What the main selling point for religious institutions? What gets them in the door?
- Is it a place where they can be comfortably entertained on Sunday? The mega-churches seem to thrive with those folks.
- Is it a place where they can reinforce what they already believe about God? All those who hop from one church to another seem to be looking for that.
- Is it a place where they can go to find out how to get rich? Joel Osteen has the corner on that market.
- Is it to find an affordable country club atmosphere to socialize in? Those seem to be abundant in every religious community
- Is it a place where they can hunker down with like-minded folks against all the bad guys that surround them? Many Evangelical denomination are catering to that group now.
I don’t think any of the things above is the main draw. The big selling point of most religions is salvation. It’s the one thing that secular alternatives to faith cannot offer.
“Come to our church and we can guarantee that you will live in total happiness in the next world.”
You must say that in my opinion many, if not most, of the 39,000 different versions of Christianity almost fixate on the next life as opposed to this one. To them, it is about being “saved”. To be saved you just have to say the right words as proclaimed by their leadership and you get a get out of jail free card when you die.
I am becoming aligned more and more with the idea of humanism, that is about what you do in this world matters. Actually, living the words of Jesus matters.
But perhaps secular institutions can offer something better: not the empty promise of ultimate salvation but the saving of mortal life from despair and helplessness. The trouble with this primary reason and even all the reasons above is that they are not what the founder of the religion told us to do. If you actually sit down and read Jesus’ words you will come to find that he was very much trying to teach us what to “do”.
I know I am painting with a pretty broad brush here. I realize that there are religious institutions that do indeed seriously try to follow the words of Jesus. That goal varies with time it seems. The Catholic Church seriously strayed once in history and the Protestant Reformation happened. It is heartening to see that Pope Francis is at least trying to put back the focus on Jesus, but he does have his fierce opponents within that institution. The Progressive Christianity movement that is getting stronger each day is another example of seriously following Jesus. I use their blog posts such as this one frequently here and on my other blogs.