Monday, June 20, 2005

Few True Believers

We often hear about individuals who possess an utter devotion to a job, skill, sport or idea. Their lives seem to be focused on this one thing and every waking moment is viewed as an opportunity to hone or improve it. As Scott Adams points out in God's Debris, it's quite evident that few religious adherents show this kind of devotion to their God.

In this day and age, that might sound like a ridiculous statement. Here in the US, fundamentalist Christians seem to be trying to take over the country. Heck, fundamentalists in many nations (think Iraq) are showing an upsurge in national and international involvement. On the surface then, it would seem that more and more people are turning over their lives to a steadfast commitment and devotion to their supreme entity.

But, if we dig a little deeper, it becomes obvious that this couldn't be any further from the truth! Yes, people are going through the motions of being true believers, but only up to a certain point. In essence, it's a part-time, compartmentalized devotion.

As Adams' central character remarks
"Four billion people say they believe in God, but few genuinely believe. If people believed in God, they would live every minute of their lives in support of that belief. Rich people would give their wealth to the needy. Everyone would be frantic to determine which religion was the true one. No one could be comfortable in the thought that they might have picked the wrong religion and blundered into eternal damnation, or bad reincarnation, or some other unthinkable consequence. People would dedicate their lives to converting others to their religions.

"A belief in God would demand one hundred percent obsessive devotion, influencing every waking moment of this brief life on earth. But your four billion so-called believers do not live their lives in this fashion, except for a few. The majority believe in the usefulness of their beliefs -- an earthly and practical utility -- but they do not believe in the underlying reality."
In other words, if people genuinely believed in a supreme entity responsible for every aspect of their lives, every breath that they take would be in reverence to their God.

There would be no war -- people wouldn't have time for it. There would be no poverty -- people would insure the least were fed and clothed. Their would be no politics or nations -- everyone would be too busy serving God. Every waking moment would represent a continuous prayer to the almighty.

But this doesn't describe our world at all! For most of their lives, the vast majority of so-called believers behave as if there is no God. At most, they take a 1-2 hour respite from the world to go to church and go through the motions of godly reverence, only to return to life-as-usual.

For me, the most telling indication that we live in a godless society is that we strive for innovation through competition. All of our wondrous technological advancements serve no purpose IF we were true believers.

If God is truly omnipotent and we ARE his children, why do we need cars, tv dinners, iPods, jet planes, telephones and chemo therapy?

If God loves each person who believes in him, why do we feel the need always to outdo the next guy or gal? What godly purpose is served by being the best, the brightest or the richest? God might want us to be the best each of us can be, but that's altogether different than trying to be better than someone else.

The sad fact is that too many people believe in believing more than they truly believe. Religion is more a social institution than anything else. It provides people with a sense of belonging to something important, a kinship outside of themselves. It provides an institution where they can go to talk about believing as if talking about it is the ultimate end.

If all these people who SAY they are true believers TRULY believed in the absolute reality of God, our society would be altogether different. No one would have the slightest concern about the gay agenda, illegal immigrants, the war on terrorism, national interests or a business-friendly trade environment. These would be superfluous topics.

If people genuinely believed in an all powerful being that was responsible for their very life, they would commit every breath to prayer, devotion and reverence, and leave worldly concerns to the non-believers.

Maybe the Amish are the only true believers among us!

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