Religion is controversial

Religion is obviously not everyone’s cup of tea for all sorts of reasons. You might not believe in any god. Perhaps you have had a negative experience with church, or you might just be too busy. If any of the above applies to you, you could think religion would add to your stress or depression rather than helping it, and I could well understand.

How might religion help?

I wrote about the way my faith has helped me in Lockdown as at other times and I know this is true of many people. Perhaps you are sceptical. As I said, there are good reasons why you might be. It might help if you could think about two aspects of this separately, as religion seems to help different people in different ways. If one applies to you and not another, there is no need to let that be an obstacle.

Do I mean religion or faith?

The two are not necessarily the same thing. Faith is about your personal belief, your inner spiritual life and your relationship with whatever deity you believe in and that, for many people, is the thing that helps keep them sane. Prayer, meditation or contemplation help put life in perspective and it can calm you down, ease your tension and possibly enable you to feel there is hope. Life might seem more meaningful and you might be reassured that Someone is in charge who has a plan.

What about religion itself?

By this, I mean something organised and collective, whether involving church, mosque synagogue or temple.  Belonging to a community of any sort can be good for you, whether religious or secular. Secondly, many people find comfort in the rituals and other activities, whether you are singing hymns, listening to a choir, saying prayers together or taking part in a procession. For some people all this is more important than their philosophical or theological beliefs.

An informal approach to religion at St Paul's Penketh.

An informal approach to religion at St Paul’s Penketh.

What’s keeping you from religion?

I know I did mention a few good reasons you might want to steer clear of it. However, there is a danger of making any of those reasons more important than they need to be. People sometimes find that once they get over the first hurdle, whatever it is, the thing sort of falls into place. It’s a bit like swimming, where until you get into the water, you can’t know how you’ll cope. In my book How to Cope with the Church, I explore some of the difficulties people experience and suggest how to overcome them. Why not look into it? (The book, or religion!) What have you got to lose and what might you gain?

The cover of How to cope with Church: Practical advice for would-be Christians. It might help you break into religion.

The cover of How to cope with Church: Practical advice for would-be Christians. It might help you break into religion.