On April 8, 1966, the cover of Time Magazine asked, "Is God Dead?"
In the intervening 50 years since then, Western society seems intent on making the answer a resounding "YES!"
A 2015 survey by the Pew Research Center
showed that America is continuing a decline that has been ongoing for years: Americans are becoming less religious. The study shows that not only are the numbers of people who consider themselves religious on the decline, but the number of religious people involved in organized religion is on the decline, as well. This is not surprising.
Organized religion took quite a hit with the Catholic Church's sex-abuse scandal, and the subsequent cover-ups. Add to this a culture that is intent on moving away from all traditional ideas about morality, and it should be no surprise that religion is losing its influence. Basic morality is losing its place in American society - this is evident in nearly every aspect of our culture: popular music, movies, television, and politics. One of the major tenants of Christianity is that "all have sinned,"
but we want to be able to hold religious leaders to a higher standard.
In some of the most well-attended mega-churches in America, sermons are more on par with a motivational speech than an actual sermon. This appeals to a lot of people - going to church means getting some warm fuzzies. Sin becomes irrelevant to the religious experience…after all, no one likes being judged. But this makes religion watered down and inauthentic, and for a lot of people, especially Millennials, who are tired of this kind of inauthentic crap, it can turn them off of organized religion in general. As government plays an increasing role in every aspect of our society, it can become increasingly difficult for pastors who want to speak out on relevant issues - if they choose to speak, will they lose their congregation? Will the IRS come after them? And so, they stay quiet, taking the safe road.
Add to this that, as a society, America has moved away from its Judeo-Christian roots, even to the point that many question whether our nation ever had any Judeo-Christian roots to begin with. Today, America's counter-cultural movement that began in the '60s has become the culture. Pop stars like Beyonce and Miley Cyrus get on stage before millions of adoring fans, dressed in next to nothing, singing explicit lyrics and performing lewd dances on-stage…and this is considered acceptable. Hop-hop lyrics celebrate violence against women, violence against police, consuming and selling drugs…and this is considered acceptable. TV shows like Breaking Bad
and Game of Thrones
expose our culture to sex, violence, and language that would have been considered obscene to the point of being unacceptable not that long ago. Politicians' sex scandals meet with predictable levels of outrage from the perpetrator's political opponents, but if he's on your side, why not just shrug it off? After all, the other side is just as bad, if not worse.
And when do we pay attention to religion? When a Muslim terrorist shoots up a gay club in Florida, or sets off bombs in New York, suddenly religion is an issue people care deeply about. When the Westboro 'Baptists' show up at a fallen soldier's funeral with signs scrawled with "God hates fags," religion comes to the forefront. When a Christian pastor threatens to burn a Koran live on video, well, now
we're paying attention. We ignore the role that we ourselves have played in our own cultural and societal degradation, quick to point fingers, because at least we're not as bad as them!
Unfortunately, this is where we are as a nation: in the political realm, we will support our own lying, philandering scumbag, because at least he's better than that other lying, philandering scumbag! Hang out with the guys (or the gals), engage in some "locker room banter," it's all good. There's no such thing as sin anymore. There's no judgement or conviction. And that's the truth of the matter, isn't it? Life is just easier without religion. And if it doesn't work out? Well, society be damned…and in the end, it might just be.