Is a secular ‘church’ inevitable?
Each time I take my 92-year-old mother to a (Catholic) church, it makes me think whether this exercise has anymore enduring meaning to a new generation of faithful. After all, unlike my generation, the millennials who still attend church are very well informed as to the dichotomy between religion and morality.
Consider these facts:
- The mother of all sectarian conflicts remains in the Middle East, where all Abrahamic religion (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) originated.
- The Global Peace Index indicates that 9 of the top 10 most peaceful are from the most atheistic countries in the world.
- Honduras and El Salvador, the most religious Christian (85 percent) countries in the world, have the most murders per capita.
- Nine of the 10 poorest countries in the world are 98-percent religious. All are in Africa and have seen a 650-percent increase in Christianity in the last 100 years.
- Of the 20 richest countries, 14 belong to the top most atheistic in the world.
- Of the top 10 most “happy,” seven are in the most atheistic/agnostic category. Denmark leads this list. It is 80-percent atheist.
- Ninety percent of the least corrupt countries in the world are also the most atheistic. Decide for yourself where the Philippines is in this category.
- Eighty percent of the most generous countries (in giving aid) are atheist. Sweden tops this list. It is 85-percent atheist.
Europe shows a 16-percent decline in Christianity (minus 30 percent in Western Europe). In the last 20 years, Catholic Philippines has seen a 30-percent drop in church attendance (further stats in “Public Lives” by Randy David, Opinion, 4/13/13).
Why is there so much discontent in this bastion of culture and tradition?
The short answer to this question is the realization that this most anachronistic of all human inventions has proven to be just that: an “invention.” Religion is now seen as archaic. Now, only the most medieval “thinkers” in all denominations still cling to the idea that everything is controlled by a God.
In one memorable encounter with Pope Francis during his visit, a former street child broke down in tears, asking “why God allows so much suffering.” The Pope had no answers for her. Well, I do. Sorry, but there is nobody “up there” to change anything. The sooner humankind accepts this, we will be more at peace with ourselves knowing that our destiny depends on us alone and not from any prescription from “ancient literature.”
Other factors are causing this generational shift in our belief system.
People are tired of sectarian violence brought about by divisiveness and intolerance which begin with religion. Implicit in every one of more than 4,000 different religions is a basic understanding that yours is the truth and the others are not. The innocent child is raised in this myth from the time he/she becomes aware of his/her culture right into adulthood. The mind becomes captive to a pervasive conditioning process that leaves it religiously incapacitated and irrational.
The homily, a potential game-changer, is stale, out of touch and medieval in content—the very things that send young people scurrying out of the church to find comfort in their smartphones.
This is what Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, president of Ateneo de Davao University, said about the subject, from a study released in February 2013: “What I am picking up is exasperation. People are tired of lousy homilies that ramble in inanities that begin and never end, and never end because they should never have begun. People are tired of being preached at, of being treated as if they were younger than adolescents, of being lectured, of being scolded, of being dictated upon. People are tired of obstinate claims to absolute truth, when the thinking world continues to seek truth.”
There is no relief from the printed page either. Fr. Oscar Orbos’ weekly column or Raul Nidoy’s recent commentary (Opinion, 1/26/15 and 2/13/15, respectively) set my eyes rolling. I can summarize their messages in one sentence: God loves you, but if you don’t love him back, you will stew in hell for all eternity. “Spiritual intimidation” is the least that can be said about this pontificating, “religious woo woo” to some. It is incalculable how much fear these pulpiteers have sown to our children through the years, the consequences of which can last a lifetime.
Evolution is playing a big role in “rewiring” our DNA. Our predilection for religion was important for human survival at a time when a God was the only source of comfort and answers. Science and technology are slowly replacing superstition. The rise of meditation and “mindfulness” is testimony to the demise of prayers.
The human gene pool will “deselect” the “god genes” in favor of secular ones, through natural selection. God in all its forms have been with us for as long as we have been around—about 200,000 years. With information technology and social media, secularization will take over in far less time than that.
Edwin de Leon ([email protected]), a retired science teacher and high school principal, describes himself as a “secular humanist by (religious) affiliation.”
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