December 15, 2008

Economy Good For the Church

there is hope in haywardImage by pbo31 via Flickr"At least the economy will be good for the church." I get a kick out of how many people, Christians included, realize this but avoid talking in any meaningful way about what this means. Hope, they insist is the answer. People turn to gods when they long for hope. Fair enough, but doesn't this reveal something important about religion? And then there are those who see this trend less as a sign of desperate people seeking hope and more some sort of latent opposition to our culture of greed. I guess such people have never seen a mega-church.

It is understandable that some would seek hope in religion. After all, this has been religion's game for a long time. As an institution, the church is quite skilled at providing false hope to those willing to pledge their monetary support and/or obedience. This is a big part of how they've survived.

That increasing numbers of people would seek the solace of religion in times of turbulence also happens to tell us something about religion itself. Freud was right to label religious belief as wish fulfillment. Through faith, all things are possible (and those that aren't can be dismissed as the master plan of an incomprehensible god who "works in mysterious ways." Faith is a remarkably immature defense against reality through which the believer shapes a fantasy world in which to inhabit.

If this collective self-delusion did not come with such a high price tag, it might be a viable albeit unproductive coping strategy. I suspect most readers will be able to generate countless examples of why the short-term relief religion provides is simply not worth the cost.

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