BY DEREK ABMA, POSTMEDIA NEWSAPRIL 11, 2011
Not only are longer life expectancies allowing people to postpone retirement, they feel less rushed to make peace with God, a new study suggests.
Research out of the United Kingdom links the decline in religious participation in developed countries, where life expectancies are high, and the idea that time isn't running out as fast on people's chances to secure a place in heaven.
"Many religions and societies link to some degree the cumulative amount of religious effort to benefits in the afterlife," said Elissaios Papyrakis, an economist at the University of East Anglia and one of the study's authors. "We show that higher life expectancy discounts expected benefits in the afterlife and is therefore likely to lead to postponement of religiosity, without necessarily jeopardizing benefits in the afterlife."
First of all, the University of East Anglia rings a bell. That’s the place where some purveyors of the phony “climate change” hype were caught “massaging” the evidence. We will assume, for the moment, that since is a different department, the economist cited here is giving this to us straight.
Now, on to the important points . . .
My first thought was: Really? People are doing an implicit cost/benefit analysis on when to “buy your ticket for heaven” so to speak? Really? I’m likely to live longer, so I can put off religion a bit longer, live it up in the interim I suppose, and still “make it to heaven” by becoming religious in my older age. Really?
The study even had some recommendations for the Canadian church as to what could be done about this:
The U.K. study said religious organizations looking to attract members should focus less on benefits in the afterlife, and more on what can be offered in one's worldly life from the Church. Such things could include expanding one's social circle, participation in various activities, spiritual fulfilment and guidance.
In other words, “religious organizations” should market themselves more toward the “what you can get here-and-now” rather than talking so much about eternity.
But a good guess would be that the pandering that is already being done by churches (I’ll limit my thoughts to Christendom here) could well be part of the cause of this whole attitude. Think of the kind of mindset that would even consider this cost/benefit “how long can I put it off and still cash in” approach. It is the mindset of a consumer. And consumers are exactly the group and attitude to which the “marketing church” has been appealing for the last few decades.
Maybe the real lesson to be learned here is not how better to “market” religion, but rather, that religion – Christianity at least – is not something that should be “marketed” at all. Perhaps “marketing” – which might be fine for goods and services – is simply not compatible with the Christian faith, because the Christian faith is not at all something to be consumed, but rather, something to be believed, embraced, lived, and hoped.
And no, that is not a marketing appeal! Just a statement and an invitation.