I had a discussion with a friend on Facebook about her faith. She believes that her faith is not religion, but a real experience of the transcendent. These experiences are supernatural, by all accounts to religionists, as they see the world and explain it in terms of religious ideology, or "God". Why would I not think that there interpretation is the best?
First and foremost, man/men all have a need to understand. Different men have different interests in how they seek to understand, nowadays, with all the differences in the disciplines. But, primitive man understood the world in a primitive way. The Sun was worshipped and different gods controlled different aspects of nature. Religion is man's attempt to explain the natural world. But, there is also the aspect where religion seeks to explain "Man". The Church sought to impact religion by explaining that man's experience was "under a curse" until man believed in some sort of "God" that would "save" or "redeem" man from his "bad experiences". This si the Church's teaching on sanctification, where man learns from his experiences, becasue "God" is "training" him. God has become personalized in history though the Church's story of the redemption of the disempowered.. This is the Church's /fundamental stance toward world history. World history is "God's story", and his revealing of "His Son", in his Bride, the Church. This is a transcendentalized type of secular humanism.
The differences to eschatology lies in the different understandings of "what is to happen" or "what is to come". Such differences have led to splits that created new denominations. Most still adhereing to a supernatural or transcendent view of life and all that is.
This Facebook friend is like many who believe that their faith makes some sort of difference in how they understand their lives. I think this is true, as men also seek to put their life into a particular context. These contexts are identfying factors, as we all need identity. The question is whether we think man is solely formed by such associations. Certainly, our associations do influence and form us, but it doesn't mean that we always accept their understanding, ways, or values, as we get to be adults, or we form a more critical eye toward evaluating life. Whenever we do start to critically evaluate life, then we come to a place where we, as an individual, make a choice about our values and commitments. These are ulitmate values that one doesn't want to compromise on/about. These define "who we are" in ourselves, not who we are because we like the group we are in. And this is when we choose where we will commt.
I don't like religious groups because they all too often define things without allowing for diversity. This is what separates denominations. And I don't value those that are certain of their claims about the transcendent realm, because it is presumptive to assume. Many who do accept the claims to a transcendent realm are those that base their understandings on a religious group (Roman Cahtolicism, Greek Orthodoxy, or some esoteric cult) and/ or on a "Holy Text", which is held as the defining of life. Such a view limits or defines man, without understanding the indivdiual and the complexities to and about life.
So, I don't think one can separate faith and relgions, though the Pietists and the existentialist might like to do so. This would breed a world where religious authorities could define and demand certain behavior for the 'greater good". Such authoritarial structuring is not about the individual's right to life and liberty, but a collective understanding of what life "Should" be about. And don't we all know what "shoulds" do to man? "Shoulds" are about obligations and duty; not liberty of conscience. Although we all have obligations and duties, none of us would want our lives under the control of another's expectations, which intrude upon one's personal life. These like to use the law as a weapon to subvert liberty, instead of using the law to grant equal liberty. But, all of us must determine where we will draw our lines around liberty, as we must, if we define at all, which we must, if we have identity at all. Should we want an authoritarian whether an individual or group of people, to come into power, so all of us will be conformed to their understanding of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?