The God-Shaped Hole!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Religion: Evil?

Here's a post by a guy named "Paul" that sums up popular feelings toward organized religion.

Geez,
I wonder if organized religion is worth all of this crap.
[...]
I’ve seen more hurt and pain come from religion than I ‘ve ever seen comfort and succor.
Murder, Pedophilia, Lynching, Genocide and Mass Suicide are a few of the earthly joys brought to the world by ‘men of god.’
I maintain an earlier posts position. Religious and sexual Preferences should be kept to oneself and practiced in the company of like minded people. Also, that Freedom of Speech does not imply that satirists have any taste. So, you may expect that your religion or sexual preference may become the source of ridicule someday. Get over it. Move on.


This opinion has, unfortunately, become the norm in America. So, how do I, a Christian, respond?

First, by agreeing with several of his points. "Murder, Pedophilia, Lynching, Genocide and Mass Suicide" are indeed evils. By putting quotes around ‘men of god,’ he adds sarcasm, implying the obvious: that those who practice such things are anything but ‘men of god.’

Second, by stating the not-so-obvious: those who practice such things may not be acting according to their creeds, but rather according to general human nature. Remember, murder, pedophilia, lynching, and genocide are also practiced by the rich and the poor, the despotic and the powerless, the greedy, arrogant, and idiotic. I can't think of a mass suicide that wasn't tied to a religion, but generally those are practiced by cults and not the mainstream; also, individual suicide is just as much a tragedy, often committed by those who have lost their faith, as well as any number of tragic reasons.

There are two major factions in Christianity: those who believe that this world will continue, and those who do not.

Those who believe this world will continue generally believe that the Church will come to rule over the Earth in some manner, usually either an actual theocracy or through the general acceptance of Christian values. Within this group, there are two camps: those who take prophecy as literal future history and expect a bodily return of Jesus from Heaven, and those who take prophecy as "spiritual", and expect the church as the "body of Christ" to do the work. There are even those Christians who believe the Bible is full of some truth, but also full of a bunch of religious nonsense and cultural stuff that doesn't apply nowadays. They may even question the existence of Jesus and God.

Those who believe this world will end are generally "theologically conservative". Again, there are several views, but the diversity of them is thinner. Generally they believe that Jesus will return to Earth at the end of the battle of Armageddon, end the battle, rule over this Earth for a thousand years, destroy it, and recreate it flawless.

The second group generally accept widespread persecution of Christianity as future history. This group may focus on short-term gains in culture and politics, but also acknowledges, according to their views, that such gains are temporary at best, that the world is going down the tubes in general, and that only Jesus' return can halt the downward slide. I am in this group, and I believe this is a realistic view, given this general sentiment against "religion" in general.

The first group, those who believe in the continuation of this world, can have a self-assuredness that comes from their beliefs. This self-assuredness often turns people against them. After all, when a group says it's inevitable that they'll rule the world someday, it tends to turn people off. These are generally the older Protestant denominations, as well as the Roman Catholic Church.

The second group, those who believe in the end of this world, can have a desparation and paranoia. After all, if it's inevitable that Christianity will be persecuted by every government in the world for seven years, time is short and we'd better get working. These are generally the younger Protestant denominations, and many non-denominational churches.

This self-assuredness and this paranoic desparation are the two main extremes of emotion in the Church today, and few people enjoy being around extremists. Also, extremes tend to make people do odd things.

The extreme that gets little press is love. Not romantic love. Agape love. It's a Greek noun, coming from a Greek verb that means to be totally devoted or committed. It means loving your neighbor - caring for your neighbor's well-being as if he were a close family member. It means loving your enemy - caring for their well-being and for their salvation; after all, Jesus died for them too.

If all who called themselves Christians expressed this extreme love, this caring for others as much as you care for yourself, the church would be growing by leaps and bounds. If the church was focused on its mission of telling people the good news - that death and entropy have no hold on us anymore - the culture battles would cease as people would be informed of the right things to do by the Holy Spirit instead of some earthly authority.

If all Christians throughout history had expressed God's love for all mankind by doing the obvious - loving all mankind - "Murder, Pedophilia, Lynching, Genocide and Mass Suicide" would not happen within the church, would not be caused by the church.

If all Christians acted the way Jesus wanted us to act, there would be no talk of keeping "religious preferences" to oneself. If all Christians acted the way Jesus wanted us to act, the church would indeed be the light of God to a dark world, and salt to the Earth.

Either that, or the dark world would have gathered to extinguish the light, and Jesus would have returned a long time ago.

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