Losing Faith in Religion, Not Faith–Wait…What?!

The Huffington Post has an interesting article about a recent Gallup poll showing that many Americans have lost confidence in organized religion.  The shift represents a more than 22 point swing over the last forty years.

Trend: "Great Deal"/"Quite a Lot" of Confidence in the Church/Organized Religion
American confidence in religious institutions, once literally held in the highest regard, has fallen 24 points since its peak in 1975.

While the polls are clearly denoting a loss of faith in the institutions of organized religions and NOT a loss of faith in God or religious doctrine, they still represents cracks in the armor.  Growing up, I don’t know that I held anyone outside of my immediate family in higher esteem than my church elders.  Even after I was no longer a practicing Christian, I considered the ‘the cloth’ as an estimable position to have.

Very public scandals involving the Catholic church and televangelists preachers have clearly had a deteriorating effect on people’s trust in church leadership.  There was the immediate effect of those scandals of course, but there were also long term effects.  By painful example a religious title obviously doesn’t give a person greater insight into the human condition.  It doesn’t make a person more wise or less prone to mistakes.  It certainly doesn’t make a person better at decision-making.

I think another factor in this loss of confidence is the proliferation of the personal relationship with God central to evangelical Christianity–the fastest growing religion in the world.  Evangelicals don’t need church fathers to intermediate between God and themselves.  Through prayer and contemplation they seek the connection with God themselves and only turn to church officials for guidance in this effort.

While I still maintain that individual spirituality can have a obstructive impact on some advancements in science and technology as well as human rights, organized religion is the true culprit in the fight against cultural egality.

Most of the people I have observed who characterize themselves as spiritual rather than religious, no matter how similar their beliefs might be to organized religious dogma, do not presume nearly the same level of moral authority to impose those beliefs on others.

Confidence in the Church/Organized Religion, by Religious Preference -- 2002-2012

Obviously, the power of the church is far from broken.  It’s more accurate to say the overall influence of the church is somewhat diminished and it has been considerably diminished over the last decade or so.

While it is my hope that–someday–everyone will come to see the merit–even wisdom–of skeptical reason, I have the utmost respect for religious freedom.  In practical terms alone that goes to our basic freedoms of speech and thought.  So I am not interested in any course that leads to the restriction or loss of rights for any churches or belief systems (except that any church that is politically active loses its tax exempt status.  No one should be able to use tax free dollars to influence policy.)

It will be interesting to see how this trend continues.  As an element of civilization, I think it is inevitable.  The more we know, the less superstitious we become.  Still, even the inevitable can take centuries and be rife with backslides and regressions.  Hopefully, this trend will instead snowball to a point where we start moving towards policy dictated by evidence-based argument rather than unfounded claims based solely on religious beliefs.

Ahh…if only.

Money out of politics.

Free. Thought.

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Author: therealkenjones

writer, artist, wannabe photographer, recovering Southern Californian...

5 thoughts on “Losing Faith in Religion, Not Faith–Wait…What?!”

  1. From my perspective (and I write as a Catholic convert), there is much to be said for what we call catechesis, which is a time-tested, and ancient method of teaching. Specifically, as it pertains to the Christian faith, it is the patient explanation, rationale and reasons, why’s and wherefore’s of the faith in Christ.

    As I have come to understand – again, from a Protestant-to-Catholic convert perspective – the practice of spirituality has been lacking to one degree or another in the Christian church as a whole, and within the Catholic community. However, that is not to say that it is absent, for by no means is it absent. Rather, some of the most profound spiritual practices – including those to which you referred – had their origins within the Catholic church. For example, Juan de la Cruz, also known as St. John of the Cross, is considered by many to be the foremost practitioner of Christian mysticism. There are numerous other fine examples which many take for granted, including the well known St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Augustine.

    Again, from my limited perspective, the teaching of such ancient practices has suffered, which I perceive may in part be due to several factors, not the least of which is our own innately lazy nature as human beings. We all have a natural tendency toward spiritual laziness as well, including Protestants.

    Like any good thing, or any relationship, the maintenance of it requires an ongoing dedication and investment of time and effort, as well as a Spiritual Director, which is someone whom can mentor and guide us along our journey’s path. That too, is a tradition which began in the Catholic church.

    If this sounds as an apology – in the classical sense – for the Catholic church and it’s traditions, I would suppose it is, for my decision to migrate into that fold was neither sudden nor ill-conceived, but rather time-tested and contemplative. It is a depth of spiritual maturity, not one of which I boast, but rather share as invitation.

    After all, as Aslan, the Lion said, “You would not have come had I not called you.”

    1. I think your perspective is far from limited, my friend! I couldn’t argue with your position even if I wanted to as I am only nominally aware of the broadest strokes of Catholicism.

      I maintain that the real loss of confidence is in the perceived moral supremacy of religious leaders. That may very well stem from a deterioration of the art of guiding spirituality. It may be an aftereffect of the church scandals. It’s probably a combination along with other factors like technological advancement, the incursion of new religions and ideas, etc. I think you’re right about the church abdicating to the congregations (or neglecting) the exploration of spirituality, but I’d be willing to bet that for a good majority of the people who’ve lost confidence in the institution, their underlying faith is untarnished. I’d also be willing to bet that most people still have full confidence in their own priests and pastors.

      The standard is high for a person of the cloth, and it should be. They are they stewards and conveyors of our civilization’s moral heritage–and that’s just from a secular perspective. The church has risen to meet such challenges before. It’s a fascinating trend. It’ll be interesting to see where it leads.

  2. The belief in a god (or God) is not inherently wrong. Many people have a “need” to look up to something, or believe that there is some sort of life after death, etc.

    But organized religion is a complete sham. It’s a population control mechanism, plain and simple. Have you ever been to the middle east, birthplace of the largest organized religions in the world? The majority of the common population is unbelievably gullible and will believe anything anyone tells them. All it took was one smart person to figure out how easy it was to gain control and BAM! a religion is born.

    Take, for instance, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ADE_651. The entire world knows this thing is a complete scam, but the Iraqi guards STILL to THIS DAY, use it and believe that it works, because someone told them it did.

    These are the same people that brought you Islam and Christianity. Don’t y’all feel smart now?

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