Religious Commitment in USA – Down or Up?
A surface glance at news about religion in America could lead one either direction: more fervency and commitment or less. An interesting article on this issue was posted today on the “Five Thirty Eight” blog of famed statistician, Nate Silver. The title is “Religious Diversity May Be Making America Less Religious.”
The key word is “may”. The author recognizes that cause and effect are difficult to discern. However, the pattern seems pretty clear that Americans are gradually becoming less religious. This part isn’t news.
What’s more important than either celebrating or bemoaning this is exploring questions like, “How are religious changes affecting the personal psychology and spirituality of both religious and nonreligious people?” Or, “What may be expected for the future of your church or your denomination?”
These are among the questions I’ve spent most of my life exploring, in both formal and self-directed study, … seeking to find deeper truth for myself and learning how I might best support or guide seekers or people reeling from what is now often called “spiritual abuse”. A few years ago I distilled some of this into a short book. It was shown on this blog until recently but I didn’t otherwise promote it. I’ve decided to put it out as a Kindle book around mid-September. A link will be provided once it’s up and available. In the next few posts, I’ll feature some excerpts or related material, such as the article link and brief comment above.
Today’s excerpt is from the introduction of my Spiritual Growth: Live the Questions, Love the Journey, and relates closely to the findings of the diversity article above:
So doubt is out in the open!
It was never fully hidden but now, for sure, the tendency of religious institutions to quash doubt and keep it under wraps has succumbed to an end-around play. People can connect cross-country and around the world and do so anonymously if they want! This is a big, big help to many. It is only one expression of a broad and accelerating shift in the way religion and spiritual life are viewed and practiced.
To a degree that is scary to some and exhilarating to others, “spirituality” is encroaching on the monopoly religion has held. People are moving around within religions or denominations as well.
In this book we will focus on the American aspect of this, but the changes are worldwide in varying forms. Sometimes changes seem to be going in opposite directions in the Global South and in the more developed North and West as well. I imagine these to be a reflection of stages of development with some reactionary stepping back.
Changes are taking place in contexts that are on different time scales – for groups as well as individuals. Both must be seen together though our focus will be more on individual needs and processes. The crucial part of my own questioning and revising my faith happened when the Internet was little known or used. But, hey… I am now thrilled to have it as a means of interacting, researching, and finding out what others think. It may prove to be the most significant tool, with its related technologies like smartphones, for the spread of spiritual information and interaction… far more versatile than the printing press! (Don’t forget, the “new technology” of the printing press was a key part of getting the Bible to the masses five centuries ago.)
So what kinds of problems go with religious or spiritual doubt? What are yours?