WHY RELIGION?

WHY RELIGION?

By Nancy Dobson, P.O .Box 71132, Bethesda, Md 20813

“Morals are just beliefs about right and wrong behavior,” I heard a woman tell a crowd recently. Then she said, “Research rejects religious investment.” That statement would have been laughable had the speaker not been serious. Those who are ignorant of God’s words and ways believe they are smarter than the Creator of the universe. Placed in teaching positions they mislead the vulnerable.

The secular approach to morals is like a desert mirage – something desirable from afar that disappears when you get close enough to put it to use. What unbiased research actually shows is that at the pressure points of life secular ethics break down. When someone feels the need, or just the desire, for adultery, theft, slander or murder and he believes he can get away with it, secular ethics gives him no reason to resist the temptation. Since right and wrong have been defined by humans, they can be redefined to suit the moment. After all, he reasons, to be selfish is human, and he is human, so why not be selfish if it suits his purpose.

Those who sincerely seek God understand the reasons for resisting the wide range of temptations and fears that press on us all in the complex milieu of human interactions during the course of life. One of these reasons is the knowledge that the spiritual realm is real, that the Living Spirit that creates and sustains the universe is present and aware of all that is done, even what is done in secret, and that this Living, All-Knowing Spirit cares about and judges human words and actions.

Humans throughout millennia have acknowledged the existence of the spiritual realm. They have had near death experiences, prophetic visions and dreams, communications with departed loved ones, and coincidences and answers to prayers. They also have listened to, written down and passed on the explanations of spirituality given by those who have dedicated their lives to spiritual seeking. Jesus, for example, explained that God is spirit and that we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24) The Creator of the universe is a spiritual power and humans are both spiritual entities and material beings. The secular explanation of ethics belittles the human spirit as well as the presence and power of God.

The authors of Psalms and Proverbs wrote that God’s eyes are everywhere. God told Isaiah He knew where he was no matter where he might be. He told the prophet Samuel that He sees each person’s heart – meaning their intentions and convictions. Jesus told us to pray in secret and God will answer, and to give charity anonymously and God will reward us. From those who dedicated their lives to seeking God we have learned that God is omniscient, the Great Living Spirit that sees and knows all things. (Psalm 139:1-12; Proverbs 15:3; Isaiah 37:28; Jeremiah 2:22, 16:17, 17:10; 1 Samuel 16:17; Matthew 10:28-31, 6:1-6, 16-18)

We also learn from them that God cares about our behavior and judges us according to our words and actions. Moses taught that those who break God’s rules show contempt for God and should be expelled from the community. (Numbers 15:30-31) God’s rules are cause and effect. When we break them we draw their negative repercussions onto ourselves. (Leviticus 26:14-39; Deuteronomy 28:15-68, 8:19-20) Ezekiel pointed out that God treats us as our conduct deserves. (Ezekiel 7:8, 27, 18:19-32) Jesus taught accountability. We are judged by our words, he said, and by our actions, and those who sin are punished. (Matthew 12:36-37; 16:27-28, 25:31-46, 13:24-50; Luke 11:27-52) Paul insisted that converts live righteously. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:9-11)

God promises to forgive those who sincerely repent. Repentance – admission of error and a changed life – is available to all. Peter and Paul taught repentance,   (Acts 2:21, 37-38, 17:30-31) Jesus said that because the tax collectors and prostitutes repented they were forgiven, while the unrepentant Pharisees were not. (Matthew 21:31-32) When the Prodigal Son repented he was accepted back into his father’s household. (Luke 15:11-24) When we forgive others their failings, God forgives us ours. (Matthew 6:14-15) It is always within our ability to change course, to repent, and to choose to be obedient and submissive to our Creator.

Every religion on earth acknowledges the existence of the spiritual realm and that humans are judged according to a set of standards after their material lives end. What happens to them after this life depends on the morals they live during this life. It is this impending judgment and the fact that nothing they do can be hidden that provides a counter weight to unbridled selfishness.

Those leaders and religious teachers who weaken the eternal Biblical truths of accountability and judgment before God that was taught by Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed, lead their congregations astray and will be held accountable themselves for wrong teaching. (Ezekiel 22:26-31, 34:1-6) God judges the priests and leaders who turn away from His rules and who lead people astray. A greater punishment is in store for them, Jesus said. (Luke 20:45-47) Jesus called them hypocrites and a brood of vipers (liars) whose actions condemn them to hell. (Matthew 23:13-33; John 10:1-21)  Even Paul, who some claim taught against the Law, said, “how can uprightness and law-breaking be partners?” and “For not the hearers of the Law but the doers of the Law shall be justified.”  (2 Corinthians 6:14; Romans 2:13, 7:13)

Throughout millennia it is religion, in one form or another, that has made it possible for civilizations to cohere and advance. No purely atheistic society that has rejected the existence of the spiritual realm has ever achieved the status of nationhood. While the Chinese do not teach about God the way Jews, Christians and Muslims do, Taoism does teach reincarnation. From where would one reincarnate if not the spiritual realm? Living by a certain moral standard prepares one to reincarnate into a good life in the future. Confucius also acknowledged the spiritual realm, since he taught that reverence should be shown to departed loved ones. Why bother to show reverence to those who are dead unless they are alive in the spiritual realm? Such a teaching encourages moral behavior so that one will be respected and remembered after death. The other major world religions either teach reincarnation, and therefore accountability, or that the spirit survives after death and is judged.

But there is another reason why those who sincerely seek God make the effort to live by the rules God has revealed through those messengers who allowed God to speak and work through them. The second reason is to be set free for eternity from the injustices, physical pains and sorrows of material life. Jesus said that whoever hears his words and does not live by them faithfully will be judged by those words at the time of judgment. (John 12:47-48) Again he said, if you make my word your home – in other words, if you live according to Jesus’ teachings – you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32) The sincerely religious hunger for that freedom and endure the pressures of life employing the Bible’s principles and rules — living the truths Jesus taught — in order to experience the freedom of returning to God’s kingdom. As St. John said (Revelation 3:10-12) those who keep God’s commandments become a pillar in God’s presence and go out no more.

When we follow God’s rules we experience God’s presence and power in our lives. This increases our faith, our trust, in those who have told us that God loves us and wants us to return to live forever in His kingdom. Those who follow their teachings and learn how to submit to God’s daily guidance do not doubt the existence, intimate presence and wise power of the Living God. They experience God in their daily lives. Therefore they have a much stronger reason than human made rules to choose God’s rules for their lives and to choose to endure, to love, and to forgive one another.

Jesus criticized rules made up by men. (Matthew 15:7-9) Those self-serving rules made up by the ignorant and arrogant who deny their own spirituality and insist on choosing their way over God’s rules and guidance. Our first error as human beings was to choose our will over God’s will. (Genesis 3:1-19) We believed the lie we told ourselves that we wouldn’t die (spiritually) if we rebelled against God and chose our own will over God’s guidance. This is the same lie being told today! Make up your own rules and live the way you want, the false prophets teach. Don’t acknowledge God, or praise God, or show love and respect for God by following God’s rules, they say. Pretend you know more than the Creator of the universe. Live in that fantasy land. When your material life is over you will realize your error, but then it will be too late – what is bound on earth is bound in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)

Jesus said that those who do not open themselves up to understand God’s words make themselves spiritually blind, and when the blind lead the blind both fall into a pit. (Matthew 15:12-14) Fortunate are the humble and contrite in spirit who are open to receiving the word of God that can lead them to eternal life in God’s kingdom. (Matthew 11:25-26, 5:3)

As an intelligent being each person has a choice. You can believe the sweet lie that tells you to live by your own rules, or you can investigate why billions of people seek God. Then you can experiment with God’s principles and rules and honestly evaluate the aftereffects. This is religion; and for many this is the most important purpose of our life on earth.

If you are interested in learning more about Biblical laws and about Jesus’ interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures you might like the books, The Torah Conscious Christian, Biblical Law by subject, paraphrased, with commentary and The Gospel’s Message Within The Message. Both are available from Amazon and as e-books on Kindle. I wish you well on your spiritual journey. ND March 2015