I guess I would sort of consider myself “not religious, but open to the option of something greater than ourselves, but leaning towards there probably isn’t a God as we traditionally think of one, but there is probably some overall spirituality/unexplained force that we don’t know about, deism makes more sense, the major religions are deeply flawed” kind of guy. (You have to say all that in one breath) However, the more I think about religion the more I come to the conclusion that it makes perfect since why people believe so strongly in religion before and why religion (may be) is becoming obsolete.
1. People need something bigger than themselves.
I honestly think that people just need something bigger than themselves. Something to make us not feel quite so helpless, I suppose. I personally like the idea that we aren’t so alone. Thoughts like this even make death a little easier to swallow. In the past we didn’t understand or have the information to understand the world/universe so everything “bigger than ourselves” we called God. The Sun was a God in numerous ancient religions, the Stars were too. Even the ocean and mountains found their ways into religion. The “great beyond” was all labeled God to provide our consciousnesses and desire to understand all that we saw with an answer. Oral history and folk tale became truth after a few generations. Some of it even lasted enough, was distorted enough, to be written down and many of our ancient myths and beliefs last today. Some of it we call Greek myths – other stories we call the Koran or Bible.
Today we do not need those myths to have something greater than ourselves. Instead we look up at the stars and galaxies and realize the vastness of the Universe and suddenly it doesn’t become necessary to believe in a religion. The Universe is so vast, so large, so incredible that it becomes obvious that there is plenty much much greater than ourselves.
2. Science is beginning to explain things we didn’t understand before.
As I alluded to earlier Science is beginning to understand things that the village elders used to make up stories about. We understand where disease comes from, we understand what those bright things in the sky are, we know where storms come from, we can explain bad crop seasons, etc. What used to be myth, legend, and karma is explained via logic and understanding of the world around us.
While our understanding certainly isn’t perfect or even close to complete – we are at a point where we realize that just because we can’t explain something (yet) doesn’t mean its because there is some supernatural force behind it.
3. The Church isn’t our only sense of community anymore.
One of the strongest ties people had to each other was via church. Church was where you went to get the town’s gossip, it was where you went for fellowship, where you went to hand out with friends, it was “club church” the hottest place in the township. Today that same since of community that we all require is being, to a large extent, filled by other organizations. Educational and thought groups, sports teams, various clubs and organizations, government groups, etc. all take a small piece of what we used to do at church.
Admittedly this is still a HUGE reason people still attend church services. It is a strong tie that almost everyone can agree on – which is the most difficult thing about forming a group. Even when I was attending church services not to long ago I enjoyed the folllowship of being around other like minded people. We all shared the same values for the most part, we were all the same race, we all had similar socio-economic standings, etc. I mean it’s not coincidence that most churches are full of people of the same race, income bracket, and beliefs. I’m sure people can point out several token churches where this may not be the case – but in general people want to be around people like themselves. Church provides that. How many people attend church for the activities more so than the religion? I’ll bet few would admit it, but it is true for many.
As more options for connections and fellowship continue to develop (and for free) the more people will turn away from churches for fellowship. Although, I do believe that this is the strongest advocate for Churches.
4. A power shift has occurred.
The Catholic church used to be a kingdom of its own. Even today it has vast power. Other religions have similar power and influence. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses listen with loyal fervor to their leadership groups. Even still, as time goes on, and more individuals with secular beliefs gain influence in government and business religious ideas lose their grip. Often what people believe becomes a popularity contest – whatever the most people are screaming, most people will believe. It seems thought, that despite people’s upbringing, pure logic wins.
It has always been strange to me that people can read the stories of the Greek epics, ridicule the book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and ignore other religions all together yet believe in their little book’s superiority – even when some of the stories are just as fantastic! I wonder if in 1000 years if our future relatives will look back on us and laugh – wonder how we believed in such fantastic things.
No one can ever prove with 100% certainty that no God exists (there are good arguments for deism). I can’t prove with 100% certainty that Santa Clause doesn’t exist, but any rational person has to admit the flaws of the current popular belief systems. You can make excuses all you want, but everyone knows that something seems weird about what they believe. It takes courage and a certain amount of balls to turn away from something that you have been taught is true your whole life – but people are still doing it. Let’s see where we are in another 20 years – lets see where I am.