If I were religious and believed that my commitment on earth would decide my fate for all of eternity, I would not take any chances. How would I be able to rationalize that anything else here on earth is more important than living according to the principles of my religion. If my religion required that I attend church every Sunday, then I would attend church every Sunday- no exceptions. If my religion asked for tithing of 10 percent of my salary, then I would have it automatically deducted through payroll. If my religion declared marrying a divorced woman to be a sin, then I would not even consider dating one. Finally, if I believed our laws to be derived from religion, then I would obey them. In fact, I would have a detailed spreadsheet next to my bed. Each night, I would review my adherence. And if at the end of the day I did not kill anyone, then next to the box labeled, "Thou shall not kill," I would put a big check mark noting so.
It is interesting that this is not how most religious people live. According to the August 2005, Newsweek and Beliefnet poll, 85 percent of Americans claim not only to be religious but also Christians, yet each Sunday morning, not anywhere near that percentage is attending their respective place of worship. In fact, the same poll revealed, according to those interviewed, that only 45 percent attend church services weekly. Other researchers find that number much closer to 20 percent.
One can get to Heaven by simply accepting Jesus Christ as his or her personal savior. Even notorious sinners can reserve a place in Heaven without living a religious life. I find this notion in direct conflict with two religious ideas. The first is the concept of a "good" Christian, since there is not an explicit requirement towards acts of "goodness," only the acceptance of Jesus Christ. The second concept is the inequality among the commitments required to get into Heaven. It hardly seems fair that sinners, that only attend church on Christmas, Easter and other selected events, should be appropriated the same eternal fate as those that, among other things, committed each and every Sunday to God.
I believe Christians are either taking advantage of the ease afforded Americans through Christianity in the pursuit of a heavenly fate or they do not believe in God enough to live the life described in The Bible. For eternal bliss, Christians can pay what they want, attend church when they want and sin as often as they want. More importantly, they do not have to give up their lives on earth- that is to suffer and sacrifice for the ultimate reward. Thus, Christians are active participants in the materialism, greed and the lack of discipline that dominates our culture. Religion is there for them when they want it, to discriminate against homosexuals or protest abortion, but it disappears when one wants a divorce or to sleep in on Sunday morning.
The almost universal answer to the question of how often one attends church is, "Not as often as I should." Such a statement acknowledges both, a recognition that one is obligated to go to church according to his or her religion, and a nonchalant attitude that this lack of commitment poses no great threat to the eternal promises of heaven. If God were to, undisputedly, appear on earth here today, I would guess that his verifiable fear would push church attendance toward 100 percent. The difference between those that do attend church on a regular basis, and those that would upon the proof of God represents those people that are not willing to sacrifice their time on earth based on faith alone.
With arguments concerning the Ten Commandments on government property and the phrase "under God" in our pledge of allegiance, much has been made of the ideology that this is a Christian nation. The fact that 85 percent of Americans are Christian does bode well for their argument. However claiming that we are a Christian nation and acting like one are two completely different things. If Christians want a Christian society, then they should start doing the things that they themselves consider Christian-like.
No longer should they be able to pick and choose their beliefs like the options on a new car. Most choose the options that make their ride to Heaven the easiest. They select the sport-utility vehicle with a personal relationship with Jesus, anti-abortion wheels, gay-bashing V-6 engine, custom Biblical interpretation and forgiveness insurance. God himself or herself must have a hard time keeping a straight face with the combinations of religious justification presented before him at the pearly gates.
Final accountability rests with the churches that have been extraordinary in marketing religious ideology without demanding religious commitment. They have a mobilized a right wing movement that is politically powerful, even if its members are not personally devoted. Of course, they are selling the perfect product. It costs whatever you want to pay, it can be used any way one wants to use it while here on earth and, in the end, it can be traded in for an eternity of paradise.
Still, if it were me, I am not heading up with a BMW, loaded with options; I am taking with me church attendance records, my trusty Ten Commandment worksheet and a long list of good deeds. But that is just me.
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