Is Religion a Private Matter?


No religion allowed past this point

Should you stick your religion in people’s faces? Or keep it to yourself like a nice, polite Christian?

The world asks believers those questions. And we must be prepared to answer.

This topic was recently brought to my attention by a young lady who is a very skilled competitor and a regular reader of this blog. She messaged me and asked:

I’m traveling to a tournament tomorrow, and am finishing up apologetics cards, but I’m stuck on C4S3 (Stoa): How would you respond if someone told you: “Religion is a private personal matter”? Wondering if you’d have any thoughts?

I spent some time thinking and replied with my comments. Since at least half of you are Stoa competitors, perhaps my musings will prove helpful. (And for those of you in the NCFCA, you can likely tie these thoughts into one of the Category 4 topics. “Why does man need salvation?” would be an excellent choice.)

So without further ado, here are 3 reasons that religion is not merely a private personal matter, but a public interpersonal matter.

1. Religion deals with ultimate reality.

The most important questions we could ever ask are all religious questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? What is right and wrong, and how can we know? Where did the universe come from? What will happen after I die? What is the meaning of life?

All of those questions are religious questions. Every human being is concerned about them. How are we ever supposed to figure out the answers if we’re prohibited from discussing them together?

I’m using definition #1 of “religion” from in these answers. It seemed good enough for the purpose: “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

Plus, that definition alludes to a lot of the questions I listed above.

2. Religion is an eternal matter.

Assuming that one religion is right and the others are wrong, it matters a lot which one you choose. If you follow a wrong religion your entire life, you end up in hell.

Unless the universalists are right, in which case no big deal. (Sorry, theology joke.)

Because the effects of who you conceive of God to be and how you relate to him matter for all of ETERNITY, religion is the most significant discussion topic we have.

If your neighbor’s house is on fire, do you consider that to be a “private personal matter” for him to take care of? No. You shout at him to get out! Similarly, if we’re only here for a few short years and then eternity, it’s foolish to say “deal with religion yourself”. We should talk about religion publicly NOW because it matters a great deal LATER, for eternity.

3. Keeping the true religion to yourself is unloving.

Penn Jillette (of the magic duo Penn and Teller), an atheist, made this point well in a YouTube video a few years ago: If we really believe that unbelievers go to hell, why don’t we evangelize? He shares the story of how he really respected someone who gave him a Bible.

Unbelief in eternity is the only justification for keeping religion personal and private. If you believe in eternity, not sharing the truth is unloving.

The Answer

I began this post with a rather biased set of questions:

“Should you stick your religion in people’s faces? Or keep it to yourself like a nice, polite Christian?”

Let’s rephrase them. The difference between shading and illumination is the angle of the light; likewise, change the angle of the question and it moves from dark to bright.

“Should you keep the most precious message in the world hidden? Or share it with other needy people?”

Answer the question to yourself.

Then go—don’t keep the message to yourself.