In the wake of the release of the Pew survey that showed a rapid growth in those who call themselves religiously unaffiliated, the Religion News Service surveyed some religious leaders for their reactions. Many of them focused on the fact that young people are leading the move away from religious institutions. Here are some reactions.
“[Young people] see organized religion too caught up in the past, fighting the last century’s battles, blind and deaf to the needs of an ever so rapidly approaching and potentially calamitous future.”
“Sadly, many young people tell me that even if they believe in God, they find organized religion not only boring and irrelevant, but corrupt and offensive. They find houses of worship with uninspired homilies and lousy music, at the same time they’re reading about the crimes of sexual abuse and hearing some religious leaders saying hateful things about their gay and lesbian friends. The tragic result is that many young people are completely, and perhaps irrevocably, turned off to organized religion–and worse, to God.”
“As the new Pew Forum numbers indicate, it’s clear that debates about moral and social issues are at the heart of this matter… an era in which many people have decided they no longer need to tolerate people that they consider intolerant. This makes it easier for the young to reject organized religion, which is seen as the home of the old, out-of-date values.”
Even before the release of this report, the Vatican had been sounding the alarm over what some in the hierarchy called the ‘tsunami of secularism’. The pope convened a three-week summit, currently underway, of 262 church leaders to devise ways to confront the secularization of society.
Symptoms of this trend are a decline of faith and a shrinking number of Catholics in the Western world but also in traditional Catholic strongholds such as Latin America. Church marriages are decreasing, too, while divorce is all but mainstream.
Catholic leaders in the U.S. and Europe are also worried about a perceived rise of “aggressive” secularism, which they say wants to curtail the church’s role in the public sphere and reduce faith to a private exercise.
‘Aggressive secularism’? Is he referring to what we New Atheists have been doing? If so, it looks like the small numbers of unorganized but vocal atheists have got the mighty Roman Catholic church on the ropes.