Today is Pentecost, which Christians celebrate as the birthday of the Church, and of God revealing the Holy Spirit to the disciples. Last week, at my Toastmasters Club meeting, another member organized a panel discussion on the topic, “Why Christianity?” The organizer and other panelists offered personal testimonies; but since the panel took place in a religiously diverse workplace, I decided to take a more philosophical approach, which follows:
Faith seeks to answer the question “why are we here?” What is our purpose in life? How do we fit in the broader pattern of the universe? These spiritual questions cannot be answered through reason or science.
We know that the universe is larger and much more complex than we are capable of understanding – and only an atheist who denies the existence of spirituality could argue that the universe and the life within it was created by a random collision of atoms. We speak of a God because that is the easiest way for us to communicate the idea of a spiritual force in the universe.
Culture draws people to specific religions. While a few people will convert from one religion to another, experience shows that such conversions are extremely rare. I am a liberal Protestant Christian because I was raised in The Methodist Church and am currently attending a Lutheran one. I came to understand myself as a child of a loving God who, desiring love and harmony with his creation, chose to reveal himself in three ways: first as a Father and Creator who has the ability and authority to do whatever he deems proper. God the Father taught the ancient Israelites the principles of morality in the form of a Law; but acting on our limited understanding, we perverted that Law by ignoring the lessons it was meant to teach, in favor of using it as a means for the priesthood to gain and hold power over us.
To correct this, God then came to us in the form of a man, Jesus, who as a man experienced the same temptations and felt the same pain that we do; yet was able to live in complete harmony with God. His teachings became such a threat to the religious establishment that he had to sacrifice his life to remain true to his teaching.
Realizing that even the example of Jesus’ life would be insufficient to guide us, God chose to reveal himself in a third way – as a Holy Spirit who lives within each of us. This Spirit helps us to find truth in our everyday lives. We can thus learn to live in harmony with God every minute of every day – if we will but listen to that Spirit.
My faith has sustained me through 2½ years of unemployment, a depression that approached suicide, and years of doubt and wondering. Because of my faith, I am confident that I will experience a new life after this one ends, one that will bring me as much peace and joy as I am prepared to receive – that is, to the extent that I have lived according to my faith.
By asserting that I have found spiritual satisfaction in Christianity, I do not mean to suggest that it is “superior” to Islam, Buddhism, or any other religion. If your religion satisfies the longings of your soul and brings you into harmony with God and your fellow creatures on earth, and if you are confident that there is more to life than your current earthly existence, then I am thankful that your religion has given you peace.
But if your religion does not satisfy you, then I invite you to try mine.