Why Are We Losing Our Religion?
We are losing our religion in America. Surveys and reports continue to demonstrate that fewer and fewer Americans attend a house of worship. These same surveys and reports also indicate that Americans increasingly find no place for religion in their lives.
Why are we losing our religion? It is an important enough question that we should be concerned, very concerned.
One of the best resources for research concerning religious life and belief in America is the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. It is a rich resource with information related to issues, beliefs and practices, religious affiliations, demographics, and more. It should be bookmarked in your browser if you are serious about understanding religion in America today.
This week, the Pew Forum released its latest report entitled “‘Nones’ on the Rise.” In short, this report details how one in five Americans have no religious affiliation. That troubling statistic only sets the tone for a report filled with sobering information.
While one in five Americans have no religious affiliation, the survey shows one in three Americans under the age of thirty have no religious affiliation. Additionally, those who have no religious affiliation are feeling more and more comfortable with that identity.
In 2007 38% of those who were unaffiliated with religion said they seldom or never attended religious services. Now, just five years later that percentage has jumped to 49%. Among all adults, only 37% attend a religious service weekly. More importantly, these trends run across all demographics.
In almost every conceivable demographic the increase in those no longer affiliated with any religion has increased between 3-5% in the last five years. There are many, many more facts and figures but these certainly frame the situation.
Why are we losing our religion?
Charles Kimball’s book When Religion Becomes Evil haunts me. Written just after 9/11, he identified five warning signs of corruption in religion:
- Absolute truth claims
- Blind Obedience
- Establishing an “Ideal” Time
- The Ends Justifies Any Means
- Declaring a Holy War
When we think upon the last decade of American life and reflect upon the denominational, political, and social issues where these five signs of corruption in religion have held the public attention, it is no wonder that people are leaving religion to its own self-absorption. People within religious bodies have fought over scripture, human life, gender and sexual identity, and political policies in the name of God for so long they have forgotten the God whom they were following.
In the end, this may be why we are losing our religion. The “‘Nones’ on the Rise” report details that the three primary complaints among the unaffiliated are that religions are too concerned with money and power, focus too much on rules, and are too involved in politics.
Whenever our religious experience becomes too filtered through our issues, we ultimately chase people away from the message of Jesus.
Leaving religion for a moment, perhaps it would be good to hear the words of Jesus. Once, someone came to him and said he had kept all the rules. What should he do to enter the Kingdom of God? Jesus’ reply was simple:
“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12.29-31).
Perhaps the very best thing any of us can do is lose our religion and rediscover living with each other and following the words of Jesus. What we are doing is not working. Let us try following Jesus.