I may be skeptical about formal religion, but I know the power and promise of personal faith in God. After nearly a year of writing this column, I am more convinced than ever about the need to differentiate between Christ and Christianity, religion and faith. Convincing people of the impotence of religion at times seems a hopeless task, but  I know there are people out there who are thinking this through.

“Faith,” the Scriptures tell us, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” That speaks of conviction, longing and trust, not clichéd, boring religion.

The fact remains that most people don’t desire true life-giving faith in God; they prefer the convenience of inherited religion. The reasons are obvious: Religions give you rules to obey. They are handed down, no thinking need be done, and most people prefer to hang on to their institutional club membership for the tradition and the perks.

Paying dues regularly to secure membership, they feel they are in control, but it’s the other way around: Religious middlemen keep people corralled, like so many different herds kept in bondage to expansionist, power and money-seeking organizations all their lives.

Not surprisingly, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, authors of God is Back, claim that one of the key factors driving the surge of religion is the same thing that drives the success of market capitalism: competition.

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