Pleasure Put in God’s Place—Why?
“YOU are not alone,” says an advertisement in big, bold letters. “This Sunday, 61 million other adult Americans also chose not to go to church.” The ad itself is an attempt to get some of these millions, representing 41 percent of all Americans 18 or older, to go to church.
Elsewhere, notably in Western Europe, the picture is similar, except that the percentage is much higher. For example, on any given Sunday in Britain, about 98 percent of the 28 million members of the Church of England do not bother going to church. In spite of some gains here and there, the downward trend is evident worldwide.
Why They Turn Away
What is causing masses of people to turn away from the churches? Obviously, this is a very complex question. Atheism, materialism, failure of the churches to satisfy and many other factors have contributed to it. But did all those who turned away do so because they have abandoned their belief in God and thus have no more use for religion? Evidently not.
In their book The Search for America’s Faith, coauthors George Gallup, Jr., and David Poling expressed surprise at finding that “the unchurched are overwhelmingly believers; and it is not loss of faith, in most cases, that has caused people to become unchurched.” So, then, what is keeping them away?
Gallup and Poling noted four key factors tugging at the unchurched:
“1. Sports, recreational activity, and hobbies
2. Social activities with friends
3. A work schedule that makes church attendance difficult
4. The desire for ‘more time for myself and/or family.’”
Is it not true that most people now think of and look forward to Sunday mainly as a time to relax and to unwind? To many who can afford it, a drive in the country, a picnic or an outing is infinitely more refreshing than church services. Jogging, skiing, golfing, fishing or any one of a number of other sports is far more invigorating than the humdrum sermon. And, usually, such activities are pursued with a dedication and zeal that could put the average churchgoer to shame.
What is the result? Obviously, this pleasure-loving outlook has severely eroded support for the churches. But, more seriously for the individuals, it has meant that love of pleasure has replaced love of God. Religion, or what is left of it, has been relegated to a few special occasions in life, such as weddings and funerals, when piety is still deemed necessary. Secular diversion has taken the place of spiritual devotion.
This rising tide of secularism among people who profess to believe in God coincides with what the apostle Paul had in mind when he spoke of men becoming “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” And, in speaking of such persons, he was using them as a warning and a feature, signaling the arrival of “the last days” when “critical times hard to deal with” would be here. (2 Timothy 3:1, 2, 4) The fact that multitudes today “put pleasure in the place of God,” as Paul foretold, is one of many evidences that we are living in the last days.—The New English Bible.