So I was thinking about my last post some more today and I don’t think my assessment lines up with the survey I posted about a while back, where the ranks of unaffiliated believers were growing, as was changing religions. I realize we’re talking a survey in the exception to religious decline in the Western world, but churches do seem to have a problem here, too. The survey suggests the community structure religion provides isn’t currently that important to people. So if you’re defining religion down to essentially be community cooperation and morality, you’re building your religion around something that people are at worst discarding and at best bouncing in and out of. That’s not promising for Vosper’s project. People do still appear to be discarding traditional religious traditions and beliefs or trying to find other ones that fit better.
So where does this leave us? I’d like to say that there’s nothing churches can do – they’re going to continue bleeding members. And the Pew survey did suggest that the ranks of atheists and agnostics had grown significantly. It seems that churches have to adapt to the belief system that works the best for people. That means the least intrusive to the person’s lifestyle (premarital sex? Go for it!) and the most fulfilling. Maybe I’m misinterpreting, but the community aspect of church doesn’t seem to be the fulfilling part.
So I don’t know how the religious can hold onto their membership. I kind of like them having this problem.
I thought this was interesting:
That triumphal barnburner of an Easter hymn, Jesus Christ Has Risen Today – Hallelujah, this morning will rock the walls of Toronto’s West Hill United Church as it will in most Christian churches across the country.
But at West Hill on the faith’s holiest day, it will be done with a huge difference. The words “Jesus Christ” will be excised from what the congregation sings and replaced with “Glorious hope.”
There is no authoritative Big-Godism, as Rev. Gretta Vosper, West Hill’s minister for the past 10 years, puts it. No petitionary prayers (“Dear God, step into the world and do good things about global warming and the poor”). No miracles-performing magic Jesus given birth by a virgin and coming back to life. No references to salvation, Christianity’s teaching of the final victory over death through belief in Jesus’s death as an atonement for sin and the omnipotent love of God. For that matter, no omnipotent God, or god.
Sheesh, even the Christians are waging war on Christianity. Can they catch a break?
Ms. Vosper has written a book, published this week – With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important than What We Believe – in which she argues that the Christian church, in the form in which it exists today, has outlived its viability and either it sheds its no-longer credible myths, doctrines and dogmas, or it’s toast.
Unsurprisingly, I’m all for religion shedding outdated dogma, but this is all kind of curious. Essentially, she believes religion is outdated and must be modified in order to survive:
She wants salvation redefined to mean new life through removing the causes of suffering in the world. She wants the church to define resurrection as “starting over,” “new chances.” She wants an end to the image of God as an intervening all-powerful authority who must be appeased to avoid divine wrath; rather she would have congregations work together as communities to define God – or god – according to their own worked-out definitions of what is holy and sacred. She wants the eucharist – the symbolic eating and drinking of Jesus’s body and blood to make the congregation part of Jesus’s body – to be instead a symbolic experience of community love.
Is this really religion? It sounds like a massive project in twisting the language we use to describe religion beyond recognition. It does seem increasingly popular to be dissatisfied with traditional religion and attempt to redefine it so that you can still call yourself religious and be part of a community. However, this isn’t keeping some of the ceremony and listening to some parables about morality – this is a wholesale redefinition of the key concepts of the issue. Granted, these concepts haven’t been well-defined in the past and their definition causes plenty of debate (just think of my recent post about atheists and agnostics), but isn’t that a cause for concern? Religion’s pretty malleable for how authoritative it wants to be, but this is more than just malleability.
So, is this the shape of things to come? Religion seems to play two roles – enforcer of moral norms and provider of community. We also appear to be primed for religious belief in some form. Divine sanction of morality would be removed, but I’m not sure that’s a big issue. It’s definitely an issue in that religious leaders will denounce any change that removes such beliefs. It keeps the community part, so that’s a point in its favor. Will it satisfy the religious yearnings of most people? I couldn’t really say, but it really does look like a bait and switch. Look, we have God! Oops, it’s defined as everything we value, not the omnipotent being you had in mind. I think there’s a reason pantheism is pretty unpopular. If God is what you call everything around us, who cares? It brings nothing to the table.
I find it very strange that recently released downloadable content for Rock Band includes At The Gates’ Blinded by Fear and D.O.A. by The Haunted. It’s not enough to make me get the game, but it’s still pretty cool.
The other song in the pack (which was an Earache label pack) was by Evile. I mean, I understand we can’t have three songs by the Björlers, but come on.
“I feel like shit/but at least I feel something.”
It’s good to know In Flames’ lyrics still suck. Some things have to be consistent in this world.
Oddly, I kind of like A Sense of Purpose so far. The video for The Mirror’s Truth, however, is just strange.
Some guy was tortured and murdered (maybe) on this day, sometime in the first century. Makes sense in the current climate that we’d call this “Good Friday,” I guess.
I prefer to think of this as a university day, MSU’s (and probably some other schools’) excuse for giving students the day off. I can pretend today is a celebration of knowledge and learning and feel better.
I’ve filled out an NCAA tournament bracket on espn.com every year since 5th grade. And yet I just can’t muster the interest this year. It’s not like I pay attention to college basketball during the season, but still.
Obama’s speech on race was very very good. That hasn’t stopped the silliness, though. Did you know you can declare Obama’s candidacy on the decline without any evidence and that a major speech has failed, just hours after it was given? Me neither. I need more of an indication than right-wing hysteria.
Atheists are utopian warmongers who think everyone is a good person? Can I not believe in Chris Hedges?
I was going to write a post about Barack Obama’s preacher’s comments (and something else, but I can’t remember what it was now), but you can just read this instead. Is Obama a closet militant who’s going to establish a white guilt day and make us celebrate Kwanzaa? Is that what we’re afraid of?
I thought he was a Muslim, anyway. He clearly doesn’t listen to the guy if he’s just going to that church to conceal his true religion. Hmm, another issue that’s built on trying to expose Obama for who he “really” is.
You know, Obama’s a Democrat. Contrary to what lazy political observers think, he does have positions on the issues. The GOP typically doesn’t have a problem attacking Democrats on issues. I mean, demonizing Democrats for maybe wanting to raise taxes is dumb, but it’s issue-based. With Obama, we seem to get attacks that insinuate he’s not who he says he is. I wonder why that is.