Religion and Us

Have you noticed how Sunday is morphing into just another Saturday? Yes, it’s been happening for over fifty years, but now seems on a sprint to the end of Sunday as we once knew it. There was a time when Sunday was a day of rest, a day when stores were closed, a day when people focused on life and its meaning to them and to family.

As a child, I remember Sunday’s fixed schedule in my parents’ home: wearing my best clothes, first to Sunday school, then to worship service, then a big dinner afterwards, followed by a return to more church activities in the evening. As an adult, I taught our teenage son how to drive on Sundays by practicing on the empty parking lots of a local mall, as all stores were closed for the day. Sunday was a day of peace and reflection.

But all that is now behind us; our future will be one with fewer churches and fewer people identifying with any religious framework and there is no longer a day of rest. Our world is becoming accustomed to activities and commitments that span 24/7. Many people may believe the Sunday of yesterday needs to be restored and that the means to that is to increase the participation in religious activities. But that will not happen. As I mentioned previously, that world is behind us. Our survival requires adopting a new framework, not wishing for an abandoned one.

Wishing to restore yesteryear acknowledges that we are avoiding the facts. We pretend nothing has changed, that we are still active in religious beliefs and practices. But it’s a lie, isn’t it? Churches are becoming more and more to be less and less a part of our lives. Ask us our religious affiliation and we’ll respond, but please don’t ask us if we believe it or practice it. Or even understand it beyond the simple stories taught to us in our childhood. Any poll in the United States will show a majority believe in God, yet that is more a confirmation that it’s easier to say yes than to explain why not. We say it and we quickly move on, not wanting to reflect on the issue facing us.

Why do we have this dichotomy? Facts and polls showing we’re not religious, yet our leaders and the media talking of us as a “Christian nation.” And maybe that answers the question: Politicians believe they may lose votes if they shy from references to being one nation under God, and the media likewise parrots the political view. And we don’t correct them, either because we don’t care about the subject, or we fear alienating others and giving the perception that we are horrid, evil, atheists. Religion as it affects us is something of which we do not like to discuss.

It is this refusal to come “out of the closet’ on the topic and begin active dialogue on the issue of religion that keeps our moving on with our lives. Are you not tired of listening to people talking of how God will solve our problems, when we know that the problems we face can only be solved by our taking ownership and working to fix them?

Facing the truth is our only hope to move to a better understanding of our time here. Our world is changing and we are part of it. A few years ago, I wrote a post on the closing of the church my dear wife and I had attended for several years. That post is at https://davidsplace.org/for-sale/ and I have read it many times as a reminder that I am part of the changing world, whether I want to admit it or not. That church did not close because of me, but I cannot claim innocence: it was my leaving, along with many others, that caused that little church to die.

Apology? Regret? Guilt? No, I feel none of that. My emotional needs are no longer met by religious teachings and I know I do not stand alone. In the news, I read now of people telling our president and others that the time-worn phrase, We’ll pray for you, no longer works. Why? People believe in actions, not in prayer. Because actions produce results.

That little piece of knowledge has taken civilization over five thousand years to learn, and many haven’t yet, which is already causing a dangerous split in society: Many who believe in God and prayer also believe that those who do not are evil, and those who do not believe in God and prayer also believe that those who do are avoiding reality. That is a huge chasm to cross—but the non-believers are slowly winning this debate, as evidenced by the closing of churches.

And that brings me to where I began: we’re at the end stage of religion. And move forward we must, with a new vision and a new sense of what all people share at their core. We are not God’s children, we are Earth’s children, and that alone makes us all part of one family. Read the material of any major religion and you find common ideas: kindness, charity, love, sharing. Those common areas are proof that people, despite their religious beliefs, all share basic ethical and moral guidelines.

The existence of these common ideas proves something more: that kindness, charity, love, and sharing come from within each of us and have no dependency on religion. People are basically good, seeking support and companionship from others. There was respect for human life, marriage, and family before the story of the Ten Commandments.

Churches will continue to close. Let’s stop wringing our hands on this and start a fresh dialogue. Religion’s place needs to be defined and owned by those who support it, not by politicians and the media who use it as a crutch. And we need to acknowledge and accept that religious belief no longer dominates our society. We can do this. It’s time. It’s long past time.