Church of God, New World Ministries

How You Live Your Life Is The Only Religion

Organized religious rituals and dogmas have become irrelevant to millions. Time-honored moral codes are being questioned. What were claimed to be the moral demands of a God are now often looked upon as the whims of men. In such an age of confusion, how should we live our lives?

Listen for a moment to our world of contradictory opinions: “Gay is good.” “Marriage is scared.” “Stay single and swing.” “Occupation housewife is my goal.” “Why get married and ruin a good relationship?” “Premarital sex with love is fine.” “Sex is only for married people.”

“Abortion on demand.” “Abortion is murder.” “Marijuana should be legalized.” “Marijuana leads to heroin addiction.” “Drinking is a sin.” “Getting drunk on the week-end is fun.” “Drink in moderation.” “I’m Catholic.” “I’m Protestant.” “I’m Buddhist.” “Religion is the opiate of the people.” “I think God is a myth.” “I’m not sure God exists.” “The American way of life is best.” “Communism has the answer to all problems.” “God save the Queen.”

In the midst of such moral, theological and political confusion, many people-- like one college student who adopted a new slogan: “How I live my life is the only religion”--have developed their own belief system. If your beliefs are right and that is a real problem then how you live your life is the only religion, even if it contradicts established thinking.

But we still have a problem. What standard can we use to determine how we should live our lives? Certainly we don’t want everyone doing his own thing! We don’t want murderers, gangsters and thieves doing their own thing, do we?

If we are to accept the statement that “how you live your life is the only religion,” we must have some kind of standard for outlawing behavior that can hurt people. But what authority is to lay down the right pattern for our lives and why?

Should we go back to the so-called good old days when the Puritans ethic was supposed to have reigned supreme? It is questionable, of course, whether the old days were really that good or whether most people really were that puritanical. Let’s take a quick look at what has happened to our world of religion, the one social unit that claims to have a moral and legal package of standards.

Religious institutions have become marginal in Western society. For the overwhelming majority of people, churchgoing, or the lack of it, is simply irrelevant to the manner in which they order their lives. Churches have become social institutions; men’s conceptions of God and morality have become based on existing social conditions. Modern man has made over his churches and his God in his own image. The incredible multiplicity of churches and sects is directly related to social, cultural, educational and ideological standing not necessarily to personal commitment in regard to how one lives his life.

Religious thinking and practice have lost any great moral significance. (This assumes they possessed this quality in the past.) A person may even say he believes in God and he may. But seldom is human life motivated by any basic standard outside the individual. People may help other people, but it is because they want to. The idea of any permanent moral code is not generally accepted. Churchgoing is meaningless in terms of identifying the moral conduct of parishioners. There may be absolutely no connection between the philosophical and moral demand of a particular church (indeed, it may have no obvious ones) and the actions of the individual.

Professions of beliefs in God can be meaningless in a secular society. When one says, “I believe in God,” he implies that he follows the moral tenets of that God. But this is not necessarily so in a secular society. The society, and not the professed deity, often determines the particular line of behavior.

In past centuries, religions tried, with varying success, to be the arbiters of moral behavior. Often, they only succeeded in oppressing people. Today, religious institutions have steadily become mirror images of the practices of the times. Gradually, hesitatingly but consistently-- they have been formed to endorse changes. Neither approach old-style dogmatism or present-day confusion seems really to have helped humanity.

It appears strange, however, to see the relics of religion still hanging on in our ceremonies and institutions.

In Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury crowns the sovereign Defensor Fidei Defender of the Faith. He or she is a monarch only dei gratia, by the grace of God. In the United States, the President, with his hand on a Bible, is installed with an oath administered by the Chief Justice. But few citizens really take their oaths seriously in the ultimate theological significance. As theologian Harvey Cox has written, “No one rules by divine right in a secular society.”

Churchgoing can also be seen as a personal, not truly religious, desire. American theologian Will Herberg has pointed out that going to church (at least in the United States) is simply one of the values of American life. Churchgoing is like apple pie and hamburgers; it’s American.

Some people say, “Go to the church of your choice.” It really doesn’t matter which church you go to, just as long as you go. And if it doesn’t matter which church you go to, it obviously makes little difference what the moral or theological tenets of that church are. This is in contrast to the European approach where church adherence still implies a degree of belief and practice. And perhaps that explains why church attendance in Europe is so low.

But when we come down to the nitty-gritty of human experience, few people agree on what kind of life a human should lead. For example, in one German study reported in the Spiegel, both Catholic and evangelical Christians were mostly of the opinion that virginity before marriage was not necessary (70%). But who is right the 70% majority, or the 30% minority?

In another survey, females were studied at four universities in four nations. Approximately 68% of the Canadians, 78% of the Norwegians, 83% of the Germans and 86% of the English girls approved premarital sex if the individuals involved “had a relationship of love, protectiveness, loyalty, and trust” and were “chronologically and emotionally mature.”

However, under other circumstances, such as a no-love relationship, a greater number of girls might frown on premarital sex. Then boys might look at the situation differently; so might parents. Who is to decide whether premarital sex is right or wrong? Or does it really make any difference? Sex, after all, is basic to human life. We need to know what’s right if there is anything to be known.

If how you live your life is the only religion, is abstinence or participation in premarital sex “religious”? Such disagreement on how to live one’s life permeates most important areas.

If there is any sure guide for human living, it must relate to survival and happiness in this life; it must not merely be a stick used to punish posthumously, on the other side of the grave. We need a more sure morality than one which merely says, “Do because I say so!” or “Society says so!”

Are we, then, facing a blank moral wall? Is humanity left to itself, with each person doing whatever seems right?

Thankfully, man still has that one option open. We can still ask ourselves if a supreme being who has created human beings exists. Naturally, if such a being exists, then logically, would he not have given a sort of instruction manual a code of ethics to his creation? Part of that manual certainly would include laws and regulations to govern human conduct so that the greatest good for the most people would be the happy effect.

In the Christian world, that Supreme Being is called “God.” And, incredibly enough, most people still claim to believe in him in spite of a world which has become secular and materialistic.

In the United States, 78% of Americans claim to believe in God. Other similar polls and studies show that in some areas, professed belief in the concept of God can range as high as 99.5% of those polled.

Paradoxically, American are among the most “God-believing” peoples, at least in their easy “yes” answer to the question. When Gallup International compared Americans with citizens of eleven other nations on the question. “Do you believe in God?” Here is what was found:

Country Yes% No% Don’t Know%
Greece 96 2 2
Australia 87 7 6
Austria 85 10 5
Switzerland 84 11 5
Finland 83 7 10
Germany 81 10 9
Netherlands 79 13 8
Britain 77 11 12
France 73 21 6
Norway 73 12 15
Sweden 60 26 14

Even in Sweden, the majority of people claim belief in the existence of God. In most Western nations, the overwhelming majority of citizens hold this belief.

Since most people reading this article would say they believe in God, we should be able to take this fact for granted. There is one problem, however. The word “God,” like “capitalist” and “communist,” means many different things to people. Believers in Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, Hinduism and Christianity all have different concepts of “God.” We need, for a moment, to forget all these ideas. This article, from now on, will no longer be talking about the traditional God concept of Christianity. Probably, many would be better off to use a totally new term. But that would confuse the matter more.

Let’s look at the situation from a different viewpoint. Divorce the concept of God and the idea of some moral standard from any traditional religious body, Christian or otherwise, and consider the Bible as a possible source containing this vital wisdom.

There are, of course, many claims in this book that it does contain the revealed thoughts of a supreme being. For example, in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, we find the following words:

“If you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing all his commandments which I lay upon you this day, then the Lord your God will raise you high above all nations of the earth, and all these blessings shall come to you and light upon you, because you obey the Lord your God:

“A blessing on you in the city; a blessing on you in the country. A blessing on the fruit of your body, the fruit of your land and of your cattle, the offspring of your herds and of your lambing flocks. May the Lord grant you a blessing in; your granaries and in all your labours; may the Lord your God bless you in the land which he is giving you.

“May the Lord open the heavens for you, his rich treasure house, to give rain upon your land at the proper time and bless everything to which you turn your hand” (Deut. 28;1-12).

Now those are really fabulous promises. Livable cities and livable farms. No stillbirths. Plenty of cattle to be turned into juicy steaks. Wheat surpluses to knock out your eyes. Human needs and desires satisfied.

The commands of morality of this God were practical related to the day-to-day needs of the citizens. “If you obey” then happiness is yours. This God provided an answer for the question: How can I know that a certain way of life will bring me the happiness I desire? The proof was in the eating, so to speak.

If the citizens obeyed followed the moral and social code of this God life would be abundant and happy. If the code was not obeyed, then other consequences, very undesirable consequences, would follow. This God offered the choice of following his way of life or rejecting it in favor of a personal code of conduct. But he did stress the consequences: “I summon heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I offer you the choice of life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life and then you and your descendants will live; love the Lord your God, obey him and hold fast to him” (Deut. 30: 19-20).

In a world where many religions, social groups and moral lobbyists are claiming for the loyalty of individuals, it is vital that each person check for himself. Could the Bible, after all, be the word of a supreme being who really did create man?

We are merely asking a rhetorical question so that every reader can think this out for himself. As is obvious, this church (the Church of God New World Ministries) recognizes that such a God does exist and that he makes many positive promises to the individual.

If modern science has laid man-made religion and superstition to rest, it has been a boon to mankind. It is now time to logically and with open eyes search for what modern science cannot provide the clear and simple word for our day from a supreme being a word that each one of us should base our conduct upon and by which we should live our lives.

 
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