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Defining Religion

When Estonians were recently asked whether religion played an important part in their life, only 20% said yes. It suggests the Baltic country is, statistically, the least religious country in the world (BBC news, 26 August 2011). I am from Estonia, and I have to be honest, I never had interest in religion, never read the Bible and never went to church before, but college classes like culture and civilisation (history) and theology made me realize how interesting its philosophy is. The most interesting part of religious and historical studies is definitely learning about God. But who is God really? There are other questions that interest me and make me want to know more about: What is religion really and what is relationship between religion and science?

I believe that religion is just something that helps us along. It’s like a parental figure. Something that can guide you along in your life, step by step. Some people say God is not religion, but to me, He is. To me, God is a mystery. Although the Bible does not contain a formal definition of “God,” (as it also does not seek to prove His existence formally), yet His Being, attributes and characteristics are seen on every page of  the Bible. There are theologians who believe God is in heaven and that life of heaven is also present on earth. I do have a faith in God and sometimes I do ask for the help, but I am not very passionate about the religion overall. I do not go to church and normally, I do not read the Bible, but I do believe in God. God is someone who helps me go through the hard times. Sometimes I feel that God has let me down or that he did not answer to my prayers in times that I most needed him, but then I realise that everything happens for a reason and everything God does is for a reason.  I believe that God helps me all the time. For me, God is life. God is light. God is love. God is a friend. God is faithful. God is the creator of the world. God is good and wants only good to human kind. This is how I see God.

As Albert Einstein wrote in his book ”The World as I See It”: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” The relationship between religion and science has been a subject of study since a very long time ago and is still a very common topic. Science can both falsify and and verify claims of religion. One of the most notorious examples was the medieval Church’s condemnation of Galileo for his holding that the Earth moves around the sun rather than vice versa. Also, there were times when the brightest minds in the world thought that earth was flat or that the atom was the smallest thing until it was split open and even smaller things came up. I am not denying evolution, but I just think that there might be a possibilities that some new theories will come up and science will totally change. Since I raised a question of evolution theory, it made me want to know more and I did some research on that, and I found two interesting (and funny) quotes by a great author Richard Dawkins: “Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order. Evolution has passed this test with flying colours.” Second quote: “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”

There are a lot of different religions and religious groups in the world that people follow. Some people believe, some people do not. This is the way it is going to be, possibly forever. I don’t think that the rise of scientific authority will lead to a decline in religion. Like I said in my introduction, I was never interested in religion, but I learned so much while writing this paper and to be honest, it really is an interesting field. I am going to end my paper with the quote by Dalai Lama XIV: “The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness.”

Who is God for me?

This was my very first assignment (essay/paper) for Christian theology class. I hope you like it!

 

peaceofGodI live in Estonia, although I was born in Ukraine (moved to Estonia when I was five) where most people are Christians. I am a Christian too. To be honest, I had never interest in religion, never read the Bible and never went to church before, but theology class made me realise how interesting theology actually is, and how interesting its philosophy is. The most interesting part of theology is definitely learning about God. To me, God is a mystery. Although the Bible does not contain a formal definition of “God,” (as it also does not seek to prove His existence formally), yet His Being, attributes and characteristics are seen on every page of  the Bible. There are theologians who believe God is in heaven and that life of heaven is also present on earth. For example, Westminster Catechism (exposition of doctrine) says: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” There is also Thomas Aquinas’ famous proofs for the existence of God. I have never seen God, and before I took this class, I never knew anything about God, but he is definitely a part of my life. I do have a faith in God and sometimes I do ask for the help, but I am not very passionate about the religion overall. I do not go to church and normally, I do not read the Bible, but I do believe in God. I believe that God helps me all the time.

There are no real evidence or proofs of the existence of God. The great scholastic theologian Thomas Aquinas came up with five ways which the existence of God may be demonstrated. The first way begins from the observation that things in the world are in motion or change. Good example would be rain fall from the sky. The second way begins from the idea of causation. In other words, Aquinas notes the existence of causes and effects in the world. The third way concerns the existence of contingent beings. In other words, the world contains beings (such as human beings) which are not there as a matter of necessity. The fourth way begins from human values, such as truth, goodness, and nobility. The fifth way, Aquinas notes that the world shows obvious traces of intelligent design. (Gateway #2) Natural processes and objects seem to be adapted with certain definite objectives in mind. They seem to have purpose. They seem to have been designed. As I understand, everyone and everything was designed by God, but again, there is no evidence or proof which makes it very hard to believe or understand. It is only one man’s point of view, but at the same time, it sounds very real and believable to me. For me, God is life. God is light. God is love. God is a friend. God is faithful. God is holy. God is the creator of the world. God is good and wants only good to human kind. This is how I see God. The Bible says that God is perfect in love. God’s love is always complete, full, unchangeable and self-existent. Man’s love is partial and self-serving. Holiness is also part of God’s perfection. When the Bible says that God is holy, it means that his character is the very definition of holiness. We can have holiness, but we are not holy in the same way God is holy. Our holiness is based on our imitation of His character. Out of God’s truth, holiness, and love spring God’s desire to give us laws and demand our obedience (Bible.ca). I refer to God a lot, especially when I have a very hard and important tennis match, I ask for his help. I have had this habit since I was a little boy and I still do it. What I do is, before the important point I look to the sky and say to myself: ”God, please help me win this point. I really need it.” And I do believe it helps me.

God is someone who helps me go through the hard times. Sometimes I feel that God has let me down or that he did not answer to my prayers in times that I most needed him, but then I realise that everything happens for a reason and everything God does is for a reason. From time to time I thank God that I am healthy, that my parents are healthy, that my friends are healthy. Sometimes I thank God for the opportunities he has given me in this life. I am very thankful. John Lennon once said: “I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.” I believe in God, and I do not care that I have not seen him or talked to him, I just know that he has helped me and will help me in the future. I am going to end my paper with the quote from the Bible: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him (1 John 4:7-9).

What is the role of the church in modern society?

The church exists in every single nation in the world. You can travel to any country in the world and find a church there. Every society, which honours basic human rights, has a role for the Church. One of the most debated issues facing the United States today is the role that faith and religion should play in society. In my opinion, the church influences our society in many different ways. There are a lot of issues associated with the church in modern society, such as abortion, homosexuality, marriage and many other issues which I will discuss more deeply in one of my paragraphs. But how does religious beliefs and oppositions contribute in shaping American society and politics, and what is the role of the church in modern society?

churchFirst of all, what is the church? Is the church a building? Is it the place where believers gather to worship? The purpose of the church is two-fold. The church comes together (or assembles) for the purpose of bringing each member to spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:13). The church reaches out (scatters) to spread the love of Christ and the gospel message to unbelievers in the world (Matthew 28:18-20). This is the Great Commission. So, the purpose of the church is to minister to believers and unbelievers (christianity.about.com). According to Augustine of Hippo and others, the church was to be likened to a hospital – a place in which broken, wounded and frail people came for help, in order to find healing and renewal (McGrath 148). Since I do not have much experience with the church, it is very difficult for me to define the meaning of it, however the church has still a lot of meaning to me and I strongly agree with Augustine of Hippo and other early Christian writers. For me, the church is a place where people can pray and be with God. The church is also a place about friendships being forged and social get-togethers, a place of great spiritual refreshment, renewal and support. A German monk, theology professor and a former Catholic priest Martin Luther said once: ”Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a goodly Christian weapon,” (What Christians Want to Know).

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has four areas of research: religion and politics; religion and the law; religion and the domestic policy; religion and world affairs. First of all, religion and religious organisations influence political behaviour, including voting and campaigns. For example, many people who vote on political issues maybe influenced by their religious beliefs, and the church is obviously a big part of that too. One of the most talked about issues is definitely the relationship between the church and same-sex marriage. According to Catholic church, the couple must be capable of being married – that is, they must be a woman and a man who are free of any impediment that would prevent marriage. To the most churches, same-sex marriage is disgusting and unnatural. In my opinion, this is not right. Everyone should be equal and have the same rights. While the Bible does address homosexuality, it does not explicitly mention gay marriage/same-sex marriage. It is clear, however, that the Bible condemns homosexuality as an immoral and unnatural sin. Whenever Bible mentions marriage, it is always between a man and a female. It really depends on how people see homosexuals. I believe that mostly they are born this way, and this is exactly why I do not agree with the church.

Abortion is another talked about issue, which the Catholic church has always condemned abortion as a grave evil. The Lord himself said it, “You shall not murder,” (Exodus 20:13). I am totally against the abortion unless the baby is conceived a result of rape, which is extremely rare. To me, abortion is a murder and I just can’t accept that. It is a tragedy not only for the unborn who will never experience life but for the mother also. The Roman Catholic Church has consistently condemned abortion — the direct and purposeful taking of the life of the unborn child. In principle, Catholic Christians believe that all life is sacred from conception until natural death, and the taking of innocent human life, whether born or unborn, is morally wrong (Catholic News Agency).

The church, as well as religion and faith plays a very big role in modern society. People need a place to feel accepted. Another goal of the church is to have a positive spiritual impact on society around us. This happens by praying for the city and country you live in. I am going to end my essay with the quote by a famous French theologian John Calvin: “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, there a church of God exists, even if it swarms with many faults.”