When Candace Chellew-Hodge, the author of “Millenials Invent New Religion: No Hell, No Priests, No Punishment”, asked her students to create a new religion as a class project, she was perplexed by their creations. Still, she was more even more intrigued by what they did not create. Most student groups included meditation as a practice of their religions but used it as a way to get in touch with themselves rather than a god. Prayer was used in a similar way for students to make personal gain rather than talk to a higher being. Additionally, all the student groups left out spiritual leaders and religious group meetings while not even mentioning the idea of a hell. These students were driven away from modeling their made-up religions after prominent religions in America because of the hypocrisy they have witnessed in those religions. The students do not want spiritual leaders to tell them what they should and should not be doing, because they believe those leaders are contradicting their own advice. Furthermore, the students see religions such as Christianity as too judgmental and restrictive. With all of the current controversy on whether acts like homosexuality and abortion are acceptable by the Bible’s rules, the students sought a religion where people could do as they please. That freedom includes leaving a religious practice, joining another, and returning to the previous religion later. Candace Chellew-Hodge makes the point that without the threat of consequences and without any real discipline, followers of these made-up religions will not know what it is like to suffer for their belief system. She says that without suffering, people will not only become distant from the higher being they worship but also from one another. Her argument made me think of the slaves’ religion described in The Color of Christ. The slaves were whipped and beaten by their owners, yet they somehow held onto their faith. They related to a Christ who suffered that same beating and died so that they could one day be free. The students’ religions allow them a freedom in this life that would not cause them to look forward and strive for that freedom in the next life that the slaves longed for. Although, the students are in a much more privileged position than the slaves were. Since they have not encountered the same type of suffering as the slaves, the students might not even be able to comprehend that type of hardship. The students live out their extremely carefree lives on Earth, so how could they expect the afterlife to be any different? On the other hand, the slaves knew the realities of true misery, and that allowed them to believe in an eternal hell for sinners.
When I was searching for an image for this post, I found this quote by Abraham Lincoln, and it also made me think of some things that Paul Harvey and Edward J. Blum mention in the The Color of Christ. For instance, “Like so many leaders of the American Revolution and in the early Republic, Lincoln wanted to acknowledge the divine without being trapped by the particulars of Jesus” (128). Although Lincoln might have kept from stating his specific ideas about Christ and religion to avoid stepping on the toes of people in a fragile nation, it is also possible that Lincoln had the same “feel good” ideals that the students in Candace Chellew-Hodge’s class had come up with for their religions. Lincoln’s religion was possibly one of self discovery and fulfillment like the students’ hypothetical religions, and freeing the slaves could have been an example of his “doing good to feel good” as a part of that religion.