Someone recently said to me "Some people go to church for their religion, but I get my religious nourishment while canoeing". She wasn't a friend -- in fact it was the first time we had met -- so I couldn't delve into what she meant, but it set me to wondering. All I could say on the spot was that there wasn't any reason why she couldn't do both.
But what do people mean when they say things like that? What view of "religion" is behind that comment?
I gather that "He's religious about football" usually means "fanatical" or "dedicated" or perhaps "spends a lot of time on". But that's not what this woman meant.
I think she probably meant that canoeing gives her the experience of comfort, serenity or peace that others feel in church. Maybe it goes deeper. Maybe she is drawn out of herself into a sense of awe and otherness and getting lost in the moment while communing with nature.
That "what I get from religion" approach is quite different from James' idea that true religion is "to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
Nevertheless, I think comments about what people feel "religious" about still indicate a semi-conscious acceptance that they desire and value the spiritual state that they perceive religious people have.
I'd love to hear how others interpret it.