Saturday, June 4, marked the "Second Coming" of the Reason Rally. Atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and secularists from all over the country descended on our nation's capital to rally in support of reason over faith in government.
If you didn't catch a report from the Pew Research Center last month on what seems to be an important new trend in American religion, feel free to forgive yourself. We're not talking about it. We're not even arguing about it anymore.
If chimpanzees -- our nearest evolutionary relatives--are expressing an inherent primate religiosity with these stone gathering rituals, might it be the case that we share a genetic predisposition for religion?
Theological education is in crisis. By itself, that's not new news. What's newsworthy is exciting new progress on the problems that's now coming up with solutions -- real, viable solutions. Tinkering with the old structures isn't enough anymore.
"If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century."
The two billion Christians of the world and the several Christians still left in the United States do well to listen to the criticism which argues that they do not help seekers, being smugly satisfied with the incurious "finders" and "keepers."
Overall, I'd say this year has been a mixed bag for religion. But then again, I'd have to say that every year throughout human history religious acts and beliefs have brought both bad and good to communities of people across the globe. America in 2015 is no different.
For most of American history, "religion" equaled Christianity. Christians understood that the only true "religion" was theirs, and other forms of faith, belief, spirituality, and so on, were pagan, heathen, mistaken, corrupted, and so on.
The Catholic Church continues to grow with the population, with about a quarter of Americans identifying as Catholic. But a steady decline in Mass attendance means fewer are putting money in the collection plate on Sundays.
Several studies have indicated religion increases with age, with many returning to more active faith lives as they get married and have children. Contemporary cultural trends of young adults delaying marriage or embracing a single lifestyle may in part account for their lack of affiliation.
Maybe we believe in God. Maybe we're not sure. Maybe we believe Jesus was human and divine. Maybe we have no idea what to think about that. Maybe we think that salvation is personal and necessary to enter God's grace.
Since religious people are in the business of hope, some believers like myself think this decline might just be the best thing that ever happened to organized religion. Though painful and confusing, the time we are entering offers opportunities for renewal.