It has come to my attention lately that there has come about a trend of, essentially, bashing religion and church, which I would like to address. As a practicing Christian of a very specific denomination, I feel that I am equipped with enough background and experience with church and faith to provoke thought, if not answer this question. This may also mean that my argument is biased. However, I will do my best to simply promote the essence of my argument. (Let me know in the comments how I do). In responding to whether religion and church are important, I will address the two separately, as I believe them to be different things.
From some posts I have seen and even in some Christian contemporary music, some seem to have an idea of religion to which I do not subscribe. So, before I dive into my argument, I think it is important to make a distinction. My understanding of religion is that it is not the actions that people take due to their beliefs, but instead religion is the set of beliefs, ideas, religious doctrine, etc. that govern or inspire the thoughts and actions of individuals.
Dictionary definitions of religion also include the act of worship and the presence of a supernatural being in the definition. However, I am not compelled that worship is a necessity in order for something to qualify as a religion because beliefs of the mind influence people way more than any "worship" or rituals in whatever form. The presence of a supernatural power is also irrelevant--at least to my definition--because not believing in a supernatural being is a form of faith. It is faith in yourself.
So, with religion clearly defined I will begin my critique of the popular argument that religion and, subsequently, church are not important. First of all, many people like to claim that they have no religion or do not subscribe to a specific religion, but--using my definition of religion--that is quite literally impossible. Everyone has a religion.
has a mind and, therefore, uses a set of beliefs, whether taught or discovered, that governs their
thoughts and actions throughout their daily lives. Atheism is a religion. Your religion may
not have a name, it may not be popular thought, or you may still be
searching for answers to the really big questions of life, but everyone
has faith in something, even if it is yourself.
So why is religion important? It is important because it influences not only your actions, but your state of mind. We can all pretend to ignore the big questions of life, such as where we came from and why, what happens when we die, whether there is a God or gods, but deep down, we all wonder these things lying awake at 3 o' clock in the morning listening to the steady rhythm of our persistent heartbeats (or maybe that's just me).
Religion is important, not because it saves but because it guides. As a Christian, my set of beliefs, are my guide for going through life. They are not my savior. They shape how I see myself, what I do and do not do, and what I deem important at the end of the day. It gives me my hopes and certain aspirations. For example, the hope of heaven is a popular one, and other religions may have different ones.
Now, let's talk about church. I have heard and seen many sentiments from people who are so "over" church. They are sick of "those judgemental church people" and some with the forms of worship that are promoted (or denounced) in churches. Though I may be biased due to the fact that I was raised in the church and have not had negative experiences with churches I have attended, I believe it is important for believers to attend church.
The principal benefit of going to church is to meet with people of the faith in an atmosphere where you can uplift each other in prayer, through testimonies or however. Faith-building, which is an important part of religion, can be accomplished at church, as we rely on fellow believers for help, prayers and just to know that we are not alone in our experiences and struggles. We also go to church to reinforce beliefs we hold true and to continue to grow spiritually because, as I'm sure many people know, if you do not practice something, including your religion, you eventually lose it.
As a side note, I do agree and understand how frustrating and unhelpful it can be when people come to church pretending to have the perfect lives and families. In that case, the church can be dismissed because no one seems to need God. Church is helpful, however, when you can build the faith you share by learning more and encouraging fellow believers.
Worshiping together, if done right, is also beneficial for the building
up of personal character. If we all keep to ourselves in a little corner, we hinder the spiritual growth of ourselves and others. Church is not a building and services, it is made up of people, the "body of Christ" as believed in Christianity. The church is the people, a support group of believers. Just like your actual family gets on your nerves
sometimes, your faith family will get on your nerves sometimes. It is
when you can overcome these challenges or--most of the time--petty squabbles through perseverance and with love,
that you have "arrived" spiritually.
Religion may not seem necessary to those who are non-practicing or claim no religion. However, I believe that it is inevitable and guides the path you take through life, as well as your thoughts, motives and actions. Church, if used in a faith-building way is an integral part of religion that serves the network of believers.