Tag Archives: struggle

Forced to Worship

worship

Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France. Circa 1193.

You can force people to do many things, with the right amount of “persuasion,” be it threats of violence, death, or harm to loved ones. The notion of forced religious conversion gained prominence during the Twentieth Century, and despite its illogical nature, has actually come to be an accepted truth.

It isn’t.

In truth, “forced conversion” is essentially a myth. You can force someone to do many things, but it’s quite fantastic to believe you can govern their thoughts, faith, or beliefs. Forcing someone to say something, is not even close to actual “forced conversion.” Simply saying, “I worship ____,” is very different from participating in the actual worship of that deity. Likewise, visiting a religious facility likewise in no way constitutes worship by itself. The same could be said of participating in religious festivities.

This is most often used by individuals in modern religions as a reason why humanity flocked to Christianity. It wasn’t because they wanted to, but because of threats of some kind. It wasn’t because the faith placed nobles on the same spiritual level as they were. It wasn’t because they no longer had to sacrifice to distant and hateful gods and their perpetual thirsted for blood. It wasn’t because a light had come to a very dark world.

In a nutshell, no government, no religious body, no group of people, no community, and no nation has ever had the resources to survey each and every resident, member, or participant, to ensure a religious conversion.

Judaism is the most notable example. In the thousands of years they’ve been persecuted, they haven’t converted. Huguenots of France, German Palatines, the Puritans, just about every group attacked in the name of a religion didn’t convert.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Matthew 11:28-30

How Does a Religion Grow?

With the idea of a forced conversion out of the way, what urged people to move in Christ’s direction? How could a faith spread without coercion? It’s quite simple. Christianity spread because the “common people” embraced it. They were sick of the violent and hopeless old ways, of the cruel nobility that was “descended from gods,” and could not be questioned. They were tired of giving their loved ones as sacrifices to deities, for causes that only benefited nobles. Above all, they were tired of worshiping beings they had to bribe with blood, just to hear a single request.

Christianity wasn’t just about worship, either. It urged people to see the value in human life, to strive for decency and charity. With it came the hope of education, intellect, the desire to rise above an abject animal life. The faith forbade the butchery of human sacrifice. It brought community structure and organization where there had been none before.

Had the people not chosen the faith, it would not have spread or lingered for any real length of time. It doesn’t matter what nation adapted it, or who had the biggest army. Rome is often blamed with “forcing Christianity” on “peaceful pagans,” but Rome fell millennia ago. When Constantine died, the people had opportunity to revert. As a matter of fact, the Emperor Julian reverted the empire to the old paganism after Constantine. The people didn’t embrace it.

Charlemagne “forced” Christianity on Europe, but Charlemagne died a millennium ago. Christianity did not. The Spanish brutally invaded South America centuries ago, and then their control vanished. The faith they introduced did not.

Lastly, superstition does not constitute religion, although many today make the claim. Many of these irrational beliefs linger from ignorant times. A number of people today believe these illogical fears mean practitioners really “remain pagan.” Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say a portion of humanity really remains ignorant.

Does God Let Bad Things Happen?

bad things

St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia. Established in 1561.

This question has caused more Christians to stumble than nearly any other. So why would a loving deity allow any hardship at all to befall his adoring worshipers? Does God let bad things happen? As with most quandaries, the answer is never as simple as the question.

Adults are more like children today than they ever have been. Everything is taken personally, intensely, and irrationally. We can’t express emotion in church, but we scream, hyperventilate, panic, and display extreme fanaticism at the first celebrity sighting or sports event. We can’t donate to worthy causes, but we can throw money away on entertainment.

Far too many of us have spiritual lives that are just as inconsistent. We want a relationship with God, without a relationship. God is just supposed to make himself invisible until we’re ready to talk to him. We can’t mention him to friends, family, or acquaintances because they might think something we don’t want.

We want to know all about him, so long as we don’t have to read his word. We want to display our morality without having morals. God should conform to what we consider polite, or politically correct.

We are hardly “adoring worshippers.” We are fair-weather friends who ignore God during times of prosperity, but desperately look for him at the first sign of trouble. Too many Christians believe God will take away the consequences of their own choices and bad decisions, and if he doesn’t, they’ll just get miffed at him or stop believing in him. That’s called “pouting.”

We discuss the beauty, majesty, regality, and tranquility of nature, but blame God for her temper. Because of this mind-set, people believe God should grant wishes. He should completely alter the world he’s created to accommodate what we want. He should stop the weather, stop the clock, and perform astounding feats that ensure no one suffers for anything. In short, humans want heaven on earth. They want a place free of poverty, disease, disaster, decay, and any other negative. Scripture is very clear that life here on earth will not be heaven.

In reality, we live in a universally unfair world. In order to create a survivable atmosphere and environments where humans and animals can survive, it must be exactly as it is. The food chain must be in place. We are in flesh, the same as animals, and we suffer from disease, just like animals. The weakest are most likely to suffer in the human world, just as in the animal world. Such an environment also requires changing weather systems. That system entails natural fluctuations, including extreme changes. So, essentially, the complaint is that our world is inhabitable and livable. God indeed created the planet for us to survive.

The only items commonly ascribed to God are horrible. Miracles are attributed to modern medicine, modern science, or some other third party. When wonderful things happen in the workplace, it’s attributed to the individual. Peace is the product of diplomacy and mutual commitment. Prosperity is the product of sound financial policies.

So, yes, God allows the world to continue and for that, humanity should be thankful.

 Scripture:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” -Isaiah 43:2

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” -Psalm 91:11

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” -Joshua 1:5