Straits Times conducted a survey recently on God’s popularity here in Singapore. “God and Us” was published as a 6-page special in the local papers last Saturday. A very insightful and interesting read I must say. Unfortunately, I could not locate it online. 0therwise I would have posted the link here. It appears that 86% percent of Singaporeans have a religion and among those who do not, at least 70% believes in God. Wonderful!

However I can’t help feeling somewhat dismayed at how faith, or religion if you want to call it, has been reduced to a matter of statistics and numbers, because it is so much more than that. Reading that article gave me the impression that the main concern of churches these days and of the leaders of other faiths for that matter, is the drawing of converts. They talk about religion as though it is a business enterprise. Churches, temples and mosque are seen competing with each other in their marketing efforts to recruit members and outdo one another. I cringed when I read “…and so they go into the free market and start searching and some religions go into the market to start selling their ideas.” The success of a ministry is no longer measured by the impact they have on lives but by the number of members they managed to attract and keep. I know this may just be my perception of it and it might not be the intent of these leaders. I can’t help but suspect that this is the way most people without religion sees us. This is unfortunate and unfair. I can only speak for churches since I am Christian. I don’t deny there are some churches who are preoccupied with numbers and their aggressive and manipulative methods to draw members are a turn-off to many. What most outsiders do not realize though, is that the main objective of most churches is to transform lives, bring healing, hope and a sense of purpose to a very confused generation, through the message they carry, which is Christ himself. They are offering people a relationship with God, not some kind of club membership. Therefore it is regrettable that many people fail to see the deep and lasting work that leaders and adherents to the various faiths including Christianity are trying to bring about.

There was also a study done of why people leave a religion to embrace another and what are the determining factors of their choices. Many see religion as a matter of personal preference. They shop for religion like they shop for clothing. They choose whatever suits their needs and lifestyle. I find this troubling because truth will not alter itself to suit us. If I believe God exists when he does not, all my believing is not going to change that fact. Likewise, if you believe your good karma can save you when in fact we are all tainted by sin and only God can save us, you will still perish. My point is, believing the wrong thing doesn’t make it right. Having faith in something doesn’t make it true. There are eternal consequences involve in our choices. Someone once said,

“The root of the problem in the difference between our position and what you believe, is our extremely different perception of religion and truth. I would guess that you see these issues like a restaurant menu where everyone can choose whatever they prefer, and it’s inappropriate to tell the other diners that their choice of an entree is wrong. Our perception of religion and of truth is more like a team of doctors looking at a patient’s symptoms; when it’s a matter of life and death, they’d better get the diagnosis right instead of merely settling for personal preference!

“Oh, it looks like acne to me.”

“Well, I think it’s eczema, but you can call it acne if you want.”

“I know a melanoma when I see one, and this is skin cancer!”

“Naw, cancer’s too harsh a diagnosis, nobody likes to hear that, so I’m gonna stick with acne.”

I know this view seem narrow, even intolerant, but I think it does make a lot of sense. Religion should be something we choose wisely and after much consideration. We should ask ourselves why we believe such and such and what is the basis of our belief? Is it reliable? Have we ever stopped for a while and honestly ask ourselves if we believe the path we are on is one that leads to life? Not only life in the here and now but beyond? (of course that is assuming there is an afterlife) All of us are on a path we have chosen for ourselves, regardless of whether we have made a decision or not. Non-decision is also a choice. It means we choose not to do anything about it. Silence means consent.

We are all taking risks because none of us can be 100% sure. Life is a wager. It is only logical and wise that we wager our souls on a reliable foundation.

Let us not give up searching because finding the truth is worth all the effort.

rk

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