Rabbi Mark H. Levin, Congregation Beth Torah founding rabbi, Overland Park: People often say that the world would be better off without religion. Unfortunately, that’s like saying that the world would be better off without breathing, a necessity for life.
Human functioning involves belief systems utilizing stories we tell ourselves to explain the critical questions in life, along with symbols and rituals that interpret the world to us. Whether a person has a formal, organized religion or not, these are essential human characteristics. Religion is characteristic of all human beings.
When people have common beliefs they form a communal religion. Organized religions theoretically enable people to understand the world and be part of a historic community of believers, a basic component of human life.
Such critical questions as the meaning of death and the purpose of life, alongside essential values like war and peace, are all within religion’s scope.
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American society is in the throes of major conflicts, including the role of guns, the place of family and the legitimacy of same-sex relationships as expressions of love.
These debates over values are being carried out in public, and in some cases even in the legislative and court systems. It is the role of organized religions to provide the principles, stories and morals necessary to formulate these decisions.
All humans hold some idiosyncratic, individual beliefs. In our fluid society, standards and religions constantly change. But ultimately all mainstream religious beliefs in a society will find expression in organized religion.
Elder Donald D. Deshler, of the Seventy, North America Central Area, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: When all of the events of history are examined, the most wondrous and significant has been and will be the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
What took place in the Garden of Gethsemane, on Calvary’s hill, and in the Garden Tomb opened the door to immortality and eternal life. Any other event, doctrine, or principle pales in comparison to that Godly act of unfathomable grace.
The Atonement is the foundation upon which the entire Gospel and all other things rest and depend. As such, the central ordinance of the Christian faith is the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (or Holy Communion, Eucharist, etc.) that is partaken of regularly in remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice.
If organized religion did nothing more than provide Christians with the opportunity to participate in this holiest of ordinances, it would justify its existence.
When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we obligate ourselves to keep God’s commandments by covenant. As we prepare ourselves for and partake, we are to reflect on the sacrifice and suffering of the savior on our behalf, our shortcomings, and ways that we need to change to become more like God (1 Corinthians 11:28-29).
Surely, organized religion serves many other purposes including teaching God’s doctrines, providing fellowship and support, and offering opportunities for personal growth through service and giving to others (James 1:27).
But, having the opportunity to participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is something only available through organized religion.