What People Believe
Two and a half years ago, when I began to make an intentional and regular effort to share my faith, I was shocked to learn what many people’s spiritual beliefs are. Being surrounded by church folks had shielded me from the reality that a Christian world view is a rare thing in our culture especially among young people.
I have talked to people who identify themselves as witches, atheists, New Agers, Satan worshipers, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, agnostics, Hindus, Jews, believers in Greek gods, Muslims, and Buddhist monks. Some have philosophies and religious beliefs that I have never heard of.
Many reject any formal spirituality, believing that religion causes war or that it just is a means to control people. Some have turned away from a Christian upbringing they felt was forced upon them or have become disillusioned for any number of reasons, many of them valid. It is very common for people to have notions that are clearly unbiblical.
These notions can be wide-spread such as a belief in reincarnation or the misconception that all religions teach the same thing. (One middle-aged couple that I spoke with in Yachats are convinced that they could not go to hell because their relative is a Catholic priest and has sway with God!)
There are intellectual issues that influence people’s thinking. Evolution is proffered as an argument against a Creator.
In this age of information some feel they can’t believe anything that can’t be scientifically proven. I have been challenged to prove that there is a God on several occasions.
Sharing truth from Scripture is countered by opinions such as the Bible is a fairy tale, is full of errors, or has been “re-written” and therefore cannot be trusted.
Additionally there are strong societal values that form peoples’ worldviews. The exaltation of tolerance as a virtue has lead to the idea that “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you truly believe it.”
This has led to normalization of behaviors and lifestyles that were once considered unconventional at best. (For instance questions about and opposition to the Christian view of homosexuality comes up in many of my conversations.) Underlying this “anything goes” mentality is the belief that humans are basically good. In Yachats I spoke with a couple of ladies who were attending a Buddhist presentation. One woman claimed that that there is no such thing as evil. I asked her if it would be “evil” if someone murdered her brother. She replied that she would be mad, but that it would not be evil since there
no such thing.
Finally, there are the age-old questions that have confused and confounded people for thousands of years: Questions such as, “How could a good God allow all the evil that goes on in the world?” or “How can a loving God send people to Hell?”
Lots of people have made statements such as “I don’t believe someone would go to hell because they don’t believe a particular way.” One high school boy
told me that if he had to go to hell he thought he could get used to it!
All these influences contribute to the major trend in our culture of putting together a composite of spiritual beliefs - borrowing from different religions and philosophies. I often hear, “No religion has it all.” I spoke to three
young women at Linn-Benton Community College one day who are typical. All three of them had elements of Christianity in their belief systems but none of them appeared to have a personal relationship with Jesus or a trust in God’s Word. They all had an eclectic mix of beliefs borrowed from various sources. This is some of what they shared with me: “I don’t believe God is cruel” (i.e., He doesn’t send people to hell); “I believe we keep coming back in new forms getting closer to God as we learn our lessons;” “All religions teach the same thing and lead to the same God;” “I believe Christ died for my sins but I get my peace from Buddhist meditation;” and “There is someone or something out there beyond us that made all this but we can’t really know what it is.”
Another young man who told me told me that he had his bases covered: “I am Catholic, Mormon and Christian.”
My conversations have made it apparent to me that a Christian worldview is a rare thing in Oregon. It is both a privilege and a challenge to engage with people holding such a wide range of opinions on spiritual matters. In my next blog I will write about how I respond to the some of the most common objections to Christianity.
Next week: “My Response to Common Objections”
Copyright Ed Skipper 2013