The Washington Post has launched a new section, entitled “Acts of Faith,” which promises “news, analysis, and opinion to keep you up on daily conversations about faith, spirituality, ethics, and values.” Thomas J. Whitley notes that both the title and the description seem to suggest not only a particularly Christian understanding of what religion is, but a particular kind of Christian understanding:
Defining “religion” as that which deals with matters of faith and belief necessarily precludes that which deals with matters of praxis and that is less obviously about, or not at all about, faith or belief. (That they have called it “Acts of Faith,” I think does not diminish from my point, especially given the first articles they have posted.) That is, the focus on faith prioritizes a Western and a Protestant notion of what counts as “religion.”
To further make the point that this is a prioritization of one interpretation of religion, we need go no further than the New Testament. The traditional understanding of the divide between Judaism and Christianity is that Christianity is about belief. John 3:16 is the go-to verse here: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Yet while belief is of primary importance in the Gospel of John, it does not hold the same weight in other New Testament texts.
Read more on Marginalia: http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/mrblog-why-how-we-define-religion-matters/