Do you believe in a God? Do you have a religious affiliation? If you answered that question 50 years ago, the response would have been an overwhelming “Yes”. Today, many are saying, “No”. Religious affiliation has been declining sharply in all Western nations, most notably with respect to Christianity. In America, there has been a 8% decline in Christian affiliation from 2007 to 2014. In Australia, religious affiliation has dropped by 20% in the last 40 years.
Atheism is on the increase in many societies. With all the atrocities we hear of in the world today, it may not be surprising to see people losing faith in a higher being who watches over us. The “watch” has not been doing too well of late. But, this is not unique to this period of time. Atrocities and genocide have occurred throughout human history; so why are things so different now?
We live in an age that reveres science. People like Richard Dawkins, who wrote, “The God Delusion” and Stephen Hawking, are big exponents of atheism. Interestingly, Albert Einstein, who studied the laws of the universe, had a belief in a God. Who is right and who is wrong? That is the unanswerable question because the belief in a deity is not a scientific question but a philosophical one. Even if you are an atheist, that is just as much a belief system as a religion. Ironically, atheists follow many moral guidelines that are laid down in religious teachings such as the Ten Commandments.
Is there a benefit to a belief in God?
In a study by two researchers, Lim and Putnam it was found that people who went to church regularly were happier and healthier than those who had no religious affiliation. But, isn’t that just social interaction and a sense of community rather than having anything to do with a belief in God?
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In a 2008 paper titled, Deliver Us From Evil: Religion as Insurance, Professor Andrew Clark surveyed 38,000 people in 22 countries. He found a very positive correlation between religious beliefs and life satisfaction, well-being and the ability to cope with stress. Prayer was important to many of the people in the survey. The religious also had lower levels of unemployment and less reliance on government social services.
Spirituality and belief in God has an overall positive impact on health. Studies have shown that depressed patients have a quicker recovery when they have a spiritual connection. Those who attend religious services regularly have a lower incidence of drug and alcohol abuse than the general population and have greater longevity.
So it appears that going to church or believing in a God has many benefits. Why then, do some atheists denigrate people who have a strong attachment to faith? Perhaps the media coverage of child abuse by some of the clergy has tainted the reputation of these institutions. We must acknowledge, however, that these are in the minority.
It is important to believe in something. It may not be the traditional notion of a God. Some people consider themselves to be spiritual, yet have never attended a church. If you are spiritual, you believe that there is some essence beyond just your physical body. You might call it Spirit, Universal Intelligence, Cosmic Intelligence or GOD (Grand Organised Designer). There are different ways to express that spirituality. True atheists believe in nothing outside the physical world. They believe that everything is random and has happened by chance – the universe is just an accident. In our pluralistic society, it is okay as well to have that belief system.
We feel that having worked with people in the healing field and having studied some of the natural laws, there is something beyond our limited human experience. We don’t pretend to know what it is, but it feels as if there is order, organisation, and intelligence both within our bodies and in the universe at large. Know this gives us a spiritual connection.
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So what is your belief and is it serving you in your life? If you have thought about returning to a place of worship or reconnecting with your spiritual side, perhaps it is time to do so. Studies show that it will add value to your life. It is something for us all to ponder.
Tell us your thoughts below.
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