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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
Is Christianity still relevant?
Christianity has been "all but eliminated" as a source of moral guidance in people's lives, according to the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor says that society has been demoralised, with people seeking transient happiness in alcohol, drugs and pornography.
His remarks come against a background of a steady decline in attendance at mass and a worsening shortage of priests.
But while Catholic and Anglican churches suffer, other Christian congregations appear to be thriving, especially in the developing world.
So, is it a problem of Christianity, or of Catholicism? Is Christianity still relevant to you?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I think the church should stop trying to portray the teachings of Jesus as a source of moral guidance and try 'the source of life'. After all that is how Jesus put it. You don't just find relevance in God, you find the reason for being. We were born to be friends of God.
It'd be great if we could all be how God wants us to be but that is never going to happen. One or two rules to live your life by is good. But the Bible promotes thousands. And if breaking even one of these rules means eternal damnation then we're all going to hell for sure.
Why follow rules you don't believe in?
Seems to me like Christianity is creating an unnecessary strait jacket.
Personal religious ideology is fine; organised religion is bad, read your history books. Doctrine by definition will always tend to compromise truth. Belief based on evidence is reasonable. Belief based on faith is empty and often false.
I think that the 6,000+ people, mainly young people, at the recent Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham will prove that Christianity is alive and thriving away from the mainstream church. When that amount of people, attending for the whole weekend, sat down for a Communion service in the open air, all sharing their food with each other and singing, I think that those who believe Christianity is on the wane are looking in the wrong place. Look away from the mainstream and you will see a thriving group of people, just as interested in justice and humanity but with a firm belief in Jesus Christ as the author of love and tolerance. Maybe the mainstream church should take a leaf out of their book and see Christianity as a life changing force rather than a set of enforceable moral rules for society.
Of course Christianity is still relevant! We were made in God's image to worship and love Him. Our entire law system is based on His teaching, and, despite rumours that the church is dying, more people attend church on Sunday than go to all the football matches in Great Britain on Saturdays. Nobody says football is irrelevant, and that does not offer life and forgiveness, and a friendship more amazing than you could ever imagine.
Where these headlines are right is that Western Culture is decaying, moral values are crumbling and society and family life are no longer valued, but all of this is no more than the inevitable progress of a society moving away from Jesus. So yes, the Christian faith seems to have much less influence on society than 10 or 20 years ago, but actually to me this is a good thing because now there is a clear difference between the Christian life and normal everyday pagan living. What is becoming painfully clear is that we do not live in a Christian society, but where is the surprise in that!
Christianity is and always will be entirely relevant - whether human beings choose to believe so or not. God revealed in Jesus Christ is the ultimate reality -what we believe about him doesn't change that, anymore than what we believe about gravity changes the laws of physics! Human beings have always fought against God and in the end, God will (of course) win. But in Jesus, God has given us an opportunity to change sides and join him. That is the relevance of Christianity.
I was an atheist for all my life. Because of God's grace he opened my eyes and now I can call myself a Christian (little Christ). I learned that it is NOT religion that matters but rather our relationship with Christ. The church is not what we should look up to, but rather look up to Christ, our saviour! Church is made up of people. People do wrong things often intentionally other times unintentional. Not everything done in God's name is (was) initiated by God! Don't blame God for mistakes people make. And I am very glad that he is so longsuffering. Other wise he would have wiped us ALL out long time ago (remember Noah?). But he is giving us another chance to turnaround. For how much longer? Only God knows. But, going the rate society is going, Christ will come for his bride (believers in Him [church]) very soon. Maybe even within my lifetime (hurray!!) By the way, check out the movie or the novels "Left behind". It is fiction but that is exactly how I am picturing the future!!! May God bless you all.
Christianity is constantly moving further from the ideals of Christianity, love and forgiveness, to insist on the continuation of rituals that are outdates and only discourage people from having anything to do with the church. Latin and long sermons so often full of nonsense hold no promise for enriching our lives. Change with the times, and people will follow.
I find it interesting that a number of people here call themselves agnostic, especially as that is the Greek word for the Latin "ignoramus"! Christianity is not dead, but growing everywhere around the world. However, in Europe that growth is the slowest. Why is this? We foolishly believe that science has explained God away when in fact it has made the need for God more and more relevant.
Voltaire said that in 50 years Christianity would be dead. 100 years after his death the French Bible society used his house to print Bibles.
So be careful what you say!
Christianity as a "religion" isn't as such - it's more about a relationship with Christ - more than just following rules and being good - it's about getting to know the Person who created you, who knows what is best for you and most importantly loves us and wants to have a personal relationship with us - meeting us where we are - before we even try to be good!
It is only possible to realise the relevance of Christianity by having a relationship with God.
Well said David Stanford! If you haven't read his comments above, you would do well to do so. He states the biblical Christian position very clearly, without confusing it with man made religion or dry moralism. Nothing could be more relevant.
Christianity has no basis like it did in the beginning. The Bible has been corrupted by the so-called disciples. If Christianity were true as it was, the Christians would not be in such a pathetic state.
Relevant as always because it's so harmful
Agree whole heartedly with Susannah.
Nothing but Misery, censorship and death has come from religion.
Then again, I also believe in an individual's right to choice.
So if Jesus and co do it for you, then go for it.
I'm happy enough worshiping FUN.
I am a Hindu by religion and I have been in a Christian school for 15 years of my life, and if you ask me a question, is Christianity still relevant? I would say yes, and if Christianity is out of context to the contemporary world then religion to the best part is out of context to the modern society. I believe Christianity is the most modern religion of all and greatly addresses to today's world. If Christianity is not relevant, at least it is the least irrelevant religion to the current life style in modern societies.
Do people really think that it is religion that causes conflict?
The people who fight do so because they don't like those who are different from themselves, to whatever degree or in whatever way they see those differences. The agnostic who thinks the Church is boring and needs dynamic leaders who go out to the people has obviously not heard of Pope John Paul, or been to Mass recently in one of the very many vibrant parishes I know.
Religion is the opiate of the masses in a sense that people use a form of unknown truth as their right to whatever end it is used for. For example, the Middle East Conflict. Christianity is just another religion proclaiming that their god is the righteous god and all other gods are false. Now what I'd like to know is what gives a person the right to have knowledge of some supernatural entity?
While many evils have been and continue to be perpetrated in the name of religion, it is true that much of our modern system of ethics and morals was originally influenced by religious and theological ideas.
However, the time has come to move on, to face the universe without wishful thinking or blind faith; the falling attendance figures do not reflect a lack of morality but rather the wish of each of us to find our own way through life.
Jesus was a remarkable
man, but no-one is
I believe that for the
times in which we
religions such as
and Taoism are more
Ah...so religion is on the way out? Maybe, as we know it, it is. I would say that [In Australia at least] the quest for a true spirituality for life is stronger than ever. People want more. Even `spiritual supermarkets' seem to be wearing thin, as people search for something deeper and genuine. I'm keen to see how the quest progresses.
Jesus Christ is the answer for the world today. He has given me peace, purpose in life, healing, forgiveness of sins, and hope for tomorrow.
Speaking as someone who works for the church but doesn't really belive, I think that it's more important to live your life without harm to others than it is to do what you're told. I don't go to the services available to me as I think I would be a hypocritical to do so, however, I also believe that as I live my life respecting the views of others and not inflicting my personal opinions on them, then people should leave me be. Live life with respect, and accept that all actions have consequences, and you'll be fine. All without the need for religion.
Of course Christianity is still relevant! The Catholic Primate may be saying that "Catholicism" is less relevant, but the Christian ethic still underlies our law and our ethos. For some of us, it is more than that and we derive great peace and joy from trying to follow Christ's example, however bad we may be in terms of performance. Opiate? Well what a high!
Christianity is relevant as are all religions, but the problem is that the Christian churches have not kept up with the times. There is nothing more boring , especially to youngsters, than sitting in a cold, damp, church listening to a vicar or priest rambling on about how awful and sinful we all are. What the churches need, and I'm an agnostic by the way, is dynamic personalities going out into the community and actually getting involved with the people.
Religion is the opium of the masses. As reality improves, however, the mental contortions necessary to maintain a belief in such a flawed fiction become more exhaustive than the reality of life. Thus, religion disintegrates.
What "Christianity" are you talking about here? I am a Christian - Jesus Christ is the centre of my faith, not the church or its traditions or its leaders or its history. Go back to the Bible and read one of the Gospels. You'll see Jesus Christ had an amazing ability to relate to all types of people - He came to save, not to condemn and His words and what the Bible says about life give good guidance and help - especially in these days - it is very relevant. It is a shame that we human beings can't live out the greatest commandment of all "Love one another.." as is consistently seen the the news every day. Perhaps we need some help? Now, there's a thought!
I don't follow any religion, but I consider myself to be more tolerant then many people who do. I don't see how blindly believing in a story set 2000 years ago makes someone a better person. Throughout history belief in various religions has contributed to numerous wars, and resulted in the persecution of non-believers as heretics or witches. What a great ideal to live up to!
To say that Christianity is less relevant today than it was in the past is to proclaim that as humans we are far superior today than we were 2000 years ago. If that's the case why do we make exactly the same mistakes - war, hate, adultery, theft, greed, lying etc...? I say we are far more arrogant and in need of guidance than ever before, you only need to look at the divorce and teenage pregnancy statistics to find proof that we have regressed rather than advanced. Our present society tells you to do and have whatever you want as long as it makes you happy.
Jesus tells us that true happiness (whatever your circumstances - rich or poor, clever or not, disabled or able, ill or healthy) can only be found in him. How many people who have been in a life or death situation can say they didn't pray for help? We can't rely on each other every day of our lives, but God is ever faithful and will complete his plan for us. The Bible is God's plan written down for us to know what he has done, why he has done it, what he is doing now and what will happen in the future. I know what my purpose is on this planet. Do you?
Religious messages are still important, but by saying "Christ's message" those people are already being prejudiced to other religions. It's this hypocrisy that people are rebelling against. That and the negative image of the intolerance of religion in Ireland, the Middle East etc. Modern society knows about Buddhism, Taoism et al and people tend to take bits from each philosophy and make their own choices, rather than being told what to do, how to act, what to believe.
To Jon of Basingstoke: You already follow a highly organised and structured existence. Your life is decreed for you by the State and you worship that system - by virtue, for example, of saying you don't need religion and thus you place all your reliance on things secular. You cannot live in disorganisation. Without any organisation in your life whatsoever you would cease to exist. But religion sets you free from secular organisation.
It isn't because my religion is organised that I follow it but because of the love between us (its members). If organisation facilitates that experience then I'll have more of it. Being among people who have nothing in their hearts but genuine love for God and His creatures is like being in heaven on earth. Those who have not experienced it are deprived. There is no joy than the joy of being among the friends of God.
Absolutely true, Christianity is still relevant not only to me but to a host of other people. In spite of the influence of modern society towards Christianity, the need to instil Christian values for example in our youth and children is still of paramount importance.
A decrease in church attendance does not imply that people don't acknowledge the importance of Christian values. One reason among the others, that there is a decrease in church attendance, is because the church does not involve the youth much in developmental programmes thereby making them part and parcel of the Church's development and existence.
Faith in Christ is more than relevant - it's essential! "The Church" in all its forms will continue to struggle if it does not relate to the community it is in but the message of good news about Jesus Christ will never change!
I have to say, not only from my own experience as a Christian, but from seeing the results of Soul Survivor in Manchester over Summer 2000, in conjunction with the Manchester Eden Project, it can be, and is highly relevant to today.
The Orthodox Church has been around
for about 2000 years. It has withstood
active hostility from all sides for many centuries and
The hostile attacks on Christianity in New Zealand and Britain
seem to come from a residual Marxism and 19th century Rationalism
in educational institutions. Both philosophies are outmoded and grew up
in a period when the stability of the natural world and processes was taken for granted.
Arri London, EU/USA
About as relevant as the works of Hans Christian Andersen or J R Tolkein.
I only go to church for friends' christenings or weddings. The only time religion comes into my life is when I plead with God for Chester City to score a goal.
No, Christianity is not relevant to me any more. However just because people don't attend church as much, if at all, doesn't mean people don't hold morals and values that could be considered Christian.
Absolutely! Jesus gave us a set of standards to live by (the sermon on the mount) that have never been equalled, let alone surpassed, as a model of how to treat your fellow man. Even a non Christian would have to admit that. These words have endured for two thousand years and are still the way forward. Now we live in the "secular society". Not doing us much good is it?
Jon, Basingstoke, UK
By equating modern music and interest in environmental issues with the occult, the cardinal has demonstrated perfectly why Christianity has become irrelevant to most people in UK.
Christianity is the belief in Christ and living to Christian values. The problem here is Church not Christianity. The Church (they all started as one) is supposed to promote Christianity. The Church has failed because it grew more interested in politics and money than Christ.
As someone who spent many years escaping from the dogmatic bigotry of Christianity, I look forward to the day when the pernicious influence of the mainstream Christian churches is removed from modern life.
Surely it is self-evident that the reason people no longer turn to the Catholic Church for moral guidance, is because the Church has failed to keep pace with the world and address the moral dilemmas faced by the average, modern person. The Church's stance on contraception and its failure to endorse the pill is a case in point. The out-right refusal by the Vatican to ordain women in order to address the crisis in declining ordinations is a second. Until the Church addresses these fundamental transgressions, it will remain a relic of an era that has long passed - and thank goodness for that too!
Humanity has changed a great deal since the advent of Christianity, maybe it is time for Christianity to adapt to the world instead of expecting the world to adapt to it and find a new more modern approach.
Mike Evans, England
I thought we were meant to be living in a multicultural society. Christianity has its place as moral guidance for Christians, what about those who follow another religion - Muslims, Sikhs, etc? Are they wrong to use their own religions as moral guidance?
From my experience, Christianity causes lack of self confidence and oppression in people. These are destructive traits in a productive, growing society.
David Hazel, UK
In the UK I feel that the young for the last 30 or 40 years have lost faith due to improved education and seeing the results of religious conflicts around the world. How can people have faith anyway when it causes strife, anguish and pain, such as that shown in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Israel?
As a Christian myself I think what has happened is that those who didn't believe but went to church out of peer pressure now have the freedom not to. And so they don't go. I think the core of true Christians was always as small as it is now and it is actually a good thing for the Church for this reason. For me, God is a living entity that I talk to every day and it will never be otherwise. Our mission as Christians is to get past all the mistakes that have been made in the past and teach the world what it's really about. Jesus summed up the whole Bible when he said "Love God and love other people". Everything else is commentary. So yes, Christianity is still very relevant.
Nobody is perfect, and Christians aren't any better at sticking to these values than anybody else, but they have a desire to try and do so.
The Word of God addresses all the issues we face in modern society (you just have to actually read the Bible to see this), and shows compassion and mercy towards all people.
To follow God is a choice, and in my experience my life is much better when I am living it as God would have me do.
Christianity is not a fashion item that changes from one season to the next. It is founded on the faith and belief that God sent his only son to save us all, and that's just as relevant today as it was 1000 years ago!
I find it really scary that organised religion still has as much influence as it does. Why, in the 21st century, do we still take any notice at all of an organisation based on superstition?
It wouldn't be so bad if religion were harmless, but it is anything but. History is littered with examples of the harm that organised religion can do, such as the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition. And it's not just confined to the history books: only last month the South African Bishop's Conference condemned the promotion of condoms. Do they not care that their country is suffering from one of the worst Aids epidemics anywhere in the world?
I think Christianity is relevant, probably for the very reasons the good bishop mentions. I'm not so sure that the church is as relevant though. Christianity and the Church should not be confused - They are not synonymous. Unfortunately.
Christianity is still the primary piece of moral guidance available. Today's society however has decided that morality doesn't fit in with its selfish, materialistic, post-modern outlook. Christianity is as relevant as ever to the problems of the world, people have just decided they don't want to listen. The Church in pandering to modern ideas and attitudes has distanced itself from the Christianity of the Bible and has actually weakened it's position as a moral leader, but the Bible itself hasn't changed and still holds the key to our moral future.
Christ is relevant - A unique figure in history attested to by reliable witnesses who saw him die and rise from the dead - can that possibly be irrelevant?
Churches often present Christianity as irrelevant by being ashamed of the real message of Christianity and adding extras which are nothing to do with Christ's message. Christ's message was clearly that he, God's son, died on our behalf to rescue us from our separation from God. Does anyone believe that to be irrelevant?
As an atheist who has no religious inclination at all, I fail to see why I should be branded as morally below those who do believe in God. The lack of Christian faith in this country is neither a good nor a bad thing, it is simply a reflection of the fact that people are turning their backs on something which they feel is no longer relevant. If the church wishes to regain numbers, then the church must adapt to present a more approachable image to the public at large. The job of the church in a modern society should be to show how God can be integrated into a modern life rather than attempt to force everyone to adopt the lifestyle which the church deems acceptable.
The churches have always feared knowledge, for many centuries controlling us through the use of archaic language and ceremony which had nothing at all to do with the original Christian message which, as I understand it , is very simple i.e. pray quietly by yourself and love your neighbour like you love yourself . We don't need priests, preachers and vicars to elaborate more on these themes and if we find that more people are refusing to have their spiritual and secular thinking done for them well I say hooray .
I think that there is a place for Christ's original message but there is no place for the buffoons , charlatans and control freaks , who claim to speak and intercede for us with the godhead.
The way has not been lost and neither have souls, rather I'd like to hope that people are finding their own quiet way and rediscovering their own private spirituality without the church "career professionals".
It's not surprising that people are "losing faith" - religion seems to do more harm than good at the moment. Look at Northern Ireland as a classic example, and I'm sure that religious divisions cannot help race relations.
Perhaps it is time that religion died a death and focus returned back to those who really matter - humanity.
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