Editorials

What is the future of religion?

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Stars shine in the sky over the giant illuminated cross of “Panagia Chrisospiliotissa”, a Christian Orthodox monastery in Deftera, a suburb outside the capital, Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, April 28, 2016.
Stars shine in the sky over the giant illuminated cross of “Panagia Chrisospiliotissa”, a Christian Orthodox monastery in Deftera, a suburb outside the capital, Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, April 28, 2016. AP

On the coattails of a docu-series in which Morgan Freeman (who once played God in a movie) studied God, National Geographic has brought renewed attention to the changing religious landscape in the United States.

“Around the world, when asked about their feelings on religion, more and more people are responding with a meh,” says a National Geographic article published April 22.

Christianity is still the most prominent religion in the United States by a wide margin, but almost one-quarter of the population is so-called “nones” — atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.”

The Pew Research Center has been tracking religious affiliation for years, showing the rise of the “nones.” In 2007, they made up about 16 percent of the population. In 2014, the number increased to about 22 percent.

The percentage seems small, but it is larger than all non-Christian faiths and the Catholic population.

Another Pew survey this year said 68 percent of Americans believe religion is losing its influence.

Millennials are the first generation for which secularism or nonaffiliation could have the majority, and the perception of church might be the reason.

In 2015, Only 55 percent of millennials said churches and religious organizations have a “positive effect on the way things are going in this country today.” In 2010, the percentage was 73.

They might have quit going to church, but that doesn’t mean they have stopped believing spiritually . A majority of millennials say they believe in God with absolute certainty.

Only 3 percent of Americans are atheist.

All of this brings up some interesting notions on the future of religion.

“With the increasing dropout rate of people in emerging generations, it could be our destiny that in thirty or forty years, all of our recently constructed megachurch buildings, which are now filled with people, will end up as virtually empty tourist attractions,” Vintage Faith Church teaching pastor Dan Kimball wrote in his book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights From Emerging Generations.

An extreme point, but not without merit.

Though it is hard to predict the future, if this trend continues and secularism grows, people might need to re-examine what it means to be religious.

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