Their Search for the Right Religion
EVER since childhood some people have searched for satisfying answers to their questions about life. When young, they may have attended religious services. But many of them found that neither the answers given nor the church ritual really helped them to cope with the problems of life.
They may say that they still belong to the religion of their parents, although they seldom attend religious services. According to a bishop of the Church of England, theirs is a residual faith. They have put religion on the back burner. Others, disgusted with the hypocrisy that they see in religious circles, have rejected religion altogether. Yet, their questions about life persist.
Why Some Have Serious Doubts
Most people know that many churches have agencies to help the homeless, to distribute food to the unfortunate, and to sponsor cultural events. But almost daily they also hear news reports of violence and bloodshed rooted in religion not only among non-Christians but also among those who profess to be Christians. Should it surprise us if they doubt that groups involved in such violence are practicing the right religion?
Many with a religious background used to think that orphanages sponsored by churches were a fine thing. In recent years, however, they have been appalled as priests in one place after another have been charged with sexually abusing the children put in their charge. At first people thought that only a few priests were to blame. Now some of them wonder whether something is fundamentally wrong with the church itself.
A few, such as Eugenia, were at one time deeply involved in their religion. As a youth in Argentina, she was among those who made pilgrimages to worship the Virgin of Itatí. For 14 years she lived in a convent as a nun. Then she left to become part of an international religiopolitical group that advocated immediate, radical change of the social and economic structures of society by revolutionary means. As a result of what she saw and experienced, she lost faith and confidence in God. She was not really searching for a religion she could believe in. What she wanted was a way to bring justice to those who were poor—yes, and a friend she could trust.
Others observe what is going on in the churches and have kept their distance. An atheist whose views were published in 1991 in the magazine Sputnik candidly said: “I cannot see any essential difference between the attributes of pagan and Christian mythology.” As an example, he described a procession in which priests in gold-embroidered robes slowly carried a sarcophagus with a mummy through the streets of Moscow. It was the body of “an Orthodox Christian saint” that was being moved from a museum to a church, and it reminded the writer of priests and mummies in ancient Egypt. He recalled, too, that while those sharing in the procession in Moscow believed in “the Christian Trinity,” the Egyptians had also worshiped a triad of gods—Osiris, Isis, and Horus.
That same writer referred to the Christian concept of love—“God is love,” and “love thy neighbour”—as finding no parallel in pagan Egypt. But he observed: “Brotherly love has failed to triumph in the world, even in that part of it which calls itself the Christian world.” And he followed that up with comments about the bad fruitage from the church’s insistence on being involved in affairs of the State. What he saw did not move him to feel that the churches of Christendom offered what he was seeking.
In contrast, others have found satisfying answers but not in Christendom’s churches.
She Learned the Truth About the Dead
Magdalena, who is now 37 years old, lives in Bulgaria. After her father-in-law died in 1991, she was very despondent. Again and again she asked herself, ‘Where do the dead go? Where is my father-in-law?’ She went to church, and she prayed before an icon at home, yet she got no answers.
Then one day a neighbor phoned to invite her to his home. A young man who was studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses was visiting the neighbor. She listened as he spoke about God’s Kingdom and His purpose to make the earth a paradise where people could live forever in happiness. On the table was the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth. Using it, the young man directed her attention to the Bible text at Ecclesiastes 9:5, which says: “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” That evening she read more. She learned that the dead have not gone on to another life in heaven or in hell; they are conscious of nothing, as if in a sound sleep. Gladly she accepted the invitation to attend a meeting of the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. After the meeting she agreed to a regular study of the Bible. Having observed at the meeting the way that prayers were offered to Jehovah, she too began to pray to Jehovah for help in conquering a deeply ingrained weakness. When her prayer was answered, she knew that she had found the right religion.
They Found Life That Has Meaning
André had grown up in a strongly Catholic home in Belgium and had served as an assistant to the local priest. However, during that time, he saw things that undermined his respect for the church. As a result, he was a Catholic in name only.
For 15 years he had played professional soccer. On one occasion when his team played a tournament in Italy, they were invited to an audience with the pope. There was nothing spiritually upbuilding about that visit, and the worldly wealth that surrounded the pope upset André. His doubts about the church deepened. His own private life was unhappy because of two broken marriages. The world situation frustrated him. In 1989 he wrote in his diary: ‘What is the meaning of all the stupid things going on around us?’ He found no answers from his religion.
In 1990, when André was working as a soccer coach in Iceland, Iiris, a missionary of Jehovah’s Witnesses, contacted him. He accepted literature and invited the missionary to return. She returned with her husband, Kjell. When they finally were able to sit down and talk with André, it was obvious that he was deeply interested in understanding the Bible. His wife, Ásta, shared his interest. In the middle of the day, he had three hours between his coaching sessions, and they decided to use that time for a Bible study. “I feel more refreshed by studying the Bible than by just resting,” he said. Gradually the Bible answered their questions. Slowly their faith in Jehovah and his Kingdom grew. The Bible’s glorious promises of a peaceful new world, a world free from “all the stupid things going on,” became a reality to them. Both André and Ásta are now sharing their newfound faith with others.
Magdalena, André, and Ásta feel confident that they finally found the right religion. Eugenia too, after trying to solve the world’s problems through political means, eventually found among Jehovah’s Witnesses the religion that seemed to her to be the right one. But what is it that really determines whether a religion is the right one? Please see the following material.
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A regular study of the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses is helping over five million people in their search for satisfying answers