Despite our melting pot status, Americans are generally seen as a nation of Bible-thumpers. Card-carrying Christians. And throughout the course of human history, the Christian God has been both revered and ridiculed, magnified and maligned. Lately, though, He's been a little ... ignored.
According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Millennials (that's you) are less religious than their parents and grandparents were at the same age. With a whopping 26% of those surveyed claiming no religious affiliation at all, that's the highest number of disengaged youngsters since the study launched with Greatest Generation. Not for nothing, those guys (born before 1928) had only 5% of respondents claim no religious affiliation. Even slack Gen Xers like me had 80% reporting they belonged to a particular faith, which is awfully high for a cohort labeled "cynical."
Since religious denominations have been hemorrhaging members for decades, one has to wonder: How will this affect us as a society? In other words, what do we lose when left to our own devises to decipher what's right and wrong?
For many, religion -- and church in particular -- has been seen as a moral compass. A place where parents, even atheists ones, could dutifully take their children to instill and reinforce "good values." But as kids have grown up and fallen away from organized religion (that's you again), the consequences seem far-reaching. For starters, does being disconnected from God make us ill-equipped to understand others around the world who are supremely motivated by religious beliefs?
Perhaps part of the reason we're losing our religion is that -- unlike generations past -- we bristle at the very thought of being told what to do. Perhaps we can't stomach a dogma that seems intolerant and outdated on social issues like homosexuality. Perhaps we are irked by those who hide under the cloak of religion and use it to justify despicable human behavior. Or maybe it's just guys like Pat Robertson and his myopic insinuations about everything from 9/11 to Haiti that give "piety" a bad rap.
Talk to 10 different people you'll probably get 10 different answers, but one thing is for sure regardless: If religion -- and Christianity in particular -- is to turn the tide and get folks like me and you engaged, there's some work to be done. As such, I offer a humble suggestion.
Maybe it's time we started talking about religion again.
Seriously, if educated discussion and discourse are a hallmark of civil society, why is it not okay to bring up critical, substantive, and transformative issues like politics and religion? Why is it acceptable to discuss Snooki from The Jersey Shore ad nauseam, but considered "impolite" to talk about Jesus? (Or Mohammad or Budda for that matter?)
So I vote we all stop worrying so much about being "politically correct" and start worrying about the consequences if we don't start talking about these things. At best, we create a dialogue that spreads from campus to campus and sparks some rudimentary form of mutual understanding and enlightenment. At worse, it will keep your parties lively.