Thursday, September 13, 2007

Christian Smith on Why Christianity 'Works' | Christianity Today

Christian Smith on Why Christianity 'Works' | Christianity Today:
"Journal Watch: Sociology of Religion

Peter Berger once imagined that the end of the 20th century would witness believers huddled together in small sects as they tried to survive a worldwide secular culture. He's now a critic of the theory that humankind is slowly outgrowing religious faith, but the question persists: Why isn't the world more secular? And why are there still so many Christians?

Sociologists have many answers, as Christian Smith notes in the summer 2007 issue of Sociology of Religion:
The moral and emotional uncertainties of the transition from communist order to now-emerging market societies, for example, might be thought to explain the growth of Christianity in China and Russia. The social dislocation resulting from the mass migration of Latin Americans from rural to urban areas is believed to explain the powerful appeal of Pentecostal faith in that region. The competition and 'product' richness of America's de-regulated religious economy are theorized as explaining its high rates of theism and churchgoing.
'Such sociological accounts are valid as far as they go,' Smith writes. 'They often can illuminate the social processes influencing the extent and shape of religious practices. But in the end, such sociological accounts possess limited abilities to explain the persistence over millennia and into the modern world of religion generally and—for my purposes here—Christianity in particular.'..."
The original article sounds it might be interesting, but I was unable to find it available on the web.

The remainder of this article is Christianity Today's interview with Christian Smith. You can read the entire interview by following the link above, but one thing stood ot for me. Smith noted that religion in general and Christianity in particular meet deep needs of people, and that is why religion has not, nor is likely to die out, even in a world that is becoming more secular. CT asked if that finding will play into the beliefs of many that "... religion is a mental crutch." Smith's response was that calling religion a "crutch" is stating negatively what is true -- People who are in need are supported by their faith -- and that can be interpreted from a perspective of belief or non-belief.

This reminds me a little of Pascal's Wager -- the idea that since God is unknowable and untestable, we cannot apply reason to the decision to believe or not believe. So you go with logic.

By believing (and I presume putting faith into practice), if God is real than you have risked nothing and gained all. If God is not real, than you have risked nothing and lost nothing.

If you choose non-belief (living as if God did not exist) you are risking your soul. If God does indeed exist, then you have lost everything. If God does not exist, then you have risked nothing and gained nothing.

I would have to say that there are much worse ways of living than loving God, and loving your neighbor as yourself. What kind of world would you like to live in?

No comments: