From the very beginning, man has been torn between the humble desire to worship his Creator, and the proud desire to exalt himself instead. But man has never succeeded in 'turning off' his religious inclinations. If he doesn't worship God, he will find a lesser idol. If he doesn't follow a true religion, he will make one up.
Many folks might object to this assertion, citing religion as hypocritical. Indeed, the infamy of religious hypocrisy is commonplace, so familiar and well recognized as to be hackneyed. There is the stereotypical Baptist preaching loudly against sexual immorality while carrying on an adulterous affair. The celibate Catholic priest found guilty of child molestation. And let's not forget the medieval selling of indulgences, the practice of simony, etc, etc.
Yet these examples serve to illustrate even more clearly the original assertion. Think about it. Even when he fails to live by the demands of his religion, man must believe. Rather than break off believing, he makes excuses for his behavior, at least to himself. Others see through his excuses, and rightfully call it hypocrisy. The very cry of 'hypocrite!' presumes that something genuine has been corrupted. Were religion not such a deeply seated part of our human nature, we would not object so strenuously to its misuse.
Substitutes for God - idols - come in many forms. Some people worship money, dedicating themselves religiously to its procurement and enjoyment. Some worship fame or prestige. Some politicians have literally sold their souls in the pursuit of political power and influence. Certain environmentalists worship Mother Earth as their goddess. The list goes on and on.
This last example has special significance for me, personally. I have spent the past 40 years or so maintaining a fairly keen focus on issues of conservation and environmental concerns. Only recently have i come to see that, for many, these concerns have taken on the characteristics of religious fervor. The pursuit of environmental quality based upon empirical data is replaced by a dogmatic and evangelistic zeal, demanding conversion and radical adherence to a sort of Gospel of Ecology.
One public figure has been on a world-wide tour engaging in what can only be called evangelizing or preaching. His sermons are emotion-laden pleas for repentance, on moral grounds, of the sin of producing greenhouse gases. Nor is religious hypocrisy lacking here. The same public figure, willing neither to reform his own grossly consumerist lifestyle nor to abandon his religious environmental fervor, makes excuses for himself in the form of 'carbon offset credits'. Others see through this hypocrisy, while he and many of his co-religionists apparently do not.
There are grave spiritual dangers inherent in weaving a new religion out of global warming alarmism. Idol worship and false religions always end up degrading and destroying their adherents. (Besides that, in the long run rigid dogmatism could well erode the credibility of true research on the subject of global warming, and thus counter-productively retard reasonable corrective measures.)
As much as fanatical environmental alarmism interests and troubles me, there is another wave of alternate religions that is much more pernicious. Various sects within this religious trend - denominations, if you will - advance different emphases. There is first of all the creed of Feminism, with legal abortion as its main sacrament, and artificial contraception as its minor one. That this is a religious sect is clearly seen by the howls of protest and righteous indignation that arise whenever these sacraments are threatened or challenged in any way. According to the creed of Feminism, patriarchy is seen as the Original Sin, and, accordingly, marriage and the traditional family are abhorred.
Then there is the Population Control sect, which accepts the same two sacraments, but offers its own version of Original Sin. Namely, these believers would trace virtually every social and environmental ill back to the cardinal sin of human propagation. The Gay Rights religion, with its built-in rejection of propagation, meshes well with these two, while adding its own emphases on hedonistic pleasure and redefining human sexuality.
There is, of course, much common ground between these different denominations. They all focus on a revamping of human sexuality, morality, and propagation. There is general agreement among them over the virtues of legalized abortion and of the condom. There is in all of them a strict dogmatism and evangelistic fervor that can only be characterized as religious. With some exceptions, neither they nor outsiders may think of these folks as being religious in the usual sense, but they most assuredly are. Indeed, as asserted above, we are all religious, in one way or another.
Here's my point: At the very center of your being is an exalted spot, a place esteemed above all others, a throne, as it were. The question is: Who, or what, sits upon your 'throne'? Do you bow before some other human? Is your pet ideology your all-consuming desire? Do you worship yourself? Or does God sit upon this throne?
The person who refuses or neglects to believe in and worship God is likely to believe in and devote himself to almost anything else.