A couple of weeks ago, a friend invited me to a dinner scheduled for 6 August, Friday. I had no idea what the occasion was about, but because I did not have anything on on that day, I accepted the invitation. The dinner was held at the STAR Hotel, in Tanjung Aru.
It turned out that it was some sort of religious gathering organised by a church. I pass that church all the time. I think I can safely say that that church is easily the most sophisticated church in KK, if not in the whole of Sabah. It has an extremely huge auditorium and a big stage.
Many years ago, I had been attending the Catholic congregations for a while. It wasn't a case of being religious on my part. Rather, it was mainly to oblige my mother-in-law's wish to at least attend several sessions, perhaps in the hope of making it a permanent routine. But it was not meant to be. I simply had too many questions which of course couldn't be answered. In fact, religions are mainly about faith, nothing much to do about logic and tangible evidence.
There is of course no foreseeable hope for me to ever embrace any religion. That night, after the dinner (it was a buffet dinner), some of those at my table left shortly when the "religious" portion of the event started. But being the curious animal that I am, I stayed on till the very end to observe the proceedings.
They started with singing—about God and Jesus, y'know, the usual stuff in any church. That was followed by some young girls singing and dancing with more religious songs. I thought it was kinda unique because it was life music with guitars, drums etc, just like a typical band in the pubs, except that these were religious songs. According to my friend, that's how the singings are conducted in their Sunday congregations.
In the Catholic church, what I can remember was that there were also some songs too, but accompanied by an organ, and maybe a guitar. The songs were mainly led by a choir. Certainly not the kind of band we had at STAR that night. It was quite an interesting "invention", in my opinion.
The thing about people, when they are in a group, is that there is a kind of peer pressure to follow the tide. If one finds himself amongst all the religious people, there is a kind of shame if he is not also religious. But I have never really been affected by such influence. Therefore, I observed, and I got onto my feet as a gesture of respect. But when it was time to go to the stage on the invitation of the Pastor, I did not go. I could see how the hosts at the other tables trying very hard to ask their respective guests to go. And of course some of them did go. Whether they went because of "peer pressure" or because they really wanted to go on their own accord, I couldn't tell.
In all religions, the members almost always want to recruit new members. In fact, I'm convinced that that is an important element of all religions! And those of you who are in the direct selling businesses or online marketing thing would know that the more members you can recruit, the more successful the business will be. The selling point is that if one wants to enter the kingdom of God, the way to do so is through this religion only! And all the religions will claim that their religion is the true one; and their God is the true one!
I have always said that most religions are generally very good. I think if ever I want to embrace any religion at all, I would just go back to the Catholic church, because after all that's the religion which was "given" to me. There is really not much point to switch to another religion because quite frankly, religions to me are just something like social clubs. None of them are perfect—I have said before that they're human inventions. They are full of procedures and obligations to perform, but people's hearts are not necessarily "clean" just because they are religious.
A man is involved in a road accident. He lies paralyse in his wrecked up car. A man who's on his way to a Sunday morning mass passes by and notices the dying man. But he does not stop because he's already running late for church. His love for God is just too great and absolutely nothing will stop him from attending the Sunday mass on time!
And then another man who is without any religion arrives at the scene. Using his cellphone, he calls for help. While waiting for the arrival of the ambulance, he talks to the injured fellow and gives him words of encouragement. That does not really help to lessen the pain, but he tries to comfort the injured man anyway. Soon, the ambulance arrives to take the injured man to the hospital. But in the end, the injured man dies anyway!
Now if God really does exist, which of the two men do you think God would welcome into heaven on judgement day—the one who loved Him so much to the extent of not even stopping to help a fellow human; or the one who's got no religion, but tried to help a man in distress?
I want to try to be a good person in my life; I try to help others if I can. If I had a bit of extra cash, I would like to use it to give education to poor kids, or food to those who're dying of hunger. I doubt that I would use my money to help build a church with a huge auditorium, and escalators, and all the grand modern design. Many churches these days have too much emphasis on image. I would rather use the resources to help others in need. I'd like to believe that the act of kindness to others means much more to God than building beautiful expensive churches where we can sing praises to Him.