I ask these questions not for the point of abstract or intellectual interest, although much has been said or written on these ideas themselves.
No, I ask this question in terms of our personal perspective on God and faith. For those of us who carry a religious/spiritual bent why do we choose the path we're on? Or "why not" for non-religious folks? What's your motivation to follow the particular religious path you are on?
Wary of blind/ignorant/naive religious devotion, the question of "why?" (or "why not?") can form a helpful backdrop to our religious choices, helping us maintain some consistency between what we believe and how we live day-to-day. Keeping the "why" in mind helps us live with at least some level of self-awareness. This is a good thing.
It was with this "why" question on my mind that I read with interest a quote from one of my current reads, The Divine Commodity. Author Skye Jethani examines the influence of a consumeristic mindset on how we view God and religion, suggesting,
"The reduction of even sacred things into commodities also explains why we exhibit so little reverence for God. In a consumer worldview he has no intrinsic value apart from his usefulness to us. He is a tool we employ, a force we control, and a resource we plunder. We ascribe value to him (the literal meaning of the word "worship") based not on who he is, but on what he can do for us."God is only beneficial is his direct value to us. The "why" question really asks, is God worth it?
For many of us, if we're really honest, this is the only question we know. We want God to relate to our experiences after all. So we choose God because it works for us. Or it makes sense to me. Or it gives you comfort, hope, and peace of mind. All good things, no doubt.
But I think Jethani makes a crucial point in making the connection between pervasive consumerism and our choice of God: it becomes solely about us. The reality of God - is God worth it? - is completely dependent on our ability to make that decision. But if you're like me, you have doubts, disappointments, struggles, and inconsistencies that left to our own devices, will lead us to reject God, perhaps even demanding a full refund for lost time, often paid out in the currency of bitterness or apathy.
If such sacred consumption is our only grid to faith, God, and religion, God is a tough sell. In fact, I think the God of the Bible, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, is an impossible sell when value is based on consumer satisfaction. As I said, God's existence is dependent on us. But is that really even God?
Interestingly, with all its talk of faithful living and right belief - the idea that individuals need to respond to or "choose" God - the Bible consistently emphasizes that all of life is created and sustained by God. Life is "good" not because we declare it so, but because God made it that way (Gen. 1:31). Life with God isn't dependent on our ability or desire to believe and follow him, but finds basis in his sustaining presence as the loving creator of all things:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,Sacred consumption demotes God to nonexistence, irrelevance, or at best, sentimentality. God as a product is just not worth it my opinion.
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.” (Rev. 4:11 NIV)
Which is why I need this reminder: the source of life is not a product of life.
Who is God?
"I AM WHO I AM" (Ex. 3:14)