My friend said, “Believing in God gives me peace of mind.”
“But I already have peace of mind” said the German kid. Of course. He felt okay because he doesn’t need God. He has a secure life. He enjoys health, good contacts, prosperity and a seemingly secure future. The poor kid mistakes complacency for peace of mind. His mind isn’t at peace. It’s just dead. He’s never looked misery in the face and never yet asked the big questions.
He’s typical of the young generation of European atheists. They really, honestly do not see any need for God. Without having any moral education they feel no guilt over anything. Without having any religious education that includes heaven and hell they have no worries about the afterlife. They do what they like when they like and see no need for God. What catechesis they have had is universalist (the merciful God will ensure that everyone goes to heaven) so of course he concludes that religion (and God) are irrelevant to him.
The irony of this is that he is the result of a great Christian experiment in which we have tried harder than ever before to show how very relevant God and religion is to the human race.
When my friend tried to argue for God by saying he met a need (he gives me peace of mind) he articulates the main problem with modernist religion. It is this: we have tried to argue for God and for religion according to utilitarian methods. We want to make God necessary for people. We want to show how God meets their needs, makes them happy, and how religion makes them nicer people and how religion will make the world a better place. In other words, we have a marketplace mentality. If we can just show people how great God is and how super dooper religion is we’re sure they’ll buy the product.
To do this we inevitably sugar coat the product and therefore sell them a false religion. When they realize they’ve been duped they clear off and never try Christianity again. So, for example, a person is told by some Evangelical preacher that Jesus will save them from their sins, heal them, fill them with the Holy Spirit and they will belong to a wonderful, warm and genuine family of God as they belong to the Church. Then they join the church and find a group of struggling sinners just like they are. They feel they’ve been sold a bill of goods, and they’re off.
The permutations of this false religion are endless in America. We Catholics have our own version. It’s called AmChurch. It’s comfort religion. Sickly sentimental worship songs, masses that are all about ourselves and how good we feel. Songs and sermons about how we are going to change the world ‘We can make a difference’ etc. It’s all a big pep rally to make people feel good and feel relevant and feel alive and most of it’s fake.
I’m for preaching what they call here in the South the ‘ole time religion’. It’s a tough, uncompromising religion that believes in heaven and hell and preaches the simple truth that we’re all sinners headed away from God unless we turn and repent and believe the gospel, and take up our cross to follow Christ.
The modernist will cry out in horror, “But people just don’t believe that sort of thing these days!” Well some people don’t, but in my experience, most people who take religion seriously at all are crying out for this sort of message. This is exactly what they believe and they wish their clergy did too.
The modernist will cry, “But it is so irrelevant to modern people!” Well, making religion ‘relevant’ hasn’t done anything but empty churches. Let’s try the irrelevant for a change. After all, to paraphrase St Therese of Lisieux, “There is no merit in doing something that is relevant.”
PS: This post is a re-write of one posted last week with the title ‘The Crux of the Matter’. The first version was hastily done. I took it down, but someone asked for it to return. So here’s a new version.