The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: What are the Benefits of Religion?

Taylor asks, “What are the benefits of someone choosing to practice a religion?”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“Having a spiritual life has many wonderful benefits for those who seek the transcendent in community. But for those who are secular minded, many of those can be found elsewhere. There is social science-based evidence from the Mayo Clinic claiming that those who actively participate in organized religion are better off than others. One report states, “Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide. Several studies have shown that addressing the spiritual needs of the patient may enhance recovery from illness.

“That said, Hindu scripture, the Katha Upanishad, likens religion to a razor’s edge. It can be a tremendous burden if expressed in a manner in which members are overly controlled, or made to feel that they are being punished for whatever reason. The questioner asks about joining “a religion.” To be clear, not all religions are created equal.

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Peace, forgiveness, serenity, simplicity, faith, hope, and love to name a few of the many benefits that come from the practice of religion.

“All of creation reflects the image of God and human beings most especially because men and women are created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 17). However, all creation together is only a glimpse of the Kingdom of God. Human beings are social creatures and not one can imagine the goodness of God in its totality. Sharing our own experiences of God allows us to develop a greater relationship with Him. Likewise, when others share their experiences of God our lives are enriched. The above is rightfully called spiritual development and is the reason for the practice and the benefit of being in a religious community of faith.

‘When an individual says to me that he or she may recognize God while outdoors, I say in reply, ‘yes, but you are only reading the first page of the book… and there is so much more to be discovered by sharing faith with others in a faith community.’ ”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“As we are currently dealing with a global pandemic, I see more people connecting with our religious community. People need community in times like these, to feel they are a part of something larger than themselves and to share the experience with other human beings. For Unitarian Universalists being a part of a community is the most important aspect to joining our faith, we need a place where we feel we sincerely belong. We seek belonging in like-minded communities. When we are engaged in the life of a congregation, we bear witness to one another's rites of passage, such as marriages, birth of children, serious illness and death. It helps us to feel connected and makes our lives richer.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“Reformed and Presbyterian Christians believe that fallen human beings make bad and ultimately fatal choices, especially when it comes to religion. Whatever benefits there may be in choosing to believe a lie or engaging in false worship, the end of these things is eternal death. We must therefore test or ‘prove all things’ and ‘hold fast that which is good’ (I Thessalonians 5:21). Our standard of truth and goodness is the written Word of God. All things are to be received and practiced if they are taught and commanded in Scripture. All things contrary to this standard are to be rejected.

“But we also believe that faith and practice are vitally connected. ‘Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone’ (James 2:17). Those whose faith is only a matter of doctrines and opinions have embraced ‘dead orthodoxy’ and deceive themselves. True saving faith shows itself by works of love and obedience to Christ (John 15:14).

“Christ speaks not of benefits but of the high cost to be paid by His disciples: ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation’ (John 16:33). He spells out what kind of ‘tribulation’ He has in mind: ‘Men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake’ (Matthew 13:11). Rather than considering the benefits, Christ advises everyone to count the cost and be ready to pay it (Luke 14:25-33​).”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.

Browse