Summary: Religion as mankind's search for meaning in life and its ultimate expression in God's revelation of Himself in Jesus
‘WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE RELIGIOUS?’
The best way to learn is to ask questions. The dictionary tells us that it’s having reverence or belief in some being known as ‘God’. To go further, we have to ask more questions. And that’s what I want to do this afternoon and then we can discuss what we’ve found out.
1. Why do we need religion?
Animals don’t worship. They can be very fond of their owner but that’s something different. Human beings are different because we have some inbuilt need within us – part of our makeup – to worship. Mankind has always worshipped in some form or other. All primitive peoples have had the urge to worship something. Why is this? Right at the core of a person’s mind there is the need to find some meaning in life.
The means of finding this purpose for living is in looking to some thing or power beyond ourselves. Some primitive peoples have found this in some object of creation – perhaps the sun or something they’ve made themselves, an idol. In the 21st century we like to think that we’re more sophisticated. It was said of someone, ‘He took a mirror and looked at himself - and worshipped the image he saw!’ Religion for some people takes the form of something they’re interested in. I’ve heard of people who’ve made their ‘god’ – that’s ‘god’ with a small ‘g’ – their devotion to ‘Facebook’ or a ‘Pop star’!
It’s meaningful to them personally but it’s not religion in the true sense of the word. People can make money their religion but like so many things it can’t give satisfaction for ever. I heard the story of someone telling a friend that Mr So and So had passed away. ‘O yes, and how much did he leave?’ He expected the answer that this man was worth thousands. ‘No,’ said his friend, ‘he left everything!’ What he meant was that, when he died, he couldn’t take anything with him – he had left the world as he had entered it, with absolutely nothing! So we must ask another question:
2. Does religion really matter?
What I’ve described is religion at a very basic level. Human beings need more than that to understand life. Religion in its highest form is a belief in a being greater than themselves. There are some people who would deny this: they are called ‘atheists’ and say that God in any shape or form is neither necessary nor possible, and so couldn’t possibly exist. When the Russians sent a spaceship around the moon for the first time, in order to boost their communist beliefs they broadcast a stupid statement on Moscow Radio on Christmas Day 1960: ‘Our rocket has bypassed the moon and is nearing the sun, and we have not discovered God.’ And you know what happened to Communist Russia 25 years later – it collapsed. God always has the last laugh!