Happy Go-Lucky Religion for the Masses

Since my book budget is largely going toward stuff I have to purchase for D.Min. classes, I’ve been checking out a lot of stuff from one of my local libraries. On the recommendation of good ole Nathan Mattox, I borrowed The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. I really loved this book. It was funny, insightful, and even inspiring. Go check out BWIII’s thoughts on it if you want an in-depth review.

Now, I’m working through two others. The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World by Matthew Stewart, and Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysts by George Makari.

So far, I’m more into the book on Liebniz and Spinoza by Stewart. That’s the reason for this post. Spinoza wanted to create a society that maximized freedom and limited the clerical and religious abuses that he observed in his world. Interestingly, one of the ways he wanted to do this was by creating a religion for the masses, a “popular religion” for the work-a-day dolts (he did sort of frown on the everyday people who didn’t pursue a life of contemplation) who needed something to make them good freedom-loving, open, and peaceful folk. Stewart writes,

The essence of the creed Spinoza proposes to sell to the masses is the belief that “there is a Supreme Being who loves justice and charity and whom all must obey in order to be saved, and must worship by practicing charity and justice to their neighbor.”

My question is this. Does our Christian faith sometimes simply elevate things that we’d all pretty much agree upon without a commitment to following Jesus of Nazareth, the particular person whom we believe to be the incarnation of God? What are we missing if we end up with a Christian faith that only emphasizes being good, just, open, kind, and happy? Just wondering.

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