What are you looking for in a religion? By involving yourself in religious belief or an organization, what do you hope to gain?
My experience with people from all over the world has revealed to me a single truth: People choose a religion for what they can get out of it. Very rarely do people take up a religious view simply because they want to know the truth about their existence or about the supernatural (though there are exceptions). So let me give you a brief inter-faith journey on what religion offers you. No matter what religion or spiritual view you may take up, all of them offer some things in common.
• A community of belonging, even love
Any group of people who surround themselves with people of like mind often form communities or associations meant to encourage them in their beliefs and goals. It is human nature to form communities.
• Purpose and meaning in life
People usually find purpose and meaning in things outside of themselves. Religion offers many ways for people to express their beliefs to the world around them.
• A future in this life
Everyone wants hope. No one wants a bleak future. All religions offer their version of hope to any who embrace them.
• A way to deal with sin and wrong
Most religions deal with the issue of sin by either redefining it as something innocuous or by ignoring it. Usually this comes in finding ways to ignore or put away feelings of guilt without actually dealing with the act of sin itself.
• An identity that transcends culture, nationality, and all other associations
This is part of forming community. People of like-minded faith have a natural affinity for others of the same faith regardless of where they may come from.
• Activity that changes people’s lives for the better
Mercy projects, community building, expressions of commitment and common purpose—you can find these in all religions. Yes, people’s lives often change for the better by involvement in such efforts.
Isn’t it interesting that so many religions that believe so many radically different and contrary views happen to offer the same thing? Could it be that Islam and Buddhism, and Hinduism, and Mormonism, and so many others share a single common thing that unites them? Indeed, they do share something significant.
They share deception.
If the above things are all you are looking for in a religion, then any old religion will do. But it you want more, if you want a guarantee of truth, there are some things that Jesus Christ offers that no religion or philosophy can bring you:
• Eternal Life
Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father (God) except through me” (John 14:6).
• Freedom from eternal punishment
Jesus said, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
• A personal relationship with God
“By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (I John 2:3).
• A future and purpose that transcends and lasts beyond death
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
• The truth about your nature and God’s nature
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).
• A future state of sinless perfection
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
What are you looking for in a religion? Maybe what you’re looking for isn’t what you really need.