The viewpoints on religious institutions are telling. Nearly 70% of the “nones” believe organized religions are too concerned w/ money & power, focus too much on rules, and are too involved with politics...20+ points higher than affiliated Americans.
Churches must move away from the areas highlighted in this study if they have any hope of gaining traction among all but the oldest generations. I am not saying that churches need to evolve into planned parent hoods or start offering rainbow weddings but these topics must not play a headlining role in the rhetoric or teachings discussed if anything they are to be subbed in few and far between.
An exciting movement that has been a renaissance of sorts among Christian denominations reaching out to the alienated nones is red letter Christianity. This is the idea that we are to focus almost exclusively on the words in the New Testament that are directly attributed to Jesus, the words that are written in red in many bibles. Jesus did not lay down pages of commandments, nor did he speak about homosexuality, abortion, nationalism, military might, wealth, modesty, societal roles, or many other things that often highlight our sermons and Sunday schools. Instead Jesus focused on revolutionary love, faith to move mountains, forgiveness, peace, acceptance, the widow, the prisoner, the outcast, downtrodden and poor. This is the kind of religion that holds people, that changes people and societies.
There are of course a multitude of explanations for this but a few that are demonstrated in study after study revolve around relationships. The affiliated folks of our country tend to have a stronger sense of community in their lives which provides social interaction as well as support in times of trouble. Obviously this is possible to have outside of religion but more often than not this does not happen. The development of hope, charity and compassion are sources of joy and overall well being that can often spring from religious practice (though not exclusively). Habits of contemplation and meditation have scientifically validated connections to happiness and often find their beginnings in religious or spiritual philosophy.
I have discussed what I have found to be the “key” to happiness previously: love others as yourself, and find some kind of cause whether it be God, truth or brightening the world for which to dedicate your life. To reiterate, all of the above can be developed and found in a life as a “none” but it is often more accessible to those that choose the religious path.
It is a more and more common occurrence that people become disenfranchised with their faith for one reason or another yet it is important to remember that there are always more religions to find in this pond of life. Religions that may resonate deeply with your soul, your personality and your joy where you can find a deep sense of community with like minded people. So as a call to all of the nones out there that have been burnt or bored by religion look again and let’s begin a 21st century great awakening that calls for a society of compassion and community, where we can feel hopeful about the future and usher in a just kingdom of God.
Take home activity: fun belief-o-matic questionnaire to help you find the religion that most aligns with your personal beliefs. Share your findings, comments/critics or discussion questions in the comments section below.