More and more Americans, particularly adults under 30, say they want nothing to do with organized religion.

In a popular book, American Grace, scholars Robert Putnam and David Campbell attribute the rise in “none of the above” when it comes to religion to the increasing drift of organized congregations to conservative polices and what Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne calls “a lean toward the right in the culture wars.”

Putnam and Campbell said many young Americans view organized religion as “judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical and too political.”

Adds Dionne in a column Sunday in the Post:

What’s maddening about all of this is that religion has a strong case to make for itself — to the young and to everyone else — given its historical role as a prod to personal and social change and the ways in which movements for justice have been inspired through the centuries by the words of Exodus, Micah, Isaiah, Amos and Jesus.

Sadly, such prodding for social change is lost in an “evangelical” religious world where resistance to change is lost by misuse of “the word of God” that ignores necessary social change and turns religion into a political tool that promotes intolerance and hate.

As an aging baby boomer, I must side with the youngsters who are now the “nones,” those who avoid organized religion and choose to seek spiritual needs personally and away from those who promote bigotry and homophobia.

We are a nation and a world of differing faiths, based on varying interpretations.  Each of us should have the freedom to serve, or not serve, any faith.

Religious persecution brought our founders to this nation and now those same persecutions threaten to tear us apart because of those who substitute bias for true belief and political appeasement for salvation.

Michael Gerson of The Washington Post wrote Monday about evangelicals facing a “#MeToo” moment that is long overdue:

Paige Patterson — head of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and icon of conservative Baptist belief — is being called out for a story he told in 2000. An abused woman had come to him for counseling. Patterson recommended prayer. Later, the woman returned with two black eyes. In Patterson’s telling: “She said, ‘I hope you’re happy.’ And I said, ‘Yes . . . I’m very happy,’ ” because the woman’s husband had heard her prayers and come to church the next day.

This, presumably, is Patterson’s version of a happy ending: A wife gets battered, but the church gets a new member. God works in misogynist ways.

Molly Worthen, writing in The Atlantic, finds dangerous parallels between what has happened in America’s political world with the collapse of faith and values in organized religion:

How could so many conservative Christians have voted for a thrice-married casino mogul who has bragged about assaulting women and rarely goes to church? Some commentators have speculated that perhaps these voters weren’t all that “evangelical” to begin with. “Many cultural Christians who never go to church identify as ‘evangelical’ or ‘born-again,’ ” suggested one conservative Christian blogger. A writer in The Nation emphasized evangelicals’ concern about future nominations to the Supreme Court: “If you can rally voters around abortion, few other issues matter.” Other observers credited plain old party loyalty or wondered whether this election proved that religion doesn’t matter very much anymore. So many voters seemed motivated by economic and racial grievances and resentment of Washington elites, not faith.

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post says the problem goes back a while:

Before Donald Trump, there was Sarah Palin, the tea party movement, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the Republican Study Committee, the Freedom Caucus. The Republican Party tried to harness the rage of the nativist right but ultimately couldn’t contain it. House speakers John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) failed, as will whoever leads the party next. Now we have Don Blankenship, Roy Moore, Joe Arpaio and a proliferation of name-calling misfits and even felons on Republican ballots. They are monsters created by the GOP, or rather the power vacuum the GOP has become.

Which is why I am a “none of the above” when it comes to organized religion.  I’m also a political agnostic.  I am not a Democrat, I am not a Republican.  I’m an American and today — more than ever — there is a difference.

(Edited for clarification)

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Jesus said, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. I attend a church who doesn’t do politics. We support an after school program for a very poor school. We send this kids home with food, because that may be the only food in the house. We hold 2 carnivals a year in a neighborhood I am personally afraid to go. We support the local food banks. Thanksgiving and Christmas we give them a meal with all the traditional trimmings, but we also give them enough food to last them a month. We do this for 75 families. There are churches out there who are interested only in loving one another. Leaving church because you are too unmotivated to find one which espouses true Christian values, is your fault and your loss.

    • Thank you, Sherry. You sound like the sort of person this country could use a great deal more of.

      However, all this is possible without involving religion. Love one another; not because someone commanded you to, do so because it’s the right thing to do. Help thy neighbors; not because then you get to go to Heaven or if you don’t you go to Hell, help thy neighbors because it’s the right thing to do.

      Morality is not derived from religion. Christianity does not have a monopoly on how to be nice to other people. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Gnostics, agnostics, and yes, even atheists, can love one another equally well.

      Jon

  2. Indeed. Religion also has a strong case to make itself for:
    The Crusades
    The Spanish Inquisition
    The burning of the library of Alexandria
    The persecution of Galileo
    The witch trials of Salem
    and a nearly uncountable number of asshats doing all manner of rot ‘In God’s Name’.
    Jon

    But wait, there’s more! J.

    • And now, fun with those books that Mr. Dionne chose as “prod[s] to personal and social change”:

      Exodus 7:20 … 21 [KJV];
      “And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.
      And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. “

      So God’s fine with genocide… See Exodus 12:30;
      “… and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. “

      Micah 2:3;
      Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil.

      Yeah. That’s one way to resolve conflict. I guess that whole bit about ‘innocent until proven guilty in a court of law’ isn’t really God’s thing.

      Moving right along…

      • Not that the lessons of Isaiah are real peaceful either:

        Isaiah 13:14…16;
        Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.
        And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.
        Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword.
        Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.

        Or Amos 2:5;
        But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.

        Hey, if you want to do the Lord’s work, knock yourself out.

        One more (only one more, I promise)

        • And even 2 Thessalonians, 1:8…9 shows the word of Jesus to be more about violence than peace:
          In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
          Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

          So yeah, basically those ‘teachings’ Mr. Dionne is so proud of inspire violence.

          Some may cheerfully argue that I have cherry-picked quotations, and/or taken them out of context, and I have. I admit it. So does pretty much every church these days – a great deal of the advice given to highly xenophobic sheepherders doesn’t apply that well to the modern world, especially if you consider most of the point of this preaching was more to enrich the preacher than to improve the lot of the peasants.

          It’s also worth noting that I only scored the first interesting ones I found. I am no biblical scholar – there are many more.

          Note that Mr. Dionne himself cherry-picked books from the Bible, ‘of good teachings’ and yet it was a matter of minutes to find incitement to violence in every single one.

          Enjoy. Jon

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