Monday, 27 August 2018

Believe it or not

I'm intrigued to read that religious faith is on the rise around the world and 84 per cent of the world's population identifies with a religion. I'd had the impression that religion was declining and non-believers were increasing.

That may be so in some countries - the number of people in the Irish Republic who disclaim any religion has risen by 200,000 - but elsewhere the number of believers has leapt.

As my regulars will know, I was put off religion at an early age, firstly as the idea of a supreme being or cosmic plan made no sense to me, and secondly because the everyday behaviour of believers belied their professed religious principles. They would exude moral superiority but treat others with disdain.

My fellow boarding-school pupils would profess religious devotion while bullying me at every opportunity. The boys I was closest to, who were always kind and respectful, had no interest in religion - they just believed in common decency.

I hasten to add that despite the off-putting phoneys, of course there are many believers who not only live up to their principles but do a huge amount of charitable work, without making any song-and-dance about it. I know several of my blogmates are deeply religious and I respect their personal beliefs even if I don't share them.

We all need help and encouragement to get through the ups and downs of life, and if religion is your chosen guide, then good luck to you. I'm not proposing a ban on religion any time soon.

I know religious charities do wonderful work, and when we get doorstep visits from the Salvation Army or St John Ambulance, we always happily give them a donation. I thoroughly applaud those religious charities helping refugees all over the world, like Christian Aid, Sisters of Charity and the Knights of Columbus, as refugees face the most dreadful situations.

Whatever floats your boat, as they say.

19 comments:

Joanne Noragon said...

So much rational thought is required of religion these days. I don't have it in me.

nick said...

Joanne: The problem for me is all the contradictory statements and beliefs. But then again, aren't we all full of contradictory statements and beliefs?

tammy j said...

very interesting! like you I thought it had waned considerably.
perhaps it's the old "there are no non believers in a fox hole!" or something like that. there are times that you blindly hope someone is in charge I guess. someone with more power than mankind! and we at least in the west seem to be hoping that is the case. the more chaotic and irrational our (chosen by some) leader seems to be... apparently it's making people turn to religion? !!! maybe they see it as a last resort!
as you say Nick... whatever floats their boat. for me and belief it was the animals. and just simple kindness.
I could never get past the God is Love thing... and yet he supposedly demanded all these sacrificed animals? (and before that even people!) I don't think He or She ever did! so much of all kinds of religious oracles and supposed RULES were written by human men who thought they were superior and it gave them the power over the ignorant masses! and their way was always the only right way! SPARE ME! sounds exactly like some of or ONE of our politicians! LOL.
I have no problem believing in an intelligent celestial Source or Power. just please dear Power ... give us the TRUTH! show yourself already!!!

nick said...

Tammy: Wow, that certainly got you thinking! However much we want a supreme being to step in and sort everything out, somehow I don't think it's going to happen! As for animal sacrifice (mentioned numerous times in the Old Testament), I agree that rather contradicts the idea that God is Love.

Actually religious belief is on the wane in the States. Since 1990, the fraction of Americans with no religious affiliation has nearly tripled, from 8 percent to 22 percent.

Jenny Woolf said...

Religion can be an excuse for the bad and a reason for the good in life.

CheerfulMonk said...

Unlike tammy I wasn't taught that God was Love. I was raised on the Baltimore Catechism. We were there for Him, He wasn't there for us:

1. Q. Who made the world?
A. God made the world.


2. Q. Who is God?
A. God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things.



3. Q. What is man?
A. Man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God.



6. Q. Why did God make you?
A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.



9. Q. What must we do to save our souls?
A. To save our souls, we must worship God by faith, hope, and charity; that is, we must believe in Him, hope in
Him, and love Him with all our heart.



10. Q. How shall we know the things which we are to believe?
A. We shall know the things which we are to believe from the Catholic Church, through which God speaks to us.

Bijoux said...

I've always tried to not judge a group of people by the acts of a few. Besides, humans are fallible, so what can we expect?

But I get it. Faith is difficult, even for us believers sometimes. However, I'm so often amazed by the world around me that I can honestly say it makes more sense to me that there is a God than that the world just evolved 'by accident.' Remember earlier this year when I posted the photo of the bird of paradise flower (We had never seen one before). My husband and I looked at each other and concluded there has to be a God, and he has a sense of humor.

nick said...

Jenny: It's the excuse for the bad that bothers me.

Jean: The Baltimore Catechism makes no sense to me whatever.

nick said...

Bijoux: Indeed, it's easy to assume the actions of a few are more typical than they actually are.

I can easily believe that the world and everything in it is very much a matter of accident. For me, that's more credible than the idea that it's all part of some organised cosmic plan we don't understand.

Yes, some flowers are astonishingly beautiful, but again that could be purely a random botanical accident.

Liz Hinds said...

I am surprised to hear numbers are increasing when more and more churches are closing down. Then again, more mosques are opening! I suppose people say they have a faith when it's a vague belief in something so maybe that is what it means. It certainly doesn't mean rising attendance at churches.

But if a church isn't living out its faith, demonstrating it to the community and being there for the community then it needs to close.

Liz Hinds said...

Tammy, God has shown himself in Jesus, who condemned all the rules put in place by man and said the most important commandments are to love God, your neighbour (even your enemy) and yourself. Jesus is ... oh fab!

nick said...

Liz: Yes, there's a big increase in Muslims. But 53% of all UK adults describe themselves as having no religious affiliation, up from 48% in 2015. Among all adults in Britain, only 15% now consider themselves to be Anglican.

I guess a lot of people are finding new ways of enriching their life that don't involve religion or church attendance. Like therapy or academic study or mindfulness.

kylie said...

Christian belief is on the rise in Africa and in China and together they make a large percentage of the world's population. Religious belief is on the wane in the west which is probably because the west is privileged and arrogant enough to believe it is self sustaining.

Joared said...

I am reminded of a story attributed to Mark Twain, early American humorous writer about our country. He toured our nation recounting to listeners tales of his travels and visits to places most had never been. Twain had visited the Hawaiian Islands, learned of their history and how these happy peaceful loving trusting Islanders were saved by mainland peoples who also took over their country in the name of Christianity. Twain would speak in his lectures of the tragedy of all those generations of Hawaiians who had died before then, never knowing there was a hell.

nick said...

Kylie: I think religious belief in the West is on the wane for all sorts of reasons, but certainly privilege and arrogance is one factor.

Joared: Good heavens, yes, fancy them not knowing about hell. Talk about deprived!

CheerfulMonk said...

nick,
I imagine there are a lot of things people believe that don't make sense to you. :D How do you feel about the beliefs of Trump supporters?

nick said...

Jean: A lot of things indeed. I'm constantly mystified by piercings, tattoos, nationalism, sectarianism, football supporters, car fanatics etc etc. I'm baffled by the widespread support for Trump and his regressive agenda, though I can understand some of the things that push people in that direction - unemployment, ghost towns, insecurity, politicians' contempt for the working class and so on.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Did you know that 0% of Icelanders under 25 believe in a god? If religious belief is indeed on the decline in Western nations, I'd say its due to education. I was so pleased that President Obama included nonbelievers in his inaugural address.

I'm an atheist but have many friends/family members who are religious and I take a very live-and-let-live approach. As long as no one tries to impose their beliefs on me, we're cool. And I'm a spiritual person even though I don't believe in gods. I do believe in love and connection.

By the way, the Knights of Columbus put a fair amount of their resources into anti-choice activities. I wouldn't give a penny to a group that wants to infringe on a woman's right to govern her own body.

nick said...

Agent: I also take a very live-and-let-live approach. If religion is a positive force in someone's life, why should I interfere? And yes, you can still believe in love and connection and a sense of spiritual well-being.

I didn't know that about the Knights of Columbus. Not as commendable as I thought then.