Not all religions have the easy-peasy make your life better attraction.
People created religions to help them get through the difficulties of life - How to answer a friend?
For all those who answered, I want to say a big thanks for taking your time.
Please keep those answers coming, every answer will help someone.
Let me add a few thoughts here:
Myself and my friend belong to India, a country where the large majority of people live without any good understanding of Christ and the Cross. In fact, the majority understanding of God is neither monotheistic nor is God understood as a loving father.
The question of whether there is truth in religion is important. However, the real problem am facing is how to communicate that truth effectively to someone who has a completely different view of life to begin with (largely due to the environment he has grown up in).
If humans “invented” religion, it was about 50,000 years ago. Even for an atheist, it seems clear that religion emerged not because life was difficult (as it would have been all along!) but because humans were capable of the awareness that there is more to life than its difficulties and more to life than the self and the viewpoint of the self.
The “I-Thou” awareness is the awareness of the largest perspective possible and undoubtedly is realized after one accepts the desire to live according to the Ultimate Perspective. A person has to be open to that perspective to be open even to the possibility of an awareness of the Divine.
To be made in the likeness of God is to made capable of the kind (although of course not the extent) of the awareness of God. That is what differentiates humans from other creatures.
It is hard to know how to answer your question: what to say someone in this position without sounding patronizing. I think it is a good idea to answer from the perspective of faith. “No, religion doesn’t get me through my difficulties. Religion helps me to see what the real context of my difficulties is, which is very small compared to the context of all of reality. Pain makes difficulties demand attention, that is what the function of pain is. Unfortunately, that attention can also narrows one’s view. From within religion, though, everything is kept in a fuller context, even from within pain. In that sense, religion does help keep us from retreating into a self-centered perspective that is natural when we are in pain, but obviously through religion I arrive at a greater grounding in reality, not a retreat from reality.”
“To say that religion has a self-serving function rather than that it is ultimately a relationship with God and with the rest of humanity, though? Well, that is actually a temptation that must be resisted, lest the person lose the actual meaning of religion. To see religion for what it does for me alone is actually twisting religion out of the perspective of God and into a narrow pain- or pleasure-oriented perspective. When that happens, religion is only an empty shell of itself, because that is religion with all need and no God. That happens very easily; it takes some vigilance to not make a religious view into a self-referential view.”
C.S. Lewis put it this way: “[God] will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of heaven as a shortcut to the nearest chemist’s shop.”
it is not at all that, at least as far as Christianity is concerned. It is not because we suffer so much on earth, that we will go to heaven to be comforted … We must suffer with charity with gratitude, with joy (spiritual joy and not sensible joy) and this is not natural at all. On the contrary, when we suffer with impatience (which is the case of every man in his nature), we have a foretaste of what awaits us in Hell or in purgatory.
Christian perfection is totally at odds with the natural aspirations of man, a man by his only nature, can never aspire to Christian perfection.
In fact, many people, including many practicing Christians, have a false perception of salvation. Jesus does not offer us a salvation for free and we can never have the absolute certainty that we will be saved.
If he has found no help, no consolation with his approach, how and why does he judge the various religions - each of which provides degrees of comfort in all human situations?
He is possibly afraid - not of the unknown - but of truth.
Our words will never convince - that is a huge mistake we make. Are we better evangelizers than Jesus Christ?
I don’t think so and most of His disciples left Him!
Prayer to the Holy Spirit is the last thing we try and the first thing that is truly efficacious.
This will probably sound cruel, but from what you said, I believe you friend views God as some sort of cosmic slot machine or maybe a celestial vending machine. You know, pull the handle or put in the coins (prayers) and bingo, out come the expected goodies. We know God does not work like that.
God is like a great Father. A good father lets his child live his own life, but in the end is there for the child. A father that always gives a child what it wants, eventually raises a stunted child who does not know how to deal with real life. God is the ultimate Father in that sense. There at the end to welcome his child home.
Suffering, trials, and tribulation is the currency of life, along with the joys we find along the way. Consider God a hovering “wet nurse” just providing all the goodies of life is totally unrealistic. There are an awful lot of people who can’t get past that expectation of God. Here’s hoping your friend isn’t one of them.
The importance of this statement for Catholics cannot be overestimated. It is one of the things that separates us from many Protestant sects. Often one of their members will approach me with the question, ‘Have you been saved?’ I always feel like responding, ‘I don’t know. Have I?’
Just so you know what I based my statement on…
St. Thomas teaches that beatitudo, perfect happiness, is the true supreme, subjective end of man, and is, therefore, open to all men, but is not attainable in this life. It consists in the best exercise of the noblest human faculty, the intellect, on the one object of infinite worth. It is, in fact, the outcome of the immediate possession of God by intellectual contemplation. Scotus and some other Scholastic writers accentuate the importance of the will in the process, and insist on the love resulting from the contemplative activity of the intellect, as a main factor; but it is allowed by all Catholic schools that both faculties play their part in the operation which is to constitute at once man’s highest perfection and supreme felicity. “Our heart is ill at ease till it find rest in Thee” was the cry of St. Augustine. “The possession of God is happiness essential.” “To know God is life ever-lasting.” With all Christian writers true happiness is to come not now, but hereafter. Then the bonum perfectum quod totaliter quietat appetitum (the perfect good that completely satisfies desire) can be immediately enjoyed without let or hindrance, and that enjoyment will not be a state of inactive quiescence or Nirvana, but of intense, though free and peaceful, activity of the soul.
According to St. Thomas, the natural law is “nothing else than the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law” (I-II, Q. xciv). The eternal law is God’s wisdom, inasmuch as it is the directive norm of all movement and action. When God willed to give existence to creatures, He willed to ordain and direct them to an end. In the case of inanimate things, this Divine direction is provided for in the nature which God has given to each; in them determinism reigns. Like all the rest of creation, man is destined by God to an end, and receives from Him a direction towards this end. This ordination is of a character in harmony with his free intelligent nature.
See more on Natural Law here: https://www.catholic.com/encyclopedia/natural-law
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