Who needs religion in the Space Age? With Mars landings, lunar walks, space probes, and politics in a Presidential year, what has religion got to do with the price of putty?
Every time I think about religion, it reminds me of words like "chaos," "division," "confusion," and "war." Scenes of "Christian soldiers" come to mind. I vividly remember the newspaper picture of several soldiers in Beirut, Lebanon, earlier this year captioned "Christian Gunmen." Incredible!
Religion Has Divided Humankind!
Historically, one of the major divisive forces keeping human beings apart has been the myriads of differing points of view about why we are here, how we got here, and what we ought to do while we are here. Traditionally people have had thousands of differing, conflicting beliefs and opinions about the subject of religion. Inevitably these apparently irreconcilable differences have led to open warfare. Witness Northern Ireland today! Some people there express their religious hatred with guns, knives, and bombs. Tragically, innocent little children are sometimes the helpless and unsuspecting victims. Babies in carriages have been blasted to bits by bomb-toting terrorists who label themselves as "Christians." Both sides profess belief in Jesus Christ, but the contradiction in belief and practice is painfully obvious. The word "Christian" has been dragged through the mud over and over again. But Northern Ireland is not the only country were "Christians" are locked in bitter civil strife. Lebanon, previously a jet setters' playground, has been ripped completely apart by a "civil war" which is nothing more than a religious war between Moslems and Christians. Traditionally, the human race has been divided by tribalism, chauvinism, politics, color, and language barriers. However, global communications and rapid transportation have tended to break down some of these basic elements dividing humankind. Witness the growth of English into practically a universal language. But the real reason more progress has not been made, believe it or not, can be laid at the feet of religion — the root and core of all divisive elements dividing mankind. Religious overtones are impossible to ignore in everyday life. Take the Presidential elections. Let's face the cold, hard facts. Whether or not a man is a Catholic, Protestant, or Jew is very important to his national constituency. People get uptight, upset, excited, and worried about the possible effects of a man's religion on his politics. Historically a divorced man could write off his chances of being elected to the top national office. True, some of these old principles and mores have gone by the boards in recent years. Still, religious overtones are clearly to be seen in almost every aspect of American life.
Religion — the Prime Shaper of Civilization
A study of the history of man's religions reveals that they have been the prime shapers of all that we call civilization. Religion has been behind the arts, literature, and humanity's very life-style. You cannot separate the history of humankind from the growth, development, metamorphosis, schisms, splits, and breakups of various religious movements. Historically religions have divided humankind and ultimately sent it into battle. Egotistical, megalomaniacal dictators have used religion to propel their nations into major conflagrations with uncountable war dead. History is rife with religiously oriented madmen who have soaked this earth in blood. Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler are a couple of recent cases in point. Remember Mussolini standing on his balcony with his chin out, audaciously telling everybody what a wonderful savior he was to the human race? Hitler preached about a thousand-year reign of the Third Reich, the concept of which he extrapolated from the Bible. He understood that Christ was to return to earth to rule for a thousand years. He arbitrarily decided that's who he was. Hitler actually thought of himself as a savior. He owed it to the world to produce a super race of blonde, blue-eyed Aryans. He singled out the Jewish race as the archenemy of all good Teutonic ideals. Hitler and his henchmen ruthlessly expressed their hate-filled anti-Semitism by exterminating six million Jews. One German author attributed Hitler's "success" to his religious appeal. "His [Hitler's] success with the masses was above all a phenomenon of the psychology of religion. He spoke less to people's political convictions than to their spiritual state" (Joachim Fest, Hitler, p. 329). Hitler simply rekindled smoldering religious fires that had long burned in Teutonic history, and he preached a radical, nationalistic gospel that had previously seen the Father-land as the chief defender of the Christian faith. Notice this oratorical example from the pages of Teutonic history in the dark ages. "Our race, on the contrary, was judged worthy of the imperium because of its innate virtue and because of the perseverance with which we took the labors of God upon ourselves" (Strauss, Manifestations of Discontent in Germany on the Eve of the Reformation, p. 71). Adolph Hitler, under the aegis of religious appeal, became perhaps the worst demigod in all human history. In Churchill's words, Corporal Hitler was "the repository of the most virulent hatreds ever to corrode the human breast." Many of his subjects looked upon him as no less than a god. A Reich minister once said: "God has revealed himself in Adolph Hitler." Hermann Goring actually mouthed: "I have no conscience. My conscience is Adolph Hitler." Said a Rhenish group of German Christians: "Hitler's word is God's law; the decrees and the laws which represent it possess divine authority." Finally a churchwarden in Germany said: "Christ has come to us through Adolph Hitler." God spare us from future would-be saviors in the flesh who would lead the rest of us human beings lemming-like over some senseless cliff of military adventurism which might result in the extermination of mankind. Dictatorships are on the rise; freedom is on the decline. We've got too many would-be champions, too many deliverers and saviors with the power of small armies behind them, too many false messiahs with the awesome potential for nuclear weaponry in their nations. Meanwhile what has been good about traditional Christianity has been on the decline. The authority of the Bible itself has been eroded by the events of the last hundred years.
Attacks Against Religion In the Western World
The first major attack on the Christian religion came in the form of evolution. Darwinism came into its own at about the turn of the century. Biblical authority was threatened! The growth of evolutionary science began to attack the very underpinnings of Christianity. The famous Scopes trial featuring William Jennings Bryan vs. Clarence Darrow focused national attention on the controversy. Religion came out second best on that one. Secondly came the growth of international communism. Millions upon uncounted millions were swallowed up by the communist orb. They are hopelessly lost so far as Christianity appears to view it. Their minds have been given over to a completely alien, anti-Christian, anti-God philosophy. The third attack was the onslaught of science and technology — the unparalleled growth of the Western world into a virtual space-age technocracy. Traditional forms of religion have found themselves running scared. They have been unable to cope with the challenges of a computer-oriented world. Twelve-minute sermons have not met the needs of the average citizen plagued by crime on the streets, unemployment, runaway inflation, unacceptable tax rates, and a rapidly dissolving family structure. No wonder people are wondering why they need religion!
The Failure of Religion in Everyday Life
What does the average person converse about during the week? Chicanery and corruption in every level of government. Immorality. Drought. The price of beans and beef. Sky-high gasoline prices. Fear of crime. The safety of his children on the way home from school. Racial problems in the community. Busing. Nuclear parity with Russia. Who is number one in conventional forces? The latest horrible school bus accident! Then why should it be any different on the day in which people worship God? Should not religion help solve some of these daily difficulties, help people understand the apparent insolubility of others, inspire good questions, lead people to comprehend impending future events, and influence people to alter their personal life-style? Why should religion be in a completely different world from the practical, workaday one in which people live? Can anyone be completely satisfied with eloquent but ambiguous, unclear, pabulum-like sermons that bear little relevance to either a person's private problems or those he may face as a citizen of the world? Are soft words, soothing tones, smooth gestures, platitudes, and the like going to answer the big questions of life? Religion should have everything to do with both understanding international problems and solving the individual day-to-day problems of home, family, job, health, personal economy, etc. Religion should not be confined to one little corner of your life. It ought to be at the very center of your daily life! But religion and particularly the "Christian" brand in the Western world has failed to discharge its duty to its adherents. Religion, to a large degree, is responsible for the moral chaos in our Western world!
The Big Questions
Religion is simply not practical unless it answers the big questions of life we all wonder about, questions like: Is there a God? Does God have a written message for mankind? Is the collection of books that make up the Bible his word to humankind? Why did God put us on this earth in the first place? What about the future? What is death, and is there any afterlife on out into eternity? If your religion does not answer these questions in a pragmatic, technical sense, what good is it? The imponderables of religion ought to be logically answered and not by some will-o'-the-wisp, hazy notion of heaven or the like. Religion should give you the ultimate security of knowing what lies beyond this life. And it ought to help you solve your practical problems in the here and now. If it doesn't, there's something wrong somewhere. If you're interested in what religion really ought to be about, write for your free subscription to The Good News magazine, a sister publication to The Plain Truth magazine. The Good News magazine portrays in easily understood language the history, scope, intent, and meaning of ancient biblical writings and their applications to today's world. Topics range from the real purpose of human life now to a future resurrection. It includes informative articles on such subjects as prophecy, marriage, and family life.