Religion or Relation?
David Dark’s book, Life’s Too Short To Pretend You’re Not Religious, explores what religion is and how it plays a role in a society that values being a labelled individual. David Dark uses his experience from teaching at Belmont University and from experiences early in his life to make the argument that everyone is tied together by a religion. This book, published by InterVarsity Press(IVP) in 2016, pushes the reader to redefine religion and how it applies to them. The argument targets young adults with its references to pop culture and the impact of technology on relationships.
Content and Methodology
The book begins with Dark presenting the statement that triggered the response. “No one doesn’t believe in God as much as I do”(1). This statement creates a barrier that prevents open conversation through the use of labels and stigmas. The assertion made in this book states that everyone is religious and it proves this by redefining religion to encompass a broader range. “In its root meaning, religion (from the Latin religare, to bind again, to bind back) is simply a tying together…”(14). This definition creates a less spiritual attachment to the word “religion.” Religion is now tied to what you value and what communities you are a part of. In this way, the label “nonreligious” is inherently isolating and that prevents an open line of communication between people. The second half of this book focuses on how religion, the newly defined religion, impacts how humans connect with each other and with themselves. Dark provides a commentary on the relationships that are fostered in today’s society, especially with a technology focused culture. He asserts that the increase in use of technology negatively impacts the patience people have in getting to know one another.
Using the word “religion” to describe how people are connected is a foreign idea to most; however, it is not a bad shift of thought. Religion is tied to spirituality or faith for most people. However, faith is the relationship between God and a believer which was made possible through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:17-21). Religion on Dark’s terms looks to root itself in how people interact and the different actions people take. “Religion is the question of how we dispose our energies, how we see fit to organize our lives and, in many cases, the lives of others”(18). This is the first major perspective challenge in the book. Dark bases his book on this distinctive definition and that creates a weakened argument from the beginning. His definition remains close to the Latin root of religion, but in today’s society religion is viewed as a set of worship practices. By choosing not to work within society’s current view of religion, Dark creates a tension in the reader’s mind. This causes the reader to focus on figuring out how to define religion and diminishes the impact of the rest of Dark’s argument.
The first half of the book is Dark working to reframe the word religion. The second half works to connect the new definition of religion to relationships. Dark maintains that religion is what unites us because religion is what we do and how we organize ourselves. This portion of the book is much stronger than the beginning portion of the book because many people can agree that there is a community aspect to religion. By saying you are not religious, a separation is created. However, that happens anytime someone accepts or denies a label and that concept is mentioned at the beginning of the book. “When I label people, I no longer have to deal with them thoughtfully”(13). The way that Dark frames religion to encapsulate a broad range of habits and actions weakens his argument because any label can prevent conversation.
In Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious, Dark works to redefine the word “religion” and use the new definition to prove that everyone is religious. Dark showed how labels can create barriers in conversations; however, he was less successful in redefining religion. Religion does have communal aspects to it, but it is viewed in a spiritual way in today’s society rather than religion being whatever you do. While Dark had a weak argument for redefining religion, he brought up many good points about how people interact with each other and how people struggle to create relationships in today’s culture.