A few years ago some friends and I founded the Church of the Tequila Sunrise. It was a punch-drunk moment, a reaction against an afternoon which turned out to be a little more religious than we expected. We thought we were just there to sing the Hallelujah Chorus.
We weren’t serious, we never were. Every now and again we will drink a margarita and acknowledge Jose Cuervo understood something good and move on. But the name rolls off the tongue. When we laugh about it with others you can see them evaluate it. If you wanted a theme for a modern movie, the Church of the Tequila Sunrise could be your dramatic vehicle. Really it has as much to offer as Pastafarianism.
As it happens, I was brought up in a formal religion and so my relationship to this is complicated. I see the humor and yet it still sits a little uncomfortably with me. I have a feeling that I shouldn’t be making fun like this.
Religion has always been a charged topic
The ancient Greeks would not have recognized religion in the way we do. The Romans had a huge task of moving from a polytheistic belief system to Christianity and it was not achieved without bloodshed and martyrs.
Catholicism crystalized into Christianity during the reformation and now there are dozens of Christian religions many of which would be unrecognizable as a descendent of the original.
Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today. The Pew Center expects that there will be more adherents of Islam than there will be Christians by the end of the century.
Is religion power?
Currently, there are 1.2 billion Catholics (people who fall under the authority of the Pope), and another 1.2 billion other Christians There are 1.8 billion Muslims. These are huge numbers, but in the organized religions numbers drop off very quickly.
Importantly though, the agnostic or atheist count is also at approximately a billion. By the time we get to Zoroastrianism which is at number 20 on the list, the number is less than a million.
What do the numbers mean?
It is tempting to answer by saying, who knows? Could a billion people agree on anything once you start to build in cultural differences? But there are some interesting facets at play. The number of people who don’t believe is continually growing. Those who avow atheism or are agnostic is increasing annually.
There are 4,200 organized catalogues religions around the world. Evidently none of them has found the right answer for everyone else. But it is heartening there are belief systems which matter to individuals and we have not all gone the way of the cynic.
What I do know is I respect your right to have your beliefs and to live your life by those tenets. But I also respect my right not to believe what you do and my right not to live my life by your rules.