The election season may be over, but polls keep on keepin’ on.
The Pew Forum continues to talk to America about it’s religious leanings, and continues to offer us manna from somewhere to chew on.
Yesterday we learned that the more faithful you are, the more you tend to favor torture, especially the more fundamentalist orthodox you happen to be.
Today we learn more. It seems that Americans are moving throughout the Christian spectrum at higher and higher rates. It’s becoming more common for people to change faith traditions, and do so more often.
What is most interesting is that those raised in unaffiliated circumstances are finding church something that they gravitate to as they age. Those raised in a faith, change it to the tune of one in four, and do so starting before the age of 24. Those were 2007 figures. When change within a tradition are included (Protestant to another Protestant church) the number zooms to 44%.
I’ve had reason to discuss this issue online more than once. The thread, “why did you leave the Catholic faith,” garnered more than a number of responses from new Protestants. Universally, they fell in line with what Pew has discovered: Most Catholics leave the faith over doctrinal reasons–they no longer believe in what the Church teaches.
The amusing part, is that many Catholics, usually of the “revert” variety also chose to respond, and their answers were quite a bit different. They suggested that people left the Catholic faith because: they were poorly catechized (the main claim of all orthodox against those who don’t agree with them on doctrine), and because they were lazy (Catholicism being too “hard” for the average person), and because people are looking for faiths that “let them do their own thing.” Pew’s research puts these explanations to rest as simply silly.
I especially liked the one that said we former Catholics left because we wanted to “do our own thing.” Since I left over what I consider doctrinal differences, i.e., I believe in women’s ordination, homosexual rights, contraception, a woman’s right to choose, and some relaxation in marital issues, this means that I must be: a divorced, gay woman, using contraception that failed, who wants an abortion, while wanting to marry my gay partner, all the while wanting to be ordained. At least according to their logic. I’m looking for a church that supports me in all this because it would be “easier.”
Of course no such thing is the case. Virtually none of the above apply to me for a variety of reasons. I am doctrinally at differences with the Catholic church period. I think it is wrong on the above issues, and right on a heck of a lot others.
One has to go to the Protestant side of things to find more mundane and perhaps frivolous reasons for leaving one church for another. Here, moving, marriage considerations (spouse another faith), and services provided, worship rituals more to one’s liking, and difficulties with particular pastors tend to dominate over theology.
Those that have left traditions and remain unaffiliated tend to have had very loose church attendance or training in youth. This would be as expected.
Few Catholics left because of pedophilia issues. And few have left a religious tradition to become unaffiliated to any church because science has convinced them religion is bunk. One would hope this might tame the religious right’s hysteria about science and evolution in particular, but don’t look for that to happen.
Most interesting is that among the unaffiliated, fully 1/3 think that spirituality and religion are important and “just haven’t found the right one yet.” There may be something to the notion, that while dissatisfied with most religious traditions for a plethora of reasons, those who are churchless still yearn for something they expect to get from the institution.
Charles M. Blow, writing for the NYTimes Editorial, suggests that atheists shouldn’t be overly happy about the above. While unaffiliated numbers grow, clearly a good section of these people are looking for something beyond the tangible that religion so far has been the only answer to.
[t]hat wondrous, precious part where logic and reason hold little purchase, where love and compassion reign. It’s the part that fears loneliness, craves companionship and needs affirmation and fellowship.
We are more than cells, synapses and sex drives. We are amazing, mysterious creatures forever in search of something greater than ourselves.
All this movement is interesting and somewhat perplexing. We are dissatisfied with our faiths to a greater or lesser degree, yet we cannot seem to find meaningful substitutes. What is adrift here? How is God working over the planet, calling us to some ideal that we are still defining? That is what it seems to me. We are a country in flux in that respect, perhaps we are indeed in the vanguard.
I believe in such a thing as a cosmic consciousness. That mysterious “us” pushes the envelope of spiritual understanding. I believe that that the spark of the divine is inborn in the human mind. While science may say that the mind “creates” God, I prefer to see it as our recognition of the divine, albeit that we poorly understand it even now.
I submit that more and more people are recognizing that to be fully human we must integrate and nurture all of our “sides.” We must care for our physical selves, our intellectual selves, our psychological selves, our creative selves, and our spiritual selves. I see all the religious shopping as our attempts to properly nurture the last. We are looking for the “fit” that works for us, and I believe that that is how it should and is meant to be.
We are unique, individual creations. We all have our own personal set of puzzle pieces, that properly fit together denote “us.” Blessings to all on the journey. May you find your perfect puzzle piece and soar!