Alan Weiss’s Monday Morning Memo® – 10/03/2022
Every poll I’ve seen, including those taken by various churches, show that church membership, as reflected by people identifying with or not identifying with a particular religion, has fallen off sharply in the developed, western countries.
In the US, regular churchgoers are down to 28% as of 2021. “Not affiliated with any religious group” has gone from 16% to 30% from 2007 to 2020. (Globally, Christianity in particular is growing, with 2.5 billion people identifying as Christian this year, and 3.3 billion expected by 2050. The Muslim population is expected to be at about that same number.People of the Jewish faith are expected to decrease slightly. All of these figures are from sources on Google.)
Whether all of these predictions come to pass, I’d like to offer a different perspective. Religious institutions—structurally—have not adjusted to the times. While many Catholic churches have gay parishioners and gay lay ministers, and birth control is a personal choice most Catholics make on their own, the Church still resists female and married priests. The Muslim religion still has many practices which subjugate women.
Most church services, while attempting to preserve holy traditions, often simply become boring, with clergy who cannot preach well, songs that cannot be sung easily, and tedious rituals often without contemporary significance. The pandemic taught us that church services can readily be streamed, making it far easier to attend despite busy schedules, inclement weather, or personal illness. Why isn’t that done normally and with better technology?
I’m not so sure” religiousness” is declining in the West, but I think adhesion to organized structure is. Lack of attendance isn’t lack of belief (absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, as we say about God). And the old apothegm that “there are no atheists in foxholes” I’ve found to be one of the few, accurate old apothegms. People in trauma, suffering loss, desperate for hope, seeking better conditions don’t call out to a soulless, mechanistic universe.
“Having a religion” and “being religious” or “believing in God” (or any deity) may be very different things in the future. The religious institutions and protocols have to meet changing human needs and conditions. Otherwise, they may lose their meaning altogether. The greatest loss then will be loss of community and members who help each other.
I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live as if there isn’t and to die to find out that there is. —Albert Camus
To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing. —Martin Luther
You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself. —Swami Vivekananda
All religions must be tolerated… for every man must get to heaven in his own way. —Epictetus
God is a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought. It’s as simple as that. —Joseph Campbell