New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof this past weekend noticed that atheistic writers such as Alain de Botton and Edward O. Wilson are saying that religion is useful for promoting morality, growing a sense of community, comforting believers, inspiring art and music, etc.
Thatâ€™s the view from 35,000 feet. It doesnâ€™t work at street level. America tried this in the 1950s, when mainline religions were at their attendance peak and many leaders spoke about the useful social effects of â€śJudeo-Christianity.â€ť They suggested we not bother with truth claims. That didnâ€™t work. The 1950s led to the 1960s because many people, including many teenagers, including myself, were not impressed with doughnut-shaped religion. We needed reality in the middle....
This is nothing new, even Benjamin Franklin recognized the social benefits of religion, and he praised religious people for this. Howeverâ€¦
David French wrote: We are more focused on meeting the material needs of the poor than their spiritual needs. Spend much time in the evangelical community, and youâ€™ll soon learn that the old-fashioned Gospel-focused mission trip is largely a thing of the past. Now, you go build schools. Now, you go dig water wells. Now, you repair houses. These are worthy goals, all, but service projects by themselves donâ€™t change hearts and minds, they often make (frequently) self-inflicted misery more bearable. Service must be accompanied by intentional, vocal evangelism and discipling.â€¦