Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is There Room for Religion in a Progressive Society?

We live in a very secular society, of that there can be little doubt. We’ve evolved from a country where on a Sunday morning you could toss a bowling ball down Main Street Canada without hitting a soul, to a nation where just about every imaginable service is available regardless of whether its Sunday or a weekday.

In the 2001 census nearly 5 million respondents identified themselves as having no religion. Another study conducted in 1998 found just 34% of Canadians aged 15 years and older attend religious services at least once a month. The trend away from church and religious observance is obvious in our consumer driven hedonistic society.

I’m going to pose a question. Is this necessarily a good thing?

I myself no longer attend religious services, the reason being that I lack what I consider the required “faith” in the teachings of most Christian denominations. I was brought up in a Christian household though. My mother was the daughter of a United Church of Canada minister, and during the time I was growing up in the United States we attended churches affiliated with the Reformed Church in America.

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Intellectually I have a lot of problems believing certain teachings of the Holy Bible, especially if they’re presented as historical fact. But (to quote an old saw here) are we tossing the baby out with the bath water? Are there not positive elements to the Christian faith that are being abandoned in tandem with regressive prejudices and blind observance?

My best friend’s step father passed away recently, so today I found myself attending his funeral, and sitting in a chapel listening to a member of the clergy. It spurred me to thinking about those aspects of the Christian faith where I find positive and life affirming inspiration. It occurred to me that I might use this blog to offer up something of a “Sunday Sermon”. Depending on reaction I might just make this a Sunday staple.

One of my favourite Bible passages is the Sermon on the Mount, also frequently referred to as the Beatitudes. I strongly believe that one can still find inspiration in these words without the need to worship Jesus as Lord and saviour. This particular passage comes from Luke:

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

Most will recognize the “Golden Rule”, that of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. As we enter into an economically troubled time I think it would be of benefit to ponder more of this particular passage. Those who are lucky enough to pass through a period of hard times unscathed will no doubt be called upon to help those less fortunate.

When we give to those in need are we rewarded? There is the obvious good feeling that comes from helping others. But often in our giving we receive gratitude from those to whom we are bestowing gifts. Those who have been recipients of a helping hand will understand the other side though. The feeling of inadequacy and helplessness which comes from taking charity from another. There are many who so abhor this feeling of indebtedness that they will refuse any and all help, even to the detriment of their health and/or well being.

If we are to lend assistance to those in dire need, why not do it anonymously? Why not rejoice in the knowledge that we have helped fellow human beings, while forgoing the boost to our egos that gratitude brings? If you know of someone in need of financial help, rather than helping them directly perhaps funds could be forwarded in such a way that they wouldn’t know who gave it.

I’ll leave things here, and apologize for this hastily prepared entry. Next week I’ll give it more time and more thought.

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