With all the endless noise about the U.S. presidential election, the controversy over whose lives matter and whose don’t, and the usual celebrity drivel dominating the news of late, it was easy to miss reports about a recent Pew Research Center study on religion in America.
In the report “Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind,” Pew researchers focused on why 78 percent of those brought up in a religion as children are now “nones” – people who choose not to keep the faith as adults. Reasons range from nonbelief to dislike of organized religion to uncertainty.
Forty-nine percent of the “nones” left religion behind because they “don’t believe.” Reasons cited for this lack of faith include rational thought, lack of any scientific evidence of a creator or learning about evolution at college. One respondent said, “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.”
What a dreary philosophy!
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Surely there is a power beyond rationality and science that affects circumstances in ways that defy explanation. How else does a person like Steve Eckel wind up in the right place at the right time with the right tool to save a life? Last month, the retired officer spotted a wailing baby locked inside a sweltering hot car in a Kohl’s parking lot in Howell, N.J. As Eckel and passerby Sarah Mazzone tried to figure out how to save the little one, he remembered a sledgehammer he had in his car that he’d used to pound tent stakes into the ground the previous weekend. Eckel grabbed the sledgehammer, smashed the locked car’s window, and rescued the 4-month-old girl from near death.
Seems like a miracle to me.
An additional 20 percent of those surveyed by Pew ditched religious conviction because they “dislike organized religion.” Specifics on this aversion include their preference for a personal relationship with “my creator”; thinking that religion is no longer religion but a business that is all about money; or the clergy sexual-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. One participant offered the tired subjective cliche, “I think more harm has been done in the name of religion than any other area.”
Here’s a bit of subjectivity in response:
For the record, I am a baby boomer who was raised Roman Catholic, dropped out for more than a decade, and returned to the church when my children were tots.
As one of the “somes” who continue to participate in organized religion, I have a strong personal relationship with my creator. Some of that strength is drawn from membership in a faith community in much the same way that one finds support within a family.
Regarding the beef that religion is all about the money, even a family household requires money management. If my parish focused solely on finance rather than love of God and neighbor in this life and salvation in the next, I would depart and find another church.
Concerning the scandal, as a Catholic, I’ve found it tempting to leave the church because of the evil committed against children by perverted priests and those who enabled it. I well know two clergy-abuse survivors and their suffering and I have witnessed the heart-wrenching testimonies of others. But I remain in the church. I refuse to allow my disgust about the scandal to deprive me of the blessings that come from Mass attendance and reception of the sacraments. Simply put, these make me a better woman. If I abandon my faith and toss it into the scandal’s rubble, then I give darkness a chance to perpetuate itself. And that’s how evil wins.
Not only that, but I also know more than a few good men who have made the radical choice to serve God and his people as priests. There’s a lot to learn from virtuous priests and dedicated religious leaders of other denominations about seeking and finding truth.
We can all use lessons about truth today, especially since separating fact from fiction grows more difficult by the minute. If there were a television show titled “The Biggest Liar,” presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would qualify as contestants. And we have various advocacy groups spreading the lie that some lives matter more than others. Plus, the constant news about celebrities – carefully fabricated by their publicists – offers consumers nothing but substance-free fantasy.
No wonder a sense of malaise has settled over our country. For hope’s sake, here’s hoping the “nones” shake off their doubts about religion and give God and his truth a chance.
Hagan is a writer in Merion Station, Pa.