According to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday May 12th the number of Americans calling themselves Christian has dropped off sharply in recent years while the “none” classification has sharply increased especially among young people. One third of millennials say they have no faith affiliation. This was the result of a survey of 35,000 American adults.
What does this mean? This should be a wake up call for Christian America to look at itself and realize what it is doing wrong. And as an outsider I have an opinion to share.
I was neither raised Christian nor religious but I lived in a majority Christian society. Although some of their rituals seemed a little strange to me it seemed that one of the core principles of Christianity was that people were supposed to be “good people” and live a “Christ Honoring Life”. But Christian culture has changed since then. It seems to me that the Christian identity has been exploited by political interests who created the “culture wars”. Now Christians are no longer focused on being “good people”. Christians have become angry, paranoid, cultish, selfish, intolerant, and a little crazy in a scary sort of way. Not the same kind of Christians I grew up with.
Lately Christianity seems to be at war with Reality itself embracing an anti-science stance. Christians seem to think that if they believe hard enough that Reality transforms itself into what they want to believe is true. During the George W. Bush years Carl Rove is credited as saying:
guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality–judiciously, as you will–we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
During the Bush years Christians thought they were bigger than Reality itself. That they were more powerful than the universe. They believed they could defy the laws of nature. But as we found out in hindsight, Reality is bigger than they were and when they went to war with Reality America lost, and we are still paying for Bush’s sins. Fighting Reality is like getting mad and kicking a rock as hard as you can in order to “teach the rock a lesson”. But when you do that the rock teaches you a lesson.
The Internet hasn’t helped Christianity either. The web gives people access to Reality based information in a way that sharply contrasts with Christianity’s war on Reality. Christians should not be fighting against science because fighting science is like kicking a rock. Christianity needs to modernize and find a way to live in harmony with Reality and in harmony with the rest of the non-Christian world. As our understanding of Reality increases over time the religious world needs to evolve to accommodate and embrace what science is discovering.
Centuries ago the Catholic Church was not happy when Galileo, inventor of the telescope, determined that the Earth revolved around the Sun. They imprisoned him for life. But now we all know Galileo was right. Every day we are discovering new things. We cure disease. Our rockets travel to other planets. We discover new and exciting particles. The wonders of the universe are surrendering their secrets and young people want to explore our universe, this world, the real world.
If Christianity is going to continue to be relevant as humanity colonizes Mars then it needs to at least go back to focusing on being “good people” and living life in a Christ honoring way. If religion can make the lives of people better and inspire people to live a life worth living then it has a chance. But if religion wants to be at war with Reality then may Darwin have mercy on our souls.
Marc Perkel, Gilroy