I read a survey in a newspaper recently which had as its theme the falling attendances at church over the years.One of the explanations given was the greater life expectancy for us all these days. The article went on to say that those in the first flush of youth and even those in their fifties and sixties were loath to attend church until such time that they felt perhaps that their end was in sight and it was time to make peace with their God. Such people were clearly concerned about the after-life and missing out on the glories in heaven. It was for this reason it was pointed out that most churches these days are frequented by the grey-haired brigade and that, unless a church was particularly lively and geared towards the younger generation, it would find few younger members in its ranks.
As a Unitarian and as someone over seventy myself I found this all very suprising. I was raised as a Baptist, was a regular churchgoer until my early twenties, lapsed, in spite of always retaining an interest in religious and spiritual matters, and then, to my delight, came upon Unitarianism about four and a half years ago. Since then I have been a regular attendee at my local Unitarian church and can honestly say that the thought of heaven has never once crossed my mind. In fact, it has been so liberating to find many aspects to religion other than this personal relationship with Jesus that will redeem me from sin and send me on my way to the `Pearly Gates`. I realise that religion is indeed a personal matter, but that it should be concentrated on the individual alone and not on society, or the world at large, I find perplexing and worrying.
It is inevitable that as one gets older one`s thoughts turn towards the end of one`s earthly existence but, if it is the worry about heaven and hell that is the sole thought that motivates a person to lead a good life, then I feel there is no real substance to that person`s religion. Thank God, then , for Unitarianism, which has opened up for me a broader spectrum of religion and spirituality which embraces not just me but the whole of humankind !