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!
3. What’s wrong with some forms of religion?
True religion has always championed human rights and concern for human dignity. It has the highest ideals at its centre. We were created with a conscience – that little voice within which tells us if we’re doing wrong. It’s stimulated and guided by true religious belief. It’s something higher than scientific knowledge. Science can tell you that if you add poison to someone’s drink it will kill them. But science can’t tell you whether it’s morally right or wrong to put rat poison into your grandma’s tea so you can get your hands on her property.’ The point I’m making is that man-made religious systems are flawed. What we need is a religion which comes beyond ourselves, a religion which comes from God, the Creator of heaven and earth – the word ‘God’ with a capital ‘G’! Most people are religious whether it is about family, habits or God but sadly we know religion has been the basis for many wars and atrocities that have nothing to do with true faith in the one true God. Christians know of their own past failures and are deeply sorry for them. This leads to the question:
4. Why are there so many types of religion?
Before we talk about the Christian Religion, it’s only right and fair to mention that there are other religious systems. If you type in to your computer ‘World Religions’ you’d be amazed at the list of religions. The main ones originated in the Middle East and go back thousands of years. They consist mainly of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Then there are others with roots in the Indian continent, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, and in the Far East with Confucianism. But it doesn’t end there, as folk religions are found on every continent.