Someone posted on a message board I'm on, asking (in a nutshell) "how do you choose what religion to believe in?" (question was much longer & more involved then that, but that was the underlying concept) and as I started to try to answer, I realized something. I realized that I 100% canNOT fathom not believing in God. I certainly understand that people don't. But I can't fathom it. I can't wrap my mind around the idea of thinking "I need some religion in my life, let me see which one has the same political views as I do". I know plenty of people who have gone "church shopping" based on political views, social views, etc. and when I hear them talking that way, I always think, "that's backwards, religion isn't an ala carte menu!" (or at least it shouldn't be). But this particular question really somehow brought it all home to me, how fully & completely I can't fathom not believing in God. Because, while my answer to "how did you choose your religion" is, I was raised in it. If you were to ask me how I thought a person who didn't have a religion SHOULD choose their religion, I'd say . . . developed a relationship with God and study His word, seek His guidance, and find a church whose doctorines seem to be in line with your understanding of His word. It's not what sounds the most fun, or the most in keeping w/ your views on politics, or whatever, it's about building a relationship with God and then doing His will.
I have friends who have left a church because of how people there treat them. Now, yes, in this particular part of the country, there are enough SDA churches that it's possible to "church shop" a bit, and there are certainly SDA churches that I prefer to other SDA churches, and an aspect (the main aspect) of that is generally the people. There are people in all churches who do things & say things & act in ways that are not in keeping with God's will. If a person is basing their religion on PEOPLE, they're never going to be satisfied, and frankly, since going to church most definitely is NOT going to get you to heaven, if you're just looking at the people, and not forming a relationship with God, what's the point? Yes, I realize that the point is, they might be led to develop that relationship with God, by coming to church, but that's not likely to happen if they're being turned off on religion by the people who are at that church.
Someone posted on a blog I read, about the fact that earlier this year she gave her nephew a Bible as a gift & he didn't even know that the Bible was a real book. I can't wrap my mind around that. In THIS country! A country that has "In God We Trust" on our money & that (used to) pledge allegiance . . . one nation under God! There are teenagers who don't realize the Bible is a real book! That's sad. That's something I don't understand. I know plenty of people who have left churches/Christianity. I know people who choose to believe that God doesn't exist. But to not even realize the Bible is real book, boggles my mind.
Now, obviously the solution to teenagers not knowing what the Bible is, is to give Bibles as gifts, even if you think they'll just throw it in a corner & never look at it, even if they might say "why did you give me THIS?" they just might do like the young man mentioned above, and be excited to realize the Bible exists and want to start reading it!
The solution to people thinking that religion is about social consciousness and political views and whether the church I'm considering has rules that I like, or leave a church because someone told them they were sinners for doing xyz . . . I don't know. I don't know how one gets through to people who sit in the pews every week, or even those sitting in the pews for the first time, that first & foremost you must get to know GOD! Not the God the pastor presents, or the God that you decide you know because one of the elders tells you that you'll never make it to heaven wearing THAT outfit! But God. All by yourself, alone, with prayer & Bible study! Yes, ask the pastor, or a trusted church member, questions when things don't make sense. Yes, go to group Bible studies and church and prayer groups, but going through the motions of all of those things w/o first building a relationship with God is just . . . going through the motions. If you start by building a relationship with God, the rest just kind of falls into place. How do you choose a church? You choose one that's beliefs are from the Bible. If you don't like that a certain church allows or doesn't allow women to preach or whatever, study it. Pray and ask God to guide you as you study the Bible to see what IT says about women preaching, ask someone from that denomination WHY they teach the way they do, then take the texts they give you and study them. Perhaps find another religion that teaches differently about that topic and ask them as well, why they teach the way they do, and study those texts. I believe that, while it might not always be comfortable answers, if you prayerfully study any topic, God will lead you to an answer. But it bothers me, how many people are choosing churches or leaving churches based on the people, and not God. . .