One day a friend said to me, "I don't need religion. It's a crutch."
First of all, let me say that to most believers, being called religious is a bit off-putting. Religion implies "doing," as in "rules." Faith, on the other hand, connotes a way of moving through the world--your relationship with God and your relationships with people. Big difference.
In a sense, calling religious faith a crutch is accurate. If the definition of crutch is something that you lean on, that supports you when you're afflicted, I can see what she meant and would readily agree that in part, that is what religion is.
But she meant "crutch" in a derogatory way, as if to say that the sum total of religion's function is to placate the feeble ("opiate of the masses.")
That's sort of like saying, "The only function food has is to sustain me. I don't need to experience the savory, the sweet, the salty, the smooth, the crisp ... just hook me up to an IV bag of nutrients. That's how strong I am. That's how above the other weaklings I am." To that I would reply, "OK, maybe technically, that's true, you could survive without. But I have to say, wow--you're missing a lot."
Can the enjoyment of food become an unhealthy crutch? Absolutely. But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, or the edges of the pizza with the box, because I like them.
So crutches can be misused, like any belief system or any good thing in life. Give us humans anything good, and we can warp it. We specialize in that.
Sometimes crutches enable you to walk when otherwise you'd be chair or bed-bound. If for the rest of my life I had to choose between crutches or being immobile, I would choose crutches, in order to live as fully as I could, including moving through the world the best I could. In this case, the crutch would actually offer me freedom.
But not all crutches have the same stigma as religion.
Let's get real. What else could be categorized as a crutch?
First example: People you love and who love you. Don't make me start singing Bill Withers' "Lean on Me." We lean on each other. Sometimes people burden us; sometimes we burden them. Even the Lone Ranger moved through the world with Tonto.
My elderly parents often apologize for needing my help. I am hurt by this apology because they forget or discount how I leaned on them all of my growing up years. Were they thrilled every time I became ill and needed exhausting around-the-clock care? No. It was a burden of love. I feel that way about them now. I want to say, "Please lean on me in your time of need! I want to be there for you!"
Other examples of crutches:
Your job--for finances, since you weren't born with the proverbial silver spoon.
Your car--because it's so convenient.
Hobbies--which entertain you because you need outside stimuli and interests.
Education--which gives you a step up in society.
Kisses, embraces, tears, laughter--when words won't do.
How about this: Is your vision a crutch? Because you can certainly survive without it. How about the ground under your feet? It's supporting you.
So my point is two-fold:
A. Almost any activity or thing can be viewed as a crutch.
B. A crutch is not necessarily a bad thing.
I think the bigger question is why would a person want to box up and label religion and tuck it in the basement never to be considered again?
I think it's a combination of
-a fear of looking weak
-a fear of what "being religious" might require of him
-a fear that opening himself up to things that can't be completely explained diminishes his intellect
-a fear of repeating previous bad experiences with "religious" people
- and finally, plain old arrogance
But what if the so-called weak, dependent simpletons sit at the banquet table and enjoy the raucous party and hearty feast with each other and the host, while the independent, desperado, Nobody's Fool settles for the bland, the predictable, the isolated, the temporal ... the "safe"?
People are free to stay grounded and immobile, but they're also free to fly. Faith is under your wings, like a crutch, and it's all around you as you fly, lifting you higher and higher.
So yes, faith supports. Sometimes it carries. But sometimes it builds up your muscles, smacks you on the butt and sends you off into the world. It also inspires, guides, and corrects you. It does not tie you down; it frees you. It works in cathedrals, and it works in shacks. It works for the wealthy and the poor. It works for members of MENSA; it works for children. It works for anyone who dares to open the box in the basement and just let it be.
You want to get rid of debilitating crutches in your life? Get rid of the false sense of superiority and independence. Open the box, open your mind and heart. Real life is waiting.