A recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life details religious life in America. Based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans, the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey finds that religious affiliation in the U.S. is diminishing.
The study shows twenty-eight percent of American adults have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion — or no religion at all. Forty-four percent of Protestant adults have switched Protestant affiliation. Catholicism has experienced the greatest net losses. While thirty-one percent of Americans were raised in the Catholic faith, today twenty-four percent describe themselves as Catholic. Catholicism’s losses would be considerably greater were it not for the offsetting impact of Latin American immigrants.
The survey found that the sixteen percent of people (42 million) who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among Americans ages 18-29, an even greater twenty-five percent say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.
The dissatisfaction with Christianity is certainly understandable. Its allegedly omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent god has recently proven to be totally indifferent, if not completely inept. Where was this god on 9/11, or when Katrina struck New Orleans, or when tornadoes obliterate so many predominately Christian towns like Greensburg, Kansas?
Why didn’t this god alert Minnesota’s Christian Governor Pawlenty that the I–35 bridge was about to collapse? America’s dollar proudly proclaims, “In God we trust” yet under Christian President George Bush the dollar has lost 50% of its God entrusted value and America appears headed for a serious recession with 1,000,000 homes in foreclosure.
The track record of the Christian god, whose major attribute is purportedly love and faithfulness for his people, shows he is no more caring than Allah, Vishnu, or any of the dozens of other savior-gods of history. (Maybe if this god were a she, things would be different) A bible full of contradictions, inconsistencies and errors plus no credible 1st Century historical confirmation of a Jesus of Nazareth or for that matter a town called Nazareth compounds Christianity’s credibility.
Why is secularism growing and Christianity declining? Perhaps because Christian faith demands unquestioning allegiance to fantastical stories and mind numbing dogma which squashes an intellectually stimulated mind. More and more people are asking questions that demand rational evidence-based answers. Christianity like any religion provides nice philosophical platitudes, but they are shallow and dissatisfying to a mind free of “don’t dare ask” religious restraints. The free thought mind-set is like a butterfly hatched from its cocoon, free to think, reason and explore any and all there is to discover. Thus, cosmologists and astronomers find the cosmos to be 13 billion years old and biologists find the theory of evolution unites all fields of biology under one theoretical umbrella. As a college student said, “a man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle.”
Does this mean religion and Christianity are useless? I do not think so! However, it does mean people need to put religion and Christianity in proper perspective. All religions are simply the institutionalization of mythology. Mythology is valuable in the sense that its heroes, whether Jesus, Zeus, Dionysis, Horus, Mithra, or Zoroastrianism’s Ahura Mazda have magnificently inspirational stories that inspire us mortals. Their humble beginnings, miracles, teachings, deaths and resurrections are allegories that inspire and teach life’s lessons.
Seen in this light, our attitudes should appreciate myth’s allegories, yet give greater credence to everyday nature’s rhythms of existence. Winter is the time of death. Nothing grows, all appears dead. But, winter is always followed by spring. Resurrection time happens year after year, soon trees will blossom and birds sing. No matter how bleak life appears, a resurrection of a new start is on the way. The vast majority of us humans need new starts from time to time.
Where religion and its adherents inevitably foul things up bringing division and animosity in society is when they declare their particular brand or denomination of religion the one and only true religion. This childish exclusivity sending heretics and non-believers to an eternal hell and damnation exposes its true man-made fabricated origins.
Fear is the tried and tested motivator of the ignorant and gullible masses. Clergy who preach love, mercy, grace, hope, and forgiveness benefit society. Clergy who preach prejudice against blacks, women, Jews, gays, and non-theists are a detriment to society.
After a long history of religiously motivated wars and two World Wars that killed 40 million people, Europeans have largely rejected Christianity. Europe’s churches are museums mirroring outgrown meaningless traditions. Even in Italy with its Vatican and Papal splendor, only twenty-seven percent of Italians consider religion important.
Like Europeans, Americans too are wising up. They have had it with the condescending divide and conquer tactics fomenting religious and political polarization.
As with Daniel’s King Nebuchadnezzar myth, the handwriting is on the wall. The question is: which Christians will wake up to reject the literalized myth and which Christians will faithfully hang on to their spiritual fire insurance policies hoping for an afterlife of heavenly bliss of eternally strumming harps and singing How Great Thou Art?