The Pastor's Ponderings is a weekly note from one of the pastors that is sent to the congregation. If you would like to be included in the list of subscribers to the Ponderings, you can subscribe here. Current subscribers wishing to unsubscribe can do that here as well. The latest Pondering is below.

pooleIs Religion Bad for Us?

This week we marked the 16th anniversary of 9/11. This was a day when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and an unknown target for United Flight 93. Planes were hijacked and the pilots were linked to a terrorist group and also linked to the religion of Islam.  Because of this event, some have concluded that religion is bad. People like to blame a lot of things on the practice of religion. People also forget that Stalin performed genocide in Russia prior to World War II, killing many religious people in the name of Atheism. He killed 85,000 priests in one year alone, more than 28 times the number killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Maybe the problem is not with religion or religious beliefs at all. Maybe the problem is that sinful human beings hijack religion to endorse their actions. I would suggest that not only did terrorists hijack planes on 9/11, they hijacked the teachings of Islam to manipulate people into terrorist actions. Whenever we take religious teachings out of context and apply them to our own desire to sin, we are in trouble. It is not religion that is the problem. It is humans who are not positively changed by religious belief that are the problem.

Most religions call people to live a better life. Faith typically is a call to rise above our baser emotions and thoughts to seek to do good in the world. Many people have hijacked religion to do harm, but think of how many people have been taught by religious practice to do good in the world. How many non-profits have been created? How many hospitals have been built to heal people? How many people have been clothed, fed, and given water? How many people have been given new homes after natural disasters? How many diseases have been healed around the world? You can’t quantify the billions of good deeds done by people of faith.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. – 1 Corinthians 13:8-10

Notice what never ends from the point of view of Christian faith – love. Religious knowledge, prophecy, and tongues will cease, but not love. Love is the greatest Christian ethic guiding our faith and practice. When people chose to love, people are healed, fed, clothed, and sheltered. People of love don’t seek to harm others.

If we believe religion is bad and want to take religious faith out of the world, we will create a darker world. We will create a world where people are no longer inspired to love, but to simply follow their own selfish desires. I would call that world “Hell.”

What is your religion teaching you to do?

Grace & Peace,