Have you heard that organized religion is in decline, at least in North America?
Apparently, we are witnessing a huge increase in people who claim to have no religious membership, especially in the United States. This increase in “nones”, people with no religion, and a decline in religious memberships has been happening for at least twenty years.
This is a cultural trend, and the decline may be happening in other parts of the world. In 2014, Rowan Williams the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury said that the United Kingdom was a post-Christian society.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, where organized religion also controls the government, a young woman, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, was arrested recently, by the religious Morality Police. She was not wearing a head covering. She was supposed to wear a correct head covering, as a Muslim woman, but many women in Iran want to drop that requirement from their lives.
Mahsa was arrested and detained, and somehow, she died in custody. Possibly, the police were too aggressive. Apparently, the reaction against that expression of organized religion, in Iran, is very strong. Even conservative religious people are angry, and the police used tear gas to break up an angry demonstration at her funeral.
You can read more if you are interested:
So, is organized religion failing? Are religions like Christianity and Islam heading for extinction in our modern society?
If you do an Internet search with words like “decline” and “religion” you will find many news articles and videos. If religion is not disappearing, our modern world is changing, and religion is losing its privileged place in our culture.
Here are some reasons:
1) We can’t afford it.
Whose needs matter the most? I drove someone home from a large suburban church, the other evening. It is the kind of church that has room for classes, and it’s a place that I really like. It has a practical building, with plenty of free parking, and I asked my friend “If this property was sold, how much do you think it’s worth?” The answer was “Four million dollars.”
That was a guess, but that church also had staff salaries and expenses, and the dollar numbers must be very large.
Imagine young adults trying to pay their way, in our expensive society. Add to that, the financial cost of organized religion. My city also has synagogues, and mosques, and buildings for different religions, and they all look expensive.
A younger generation might not want to take on a financial burden from their parents and grandparents.
2) We lost a generation.
I was raised in a family that was very loyal to one church. One lesson that I learned, was to keep my parents happy, and stay out of trouble. All of my friends knew about that. We had the choice to sincerely believe, or to fake it and keep the older people happy. Most of us did both.
Today, I am a Christian, and I really want to follow Jesus. To get to this place, I had to see my own need and ask God to help me. With so much religion and church, I could easily feel good about myself and ignore my needs, but somehow I got past all the tradition and personal pride. Some of my friends just dropped out, when adult responsibilities came into their lives.
The world has a younger generation, becoming adults, and finding new ways to keep busy. Old organized religion may not appeal to them.
3) There is no challenge.
Religion is easy these days. All we have to do is show up, approve, and pay. Everything has been built and organized for us, and professional staff do all the work.
Older generations started something new, and struggled. When my parents moved to this city, my father’s first job was to help build a new church. Dad was a carpenter. I believe my parents’ loyalty grew when they were challenged, not when everything was easy, and done for them.
4) God hasn’t moved.
The whole point of organized religion is to bring people back to God. We have other resources, for other needs.
When I really learned that there was something important in God, and I needed to find it, other religious things became less important. I didn’t want to belong to a private club, for that I could learn how to golf.
As a Christian, I am sure now, that Jesus had one job; to bring us back to God. If I didn’t know that now, I would probably lose interest in religion and church.
There is a reason for it all, and that has not lost its appeal:
So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away; look, what is new has come! And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5: 17 to 19)