Losing their religion
Halfway through this year, I wanted to kiss dating goodbye. Well, it felt as if it was dating that bid me goodbye first, anyway. I was way too emotionally spent and inept at this point, I thought. So why not?
Wanting to solidify my decision, I intended to read Christian writer Joshua Harris’ phenomenal “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” a seemingly ubiquitous piece of Christian literature. I once skipped it entirely. I started to have secular leanings quite early in life, and I eventually ditched my “Master, mission, mate” roadmap. Spoiler alert, I never got to wear a purity ring.
But imagine my pure shock when Harris said on an Instagram post in July that he was not a Christian and that he regretted his prior teachings (I learned he had already disavowed his standout book last year). Most remarkably, he apologized to the LGBTQ+ community for having “contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry.”
Weeks later, Hillsong worship leader Marty Sampson renounced his beliefs as well. This was the guy who penned popular worship anthems such as “Came to My Rescue.” In a now-deleted Instagram post, Sampson said, “I’m genuinely losing my faith and it doesn’t bother me.”
The rise of secularization in the West is undeniable. CNN has reported that for the very first time, “No Religion” is the top religious identity among Americans this year. In Britain, the same pattern seems to be occurring. Harun Khan in Euronews writes that there is now a golf course in centuries-old Rochester Cathedral, and there are even Friday night youth clubs in other churches, in an innovative effort to entice younger churchgoers.
Organized religion has contributed mightily in shaping Western civilization. But while the West is losing its religion, the opposite can be said of the East. Writer Wesley Granberg-Michaelson early this year wrote that Christianity is becoming a non-Western religion, as it attracts and maintains large new flocks in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Years ago, it was predicted that China would have the largest population of Christians by 2030. The number is on a steady rise.
Religion is a particularly divisive topic to discuss. I cannot sufficiently speak on behalf of my generation, which is heavily perceived to have vacated church pews in droves. Nevertheless, here I am writing about religion, specifically about wanting stronger religious affiliations in our communities, especially among the young. I actually hope we don’t make the same mistakes the West did in the religious department.
We may be wrong to think we are better off without religion. Like other disenchanted youth, I once deemed it counterproductive and antiquated. But here we are entering a world of unprecedented changes: artificial intelligence, fake news, worldwide struggle, climate change—a “Matrix”-like existence. Religion may yet prove to be our sturdiest bridge from the past as we careen toward a morally conflicted future.
Our religious affiliations will help shape our social dynamics, our style of leadership, our work ethics. Our religious beliefs will serve as our moral compass as we become the most socially aware generation ever.
But how can this happen, when organized religion seems to have now become unhinged? Various moral and spiritual challenges are afflicting all sectors of society today; bishops and priests have not even been spared being accused of inciting to sedition!
And yet where do we focus? For some, gay people have become the default target, and eternal damnation the curse for them. But as for other issues? Silence.
I like how Timothy Egan wrote it in The New York Times: “The charlatans and phonies preen and punish” using “selective moral policing that infuriates good people of faith.”
I continue to pray for people of all faiths and the religions that represent them. Religion best serves us when we use it as a vehicle for community, solidarity and spirituality. We can no longer use religion to spew hate, and hide behind doctrine to justify bigotry and prejudice. There is too much of those evils in the world; if religion is to continue being relevant in our lives, it must do its most fundamental mission, which is to transform us and edify us into becoming better human beings.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.