I made a deal with myself at the beginning of this year – in some cultures they call it a New Year’s resolution – that I’m going to read 12 whole books by the end of 2010. I have just finished number three and it is July already. Yes, I’ve still got some reading to do! One of the books I hope to start with soon is the newly released Losing Our Religion:The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity, written by American political commentator, SE Cupp. SE takes a look at the media’s stance against Christianity as a religion. The interesting fact about the writer is that she is an atheist herself but is constantly exposing media bias against Christianity.
The media’s attack on Christianity is well known to us. The question I was rather wondering about was whether it is possible for society to absolutely lose religion in general? Many people are constantly calling out for religion to be banned, believing that it will solve at least half of the world’s problems – these Lennon-like folk are not considering that to get rid of religion one has to get rid of all thinking people too. There are lots of reports going around about the decline of religion and in the USA, in particular, and many studies showing how religious groups are losing ground. When one look at the claims made in these studies, however, it is clear that “religion” is merely another word for Christianity in general. I would rather state something like “public and cultural beliefs are changing in Europe and North America”. In effect, what is happening is that citizens and inhabitants of traditional Christian nations are using their various forms of freedom, which came about as a result of their Judeo-Christian foundations, to walk away from the faith of their fathers, whatever that may be. At the same time I suspect that these studies do not account for all the converts to Christianity, specifically, in the traditional non-Christian countries where you lie low after you become a believer in Christ due to persecution and the lack of freedom to change one’s faith.
What is religion to start with anyway? The English word stems from the Latin religio, which roughly means “reverence for the gods”. It is the belief in a god or gods (driving forces) and the worship of that being. We can get very technical about what exactly religion is and what it isn’t: does it have to include rituals or not, do you need to gather with people of the same faith regularly, and so the list goes on. To me it comes down to the fact that all people are natural born worshippers – we can’t choose whether we want to worship, only who or what we worship. Worship, at its simplest, means to give worth to something. It is when you really attach an incredible amount of worth to something that you pay lots and lots of attention to it. We also deduct our own worth from that thing(s) we deem worthy seeing that it plays a major role in forming our identity but sometimes just as an agent through which we express our identity in order to attract attention to ourselves. We consider those things which provide us with more ultimate pleasure as more worthy, and reject or avoid the things we believe will deduct from our ultimate pleasure. When we obtain such an incredible amount of pleasure from something we start praising it, telling others about it and recommend it to them as an alternative to their current source of pleasure. These things of most apparent worth basically fulfill the god role in our life seeing that everything we do is motivated by and revolves around it.
The brand new Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, actually made the claim recently that she is not a ‘religious person’. Gillard is once again referring to the fact that Australia is traditionally a Christian nation and that she does not associate with that specific religious group, or any of the other main stream religious movements in the world today. She is however necessarily religious and act according to a certain value set brought about by her particular faith. Maybe her faith is peculiar rather than particular though, seeing she refers to herself as a non-practicing Baptist. You go and try figure that one out yourself!
My conclusion would thus be that, when we stick to simple definitions, religion will never die out; people only have the choice to switch between different religions. When we talk about religion, movements such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and a few others jump to mind but they are only the most well-known and well defined ones. I prefer to use faith or belief system when referring to this concept, as our religious practices and worship methods are built upon what we believe in.
Whatever these beliefs are or things we deem important, we will finally worship one of two things: ourselves or God. As CS Lewis puts it: “There will be two kinds of people in the end: Those that will say to God ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God will say ‘Thy will be done.”