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Tara Stiles

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Generation X: Praying To No One?

Posted: 05/09/09 09:08 AM ET

It's headline news: "American's are Losing their Religion."

"New research shows young Americans are dramatically less likely to go to church - or to participate in any form of organized religion - than their parents and grandparents." Harvard professor Robert Putnam conducted the research that found 30 to 40 percent of younger Americans answered "none" to questions asked about their religious affiliations, but weren't necessarily atheists. Historically this number was much lower, tallying up to 5 to 10 percent at most. Putnam calls this a "stunning development." His research will be included in a forthcoming book called "American Grace."

Have we really lost our religion? Is it something we desperately need to find, like our keys? Or have we purposefully let go of it when it was time, like tossing an empty Starbucks cup in the trash? Maybe we've simply had our fill in our childhoods, and see no point to return to those buildings for weekly worship while dropping 10% of our income into a wicker basket.

This is news? Sounds more like common sense to me. Each generation is radically different from the previous, or at least would like to think so. Most of us Generation X and Y-ers aren't going to work the same job for 30 years, collect a retirement package at age 65, pass go, move to Florida, and live happily ever after. All that social security we are paying into probably won't pan out for us. We traded in fat-free for organic, baggy button-downs for t-shirts, and religion for self-reflection and private practice.

My generation is waking up to faiths that preach to be kind to everyone and serve the poor, while rebuilding their multi-million dollar churches every year and abusing children. We don't always lose faith in God. We have lost it in the people clenching the velvet ropes. We see the sham, the ridiculousness, the corruptness that spiritual power raises in people. We don't need a building that runs like a corporation to talk to God. Heaven save us if we start meditating and realize that God is within us. All of us. Everything you need to know is right there inside of you. Meditation is free, you don't have to be anywhere in particular to practice, and you might just start to lose lots of things that you don't need anymore. Our generation is waking up to how things actually are.

Will we be poked in the butt by a red man with a pitchfork for all eternity due to our lack of formal participation? Our parents and grandparents will pray for us, that we will come around and find our way like drones back to church or temple. An interesting part of Putman's study to mention is that just because these 30-40% don't belong to a church, the are not necessarily atheists. Putnam says that in the past two decades, many young people began to view organized religion as a source of "intolerance and rigidity and doctrinaire political views," and therefore stopped going to church. "This movement away from organized religion may have enormous consequences for American culture and politics for years to come."

I for one sure hope our lack of organized religion will affect American culture and politics for years to come. Don't you think it has already? Swearing to tell the truth on a Bible is a bit strange in a country where we have religious freedom. Serving "God's will" in the Middle East as defined by our extreme conservatives seems suspiciously to resemble "God's will" of the religious extreme that we are fighting.

Ram Dass and the yogis of the '60s lit the fire. It spread slowly but engulfed those who were seeking a spiritual path. I would argue the 30-40% who claim no affiliation are probably looking for or are already on a spiritual path.

I think the meditation and yoga worlds will go through just as much turmoil and abuse of power as the churches. Several founders of new yoga traditions are self-proclaimed gurus brainwashing people with philosophies and draining bank accounts with pyramid schemes, rather than empowering people to discover what's already inside them. Spiritual elitism is prevalent in the yoga community. These are roadblocks that are intimidating, bullying and preventing more people from learning the benefits of meditation and yoga.

A regular yoga practice will keep your body healthy your mind clear and your heart open. I cannot adequately describe your spiritual experience nor would it be of use to try. It is yours to enjoy, revel in, and be amazed. When your body, mind, and heart are healthy and open, your spirit has a green light to do its thing. Physical yoga is the best form of health care. It was designed to help us care for ourselves before we had doctors around to treat disease. The poses regulate your entire body and its systems so you can live healthy, feel good, and meditate with ease. Which is a matter of finding spirituality inside you, no outside religion or velvet-robed authorities required.

 
 
 

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