The Religion Racket
by Norman H. Wells
Former Pastor, Central Baptist Church, Cincinnati
Now With The Lord
© 2005 James H. Dearmore/Gospelweb.net

The Late Dr. Norman H. Wells

[GospelWeb.net Globe]

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Chapter 21

Emergency Religion

Although most people try to keep their religion limited to one hour a week and confined within the walls of a church building, they will all agree that it is supposed to be an ever present part of life. It is obvious that most people do not consider religion as a constant influence ... with them at all times. They would rather think of religion as a doctor, a policeman, or a lawyer. They only want it around when they feel they need it and then they want it in a hurry.

There are times when even un-religious folks seem to want religion ... and want it fast. An individual who has never made any pretense of needing religion and has never attended church will suddenly want a minister to come, pray, and read the Scriptures when he gets sick. It is amazing how fast some people can get religious when they get sick ... and how fast they can forget it after they recover. Nearly all sick people will promise a clergyman to be more religious and to start attending church regularly. These promises are generally kept ... at least until they are out of the hospital. If all the people in the United States would suddenly start keeping all the promises they had made to the Lord when they were sick, it would start a religious boom such as the world has never seen!

Sometimes it would seem that the only people who are religious are those who are experiencing sickness. It appears that folks are willing to give themselves to the Lord only when they are sick and cannot be used of the Lord.

The young preacher quickly learns that he must never say too much to an individual about his lack of attendance at the services of the church, but woe unto him if he is not present for a "sick call" every time someone's ingrown toenail acts up. It seems to be some kind of "status symbol" to get a preacher to call several times during one brief illness. When an individual is sick he expects religion to come to him but when he is healthy he can't be bothered about going to religion.

Another thing that is strange is that people who never have time for religion will suddenly want it when they see their home breaking up. A man and his wife will have a big quarrel and it looks like the marriage is on the rocks so they call for the preacher and get religion! If their marriage isn't saved they figure religion has failed. If their marriage is saved, then their problem no longer exists and they no longer need religion.

Parents who have never bothered to take their children to Sunday School and church are quick to want help from religion when one of their sons has trouble with the law and winds up in jail. They expect religion to salvage instantly what it took them 20 years to destroy.

Hospitals have an "Emergency Ward" and churches should probably have a department called "Emergency Religion." The only time most folks look to religion is in an emergency.

A lot of prisoners in jail will make a grab at religion whenever it is offered. Generally, though, when they are released they leave their religion behind ... in jail. It may as well be there as locked up in a church building. Same difference!

Religion has a responsibility to help the poor and needy and this is right and good. It is a cause for wonder, however, to observe how people who have never been religious will suddenly "get religion" when they are down and out. They will expect to receive help from a church they didn't support when 'they could and don't plan to support after the emergency. Missionaries on the field have found that the religion which can give the best food, clothes, farm equipment, etc., will get the most converts.

Another time people want religion in a hurry is when their religious parents visit them from out of town. Folks who haven't been religious or even in church for a long time will suddenly want enough religion to last through the visit of their religious parents. They'll get up on Sunday and take their parents to church just like that's what they did 52 Sundays a year!

There are those who get religion every time the church gets a new pastor. Their religion wears off at about the same ratio as the newness wears off the preacher.

Some seem to think of their religion as a type of invisible inoculation against the effects of being un-religious. They seem to figure that after they are one time immunized about one or two booster shots a year is all they need. Closely associated with these folks are those who have condensed their religion into little vitamin pills. They figure if they pop one of these into their mouth ever so often they will never have to bother about getting a balanced religious diet through regular attendance at church.

An individual who has never made any pretense of religion in his life will have it forced upon him anyway ... after he dies. It is strange that an individual who was never religious and never attended church will always have relatives and friends who will make arrangements for a religious service at his funeral. In some instances the only time he ever attended church is when he is carried in at his funeral and can't do anything to stop it!

Very few religious services display the sham and hypocrisy of today's religion like a funeral. The most un-religious man in town will die and then be given a religious funeral. A preacher will spend a great deal of time preparing a "few words to say" to give the impression that although the man utterly ignored all religion, he was still a good man and would be all right throughout eternity. All of the man's un-religious friends are present and they find a great comfort in this, because if their friend could live like he did and make it all right then they figure they are in pretty good shape. All the religious folks present will come to the conclusion that if he made it without religion they are wasting their time being religious. Since funerals are the only religious services some people ever attend, they are really important. After going to a number of funerals and hearing everybody "preached into heaven," whether or not they were religious, it is easy to come to the conclusion that religion doesn't make much difference ... and most of what is practiced today doesn't.

Another time when people ordinarily want religion is at a wedding. Folks who never attend church and make no pretense of religion wouldn't think of having their young folks married anywhere but in church. Too many times the only time the couple ever attends the church is, to be married. It is THE thing to have a big, fancy, church wedding even if one has utterly no use for religion.

People will go on year after year without ever attending a church or supporting it in any way, yet they always expect one to be there when they need to have a funeral or wedding. They surely have a lot of faith in religious folks to keep things going between weddings and funerals.

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