Tuesday, January 17, 2012

So What?

I know this piece of news is a bit outdated but I just had to share. RNS posted an article over a week ago about how 4 out of 10 Americans just don't care for anything spiritual. Check out the link to read up on all the numbers but to me I still think numbers are well, numbers. But what catches my attention is the question behind the survey. Why are people drifting away from religion and things spiritual? I believe that Barry Kosmin, co-author of the ARIS and director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism at Trinity College hit the nail on the head.

“But a lot of these people are concerned more with the tangible, the real stuff like mortgages or their favorite football team or the everyday world,” Kosmin said.

People are more concerned with the here and now than what may or may not happen in the afterlife or concerned with seeking for the meaning of life. I know to many people religion is their number one priority and there is nothing wrong with that. I'm not saying just because your neighbor has different priorities that you should change yours, but it wouldn't hurt to get to know the why behind your neighbor's priorities. For example, there was an overly cheery, elderly gentleman who joined my family in the hospital elevator down to the ground floor. We were on our way back home from a visit with my wife's grandfather who is still recovering from major surgery when we ran into this elderly gentleman in the elevator. He was smiling from ear to ear and making small talk and joking with another passenger in the elevator when he made an interesting comment.
"I've not much time left in this world, we're all going to a better place."
 Now in the South you run into someone just about everyday who enjoys witnessing and sharing their faith, and at first this comment appeared as another public witnessing. It wasn't until on the ride home that it hit me: the comment was a cry for help. The poor man was probably visiting someone, his wife perhaps, who doesn't have much time left. He is comforted by the fact that his loved one will soon be going to a better place and that the pain will soon be gone. If I had realized his suffering sooner I might have at the very least given him an it's gonna be okay smile than just a hello smile. Believe me there's a difference. I would have gone as far as having a quick 3 minute prayer session with the gentleman in the hospital corridor even though I don't believe in the power of prayer. Why? Because my spirituality is based on my relationship with my fellow man. Our shared suffering and our shared joy is what brings us and binds us to one another. So when Americans in this survey are saying so what to traditional religion and God I don't think for a second they are saying so what to their fellow man. I believe they are redefining the boundaries of their community and identity. I believe they are moving from just loving their neighbor who sits next them in church to also loving their non-Christian neighbor who they pass by in the supermarket.

Does it really matter if more Americans consider themselves as a part of the Nones category or even as far as this subset of So What? I believe our morality flows from our humanity and our interconnectedness with one another than from any outside divine source. In the original article by Cathy Lynn Grossman, Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, fears that this apathetic mentality and the goodness vs. godliness mindset is a disaster for Christians, "If you're not worried about heaven, you won't notice or care if Jesus is essential your salvation. You're not thinking about any consequences," McConnell says. I believe this fear is more based on the fear of identity erosion than about consequences. Just because you don't believe that Christ is your savior means that all morality gets thrown out with the window. Anyone who has lived in a dormitory understands that even if the dean or the RA is not around doesn't mean you can light firecrackers in the hallway or fail to pay attention where you're "aiming" while using the restroom. We all still live under one global roof and being apathetic to religion and spirituality does not mean we will forget about consequences.


Don said...

Hello my good friend! The thing that I immediately noticed about what the old fellow said (granting that it was an actual quote)was this: ""I've not much time left in this world, we're ALL going to a better place."

That caught my eye. Did he say ALL. If he did, that is a real stretch for someone in the Bible Belt. We are ALL one.

Eruesso said...

He did say all Don, but in a familiar manner as one does when you're in a group of like-minded people. In this part of the bible belt it's rare for someone NOT to be Christian. Or at least that's the perception most people have in these parts. But I get what you're saying.

Don, it really is great to hear from you. I've been so busy with the new baby that I hardly get time to interact with my blogging buddies as yourself let alone get time to write up a post.

Sabio Lantz said...

Good points.
Research described over and over at Epiphenom tells us that as people become more secure (financially, physically, and emotionally) they become less religious.

So while the religious tell us that if we give up religion we become less moral, what is actually happening is that we are giving up religion because we are becoming more secure. Once again, the religious got it wrong.

Ri said...

I think that the prevalence of scientific study and discovery has some effect on the belief or lack thereof.

There's this idea that things which aren't measurable by science are fringe or cannot be real. Personally I think it would be arrogant to assume that we could test for, measure or prove the existence of God, and I think that with tools, measurements and observations based in the physical world we wouldn't be able to detect anything that isn't physical. I feel that our inability to prove something or test for it shouldn't preclude the possibility that it exists, but for many people it does.

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