In spite of the brash and noisy voices of the new atheists, who focus on the bad implications of religion, there is much to celebrate that comes to us and our world through religion and religious people. In Martin Thielen’s new book, The Answer to Bad Religion is not No Religion, he offers this sketch of what is good:
Religion provides meaning, purpose, and hope for billions of believers. It builds significant relationships and faith communities. It gives people a sense of transcendence. It motives people to care for others. It promotes responsible ethics and high ideals. It inspires music, art, and beauty. It fosters generosity, law-abidingness, and civic engagement, and even has health benefits. A world without religion would be a bankrupt, impoverished world (47).
But others often problems with religion — including the toxic faith of bad religion, the belief in a literal Bible, and the problem of suffering. Thielen offers to those critics, and he’s been engaged with one young man, a response to suffering in ten summary points:
1. We live with a limited perspective on all of life.
2. We live in a world marred by sin.
3. We live in a world that includes evil.
4. We live in a world where some kinds of suffering brings life.
5. We live before a God who suffers.
6. We live before a God who comforts.
7. We live as a church that can serve those who are suffering.
8. We live with suffering so that we can grow.
9. We live in a world filled with the good.
10. We live with a future of hope.