Just before I fall asleep, I often scan the news on USA Today via my cell phone app. The other night, I came across this article, which talks about how there is a growing contingent of people who, when it comes to religion, are declaring themselves as “So what’s” or “None’s” or as being “spiritually apathetic”. There are a number of interesting viewpoints in the article. Here’s one:
“The only thing I’m pushy about is I don’t want to be pushed. I don’t want to change others and I don’t want to debate my view”
My view is that this viewpoint is likely the end of a cause-and-effect loop. Organized religion has been so institutionalized, so “shove it down your throat”, so corrupt and political, for so long, that it’s now getting its just deserved through a loss of membership and an increase of apathy towards the very issues that it’s so fervent about. These behaviors by such organizations stink like a skunk, and nobody wants to be near them. A skunk has about a 15 foot odor radius, so you don’t need to be right next to one in order to be impacted by its horrid spray of stink. I think these people perceive all organized religion as being within the radius, they don’t want to be sprayed, and they give it a wide berth. Of course, not all organized religion is skunky, but for these folks, knowing it’s anywhere nearby causes them to flee.
The Christian religions don’t help themselves very much in this area. They say some things that I think people perceive as skunky. Another example in the article:
“If you’re not worried about heaven, you won’t notice or care if Jesus is essential your salvation. You’re not thinking about any consequences”
Pee-yew. Worrying about heaven doesn’t help you. Vicarious atonement (i.e. salvation), through Jesus or otherwise, doesn’t help you. Thinking about consequences might help you, but not through something as juvenile and externalized as the fear of not-going to heaven or the fear of not-being saved by Jesus. I think statements like these are perceived to be on the very edge of the 15 foot stink-radius. Step in any closer, and you’ll get stronger versions of the same thing that stink a whole lot more. So people run away.
Based on the article, it sounds like the term “God” has picked up some of the same skunk odor that religion has. It is common for people to define God as an all-powerful authoritarian figure, typically male, who tells you what’s good and what’s not. I would say that this definition is a skunk for the “So what’s” and the “None’s”. Perhaps they believe in some form of God, but whatever it is, it’s not based on this common definition. So when asked, it’s easier to say they don’t believe in God.
I watched Eat Pray Love yesterday, and if you’ve seen it, you know about being in search of a word, and the importance of having a word. I think our culture is in search of a word. Two words, perhaps. One for God, another for religion. Both of which cannot and do not have any skunk odor attached to them, none whatsoever. But finding these words would mean that we have to to stop rummaging about in the West, turn ourselves around, and look East.