Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world

RELIGION – TOO MUCH DOUBTFUL DETAIL

I see many posts about religion that seem to damage it by bigotted opinion.  Christianity is in decline in the west, but why, and what could be done?

One reason is that the secular state has assumed responsibility for regulating individual behaviour. Another reason is that Christianity seems to demand various beliefs that do not today seem credible. A third reason, stemming from the second, is that Christianity seems to have nothing to offer.

These reasons are all questionable. Accepting the state as the highest moral authority has a danger. It means that one ceases to look for any improvement. The Christian religion postulates an independent authority that may be wiser. It encourages people to search for what that authority might say. With no incentive to search, one is likely to sit back and say, “We don’t need to think further”.

 Is there ‘something out there’ which controls the universe and everything in it? The question has not been answered and believing in GOD is as reasonable as anything else. And if the ‘something out there’ set the whole universe going, then one has to accept that He (or Her or It) is omnipotent. God can do anything God wants to do.

 He COULD do it, but DID HE CHOOSE to do it? A believer in God is logically required to say ‘Yes’ to the first, but is free to say ‘No’ to the second. One does not have to believe that God actually did all the things that are reported. We are at the mercy of human beings who told the story, and wrote it down, and explained it and interpreted it. Many of them would claim to have been divinely inspired, but they wrote in the light of human knowledge and thought of their times, and they wrote in order to be understood and believed by their contemporaries.

 As religious ‘insiders’ they sought to promote their faith and often said things that would be attractive to their readers. So it is not surprising that Christianity sometimes seems to have been created by human beings to meet their own psychological needs. A believer in God must make some judgement about what God PROBABLY DID and what looks more like human fabrication. Many factors will influence that judgement, and they certainly include “How many people have believed THIS and what are their reputations?”

 One powerful message of Christianity is that God desires human beings to become more God-like. To this end He allowed free will and the possibility of sin. Man is supposed to choose the right way freely, not because he is programmed to do so like a robot. The frailty of Man means that he constantly falls into sin, which is hateful to God. Without further help, any sin leaves him with a dirty slate. So a person who sinned once –and never again – would still not be acceptable. After that one sin it would be pointless to go on trying.

 The mechanism chosen by God to put this right was to take upon himself all the punishment due for sin and so wipe the slate clean. Man will still sin, but need no longer feel that ‘it is not worth trying’. True repentance, a claim on the promised forgiveness, and serious endeavour to reform will allow him a fresh start. This can go on again and again, a person becoming – little-by-little – more pleasing to God.

 Is that message true? Unprovable. One could argue that it reflects what God is really like – but that’s a nonsense argument because what we actually know about God is zero. But is the message useful? Yes –because it offers the hope of improvement. So it has something going for it. It does have something to offer to men of goodwill.

 However, religious professionals have erected around it a scaffolding of subsidiary detail which sometimes lacks credibility. It acts to discredit the core message. There should be less of it.

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