The 78-year-old pope attended the World Youth Day Festival in Cologne recently. 800,000 followers of the Catholic faith spent the night in the Marienfeld, or Mary’s Field, outside Cologne, sleeping on the ground so they could attend Sunday’s mass.
The Pope, during his sermon, said there is a “strange forgetfulness of God.” He also said that at the same time that frustration and dissatisfaction have led to a “new explosion of religion.”
“I have no wish to discredit all the manifestations of this phenomenon. There may be sincere joy in the discovery,” he said. “Yet, if it is pushed too far, religion becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it.”
“Religion constructed on a `do-it-yourself’ basis cannot ultimately help us,” the pope said. “Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on.”
It is the nature of religion to ‘do-it-yourself.’ The Bible did write itself. Churches didn’t just appear. It’s not like all those people died by burning at the stake, being crushed under rocks, drowned, or starved in prison as being heretics all by themselves, did they? Religion is still a choice that has to be acted on by the believer.
The truth is that being a choice, it can still be treated as a ‘consumer product.’ Influenced in a similar way by research and customer testimonials, people’s beliefs are subject to many things that can shape their perspective. Whether the ‘salesmen’ comes to their door or speaks to them from behind a pulpit, the message is the same. A consumer needs to trust the message and believe enough in the ‘product’ to use it. Personal experience will have a big bearing on this one.
There is also a sales element involved with religion when it comes to the product. Many religions seem to think that the ONE SIZE FITS ALL approach should apply across the board. Faith is treated by some as a destination, instead of the journey it really is.