Where is Religion Going?


I’ve been a part of organized mainstream religion for over 50 years. This article is not wrong–though also not very sophisticated. Religion is a very broad category. It ranges from uneducated, self-ordained preachers who gather 10 or 12 people in a home somewhere and preach a literal reading of the bible, all the way to very well-considered communities like the Unitarian-Universalists, Quakers and Unity. It also includes Sufis, and a variety of forms of Buddhism.

Despite that wide range, the majority of Americans fall into two camps, both claiming the name “Christian”. No matter their official denomination, on the one hand are the evangelicals and fundamentalists, who tend to rigidity, reading the bible as though it had been written in English rather than translated from Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, read it as a rule book rather than the metaphoric expression of ancient spirituality. For them, religion is an escape from reality, a magic source of rescue. This is something that they have in common with other cults whether Christian, Buddhist, Pagan or Muslim or Atheist.

(I must say that I do have great sympathy for them. Whether in Brazil where conservative religion is flourishing or in the US bible belt, it is the poor who are set upon by economic forces decreed by the wealthy.)

On the other hand, there are those who use their religion as a locus to search for the purpose of their life, as a community of support and as a community of caring for the world. They eschew doctrine and dogma, but have a sense of a deeper reality within them that connects them with all that is.

While this article is on point about the religion and the ideas of god which are from the first camp. It does not adequately take into account the many who do find themselves in the religions of the second.  We see this division within the denomination of which I am a part, the Presbyterians. At the recent General Assembly, the assembly voted 61% to authorize gay marriages. The Progressives have become a dominant force in the denomination. It is not because they are growing greatly in numbers, though there is some growth, it is because the Conservatives have been diminishing. It is almost beyond debate that the Presbyterians are breaking in schism. We already see many congregations walking away from the denomination. This is true in most denominations.

The local congregation where I go most weekends, is non-dogmatic, non-doctrinal, very progressive. It is flourishing and increasing its membership month-by-month as young, upwardly mobile, well-educated individuals and couples make the choice to join.

My conclusion is that while education and youth are the forces which are behind the overall decline in religion, they are also the forces that are feeding the growth of progressive religion. Progressive Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism are not “Scared” by this trend, but the conservative Evangelical right is and should be. In the conflict between ignorant conservatism and liberal, progressive ideas, Progressivism is winning in secular and religious arenas.

By Amanda Marcotte [2]

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