Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Minor Musing About Religion In America

Over at the Madville Times, Cory has a post about Americans' perceptions about atheists.  As a believer who would sooner consult a competent atheist doctor rather than an incompetent Christian doctor, I find the findings he reports harsh. 

The New York Times has seen fit to examine Americans' views about God.  The Almighty maintains followers.
Apparently, a growing number of Americans are running from organized religion, but by no means running from God. On average 93 percent of those surveyed say they believe in God or a higher power; this holds true for most Nones — just 7 percent of whom describe themselves as atheists, according to a survey by Trinity College.
Nones are the undecided of the religious world. We drift spiritually and dabble in everything from Sufism to Kabbalah to, yes, Catholicism and Judaism.
I'm guessing that much of that dabbling can be attributed to the U.S.'s consumer culture and fixation on choice.  We love buffets and big box stores that allow us to pick and choose whatever our greedy little souls desire.  Less charitably, one might argue that the drifting reflects an unwillingness to seriously develop the discipline that many faiths demand.  The cynic in me often wonders if unwritten scripture that informs the American gospel doesn't contain phrasing similar to "shun that which is difficult; cling to everything easy."

The article's most damning indictment of American religion strikes me as extremely accurate.
If a certain spiritual practice makes us better people — more loving, less angry — then it is necessarily good, and by extension “true.” (We believe that G. K. Chesterton got it right when he said: “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.”)
Given that American political discourse is getting angrier and the economy is a cause of constant worry, America's religious leaders of all stripes would do well to ensure that their faith allows followers a few self-deprecating chuckles.  Maybe we should be nicer to atheists too.
By that measure, there is very little “good religion” out there. Put bluntly: God is not a lot of fun these days. Many of us don’t view religion so generously. All we see is an angry God. He is constantly judging and smiting, and so are his followers.

1 comment:

caheidelberger said...

Excellent point about the consumer mindset, LK! Out here in Spearfish, Erin sees folks "shopping" for a church, looking around for a service or music or other church amenities they like. But as I understand it from my theologically inclined wife, church isn't just another good/service to consume; it's a community to join and build.