I was recently asked a typical question as a Christian: “What if you die and find out that you were wrong? Like, what if the Buddhists were right?” The great thing is if I follow the teachings of Christianity to love and be good, I’m doing well if Buddhists are right. I’m also doing well if the Jews or Muslims are right or any religion for that matter. Even if atheists are right (a religion I don’t get at all: (atheist) “I celebrate nothingness and meaninglessness.” (potential new member) “Sounds delightful.”), I’m doing great because by following Christianity, I strive to live a life with morals, integrity, hope, and love. My life has been made better by following a religion because religion makes life better (when done right).
I’ve recently had a new experience; I have found that my heart breaks when people tell me they don’t believe in God or they’re agnostic (i.e. they believe in a God, but don’t care enough to pursue understanding or a relationship with Him). I’m not sure who troubles me more because how can you be so sure there isn’t a God and how can you believe there’s a God, but not care to investigate what that should mean for your life? Neither response makes any sense to me, especially because this world is full of injustice and suffering, so how can we not hope there’s something more after this life? How can we not want this up and down experience to have meaning? When a loved one dies, how can we not want to have the comfort of thinking we’ll see them again one day? How can you live your life so stuck in the moment and not care about the bigger picture? If you invest in RRSPs for retirement, what about post retirement?
I am the first to complain about mean and hypocritical religious people (even though I can be one), but overall, having faith demonstrated through action has a lot of very strong benefits. Like most people, even non believers, I hold those who call themselves Christians to a higher standard. That alone is proof that Christianity is supposed to help people be better. Unfortunately, people are always just people and will do stupid things and even be misguided like Christians who promote hate instead of love (if you’ve ever seen the news, I’m sure you can think of a few examples).
In some ways, being involved in the Church is like being part of any organization – the more involved you get (i.e. the more family-like you become), the more there is to be gained and, at the same time, the more there is to be lost and pain to potentially be felt. When the church experience is good, it is one of the greatest experiences you can have. When church is at its worst… watch out. It is soul crushing. As someone who has gone to church all my life (minus a few breaks) and worked and volunteered in a church for over fifteen years, I have experienced both. It was interesting because the pain I felt in church was made all the worse because we think it’s supposed to be safe, which leads to a sense of disillusionment when things get nasty. Despite the hurt I’ve experienced, however, I keep going back because it’s worth it. I’ve changed churches a few times because I have boundaries, but I keep going because being part of a religious group is good for me.
Here are 12 reasons how following Christianity, or any religion, can make your life better:
- Business/Job Connections: Being connected to a church has benefited many small businesses and lead to job connections. That’s how I got my first few part time jobs.
- Friends/Sense of Belonging: When you go to church every week and the odd event, you end up connecting with people who can become your friends, which is great especially when it gets harder to meet people as you get older.
- Community of Support: There is something wonderful about having a small community support you when you go through things like a wedding, child birth, sickness, and funerals.
- Moral Foundation & Direction for Growth: Being Christian gives you a pretty clear moral foundation with room for debate for topics that aren’t so cut and dry such as gay marriage, and abortion (even though some think it is).
- Constant Reminding Lessons: We all need reminders of what we believe and reading my Bible every day, listening to music, and going to church help with that. It regularly reminds me to be a better person.
- Questions & Things to Think About: Religion gives something positive to think and talk about besides our own drama and selfish ambitions.
- Existential Understanding: Our brains want to understand the bigger picture and what the purpose of life is; religion gives direction for answers.
- Purpose & Value: Being part of something bigger than ourselves is very important for enjoying life and not being so selfish. Why are young people struggling with greater levels of depression and suicide than before? Maybe a lack of religion and a greater purpose is the cause.
- Identity: So many people look for identity in foolish things like what their sexuality is, what they own, what they’re good at, but these all lead to conflict and being self absorbed. Whereas a religious person should believe we’re all God’s creation/children and equal in some way.
- Better Understanding and Connections to History, Art, and Culture: Judaism and Christianity have had huge impacts on the world and its development including the history of Rome. Knowing Bible stories and Christian history in general, helps the world make more sense, especially in Europe where museums and historical landmarks are more popular.
- Routine: Having a nightly and/or morning devotion time, praying during the day, and going to church once a week, help give structure to our lives and can have very strong emotional health benefits.
- Push to be a Good Person: In Christianity, we are supposed to have the Spirit in us and “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. ” (Gal 5:22-23a) The world would be a better place if more people were filled with the Spirit… and people supposed to be filled with the Spirit acting like they are actually filled with the Spirit.
May you consider the benefits of religion and if that’s something you can improve on.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, Learning to love dumb people (like me)