have trouble understanding this problem — and I do think it’s a problem — because I’m very comfortable in my own skin and don’t need to be part of a larger whole for day-to-day living. But I see it over and over in other people and, frankly, it makes me sad.

      The more I thought about the Bible quote, the more I got the idea of how it could be applied to people today. “What, me worry?” is a great translation. My problem, however, is that too many people put their trust in God instead of doing things that can make a situation better. Just sitting back and letting a supernatural being take care of things for you is not the way to make a good life. There are too many bad things in this world and you have to take a stand sometime to protect yourself, your family, and your friends. It’s probably because of my lack of faith that I don’t believe praying or waiting for God’s help is effective. So while I agree that I worry about too many things, I also do what I can to fix problems that come up in my life — and I believe others should, too. If I waited for God to help me with the struggles I’ve faced over the past few years, I’d still be waiting — and hurting.

      Thanks again for your insightful comment! Hope to blog more about flying again soon — got a big trip coming up today and the GoPro is charged up and ready to go!

      • hmmm, I failred to communicate a key point that I think is being made in the quote. I believe we aren’t supposed to worry about results (only an entity outside space-time, if there is such a thing, could know or affect the future); but that does not excuse us from action. We cannot sit passively in a church pew, office cubicle, or bar stool and expect our lives to change. We have to actively seek to be moral and loving toward our neighbors.

        • I’m not seeing that in the quote, but I do agree with what you’re saying here. I honestly believe in the Golden Rule: “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” If everyone — and I mean everyone — followed that one rule, can you imagine what an amazing world we’d live in?

  3. Living in “the golden rule world” could certainly be a very pleasant place. For one thing, there’d be no more TV preachers, telemarketers, internet scammers, multi-level marketing/pyramid scheme charlatans and all the rest of the other fraud artists.

What do you think?