6.7 Question #2, Religion

The question on the topic of hippies got a great response.  An above average number of page views and well above the usual number of thoughtful comments.  Two generations examined themselves, shared their perspectives from their vantage points, and enriched and provoked us all.

The other question I’ve been asking is, “What do you perceive to be the biggest change in religion in this country in your lifetime?”

And this is my question for you today.

On the road, the range of answers has been broad–some judgmental.  I number among my friends atheists and agnostics as well as people who are born-again in the most heartfelt way.

I won’t post any follow-up questions because in real life they are determined by the initial response.  As part of your comment, you are welcome to ask follow-up questions of those who’ve comment before you.

22 Responses to 6.7 Question #2, Religion

  1. michael says:

    Spoken or unspoken, religion is a major plank in political platform today, and levers divisiveness.

  2. Dave L says:

    Michael is dead right. For a country that was founded on freedom “of and from,” and even today claims detachment— religion has become a big factor. Change? We’ve become more polarized. A laissez faire attitude, so prevalent in the 50s, 60s, and 70s has morphed into a yes or no stance. Not a Christian today, you’re an outsider in most communities, and if Muslim or other, lock the doors. More wars and killings have ensued over religion than over gold, or land, or women, and it’s a setback today that we so regress.

    • karen wittgraf says:

      Right on! I think it all began with the “silent majority” stuff of Jerry Folwell- the Reagan years..a secret society of destruction!

  3. Eric says:

    For a nation founded by those escaping religious persecution, we have certainly become less tolerant.

    I can’t separate this question from what i perceive will come next, ie: politics. The biggest change in religion has been the melding of religious conservatism with republicanism, under Ronald Reagan. (Perverting the traditional notion of conservatism, and pretty much killing off moderate republicanism altogether in the process)

  4. David Bauer says:

    Here are a few of my thoughts on the change in religion in this country in my lifetime.

    To begin, I would separate my personal religious experience from the organized social expression of religion in the church . Based on my analysis of my life within the context of what I have learned from personality theories such as that of C.G. Jung and others, I have come to the conclusion that I was born with a more introverted than an extroverted personality. Thus, from my earliest days I have been very aware of my inner experiences and of my relationships with myself, including that part of myself that is spiritual in nature. While I have changed in many ways over the 70 years of my life, the fundamental relationship that I have with the eternal within me has not changed.

    On the other hand, as a child I grew up in a Pennsylvania German community in which Lutheranism was the dominant organized religion. Personal attitudes of individuals in that community toward people espousing beliefs of other Protestant denominations, of the Catholic Church and of Judaism varied widely, but they were most often accepting and tolerant of variations in religious preferences. Knowledge that most people had about religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Islamism was superficial at best, and if they knew of them they most often regarded them as being esoteric and probably practiced by those Bohemians in New York City. Most important, however, was the fact that organized religion was regarded as a very important part of community life, and many people had firm beliefs about religion, which they practiced conscientiously. Consequently, whether it was a Protestant or Catholic church, or a Jewish Synagogue, religious institutions were supported financially, and the religious edifices stood out as being major architectural features of the towns and cities. While driving through the countryside church spires were visible from miles away as beacons to the faithful, and they were a refuge for many people in the 20th Century as our country struggled through the Great Depression as well as two World Wars and the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts.

    As I see it, what is different today is that in the quest for meaning in life in American society the religious dimension has been lost to secularism and materialism. Rather than retaining the vital spiritual element of life offered by various religions in the search for meaning, the majority of people turn to materialism to satisfy that basic human need. Thus, for example, in his book titled To have or to be? psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, argued that the having mode, which concentrates on material possessions, power, and aggression, and is the basis of the universal evils of greed, envy, and violence prevails over the being mode, which is based on love, the pleasure of sharing, and in productive activity.

    For the future, we shall need to remember to care, to share and to dare to be our brothers’ keepers. During my lifetime, the significant role that organized religion once played in these matters has been seriously eroded by society’s fixation on materialism.

  5. jordan says:

    i wonder if we can venture back to technology as how we relate to religion..technology allows more people to voice their opinions..good and bad..religion has always been a part of this country..and it’s always been divisive..and i’ll say again..it was way worse in the past..and older generations continually say things are worse now..i don’t see that..that said–im jewish with a very jewish last name..but, not religious at all..i lived in missoula, montana..population over 60,000..# of jews? 200..spokane, washington..probably even less..in both these areas, it was a “thing” that i was jewish.why? cause they never met one, mostly..and that’s when cliches and stereotypes come about..
    i’ll also say religion and many large institutional groups just don’t have the pull anymore they used to..clearly, the church sex abuse scandal was/is devastating..

    • Eric says:

      Some things are better than in the past, sure, (I can join a country club now!) but for much of our history what divided us had less to do with religion than other factors, ie: wealth, class, race or ethnicity. And, in general, political affiliation did not go hand in hand with religious affiliation.

      It is pretty much lost to history, that the arch liberal and Democratic standard bearer of a generation, William Jennings Bryan, successfully PROSECUTED John Scopes in the so called ‘Monkey Trial’. The point being that until quite recently no political party had a (real or self professed) monopoly on morality.

  6. Religion? That’s your personal business. Organized religion? More often than not, big trouble.

  7. Colleen Rae says:

    This is a hard question to answer. Needs some time to simmer in my head. I felt several of the previous comments were ‘right on’ in their analysis of the situation. I was raised Catholic and at an early age coudn’t abide the immaculate conception theory. Then when the years of scandal of priests abusing children came to light that confirmed my convictions that the religion as a whole was corrupt and sick. I’ve never personally needed organized religion in my life, opting for a more spiritual approach. I’ve explored Buddhaism and felt close to many of their concepts. As far as this country is concerned, we are still intolerant of people’s differences, including theirreligious beliefs. At least we don’t burn people in the name of witches anymore, but we treat some Muslims and Jews intolerantly., not wanting them or their houses of worship in ‘our neighborhoods.’ The Human Race has a long way to go to make peace with it’s spirituality. So in answer to your question, Al, I don’t feel their is much change at all in our tolerance. And probably more people feel as I/we do here in these comments and have discovered no real need in their lives for organized religion, unlike days of yore.

  8. Greg Wanamaker says:

    Wow Al— You got to me—did you put the five gallon paint stirrer in a gallon can??? Any way for what ever the reason I have restrained myself from entering the discusion but you got my attention and some of the very thoughtful responsives to this topic already posted have given me more insight into what thoughts have been going thru my mind. The distinction in the responses thus far between organized religion and the capacity for people to just be repectfull and moral in there inter relationships has always fascinated me. Of course the flip side of that coin which has caused all the religous wars has strained my brain. Makes me wonder about the under lying DNA and our historical requirement for human beings to be hunter gatherers. The question about organized religion and the question I have asked many of my friends is why are you a fundamentalist or say a Protestant or practise Judaism—and of course nine out of ten times the answer is that is how I was raised. The logical extension is IF you were raised in some other religion would you be just as supportive of that other religion. This just makes me feel all organized religious beleifs are superficial–of course you could also say personal –as one your contibutors has pointed out. The conclusion I came to– religion is just arbitary and caprious–yet so many people have lived and died for their religious beliefs. So I’m a spiritual person but it doesn’t have much to do with organized religion. It was interesting to Google –what’s the origin of religion or whats the oldest religion–try it.

  9. karen wittgraf says:

    Was it Lenin or Karl Marx that said “Religion is the opium of the people”? For many, it is their security, their “rock” to protect them. Unfortunately, it is also used for corruption and hatred. I guess, for me, I have come to trust myself in knowing what is right and what is wrong…and working toward the greater good is my “religion”. I don’t know if there is a God, a Buddha, an Allah- the whole shibang. It would be nice.

  10. David Bauer says:

    I enjoy reading all of our personal reflections on religion in Al’s Blog. I agree that there are a lot of problems with organized religions of all types, which is not surprising because they are all created by human beings. My concern is that we go wrong by doing something that we so often do in these situations, which is to “throw the baby out with the wash water.” My view is that what is needed for our times and for the future is a new mythology. Joseph Campbell has discussed this issue in his book The power of myth.

    Thanks, Al, for the opportunity to reflect on this critical issue for our times.

  11. MaryAnne says:

    As a child of the 40’s and 50’s, raised in Catholicism I was instructed in doctrines and traditions of that religion/cult. As a young adult my quest for TRUTH and a spiritual relationship lead me to other teachers. My conclusions are that creation and evolution work hand in hand and we have both as David Hawkins has written, and we are all connected both in the physical world we now enjoy and the non-physical world we came from and return to as we embrace and leave these earthly bodies. My personal feeling is that Religion is a man made product, does create an “us and them” mentality, and a business like any other business which has a bottom line and profit centered agenda as do all businesses. Spirituality, on the other hand, is personal, growth oriented and as others have stated here rooted in love and goodness and the absence of fear and evil. As we progress in our levels of consciousness our spiritual nature comes to the fore. I’ve enjoyed all of the previous responses and appreciate the contributions. Karen, Greg, Colleen and David echo some of my own perspective.
    I, too, thank you Al for giving us an opportunity to read and realize each other’s perspectives, charitably with grace, compassion and understanding.

  12. Colleen Rae says:

    Al – You have a fanastic group of ‘friends’ in your storage locker. I’m so fortunate to be able to read about their ideas, beliefs, and adventures. Thanks.

    • allevenson says:

      In the last day, reading the thoughtful comments to my most provocative post yet, I realize I am even more blessed by my collected friends and fellow travelers than I knew.

  13. karen wittgraf says:

    Al- I am so honored- some of these people, that I don’t even know, share my thoughts and I am high right now on their comments. Thank you, Al- I have new friends- and YOU caused that.


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