Comments on the previous post’s negative use of the word “religion,” seem to suggest the need to say more. The use of “religion” as a name for something negative associated with belief in God is not new with me, nor within Orthodoxy. It has been a significant part of the most serious levels of discussion for the better part of the 20th century. Another word would have done just as well, perhaps, but another word was not chosen. “Religion” has thus become ambiguous.
In the American movement associated with recovery from addictions, “religion” is almost always used in a negative manner, even though its very programs are deeply involved with a spiritual way of living. Some people in the US describe themselves as “SBNR,” “spiritual but not religious.” They do so with some humor, but with a very serious intent. When a video in which a Christian says that he “hates religion but loves Jesus” goes viral, something deep within a culture’s consciousness has been touched, whether the words were well chosen or not.
As I’ve noted, Fr. Alexander Schmemann very famously made use of the term “religion,” to describe a very negative, even neurotic set of behaviors involved with the belief and worship of God. He was not alone. Other leading figures in Orthodoxy had used the word in the same manner. Fr. John Romanides wrote about the “disease of religion.” Christos Yannaras uses the term in much the same way.
Read the rest (and leave your comments) on Fr. Stephen's wonderful blog, here.