“NEW LIFE” BULLETIN – VOL. 24, NO. 18&19 – A SCEPTIC’S VIEW OF RELIGION
I was sitting in the van last week, waiting for someone, and I had the radio on. The host said his next guest was (I don’t remember his name) the editor of Skeptic Magazine, and that he was going to be talking about the role of religion. I thought I’d be listening to another person who was going to say religion was all about superstition, etc. But I was surprised when he said studies had shown that religious people live about six years longer than those without some kind of faith. He also said they test better at being happy with life and have a greater sense of purpose.
At this point I was wondering what his skepticism of religion was about. What he said was rather enlightening and interesting. He did not demean religion. In fact, he praised it. But his praise did not come from believing in God, but witnessing through research, that being part of a believing group of people was good for one’s health and wellbeing.
I’m not about to get into a debate with someone on the radio about God. What I want to look at are the results of the study. The guest said that it is good to be part of a larger group. In the case of religion, it was good to be among people to be encouraged to live right and to do good to our fellow humans. He said this could come from any group of people who cared about the others in the group. You can easily see that AA, or any other recovery program works on this same principle. In other words, we all need others, not only to make life better, but to be healthier as well.
I know from what I’ve read, as well as what I’ve heard at times growing up going to church, that for some, attending church is all about obeying God. What is important is that you are in the right place when God calls the roll. This does not mean that in times of death or sickness that prayers and food are not delivered. They are. But church is about obedience and pleasing God. Any peace or health you may have received from that was often tied to what God would do in the area of peace and health if you failed to attend faithfully. In other words, it took us awhile to understand that communal worship was actually good for us. (Try telling that to your kids!)
I think the need for a group is more important now than it has been. When I was growing up in Norwood, Ohio, we knew the names of everyone on our block, around the corner, and up a good ways on each intersecting street. (Please don’t think I’m going to say we need to get back to the good old days.) We knew them because we walked to the bus and to school and the local grocery store. There was no air conditioning or an abundance of televisions, and the good radio programs could be heard on the porch from the open windows in the summer. Our lives were more exposed, and for the most part it made for a good community. When people moved out of towns and cities to have more room and privacy, houses lost the big front porches with the chairs and the swing. The need to drive to the supermarket stopped the walking to the local store on the corner. Sidewalks became a thing of the past, and we pulled the shades in our cool, comfortable homes and lost touch with our neighbors.
I can still remember the names of many people on the streets around the two houses in which we lived in Norwood. After twenty some years in Roanoke, there are still some people on our one-block street I only know by waving at them as they drive by. Is that partly my fault? Sure. But you know as I do, that times have changed. Our society has changed and I can’t turn it back.
Because of this change, the life and health value of having a group to be part of is more important now because it is more difficult. It is not just outside the window, next door and down the street. It has to be sought after and valued. The research has shown that we humans are pack or herd animals. We do better when we are with others. The apostle Paul recognized this when he said, “For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.” (Rom. 14:7) Poet John Donne put it another way when he wrote, “No man is an island.” Down deep we miss something when we try to live a solitary life.
That’s where church should come in. I would rather hear the person say they come to church because their life is more balanced and full, than to say they are there because God commanded it. One is a response to an order; the other is the response to a relationship, both with God and the congregation. Of course, we know it’s not as simple as just joining any group, church or otherwise. It has to be the place where you feel accepted, safe, respected and loved. In other words, a place of common bonds. It should be a place, where upon leaving, you feel better for having been there. If not, find another place. The idea that the worshipper has to feel bad in order to feel good, is a sad view of worship. That does not mean there can not be pain in worship. When the person becomes “pricked in the heart” it’s a good thing. That causes them to have hope, and it’s a far cry from being beaten half to death by feeling hopeless and helpless. It is sad that much of worship makes people feel that way.
The editor of the magazine is right when he says being part of a group makes life better all the way around. He can see that in group studies which have nothing to do with God, as such. Any religion or meditative group will work. The proof is in the outcome.
However, as a believer, I have another issue. If the desired outcome is peace, health and wellbeing, why is it that it is the believers in God who will give up their health and wellbeing because they are part of a believing group? In fact, becoming a Christian can get you injured or killed. Just being part of the Garden Club does not mean you will risk or give your life for a stranger. That defies the research of having a group for personal growth and security, even though that is a good thing. But risking or giving one’s life for others because of the chosen group is something speaks of the nature of God.
CONCERNS: Richard Crites’ brother-in-law. Also his cousins’ family as they deal with the accidental death of mother. Mary Smith is still improving, Jim Hunter is still receiving treatment for cancer. Zona Fisher is doing some better. Remember Sharon, the Bolin’s friend who has lymphoma. The other friend, Ellen, died last week. Pray for her family. Del also has a student whose brother-in-law has aggressive thyroid cancer. His name is Billy and his wife Kate is pregnant with their fourth child. Tony Smallwood, the truck driver injured in an accident, has shown some slight improvement. Donna Brutto, Jo Wagner’s cousin is recovering from bladder cancer surgery and treatment. Pray also for Jenn McCready, (continuing eye issues), Ken Teatino (cancer), Randy Conner, who has an issue after successful cancer treatment. Helen Nicklas, Jenni Cullum, Alma Martin, who has moved to another facility. Joni Beach’s mother, Tim Elder and the good works done by Christians across the world.
OUR DAILY BREAD: MAY 21-26
Monday: Daniel 6:6-28
Tuesday: Mark 4:26-41
Wednesday: Psalm 136:1-26
Thursday: Acts 23:11-35
Saturday: Psalm 135:1-21
OUR DAILY BREAD: MAY 28-6/2
Monday: John 15:12-27
Tuesday: I Corinthians 13:1-13
Wednesday: John 6:35-51
Thursday: Matthew 17:14-23
Friday: I Peter 5:1-11
Saturday: Psalm 125:1-5
Richard Crites was named Professor Emeritus of Virginia Western Community College at the graduation ceremonies on May 11. Richard devoted his teaching life to Virginia Western because when he was young, the state of Illinois brought a building in his small home town and started a community college where he got his start. Roanoke presented a similar situation and it was his first and only teaching job. Congratulations Rich!
This evening May 20, there will be a dinner honoring the high school graduates. Along with our own AC Branch will be Kayla and Jacob Hawks, as well as the Poindexter twins and their family. The twins are honor graduates at Lord Botetourt High School, who will be entering Radford University. These twins, a boy and a girl, along with a younger brother and sister belong to a family we have helped some in the past and we recently bought microwave ovens for the twins’ dorm rooms. Come and meet this family and the other graduates.
Today (May 20) is Super Sunday. As you can see from the former announcement, it will be a full day of food and celebration. Plan to enjoy the fellowship meal together after the morning service. If you see a visitor be sure to encourage them to join us.
A THANK YOU CARD
A thank you card was sent from the staff at the Ronald McDonald House, thanking Martha Albert and all her young and older volunteers who prepared the meals at that facility. The card said the meals were delicious and they were thankful for the help given to the families of hospitalized children.
At least two more meals are planned in the month to come, with adults taking the lead. Martha will let us know the details.
A group of students from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the Jefferson College of Health Sciences are collecting clothing for the Rescue Mission Thrift Store. Bring it to the building and it will be picked up.