We relink to this again because it raises a lot of important issues. We have noted here many times that this decline in ‘church’ is almost foretold in the motion of the ‘new age’ of modernity. But it also important for those who step out of church living take care to consider their stance toward religion and spirituality. The wolves in sheep’s clothing are many and are licking their chops as huge numbers of ex-religious suckers brave the devil’s terrain of open spirituality. One need not be a committed Xtian to see that church association over a life was a form of protection for huge numbers. Suddenly bereft of that means huge numbers are going to get lost on the way. Here the new atheists will do a brisk business, but the results will be bland, and in the end degraded, and worse than traditionist allegiance.
Those who leave a church/religion should stop to consider their position, double their efforts to study the new field of spirituality, its history, the forms of spiritual action, the potential of meditation, the legacies of other religions, and much else. The realm of science and the new atheism is going to create a huge disorganization in those leaving religious fields, it is good to be wary of any kind of cultic reconversion, and that includes the new atheism. The purpose of science is to gain knowledge. It will do nothing for the spiritual psychology of the public.
Mechanical church going is not a spiritual activity, so its end is not necessarily a bad thing. But to be out in the open with no guidance of any kind is a route to slow spiritual entropic death.
It’s your move, since you elect to go it alone, a truly spiritual gesure, but one fraught with peril. You will discover the demonic in short order, metaphor or not. (There was plenty inside of decayed religion!)
Return the one ring to the cracks of doom, Frodo-style.
I cannot sermonize here, but I simply note with sadness that as religion wanes millions will perish in the dead zones of greater society, egged on by the vulgarity of too many secular humanists caught in a stupid brand of their otherwise, or once, intelligent cult. The new atheists won’t wait around to help anyone, and have declared their Darwinian allegiance, damn the ‘losers’, and all the services of those who have labored in religous orgs is going to falter as the psychology of capitalism delivers the coup de grace.
Be smart, and survive it. A world of Nietzsche and Ayn Rand will be a pointless wasteland between the demise of one religion and the onset of another, in the New Age of spiritual transition.
Be alert with some instant Zen Buddhism that isn’t buddhist, as ‘meditation in action’, and consider the buddha’s injunction to reach the other shore. The power of attention will lead rapidly to a new dimension of post-religion.
In the last decade, the word “religion” has become equated with institutional or organized religion. Because of crises such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Roman Catholic abuse scandal, Americans now define “religion” in almost exclusively negative terms. These larger events, especially when combined with increasing irrelevance of too much of organized religion, contributed to an overall decline in church membership, and an overall decline of the numbers of Christians, in the United States.
There may be hope, however, regarding the future of faith. Despite worry about the word, “religion,” Americans are extremely warm toward “spiritual but not religious” (30 percent) and, even more interestingly (and perhaps paradoxically), the term “spiritual and religious” (48 percent). While “religion” means institutional religion, “spirituality” means an experience of faith. Large numbers of Americans are hankering for experiential faith whereby they can connect with God, the divine, or wonder as well as with their neighbors and that lead to a more profound sense of meaning in the world. Maybe Americans once called this “religion,” but no more. Americans call it “spirituality.”
Some Americans want to be spiritually left alone, without complications from organized religion. But nearly half of Americans appear to hope for a spiritual reformation — or even revolution — in their faith traditions and denominations. Congregations that exhibit a vibrant spiritual life embodying a living faith in practical ways succeeding, even in the religion bear market. These sorts of communities are models of what might be possible to renew wearied organizations. But the macro-structures of American faith — denominations — have yet to hear this message. They are still trying to fix institutional problems and flex political muscle instead of tending to the spiritual longings of regular Americans.