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Ten Tips for Living Religion in the 21st Century

So Paulo, Brazil

Frei Betto
Translation by Rebeca Chabot

1. Get reconnected. Avoid solipsism, individualism, fatal loneliness. Reconnect to the deepest part of your own self, where infinite goods are grown; to nature, of which we are all expression and conscience; to our neighbor, on whom we are inevitably dependent; to God, who loves us unconditionally. This is religion: reconnecting. 2. Keep in mind that religions emerged in the history of humanity about eight thousand years ago. Spirituality, however, is as old as humanity itself. It is the foundation of every religion, like love is the foundation of the family. In your religion, seek to enhance your spirituality. Be wary of religion that does not cultivate spirituality and prioritizes dogmas, precepts, commandments, laws, and hierarchies. 3. Make sure your religion is centered on Gods greatest gift: life. Religion centered on authority, doctrine, the idea of sin, or predestination is the opium of the people. I came that you may have life and life in abundance, said Jesus (John 10:10). Therefore religion cannot stay indifferent to all which impedes or threatens life: oppression, exclusion, submission, discrimination, and disqualification of those who do not hold the same belief. 4. Commit yourself to a religious community committed to the enhancement of spirituality. Religion is communion. And give your community a social character: combat misery; be in solidarity with the poor and wronged; uncompromisingly defend life; denounce the structures of death; announce that another world is possible, one that is more just and free, where all can live with dignity and joy.

5. Internalize your religious experience. Turn your belief into your work. Reduce the contradiction between your prayer and your action. Do for others what you would have them do for you. Love others as God loves us: unconditionally. 6. Pray. Religion without prayer is like a menu without food. Take a moment of your day to encounter God within the most intimate part of yourself. Let the Holy Spirit polish your mind, unleash your inner self, expand your capacity for loving. 7. Be tolerant of other religions as you would want them to be of yours. Rid yourself of any fundamentalist tendency of thinking you own the truth and can best interpret the will of God. Engage in dialogue with those who have different beliefs than you. One who loves is not intolerant. 8. Remember: God has no religion. It is us, in institutionalizing different spiritual experiences, who have created religion. All religions are inserted into this world in which we live and they maintain an intrinsic interrelation. Every religion, in the society in which it appears, plays a political role, whether legitimizing injustices, remaining indifferent to them, or denouncing them prophetically in the name of the principle that we are all sons and daughters of God. Therefore, we have the right to make humanity a family. 9. A tree is known by its fruits. Assess whether your religion is loving or exclusionary, sower of blessings or herald of hell, servant of Gods project in human history or the power of money. 10. God is love. Religion which does not lead us to love is not of God. More important than having faith, embracing a religion, or going to church, is loving. If I have a faith that can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing, said the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 13:2). Better an atheist who loves than a believer who hates, discriminates, and oppresses. Love is the root and the fruit of all true religions, the experience of God, and all authentic faith. q

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