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Oct 11 2012

Religious leaders respond to the growth of the ‘nones’

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 This makes it easier for the young to reject organized religion, which is seen as the home of the old, out-of-date values.”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.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Argle Bargle

    …“aggressive” secularism, which they say wants to curtail the church’s role in the public sphere and reduce faith to a private exercise.

    That’s a good description of what I’d like to see. Worship all you like but do it by yourself or with some like-minded people. Don’t use religion to justify imposing your social and political views on the rest of us.

  2. 2
    Alverant

    “which they say wants to curtail the church’s role in the public sphere and reduce faith to a private exercise.”

    Well didn’t Jesus say to pray in private and not in public? Here’s a tip for the Pope and to whoever said the second quote, how about cleaning up your own house before demonizing your neighbor for having a few scraps of litter in their back yard?!

  3. 3
    Raging Bee

    ‘Aggressive secularism’? Is he referring to what we New Atheists have been doing?

    No, he’s referring to what huge numbers of people, from nearly all faiths, have been doing at least since the Renaissance: questioning the “authority” of religious leaders, trying to curtail the corruption and abuses of trust and power by organized religion, and hold religious institutions accountable for their actions. Pope Palpadict may not want to admit it, but you don’t have to be an atheist, or even an agnostic or a humanist, to see through the obvious bullshit of organized religion and want to protect yourself from it.

  4. 4
    stonyground

    The Catholic Church and some voices within the CofE have consistently misused the word secularism in their pronouncements. Since secularism means that the government should be neutral and treat all citizens fairly regardless of their religion, or lack of it, it is difficult to see how that principle can be “agressive”. At present in the UK, religious types can bypass the democratic process and get a free pass to political influence. Secularists pointing out that this is wrong and unfair and should be stopped, is claimed by the religious as wanting to have them banned from politics altogether.

    Of course what we really have is a rising tide of atheism, they would be on very shaky ground if they tried to have a go at that due to the fact that everyone is supposed to have freedom of belief.

  5. 5
    raven

    A lot of the fundie xian leaders have just doubled down.

    You have one politician in Arkansas listing the achievements of slavery. Another one wants to stone disobedient children to death like it says in Deuternonomy.

    A few openly call for atheists to be herded into concentration camps or all Moslems to be expelled or killed.

    There is a lot going on with US xianity but the extremists are getting more extreme.

    Could be that the best and brightest are leaving, resulting in a higher level of sheer craziness and malevolence from the dull ones and the haters.

    I doubt this will work in the long run, but who knows, we will just have to see.

  6. 6
    mnb0

    “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.”
    I have heard this before – in my home country, The Netherlands, some 35 years ago. The USA are just a bit late.

  7. 7
    phillipmoon

    Better late than never.

  8. 8
    mnb0

    Quite funny: after 500 years of “rather Turkish than Papal” Dutch orthodox protestants want to cooperate with orthodox catholics. Secularism appears to be the bigger threat in The Netherlands.

  9. 9
    Corvus illustris

    This may be an area in which the Netherlands are a bit late :-). It’s hard to pin down a single moment in time, but in the US this collaboration germinates with the Republicans’ Southern Strategy, the rise of the Reagan Democrats and the reign of JP_2, and is certainly in full bloom by the time of the first installment of GWBush.

  10. 10
    TGAP Dad

    I would amend the wording of your post slightly to “The (authorized) bible claims that Jesus said…”

    I don’t believe in attributing quotes to people who have never been shown to actually exist.

  11. 11
    TGAP Dad

    Personally, I like the strategy the religious have adopted of rationalizing the rise of the “nones.” This strategy of circling the wagons will serve to marginalize religion instead of keeping the faithful, and will actually drive away those with questions. Even religions can go extinct if they don’t adapt (after all, we know they don’t evolve!)

  12. 12
    raven

    Even religions can go extinct if they don’t adapt (after all, we know they don’t evolve!)

    Actually religions do evolve and quite rapidly, on the scale of years, decades, and centuries.

    To take just one example, the Southern Baptists were on the side of evolution during the first court cases in the mid-20th century.

    They were taken over by right wing extremists in a coup d’etat shortly after that. After a purge, they became hard core YEC creationists. They also tossed most of the centuries old principles of their sect and these days are mostly right wing extremist politics with some Calvinism and a cross stuck on.

    Their official position is that the Mormons are a Fake Cult and they are all going to hell. They will all vote for Romney anyway.

    Since the religions’ truth claims and doctrines aren’t anchored in reality, they can drift and evolve easily.

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