Death of religion graveyardThe following guest sermon was submitted by ULC minister Angela Winkler. All ULC Ministers are invited to contribute their own sermons for consideration/publication. To submit a sermon, please email it to sermons@themonastery.org.


A Slow But Steady Death

Religion in America is dying. It’s about time. After being wielded as a weapon to enslave Africans, displace Native Americans, subjugate women, suppress LGBTQ communities and shelter abusers of women and children, we should welcome its decline with celebratory acclaim. The truth is that religion has been holding us back from experiencing a second Enlightenment as society.

Recent analysis by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) determined the number of “religiously unaffiliated” Americans has tripled between 1976 and 2016. Moreover, the “religiously unaffiliated” cohort had a mean age in 2016 that was seven years higher than that of the mean in 1976 – showing that not only are a greater share of Americans breaking away from major religious groups, but that young people aren’t nearly as susceptible to the trappings of religion as they once were. 

Chart showing religious affiliation on the decline

Pushing People Away

In my opinion, the religious right has acted as a catalyst in triggering these trends amongst youth in the United States. According to new research in the American Journal of Political Science, as the religious right grew in political stature, many political liberals and moderates elected to stop identifying as Christians, rather than be associated with inflammatory folks like Jerry Falwell, James Dobson and Pat Robertson.

Furthermore, as American minds evolved on subject matters such as homosexuality, prayer in schools, women’s rights, premarital sex, and contraception, some tenets of morality in major religious groups became anathema to American cultural values of freedom, liberty, and justice for all – resulting in a slow exodus over time. 

Millennials Hate Religion

Younger Americans, frequently referred to as “millennials,” are the least religious generation in U.S. history. Millennials serve as the bridge between an antiquated past dominated by religious frameworks of morality to a future that recognizes a secular moral relativism. As the millennial population cohort came of age they were witness to the Defense of Marriage Act, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, unchecked police brutality against people of color, and the growth of the Federal prisoner population by 790% since 1980. Perhaps millennials relate to Frederick Douglass’ lamentation that:

“Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference—so wide that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slave-holding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason but the most deceitful one for calling the religion of this land Christianity.”

Welcome to the New Age

As religion wanes from public preoccupation we will enter a second Enlightenment. Ideas must be framed within the context of reason and logic rather than from the arcane or theological. As scholars of the first Enlightenment period sought to curtail the excess powers of organized religion so too will it happen again. Already, so-called evangelical voters cling to adulterous and disgusting candidates for office. As long as “their guy” claims to love Jesus, they’re willing to overlook even the most terrible of flaws. These are piteous attempts by religious extremists to hold on to their last vestiges of power.

If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, conceivably the fall from grace for America’s religious movements are an opportunity for reflection – on the ills committed against countrymen, and just maybe, a restorative way forward.

 

23 comments

  1. Thomas says:

    Traditional religion and it isn’t any kind of “Enlightenment”. It is a religion that is taking two simultaneous path. The first is a form of tribalism where people of varying ethnic, racial, ideological, geographic, etc. groups are living uncomfortably and sometimes violently next or close to each other each with their grievances, complaints, claims, etc. This necessitates the real endgame, the religion of Statism, that is, the worship of a centralized, authoritarian, totalitarian, dictatorial government who puts itself out there as the place people to go to get even with other groups, to get the goodies, etc. Worship of government. Government becomes the source of everything good. Government is who you turn to to make things right. Government determines what your rights are. etc.etc.

  2. Bear says:

    About time.Religions had a place and we’re needed back in the old,tribal days.
    It also helped bring people together in various locations where things were harsh.But in today’s world,there constantly disproving old myths and superstions.Wars continue due to old
    Religious beliefs.

  3. Tom says:

    It is time for everyone to recognize each of us is equal to everyone else, and we are all part of God…religions are divisive, and create hierarchies similar to corporations…God’s guide is to be loving, caring and compassionate to everyone…there is no need for religions to pretend to codify this…Tom

  4. James says:

    The govt don’t give us anything The govt is under contract to manage issues for us. The founders used religion as a base for the bill of right. This is a blog of a church ” religious group? So why the relief of the dieing of morality. Unless we are talking about oppressive organizations that remove rights to actually believe and practice your faith! More that sounds like a few people on the democratic side of things Even a few on the republican side too. I think the removal of God, faith, and religion is the numbing of the peoples will to be free from accountability. I. E. The communist portfolio…. No God, no one above govt, one higher power. No no no, that right there is the death of America and you all are the frogs in the pot. Open your eyes.

    1. Wendy says:

      The end of religion is not the dying of morality. Morality doesn’t originate in religion. The Bill of Rights was not religion-based. It was added to the Constitution to limit the power of the federal government.

  5. John Owens says:

    I just have to say, this whole first paragraph is so heavily biased I would call it full of falsehood:

    “Religion in America is dying. It’s about time. After being wielded as a weapon to enslave Africans, displace Native Americans, subjugate women, suppress LGBTQ communities and shelter abusers of women and children, we should welcome its decline with celebratory acclaim. The truth is that religion has been holding us back from experiencing a second Enlightenment as society.”

    The first sentence is probably true, but due more to the indoctrination of the young than any other phenomenon. The second is a matter of opinion. The third– full of onesided half-truths. Some may have used religion as a “weapon” to enslave Africans, but (A) it wasn’t ONLY Africans, so that is one half-truth, and (B) it was also used as a motivation to END slavery, so that is an omitted truth. As for Native Americans, ( I despise that terminology, because it describes the ancient tribes that MIGRATED here from Asia), religion was also used to help them or at least temper their displacement in many cases. Many shelters for abused women and children are SPONSORED by churches. You will find very few shelters sponsored by atheists, since altruism is viewed as hypocritical and somewhat quaint by most atheists. I have never seen any church-organized suppression of LGBTQ communities. I know that respectable churches preach against any kind of fornication, but that is not “oppression”. Yep, I have to call BS on the opening paragraph.

    1. Wendy says:

      But Africans are the descendants of Ham. Therefore they’re supposed to be enslaved. That was the argument. And after the Civil War that same argument was used to subjugate African Americans and perpetuate racism. Religion, from Calvinism through Fundamentalist Christianity, was used to justify forcing Native Americans out of their lands. The argument for that was manifest destiny. It’s definitely used to subjugate women and shelter abusers. I experienced that first hand, and I’ve helped people get out of those situations.

      Atheism isn’t a group, so there’s no such thing as an atheist shelter. Just like there’s no such thing as a shelter sponsored specifically by people who don’t eat asparagus. Your statement that altruism is viewed as hypocritical and quaint by most atheists is pure supposition on your part. Maybe the very loud-mouthed atheists believe that, but I know a LOT of atheists who don’t feel the need to be loud about their disbelief in a god and put in a lot of time and donate a lot of money to shelters and other altruistic organizations.

      I’ve also seen church-organized suppression of LGBTQ people. It’s not pretty. In fact, it was one of the most disturbing, twisted things I’ve ever experienced.

      Religions have mitigated some of the damage they’ve done, but a lot of the problems wouldn’t exist in the first place without having been inspired by religion.

      1. John Owens says:

        Wendy, I appreciate you considering what I have written and offering a counterpoint, but if I might offer another counterpoint for your consideration: Is it the fault of religion itself? OR maybe, selfish people trying to find justification for their own greedy intentions?

        I mean, how many Jews actually follow the teachings of Moses and the prophets? All these centuries, millennia even, and many still open their businesses on the Sabbath. Some even eat things they should not. The things they do observe, they do out of a sense of identity more than obedience to God.

        As for the so-called “Christians”, do they really follow Jesus’ (Joshua’s) teachings? They pick and choose a few, and I’m not hurling stones at them– I do not, can not bring myself to do EVERYTHING I know I am supposed to do. I try NOT to allow myself to justify my own misdeeds on biblical grounds for my failings.

        I’m just saying, I’m not a bad person BECAUSE of my faith. If I fall short of godliness, it is not my faith’s fault, or God’s, but my OWN. Do you not think this happens on a societal or national level? I just think people seize on justifications wherever they can find them, even in their sometimes unreasonable hatred of Donald Trump or Obama or Christian Fundamentalism or whatever person or -ism.

        Still, “unbelievers” seldom do any ORGANIZED good for others. Wouldn’t you have to agree?

  6. Lea Weis says:

    Well I guess people are not putting up with the fear control and don’t need the fire insurance anymore.

    I’m glad to see people wising up to the destruction of religion. We don’t need someone that is on a power high to enslave our minds anymore..People are looking for the god within..Steping towards spirituality..god orderly direction….We don’t need that cookie cutter mind anymore..We are done throwing our families away because they don’t think like us. We are learning that love for one’s self..is also love for others..We all want to be loved and excepted and we have realised we can love our neighbor even if they don’t share our same ideas..

  7. John Eftimiades says:

    Yes people may be wising up to the realization that religion is all about control and fear, but until they become more vocal and political the minority religious zealots will continue to dictate policy. Has anyone ever witnessed a politician say I respect your viewpoint but I am not of the belief in an almighty deity. Just once I’d like to hear a politician say we should not be considering military conflicts based on the belief that we’re doing God’s work. Honestly, how many soldiers have gone to their graves believing or at least being told that they’re doing God’s work. What a travesty, especially now in 2018. I hope I live to see more evidence of the United States moving once and for all out of the dark ages.

  8. Maurice Slaunwhite says:

    God is not about Religion in the first place. The whole thing is about the Lord thy God only and only him. If a person lives to be over one hundred years old and the people starts stories about that person that is not true like a certain person was at a place where he wasn’t in the First place or if a person wasn’t at a place when he was there this is called Gossip. Would you like something like this happen to you? Jesus had this happen to him. Now the whole truth comes out that he is God in the flesh,Son of God and the Holy Spirit. Yes we all Believe Jesus is coming back and the Muslims even believe in this as well. It is written John 3:16 For God so loved the world he gave his Only begotten son and who so ever believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. The word Religion is only mentioned in the Bible Twice in the book of James in the first chapter of the 26 and 27 verse. God bless you all and remember Jesus comes first.

    1. Maurice Slaunwhite says:

      God hates Gossip and that is Biblical.

    2. BethCZ says:

      While the Koran recognizes Jesus as a prophet secondary to Mohamed, Islam does not believe Jesus was God, or “the son of God” – it explicitly decries Christian belief that Jesus is the son of God by proclaiming, “God (Allah) has no sons!” He’s not coming back any more than any other now-dead person of the first century is.

      God is all about religion. If God exists, that’s precisely what he wanted, God actively wants people to kill each other, hate each other, discriminate against each other, and make war on each other in His name. being omniscient, omnipotent, and all. If God did not want there to be tens of thousands of religions, all proclaiming theirs is “The Truth” and others are at best ignorant and deluded, and at worst heretical and damned, God would have let himself be known unequivocally to all people, directly, in a manner which would have evidence, proof. However, that would eliminate faith.

      1. Lea Weis says:

        People puting their faith in a invisible man is a fairy tale. Every human being has faith and hope. Faith in themself and hope for a better tomorrow. Its in our own hands.

    3. Lea Weis says:

      The story about Jesus….This story has been retold but the names have been changed. I personally can’t imagine putting my faith an hope in a god that sacrificed his son…thou shall not kill. But I do understand that everyone likes a hero…

      1. John Owens says:

        …but He only sacrificed Him for 3 days and 3 nights. He knew He could resurrect Him. Even Abraham knew, when he was willing to offer Isaac. Just saying.

  9. Carl Elfstrom says:

    It’s about time for me to listen to John Lennon sing Imagine again.

    1. Lori Mongillo says:

      I was thinking that as well!

  10. Lori Mongillo says:

    I thought this quote was beautifully said:
    “There is no need for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated philosophy, doctrine, or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple. The doctrine is compassion.” The Dalai Lama
    Religion may pass away, but spirituality will thrive in the hearts of those who are open and focused on truth. Truth isn’t exclusive to any religion. Truth is true for everyone, or it isn’t truth. I see many people moving in a direction that embraces a universal Source of creation. They are becoming spiritually aware in spite of their religious backgrounds. I live in East Tennessee. I am a Pagan living next door to a southern Baptist family. They have become wonderful friends and possess a spirit of openness that is not the norm for around here. I do agree the tides are drawing us away from old time religion. It’s a good thing!

  11. Gus St. Anthony says:

    Let’s define “religion” as a collective effort to express the spiritual quality, the “divine dimension” that exists in every human being. That’s one thing. Now, “organized religion” as it has evolved over the past three thousand years is a totally different phenomenon. It is a dynamic with both good and not-so-good aspects. With regards to Christianity, billions of people over the centuries have been cruelly treated in the name of Jesus. That’s true. But, other billions have found solace, comfort, peace of mind and a sense of holy communion in the name of Jesus, also. So, I don’t think decrying “religion” as opposed to “no religion” is what it’s all about.

    I think we’re seeing the need for religious reform in our culture. Religious reform that calls for a redefinition of divinity for starters.
    Let’s understand that “God”, within the framework of biblical traditions, has been defined as an almost human-like entity with very human-like failings. He can get tired and need rest, for instance. But, spookier than that, He can get angry! He can get vengeful! He can get surprised as in the “talking serpent” scenario where “God” never saw that one coming and re-did His entire plan for humanity as a result. But, most dangerous, “God” is capable of really nasty deeds. Like drowning the whole world! Also, most of “God’s” champions in biblical traditions are MASS MURDERERS! David, Moses, Joshua, Samson, etc., etc. All empowered by “God” to kill thousands at a clip. Is it any wonder, with models like these, the Abrahamic religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam have always had their dark side?

    But, science and technology are showing us a far more logical and beautiful presentation of the process of Creation and a far more accurate picture of who and what we are in the cosmic scheme of things. Contrary to biblical traditions. Contrary to those ancient definitions of “God”.

    So, what I am suggesting is not to simply decry “religion” but, to move forward with the understanding that there really is a divine dimension to our human nature that needs to be expressed. We are spiritual beings. Our culture and our times are calling for a collective awakening. A re-evaluation of our religious concepts. A modern understanding of the Universal Force of Life in terms that do not abandon our intelligence. A definition of Divinity that dovetails with out understanding and God-given common sense.

    Not anti-religion, but religious reform … on an earth shaking level!

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