Friday, 27 February 2009

Wise words from across the pond

This from Fr Dwight Longenecker at Standing on my Head gets it exactly right:
"My friend's utilitarian answer to the atheist's question (Religion gives peace of mind) is a reminder that we must never attempt to answer the atheist or agnostic with practical benefits of religion. If we do, we shall always lose the argument, and most of the problems of modern Christianity (including modern Catholicism) has to do with the fact that we focus on promoting the practical benefits of religion rather than the salvation of souls.
If you try to make church interesting or entertaining you will always lose to television, movies and the circus. If you try to make religion practical as an attempt to change the world you will lose to politics. If you try to make religion the thing that starts charities and helps people you will lose to more efficient means of helping people through government programs.
But if you focus on the salvation of souls you will focus on the one thing and the only thing that religion can promise. What was the answer to the young German student? I'm afraid the only real answer is what we call here in the South the 'ole time religion'. In other words, the answer to the student was, "You need to believe in God and trust in Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul, for without him you are lost in your sin and headed for an eternity in hell."
Let's face it. This is the only thing religion is good for, but the beautiful thing is that when you do focus on this one thing, all the other good things that religion can do are suddenly added as an extra benefit. In my experience it is the Christians who really believe the "ole time religion" who also do all the other stuff best. They run the best ministries to the poor and needy. They do the best music and liturgy. They do the best art and architecture and they produce the most radical and vital social change."

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