The death of religion does not occur because one feels that he has been let down by the promises of this or that deity; or that stories passed down to him seem quite unlikely to be true. The death to the religious dimension of man (and the society in which he lives) can only come about if thankfulness dies in him.
It is just as we have read about the prophet Elijah in his great confrontation with the priests of baal. When they were proven to be wrong, indeed false prophets, the people did not run from religion but to the right one. And when communism and fascism spread the error that ‘religion is dead’ as they always do, the inevitable situation is not that the citizen has given up all faith but rather bends the knee and believes for a time most ardently in the political stories that have enveloped him.
Gratitude however is the seed within us that grows so easily into religion when met with the reality of our lives. There is beauty around me that is not of my making. There are inexplicable brushes with death that leave me unscathed. There are numerous and quite powerful examples present before my eyes since the time that I can remember that say ‘I am not the source.’ And while these kind of experiences do not necessarily point to one religion over another, it does drive the human heart to seek out the giver; whatever that may be.
The Pious Man
This is where piety is born of course. Far from seeking ways to do religious things, the pious person is on a misssion to show gratitude in a way that pleases the source of the gift. This is why an offering is present in almost every religious system known to man. This is why ancient Judaism spoke so lovingly about the Todah (i.e. thanksgiving) ritual and why Catholicism must celebrate the Eucharistic (i.e. thanksgiving) sacrifice.
One cannot kill a religion by chopping off the heads of its leaders. One cannot bury the intuition in all of us by going on crusade against the truthfulness of this story or that. The only way to ensure the death of religion in a home (yours or mine) is to stifle the voice in the human heart that says, ‘thank you.’
A Sense of Entitlement
It has been said (and there seems to be much truth in this) that more and more a sense of entitlement has grown up around us; not just in the young but in the old as well. The best of technology, opportunities real or imagined, the priviledges of what we used to reserve to the bourgeousie, all of them are not just welcomed but coveted. But notice, you cannot give a gift to someone who believes that what you are giving is theirs by right.
People do not thank when they believe something is owed them; rather they grumble, stomp their feet and plot against those who would deny them their wishes.
The Half Individual
And when this phenomenon of ungratefulness becomes common enough, we do not just see a lot of insatiable individuals but half individuals; people who no longer have what it takes to celebrate fully.
Christmas is no longer about a gift God gave us but a much needed break from working towards what I will me to have. Thanksgiving is no longer a memorial about one group’s astonishing journey and the God who got them there, but a reason to plan long overdue visits.
These half individuals (which we are all in danger of becoming) have truly brought about the death of religion in their homes because they have severed the part of themselves that can renew it even under the most dire, societal circumstances.
This is Far From Over
But that is not yet the state of things in our houses. Where we live, children are encouraged to recognize that all does not come from the genius of man. Where we play, children are shown the difference between a power that is dormant in our species versus a power that will always be beyond us. Where we eat, children and adults alike bow their heads and say, ‘thank you’ for a whole life we did not create but have received nonetheless.
That is where religion thrives and stories of an absolutele other will continue to be told. And that is where hope for those who have lost their faith can begin again; in gratitude.