President Obama was caught on tape in the 2008 campaign speaking dismissively of those who “cling to guns and religion.” Now that was an impolitic moment for him but I agree that often people do “cling” to things, including guns and religion. I do not think he would disparage anyone for liking guns and certainly not religion. But he recognized that when people “cling” to things…or shall we stay “stuff”…it often impairs their ability to make rational decisions.
“Clinging” often belies an impoverished identity which makes an individual to compulsively place value on “stuff” (including ideas and beliefs) as a way to assuage a gnawing emptiness on the inside.
But how can “clinging” to faith be a problem; or, certainly “clinging” even to Jesus? I think a meaningful faith is very intense and passionate but if it goes beyond the pale, it poses problems and there are always warning signs. For example:
a) If your faith creates an urge to kill people who believe differently than you, I think there is a problem.
b) If your faith creates a need in your heart to intimidate, browbeat, and shame others (certainly children) into believing the way you do, there is a problem.
c) If your faith creates in your heart the belief that you have “got it right” and that everyone should believe just as you do, you have a problem.
d) If your faith creates in you an emphasis on correcting the ills of the world, while totally neglecting the ills of your own heart (which are always wreaking havoc on those nearest and dearest to you), then you have a problem.
Now these are four rules that I’ve created off the top of my head. There could be many more. Violation of these rules almost always comes from a passionate intensity which outruns the Shakespearean “pauser reason”. This is “clinging” to religion rather than having a simple faith which permeates the whole of your being and radiates out to others in your life. This is often an obsessive-compulsive disorder in full sway or even an addiction. This is at best an ersatz religion.