Who Cares About Religion Anymore?
Do you have a religion? □ □
Do you really care about religion? □ □
There is a good likelihood that you checked “Yes” after the first question. Most persons would, for over 2 1⁄2 billion persons are members of the principal religions of the world. Millions more are associated with other religions or hold religious beliefs.
What, though, about that second matter: Do you really care about religion? Is it an important and influential part of your life so that you feel concerned about religion that is right?
Many people today express little interest in religion. They neither talk much about religion nor do they particularly let it affect their lives. What about yourself? What if we polled your neighbors, workmates or schoolmates, asking them whether they thought you cared about religion, what do you think most would answer?
DO MOST CARE?
By considering a number of points, you may better appreciate why it is difficult to answer the question ‘Who cares about religion anymore?’
On the one hand, there is some evidence of considerable interest in religion today. Have you noticed, for example, how many books and newspaper articles there are on religious subjects? One writer made this comment about the market for books on religion:
“Dealers used to sell religious books to religious people and would not stock a book that spoke disparagingly of religion unless it was the religion of the ‘heathen,’ which everyone knew was not real religion but idolatry and paganism. Now, however, dealers also sell, and in increasing volume, books about religion to non-churchgoing people who wonder how conventionally religious people ‘get that way,’ and wonder, too, if they themselves would be happier if they got that way also.”
Additionally, you cannot help but have noticed another apparent evidence of an intense interest in religion: People are fighting, yes, even killing one another because of religion. True, you may not have thought about it in exactly those terms, but that is what is happening.
For example, what about the bitter fighting between the religious factions in the Philippines or in Lebanon? Do you recall the Buddhist-Catholic conflict that boiled up in Vietnam? Nor can we ignore the brutality in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants—where persons are being shot down or blown apart because of their religion. A recent Associated Press dispatch began:
“The world’s religions teach peace, justice and love, yet they also evoke commitment, loyalties, passions and, paradoxically, sometimes war. . . . ‘Bloody and vicious wars are still being fought in the name of God.’”
The fighting in the name of religion might suggest that many people do care intensely about religion. However, do you really think that is so of your business associates, schoolmates or most people in your community? Could they even tell you accurately what their religion teaches, and why?
For example, in 1977 professor of philosophy Walter Kaufmann wrote about religious beliefs in one land. In presenting his statement to you, we will omit the name of the country and the identity of the sacred writings that he mentioned. See if what he says would prove true if you filled in the name of the country where you live and the religious writings widely accepted there:
“Most people in [your country] do not know exactly what they believe, never having given much thought to the matter. When suddenly asked about what they believe, they give responses that go back to the time when they last talked about such questions, many years ago. People who say that they believe in the literal interpretation of [their sacred writings] do not know, in most cases, what is in [these writings] and would be rather surprised if anyone told them.”
Yes, on one hand religion seems to “evoke commitment, loyalties, passions and, paradoxically, sometimes war” and, on the other hand, people in general just do not know what their religion teaches, nor do they care to find out.—Compare Romans 10:2.
Note this newspaper headline:
RELIGIOUS REVIVAL TREND MOCKED BY LAX MORALITY
Would you say that this fairly well describes the situation you see around you? As one nationwide poll in the United States showed: “Religion is increasing its influence on society, but morality is losing its influence. The secular world would seem to offer abundant evidence that religion is not greatly affecting our lives.”
Nor will you find this confined to any one land. In country after country people admit to being basically religious but their lives prove that religion is affecting them less and less.
A report from Canada gives insight into one of the reasons. It spoke of the people having a basic spiritual hunger, but said that instead of meeting this hunger, the major religions are causing “severe, widespread, religious indigestion.” An observer at a Canadian conference of Catholic bishops complained that a typical response from people in general is:
“Today each person has deep questions inside. You don’t find the answers in religion, in the church. Although I have faith, there’s something missing in the church.”
Or have you heard remarks such as these made by one man who preferred to be out riding his bicycle instead of going to religious services: “A lot of preachers are in it for the buck. Preaching’s gotten to be big business nowadays.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
What does all of this mean for you and your family?
There is no denying that religious passions today still can move people to hatred, killing and war. Yet alongside this there is evidence of increasing dissatisfaction with religion. Many have a spiritual hunger or a desire to worship but are confused and uncertain about religion. They may be embarrassed to appear religious or they may feel that religion is too confusing for them. Is that how you feel?
Or, perhaps you do consider yourself quite religious. You may care about your religion, being convinced that it is correct. In any case, there is good reason for you to accept an invitation to give some thought to the matter of right religion. The book The Great Religious Leaders made this observation: “When we actually know what religion does for and to the individual, and how a person’s powers are increased by an intelligent understanding and appropriation of religion, life ought to be infinitely more worth living.”
Not only should true religion make ‘life more worth living,’ but we can assure you that the facts prove that it does! But before you agree or disagree with that statement, we invite you to think further about the matter of true religion. Is there just one true religion? If so, how could you identify it? And what can it mean for you?