Sunday, May 17, 2015

Modernity and Religion: An Inverse Correlation?

I'm seeing lots of articles lately about the demise of religion.  Here's a snippet from one of them:
"Religion has been waning in influence for several centuries, especially in Europe and North America. There have been a few brief and local revivals, but in recent years the pace of decline has accelerated."

Could anything turn this decline around? Yes, unfortunately. A global plague, a world war fought over water or oil, the collapse of the Internet (and thereby almost all electronic communication) or some as-yet unimagined catastrophe could throw the remaining population into misery and fear, the soil in which religion flourishes best. (WSJ - Professor Daniel C. Dennett)
He relates how John Calvin observed back in the 16th century, "...religion recedes whenever human security and well-being rises [...] He noted that the more prosperous and comfortable his Genevans became, the less dependent they were on church."

No Atheists in Foxholes

This shouldn't surprise anyone. When we're down and out, sick, at some grave disadvantage, in need of help, we are contrite, thankful for the help we beg from others, including God. Back on our feet, prosperous and healthy, we gain confidence in our own powers, and our gratitude and humility tend to fade. Anyone who has read the story of the Hebrews from the Pentateuch knows this is basic human nature. That story of a people, delivered from slavery to the promised land, thankful, rebellious, stubborn, questioning and demanding of their creator, is the story of each human heart.

But wait...  There's more...

Wow, I thought, as I paused over the fourth paragraph where the author made his solid conclusion founded upon human nature, that was a short article. But having arrived at a solid truth, he abandoned it and went on the attack:
Religious institutions, since their founding millennia ago, have managed to keep secrets and to control what their flocks knew about the world, about other religions and about the inner workings of their own religion with relative ease. Today it is next to impossible.
From that rickety assertion he descends into nasty God-bashing and religion-mocking built upon a squishy bog of bandwagon appeals, ad-hominem, and other logical fallacies. He lauds the social benefits of too many church-like community organizations that have dropped all that judgmental stuff, and he heralds a day when we will be free of religious doctrine. He expressed no such aversion to the stone blocks of man-made doctrine imposed upon us. I guess he's OK with that...

Here are my thoughts...

Man does not exist for religion. My purpose in life is not to serve the Catholic Church by sitting in its pews, volunteering my time and talents, and tithing. A church is there to help us all worship God, instruct us and aid us on our journey to heaven.

The article descended quickly into a screed, but I want to go back to the first part, where he posited an inverse relationship between prosperity and religious worship. It is a valid observation, backed up by data, but he is focusing on superficialities in an effort to ascribe selfish psychological motives to worshipers.

A better way to look at it is this: The more human beings are separated and shielded from the most elemental building blocks of life, the further in danger we are of becoming estranged from God.

Man-made things no longer direct our hearts and minds to God. Instead, they distract us. And the useful and utilitarian creations of man shield us from life's vicissitudes and reduces the opportunities for us to contemplate our small insignificance against the infinite backdrop of time and space.

Medicine, flush toilets, potable water systems, electricity, grocery stores, roads, airplane and the bouquet of appliances and toys that entertain us and make our live easier and safer are wonderful, and I thank God for them, but we must also recognize how they allow us to ignore our humanity and our mortality, and ultimately, our creator and his creation.

That is why so many people feel refreshed when they get back to nature and stand awestruck at its grandeur.

At least that's my take.  What's yours? 

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