More and more Americans, particularly adults under 30, say they want nothing to do with organized religion.
In a popular book, American Grace, scholars Robert Putnam and David Campbell attribute the rise in “none of the above” when it comes to religion to the increasing drift of organized congregations to conservative polices and what Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne calls “a lean toward the right in the culture wars.”
Putnam and Campbell said many young Americans view organized religion as “judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical and too political.”
Adds Dionne in a column Sunday in the Post:
What’s maddening about all of this is that religion has a strong case to make for itself — to the young and to everyone else — given its historical role as a prod to personal and social change and the ways in which movements for justice have been inspired through the centuries by the words of Exodus, Micah, Isaiah, Amos and Jesus.
Sadly, such prodding for social change is lost in an “evangelical” religious world where resistance to change is lost by misuse of “the word of God” that ignores necessary social change and turns religion into a political tool that promotes intolerance and hate.
As an aging baby boomer, I must side with the youngsters who are now the “nones,” those who avoid organized religion and choose to seek spiritual needs personally.
We are a nation and a world of differing faiths, based on varying interpretations. Each of us has the right to follow, or not follow, any faith.
Religious persecution brought our founders to this nation and now those same persecutions threaten to tear us apart because of those who substitute bias for true belief and political appeasement for salvation.
Michael Gerson of The Washington Post wrote Monday about evangelicals facing a “#MeToo” moment that is long overdue:
Paige Patterson — head of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and icon of conservative Baptist belief — is being called out for a story he told in 2000. An abused woman had come to him for counseling. Patterson recommended prayer. Later, the woman returned with two black eyes. In Patterson’s telling: “She said, ‘I hope you’re happy.’ And I said, ‘Yes . . . I’m very happy,’ ” because the woman’s husband had heard her prayers and come to church the next day.
This, presumably, is Patterson’s version of a happy ending: A wife gets battered, but the church gets a new member. God works in misogynist ways.
Molly Worthen, writing in The Atlantic, finds dangerous parallels between what has happened in America’s political world with the collapse of faith and values in organized religion:
How could so many conservative Christians have voted for a thrice-married casino mogul who has bragged about assaulting women and rarely goes to church? Some commentators have speculated that perhaps these voters weren’t all that “evangelical” to begin with. “Many cultural Christians who never go to church identify as ‘evangelical’ or ‘born-again,’ ” suggested one conservative Christian blogger. A writer in The Nation emphasized evangelicals’ concern about future nominations to the Supreme Court: “If you can rally voters around abortion, few other issues matter.” Other observers credited plain old party loyalty or wondered whether this election proved that religion doesn’t matter very much anymore. So many voters seemed motivated by economic and racial grievances and resentment of Washington elites, not faith.
Dana Milbank of The Washington Post says the problem goes back a while:
Before Donald Trump, there was Sarah Palin, the tea party movement, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the Republican Study Committee, the Freedom Caucus. The Republican Party tried to harness the rage of the nativist right but ultimately couldn’t contain it. House speakers John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) failed, as will whoever leads the party next. Now we have Don Blankenship, Roy Moore, Joe Arpaio and a proliferation of name-calling misfits and even felons on Republican ballots. They are monsters created by the GOP, or rather the power vacuum the GOP has become.
Which is why I am a “none of the above” when it comes to organized religion. I’m also a political agnostic. I am not a Democrat, I am not a Republican. I’m an American and today — more than ever — there is a difference.
(Edited for clarification)