A detalied study by the American Physical Society, published by Fox News on March 23, 2011, finds that nine (9) countries in the world are losing their religion - literally. The study concludes that religion is headed for extinction in Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Canada, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Switzerland. An equally disturbing finding is that Americans without any religious affiliation comprise the only religious group which is showing substantial growth in the United States.
What could account for such a decline? When times are bad, don't people historically come back to their faith as an anchor? Is anyone seriously arguing that times are good in our world toiday? People come back to their faith when they have one. We so compromised the teachings of Christianity in the last half of the 20th Century that many today have no faith base to which to return. When jobs are lost, war breaks out - again, and deadly devastation hits Japan, these bring on personal tsunamis for those who have no personal faith on which to lean. I understand and can hear some of you wailing already that belonging to an organized faith does not mean you are a person of faith. Many in our churches on Sunday are going through ritual motions and have no meaningful faith from which to draw strength. The point is: How did we let the condition of collective souls become so fragile? How did we get to be so arrogant that we no longer need God? We have heard it said that Christianity is only one generation from extinction, but we didn't expect it to be ours.
Rather than being the influence that the world needs, the church has allowed ourselves to be influenced by the world. We adopt the view that if one sincerely believes something, then it must have value. From that we derived the idea that if something is believed by enough people, it must be true, even if there is significant evidence to the contrary and teaching in scripture to back up that evidence. Do you follow the logic here? If we are sincere, then it is ok to hold those sincere beliefs. If we sincerely believe that God is our creator, does that make it true? Growing up, I looked forward to watching the Peanuts special, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." Linus proudly held up the sign saying, "Welcome Great Pumpkin." He believed that the Great Pumpkin would come on Halloween to the "sincerest" pumpkin patch and bring wonderful gifts as a reward. Well, you know what happened - the Great Pumpkin never came. Sincerity was not enough. The truth as Linus understood it was flawed. He was sincere, but he was sincerely wrong!
If the study is right, we are drifting away from the God who made us in favor of gods we have made. We cannot save ourselves. History proves that, and a quick glance at the natural, political, and military landscape of the world in 2011 verifies that there is nothing going on now to change that. In fact, the world is blundering through an unprecedented set of serious problems that we still think we can handle on our own. We have lost our moral compass in favor of moral relativity. We have no courage to stand up for what is right because the fear of offending someone is suddenly more important than doing or saying the right thing. I wonder how long those nine nations have? I wonder how long we have? I wonder what generations yet unborn will say when they go to the museums that were once churches and are told how the technological and scientific advances brought innovations that were inconsistent with the 'erroneous' beliefs of the church.
Dr. Thomas J. J. Altizer, while teaching at Emory University, wrote the controverisal book, Radical Theology and the Death of God. His position was not so much that God was indeed dead, but rather that we have killed God with our indifference and distorted view of reality. In the preface to his book, Oriental Mysticism and Biblical Eschatology, Altizer notes that the book:
". . . was written with the hope that the very abyss of faith in which we must live may paradoxically make possible a deeper encounter with the authentic meaning of religion. For “modern man” has lost his homeland in faith. . . . We moderns are immersed in a profane world that charges the immediate moment with absolute meaning and value. To us, religion can only appear as an alien reality. In our sensibility, the religious Reality can manifest itself only as the Other. Therefore man, qua modern man, cannot associate religion with “reality.” We have "lost our homeland in faith," and if we continue to alienate ourselves from the faith, we will lose our homeland.