Final part of NPR’s ‘Losing Our Religion’ series

NPR ended its weeklong series on the topic ‘Losing Our Religion’ on a weak note. (You can also see/hear part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.) In its last part, they interviewed a Methodist minister and a Catholic priest on what they thought of the increasing numbers of people leaving the church especially among the young and what might be done to get them back. (Note that the transcript is not complete and the audio has more.)

At least the Methodist minister said that he felt that the fault lay with the direction that the church had taken on important social issues and that as a result those who are leaving are doing so because “they see that the God we present is bankrupt, and that we’re theologically thin in our ability to even speak our own story.” The Catholic priest was an outright apologist and basically said that it was not his or the church’s responsibility to change their views but for people to come to terms with what the church says. All he was willing to do was to talk to them and help them be more accepting of the church’s doctrines. To be fair, he belongs to one of the most rigid, doctrinaire, and authoritarian institutions and speaking frankly would likely result in him being whisked away to Rome and personally tortured by papa Ratzi in the Vatican dungeons.

Both of them said that they were optimistic that there would be a revival of the church and the return of the lost sheep but given that they did not provide any evidence to back up that claim, one got the sense that it was just whistling in the dark to keep up their spirits.

I suspect that NPR wanted to end on what it thought would be a hopeful note for religion but it failed. They might have been better served by also interviewing some of the clergy who have left their churches and their beliefs entirely, because that is a big part of this phenomenon. The series producers hints that there will me more shows on this topic, showing once again that the decline of religion is being seen as a big story.


  1. TGAP Dad says

    I would like someone to call out NPR on their rank hypocrisy on running a week-long series about the nones (of which a substantial portion are avowed atheists) and culminated it by getting the perspective of a couple of clerics. This just reeks of the media’s major inference that religion is right, just, proper and moral, and those who’ve strayed are outliers who must be addressed. I was reminded of the House hearings on women’s health (read: contraception) which included no women.

    Not once in the series did NPR address the fact that some (most?) of the nones have investigated the faith(s) only to reject it (them). Not once did they look at what happens to members raised in religious settings and later reject the faith. Nor did they raise the issues faced by the nones when their own government compromises their rights to equal treatment.

    NPR treated this whole issue as one of wayward youngsters who had simply become disillusioned with the religious strictures, but pine for those days. I was just waiting for the reporter to trot out the “god-shaped hole in their hearts” drivel. Fortunately they left it as a mere implication.

  2. rork says

    “I suspect that NPR wanted to end on what it thought would be a hopeful note for religion but it failed”.
    Hmm, I was wondering if the hollowness of the two clergy was the reason to have them on, but just not something a journalist would want to point out too clearly, as in “So you heard them and now hopefully understand why their business is in some decline”.

    Unlike commenter #1, I was dismayed they didn’t have what I think of as a solid atheist (like me, or my daughter) – born and raised that way, with virtually no doubts and few regrets. Someone to say that if your ego lasted forever, nothing would make any damned sense, everything I think of as good would be obviously meaningless – not to say that without gods everything is instantly beautiful and clear.

  3. stonyground says

    In the UK there has been a recent spate of news stories regarding the collapse of several high street shop chains that sell electrical goods, cameras, CDs, DVDs etc. Blockbuster video rental is the latest one to go into administration. It is fairly obvious that the biggest factor in the demise of these companies is the internet, buying online is cheaper and easier, the world is changing and these shops are having difficulty keeping up.

    Religions are a little more durable in this respect, a significant proportion of their customers are fiercely loyal and will stay with them until they die. The product that they are selling costs them nothing, so their profit margins are quite robust. However, they have been in constant decline now for 150 years, the world has moved on, their demise is surely inevitable.

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