Americans and religion

A report came out last Monday on religious life in America. Did you see it? It was all over Newspapers, TV, and Internet. According a recent survey [American Religious Identification Survey] 15% of Americans now claim no religious affiliation. religionWhat is interesting is that for some Christians it’s easy to hear that percentage and be pessimistic, lament and say “Woe is us, America is going to hell in hand basket because they don’t like God.”  As a not so conventional follower of Jesus might I suggest we consider an alternative explanation?

If you read the study carefully, you begin to understand that the 15% statistic doesn’t reflect a growing disbelief in God per se – it simply reflects a growing disillusionment with organized religion in this country. Many people in America are becoming increasingly tired of what they perceive to be [right or wrong] the hypocrisy, bureaucracy and spiritual emptiness of lukewarm legalistic institutionalized religiosity. They’re not giving up on God – they’re giving up religion – because they have discovered it doesn’t work – it just makes you feel guilty, tires you out and let’s you down.

This is not unlike the culture of Jesus’ day. Many of the Jews in 1st cent Israel were fed up with what faith in God had become – an elaborate convoluted bureaucratic system of religious works, rituals, legalistic requirements, tepid liturgy, ceremony and showmanship.

Religious Judaism wasn’t drawing men and women closer to God, it was pushing them further away. People were tired of trying to keep the law, tired of trying to look good enough and be good enough for God to love and accept them. Many realized they just couldn’t do it. Then Jesus came a long and said stop trying, stop working, stop attempting to earn and perform your way into relationship with God. He said, “Come to me you who are weary [burdened by religion] and I will give you rest for your souls.” Jesus brough to and lived out before the people of his day the message and reality of God’s grace – his unmerited, unearned, undeserved favor and goodness. Suddenly those who were religiously disillusioned became spiritually alive.

Maybe I’m weird, but I look at our culture and see this trend of religious disillusionment and simply realize people are looking for God not religion. To me, that’s a good thing.

2 Responses to “Americans and religion”

  1. 1 JCasas
    March 18, 2009 at 11:46 am

    The book Losing My Religion by William Lobdell speaks to this trend. Lobdell was a religion reporter for the LA Times, and his experiences in uncovering corruption in the church lead him on a journey of self-discovery. He goes from being a Christian to a “reluctant atheist” to finally finding his place with God. This is a great book that speaks to anyone struggling with issues of how to regain faith when churches cause you to question it.

  2. 2 rkollbocker
    March 18, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for the book recomendation…I’ll have to read it.

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re: the random-ness

Husband. Father. Senior Pastor of Parkview Community Church in Glen Ellyn, IL.

Ok...so you've located the place where I put down my random thoughts. The key word here is random: music, sports, art, food, books, news, spiritual musings, weird stories, etc. I'm especially interested in how everyday experiences of life intersect with the ancient stories of Scripture. Thanks for reading.
March 2009
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