Terry Sanderson has a nice little opinion piece in the Guardian. (reposted below) I’m interested to know who agrees with him, are we finally in the end days of religion, or will yet another mythology crop up to take it’s place?
A slow but certain demise
All the signs are there: religion will die. I’m just sorry I won’t be around to see it
There are signs that in the western world (including the US) religion is, indeed, beginning a long, slow – although accelerating – decline. All the statistics show that congregations are falling, mass attendance isdiminishing and Christian knowledge is passing inexorably from our culture.
There have been two, or in some cases, three generations of people in this country who have had no connection with church at all. It plays no part in their life or their thinking. They are what I term “the religiously indifferent” – they couldn’t care less whether religion is there or not, just so long as it doesn’t interfere with their lives. Such people make up a vast and increasing swath of the population of Britain.
Why is this? In order to survive, a religion’s mythology must be imbued into the next generation at an early age, before critical faculties that might prompt resistance develop. This is Richard Dawkins’ meme theory. It is also the reason that most Church of England schools are primary schools and that madrassas start the process so early on in children’s lives.
Evangelists know that it takes only three or four generations of unchurched people for the mythology to fall from consciousness, to disappear from the culture. People find that actually they can manage perfectly well without it.
Religious leaders may despair about how difficult it is to reach “Generation Y” (roughly, 16-25 year olds), but if children have reached adolescence and they have not been infected with the religious meme, they will be mainly immune to it. The only way is to get gentle Jesus into their heads when they’re four or five.
In the developing world we are told that religion is strong and, apparently, unassailable. We see people in great crowds passionately defending their beliefs from insult, or walking round a giant stone in Mecca. But one needs to ask: do they really believe what they purport to believe? Or is the religious meme so strong in poor countries that it is inescapable? Does religion control so much of the culture that it is simply not possible to function as anything other than a religious adherent, whether sincere or not?
I ask this because I’ve noticed recently how many people are telling me: “I’m not a religious person, but I am spiritual.” This is rapidly followed by a defensive: “You don’t have to go to church to believe in God.”
And this is what religious leaders should fear far more than the atheism or secularism they like to rail against. The spiritual-but-not-religious brigade represents a creeping disease that can eventually kill religion. It’s a way of leaving the church without having the guilt of declaring yourself an atheist.
The founder of the National Secular Society, Charles Bradlaugh, said: “No man sees a religion die”. That may be so, but religions do eventually die. History is littered with their corpses. Until now they have always been replaced. But one day the human race’s growing indifference to the gods will prove more lethal than any anti-clericalist dagger. Religion will die.
I am sorry I won’t be around to see it.