Is attending Church good for our ethics, economy and survival?
by Dan Kaibel, CFP®
In an article titled 'Heaven knows how we will re-kindle our religion, but I believe we must' Nils Ferguson (professor at Harvard and author) said that G.K. Chesterton (Christian writer) wrote something of importance in ‘The Miracle of the Crescent Moon’. He pointed to a sentence that said “You hard-shelled materialists [are] all balanced on the very edge of belief-of belief in almost anything”. Mr. Ferguson said that while he admittedly had to identify with being a 'hard-shelled materialist' he also made the point that a lack of belief may be taking its toll in Europe/Britain. Nils said that his may be playing out due to how the view of God and attending church has changed. He pointed to the Gallup Millennium Survey of Religious Attitudes, that said barely 20 per cent of West Europeans attend church services at least once a week, compared with 47 per cent of North Americans and 82 per cent of West Africans. Less than half of western Europeans say God is a "very important" part of their lives, as against 83 per cent of Americans and virtually all West Africans. And fully 15 per cent of western Europeans deny that there is any kind of "spirit, God or life force" - seven times the American figure and 15 times the West African.
He then goes on to wonder why the British lost their historic faith. He went on to say that some point to the 60’s which includes the Beatles, the Pill, the mini-skirt (this brought in a time that people focused more on their own pleasure than morality and religion) but then said America had those as well. He said that while he can’t figure out why America is still more of a Christian country, he said that it matters. This self ascribed ‘hard-shelled materialist’ goes on to say that going to Church plays a part. Ferguson also said "Chesterton feared that, if Christianity declined, "superstition" would "drown all your old rationalism and scepticism". When educated friends tell me that they have invited a shaman to investigate their new house for bad ju-ju, I see what Chesterton meant. Yet it is not the spread of such mumbo-jumbo that concerns me half so much as the moral vacuum our dechristianisation has created. I do not deny that sermons are sometimes dull and that British congregations often sing out of tune. But, if nothing else, a weekly dose of Christian doctrine will help to provide an ethical framework for your life. And I certainly do not know where else you are going to get one. Over the past few weeks we have all read a great deal about the threat posed to our "way of life" by Muslim extremists like Muktar Said-Ibrahim. But how far has our own loss of religious faith turned this country into a soft target - not so much for the superstition Chesterton feared, but for the fanaticism of others?"
He also makes the case in his book Civilization that Protestantism encouraged hard work (and just as importantly, Ferguson adds, reading and saving). He said, "It isn't a coincidence that the decline of religion in Europe has led to Europeans becoming the "idlers of the world" (while the more religious US has remained hard-working). Interestingly, he also points out that China's embrace of hard work may be partly because of the spread there of Protestantism.
Many of us Christians would say that a far more important reason for our faith is that it gives us eternal life with Jesus. However, it is interesting to hear from someone who doesn't personally identify with the faith saying some of the results of the faith are good for our ethics, economy and the safety of our nation as well.