This is from Philippians 4:8 —
Finally, brethren, whatsoever is true, whatsoever is honest, whatsoever is just, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
I don’t have the quotation mark for this quote because I have found all kinds of version for this quote. I simply quote it from memory to get the main idea here.
For some reason, this is my favorite quote from the Bible. I have not questioned myself why I need to think of these things. Perhaps it does give a superb good feeling when I think of this. Or perhaps, whatsoever is true, honest, just, pure, and lovely are things that I find comforting. Or perhaps the thought of these things is comforting. Or perhaps these are the things that truly worth pursuing.
Whatever it is, I wish my children can memorize this quote and then benefit from this.
We have learned that people with a religious belief are happier than those without. One of the reason for their well being is religious institution (church) that provides a support system.
Now we learn that this is true only if the society they belong to values religion highly. In very secular society like China, this may not be true.
I read this early this year. “For atheists and the growing ranks of unaffiliated individuals, these findings bode well. Scientists are now finding that secular communities of like-minded people can offer similar social support.”
The take-home message is this — it doesn’t matter whether or not you belong to a church or something similar, establishing a strong social support is the key to your level of happiness.
When I was moving stuffs around in my house, I came upon this step stool, which I have used for my plants after my children outgrew it.
The step stool brought to my memory of the time when I got it. It was from a would-be pastor. When his family moved back to Taiwan, he packed the whole apartment stuffs and was ready to ship them to Taiwan. He was going to keep this step stool, too, but his wife said no. That was why it became mine.
I still remember when I saw boxes of his belongings ready for the shipping, I was wondering why a theologist student was still obssessed with materials of this world. For a would-be pastor, aren’t we supposed to be more spiritual than materialistic?
By the way, a few weeks ago, I got in touch with this family and learned that after they moved back to Taiwan, they went to China for two years working as a pastor there, then moved to California for three years before they moved to Minnesota where the wife worked on her PhD while the pastor preached at a evangelical church.
There is this Family Radio, a Christian radio station network based in Oakland, California. It predicted the world would end on May 21, 2011. Hence many doomsday believers donated their earthly possessions to this radio, getting themselves ready to go to heaven. The stations reaped $18 million in contributions in 2009 alone.
One such believer, Doris Schmitt, gave away her entire estate, $300,000, to the wealthy Family Radio, when her family members needed her financial help desperately. Her family was angry with her decision and sued Family Radio. Lost case.
When the woman was alive, she had a tough life and no relatives seemed to care for her, so she died alone at age 78 on May 2. In her lonely existence, all she had was this radio station, where she found comfort in the promise of a happy life in heaven. She believed in doomsday because it fulfilled some earthly needs that she was not given the chance to enjoy.
Think this way. If her relatives were a little bit caring to her, providing her the same comfort that she got from Family Radio, would she squander all her possession to this radio? No.
Last weekend, one of my neighboring friends asked me again to go to church/bible study with them since I have only one child at home and that child does not need much of my attention.
I tried to find some excuses for not going, however lame they might sound. After that, I was once again struck with this one compeling question about religion. Why are people religious? Whether you believe it or not, I must say religion is almost the largest human experience among people of all levels throughout history. Marx’s famous quote on religion as being the opiate of the masses cannot explain why religious voice has been echoed throughout all levels of society in the long river of human history, even among those opiate addicts. I must be free from the need for opiate or something else.
To be sure, religion originally meant relating to something rather essential to humans. Why do people, not just feeble-minded ones, need to relate their existence to something they believe to be larger and more powerful than themselves? Why do the believers still spend the whole Sunday morning seeking a superbeing when they know death ends everything and no matter how religious a person is, he/she still prefers life here than the one hereafter. I would think if they prefer life here, they would make full use of their limited life on earth instead of going to you-know-what.
I believe there is reason for every being. There must be one very compeling reason for their Sunday commitment. What is this something? I try to gather some empathy to understand this human experience, but either my imagination or my ability to empathy fails me. Because for every reason that I rake out of my brain I can find something else to overthrow it. This must be called — The dao that can be articulated is not the dao.
I had a whole-day off-site meeting on Monday. Today, when I opened the handouts from Saturday classes, the scene at local community college all came back. Oh how I miss those gone-forever golden student years! What a sharp contrast between working at a company and studying at school! Amazing that people that I work with have not been to those classes.
I am fully aware of the therapeutic function of prayer of any kind. Nothing would last for long if it is totally useless. The fact religion has persisted for so many centuries proves the power and function and even legitimacy of its existence.
Yet, if it is so useful to human existence, why do we have so many disbelievers? From my own experience with religion, I have found the biggest obstable to be a true believer is my thinking and reasoning power. To truly accept God, you must suspend your reason. Suspension of reasoning and thinking ability is the prerequisite to accepting God.
Yes, you must feel the existence of God without thinking. Too much challlenging to too many people with thinking heads.
I once told my children and I hope they still remember this, “The key is to be able to open yourself, listen to your deep-seated needs, follow it naturally.” I do not want them to be fixed in any one mode of thinking or living. So easy to say, right? I have no answer yet.
This is a very big and heavy topic. I have been thinking of this for a long time and never found enough time for it. I have been asked by many people about religion. I don’t want to give out a simple answer to a complicated question.
The simple fact is I have told my children again and again, “When you are in a dire need for help, emotionally, spiritually or psychologically, if you believe God can help, go for it.” You can say my approach to religion is very practical. Right you are. This is how I perceive church — a refuge where human seeks companionship with one another. It fulfills our deep-seated spiritual and psychological need, deeper than our reason can reach.
For me, I find it extremely difficult to cognitively justify a belief in the existence of a super being. Nothing gives me more goose bumps than inconsistency — outwardly praying with a gathering of believers while inwardly thinking of something different from the utterance.
Tomorrow I will post part two on this topic.