Every religion gets misjudged and mislabled; that’s half the point of religion, isn’t it — to be given a hard time by other sects?

Don’t join a church because it’s cool and then never seriously participate. Don’t join a church and participate with half-hearted feelings, unless you’re somehow really convinced that it’s the best place for you and you’re trying to rouse yourself to a greater level of involvement. Don’t join a church in name and then never attend, but maintain that you really are a member. Don’t join a church and then pick and choose which rules you’re going to follow. Definitely don’t join a church, disregard half of its teachings, then declare to the world that you’re a member and allow them to judge your church by your behavior.

A religion is a way of life; that’s what the organization is there for. If you’re not comfortable with that level of organization — with rules, with church leaders dictating how you live, with the rituals and traditions involved — forget religion and stick with faith. If you’re not satisfied with parts of the church but still want to follow an organized religion, find a different church. Keep searching until you find one that works; don’t half-ass something this important. Of if you don’t think it’s that important, maybe you’d better rethink why you’re going to church.

Sure, there are exceptions to all this. If you’re temporarily struggling, can’t decide whether you believe in a particular religion enough to follow its rules, fine. If you belong to a church that clearly states there are various levels of devotion and not every member needs to follow the rules to the same degree, fine. If your religion holds that many belief systems may be true and there is not necessarily one truth, go right ahead and pick and choose and bend and half-ass all you want. But, dammit, if you’re a member of a traditional church with set rules that are associated with a specific code of right and wrong based on the belief in a definite higher power, don’t decide you can judge what you should and shouldn’t be doing better than the god you claim to believe in.