The Baffling Religion/Action Compatibility Question

Being a religious person in a highly secular world, I often get asked candid questions about religion, and it is always my pleasure to answer them.

The one that always baffles me, though, is, “How can you be a Christian and do X?,” where X is some naughty thing. Sometimes the intent is to level a charge of hypocrisy, but very often the question is asked genuinely.

(Even our own Alan asked me a question in this vein, although he did it with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.)

To have a religion is to hold a belief about metaphysics. Either you believe that Allah is God and Muhammad is his Prophet or you don’t. If you do, and you eat pork, this will not make Muhammad more, or less, the Prophet. The two things aren’t related.

Now, of course, the question “Why do you, as a X, do Y?” makes sense. But in the main, this is not the question people ask. The question people ask is “How can you be a X, and do Y?,” and in most cases they really mean it that way. The implication, of course, is that religious belief is not really a belief but a lifestyle choice.

It’s particularly baffling when the question is posed to a Christian, since the whole premise of the religion is that people are sinners in need of redemption. For non-Christians, the question is more like “How can you drive a car and like the color blue?” (non-sensical), and for Christians the question is more like “How can you drive if you have a car?” (isn’t that the whole point?).

NB: I have cross-posted this to my personal blog, PEG 2.0 , where I have been writing about theology. You’re welcome to suggest topics in the comments you’d like me to answer questions about.