Future Of Religion Remains Uncertain


Photo Courtesy of St. Mary’s Basilica

Gabrielle Daley, Feature Editor

The United States of America is renowned for its freedom of speech, press, and the people’s right to assemble and petition. However, to the founding fathers, religious freedom was essential to American life. The colony of Plymouth was founded due to radical Puritans, or Separatists who left the Church of England, wanting the freedom to practice their faith without aristocracy intervening. However, now only 17.2% of Americans attend a Christian Church on any given weekend according to ChurchLeaders.

Throughout history, religion was such a key aspect of people’s culture across the world, but now religious influence is at an all-time low. Based on National Centre for Social Research, 71% of people aged between 18 and 25 described themselves as having ‘no religion.’ Atheism is breaking boundaries like never before. According Barna Group, an organization that analyzes culture, “The percentage of teens who identify as such is double that of the general population (13% vs. 6% of all adults).” This popularity of atheism is particularly due to scientific discoveries and advances made throughout the past century which refutes much of what religion states, such as an overlying power otherwise known as “Yahweh” (Jewish) “God” (Christians) or “Allah” (Muslims) that created all life. Younger generations now learn in depth about biology, and Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Through Natural Selection, making them question what they were taught by the ancient texts of their religion. In fact, Barna Group found that 49% of teens believe that science refutes much of religion.Manuel Miranda, a junior who used to attend church often as a child now believes, “God is still a part of my family’s everyday life. However, with times changing God has become unfortunately more distant, and is being replaced with reality and science. But the spiritual aspect of God is still in my household.”

In ancient times, people were obsessed with their belief in the divine and mighty force and participated in human sacrifices due to the fear of the Gods coming to eradicate them all. Most of the human race has overcome this fear entirely; many aren’t too scared of the future and are caught up in their busy lives. Although, human beings are prone to believe that there’s a deeper meaning to life, and there’s someplace after death. As the BBC stated in 2014, “Many around the world who explicitly say they don’t believe in a god still harbor superstitious tendencies, like belief in ghosts, astrology, karma, telepathy or reincarnation. Additionally, non-believers often lean on what could be interpreted as religious proxies – sports teams, yoga, professional institutions, Mother Nature and more – to guide their values in life.” Samantha Grunden, a sophomore explained that she didn’t believe in a god, but a greater purpose to human existence: she believes in fate, supernatural elements, and reincarnation.

Practices like yoga and mindfulness that many are turning to for spirituality originated from the Buddhist religion in Ancient China. They were brought to America in the late 1950s and 1960s when some Americans began to believe that there were other realities in the world than the ones they were born into. These Americans went to India, and there they discovered and studied Buddhism with renowned monks. When they returned to America, they popularized the practices of Buddhists like meditation, yoga, and mindfulness without the strong Ancient Asian religious beliefs of Buddhism. Mr. Tharaldson, a WSHS history teacher stated, “It’s a religion [Buddhism] that takes a look at the negative realities of the world, and helps you move past them… it’s changed my relationships, and improved everything about my life. It’s brought me a real level of happiness that nothing else has.”

In addition to this new coming of “mindfulness” practices, there was various establishment, social and economic challenges in the 1950s and 1960s too like the Civil Rights Movement and the Peace (Hippie) Movement. So many aspects of life were being questioned that it isn’t surprising religion was one of them. There was especially linguistic criticism where people began to realize the language of the sacred texts was very similar. For example, the story of Noah and the Ark – it’s found in the Old Testament of the Bible and in the Torah, and in the Ancient Mesopotamian text. Part of the moral codes, and the stories that form the bulk of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam aren’t unique to those religions.

“I think a lot of Baby Boomers took a look at the religion that they grew up with and they said ‘I don’t think that this has an exclusive hold on the truth – and that’s what religion presents itself as. So what happens if you have a truth that doesn’t come from any religion and what happens if you are non-religious but you treat people better than religious people do?’” Tharaldson went on to say, “There was just so much challenging of religion. There are the culture wars of religion against secularism, religion against humanism. In the modern age, the ideas of religion form two different camps and they seem to be in constant conflict.

All of this conflict stole the Baby Boomers and some of Silent Generation’s attention at the time. Society began to progress, but religion wasn’t, making more and more people less interested. Anne Daley, born in 1950, is one of those Baby Boomers that wanted to live freely, and not influenced by 2000-year-old texts. She explained, “Church was a big deal when I grew up in the 1950s. My family had statues in every bedroom, crucifixes all over the house. I went to a parochial school so everything had religion in it. Geography, history, and English – it was ridiculous. In 8th grade I stopped going to church, I didn’t want anything to do with it.” She had a bad experience with nuns, and the constant reminder of the Bible, that she realized her religion, Roman Catholicism, didn’t bring her happiness and peace. She raised her children to be religious, but they too never connected to the religion as adults and got caught up in their own lives. This was the case for many Christian American families at the time.

The Catholic Church took its biggest hit after widespread reports of the sexual abuse by priests to young boys and girls first surfaced in 1985 and continued into the 21st century. 50% of Roman Catholic Americans left the religion after this scandal. Many people around the world began to believe that Catholics were hypocrites to their own religion. The Catholic faith is trying to change its old ways, and become more accepting. Now anyone can attend some churches, and Pope Francis even expresses his openness to new ideas and diversity.

Generation Z, a term for people born between 1995 and 2012, are known for their open-mindedness and progressive beliefs. This is most likely due to how technology and media education this young generation about social inequalities and their consequences. Even in school teenagers and children learn the consequences of dictatorship, war, racism and religious oppression throughout history. It is common for a Gen Zer to support same sex-marriage, premarital sex and abortion. They are also likely to marry across ethnic and religious lines more than any other generation. Many teens and Millennials have strayed from churches and mosques because of its scorn to the latter. Seeing that 22% of the world’s population is made of Generation Z, they’re progressive, and non-religious habits will strongly affect the religious community in America, and around the world.

All in all, religion will never truly disappear completely seeing that there are still Godly influenced people who generally have big families around the world. Alisa Kotorobray, a junior who comes from a very religious family said, “I mean for me being a Baptist is really my whole life. I start and end my day with prayer. My religion ties my family together, and it personally and mentally makes me at peace.” Religion is just that – a practice and belief that brings one to peace and happiness. 

In the past, people lived in small towns or villages, didn’t receive an education filled with so many new ideas, and only had religion to look forward to. Religion’s biggest battle now is to reach 7.6 billion people, who are all connected and educated through social media and modern science. The human race will always find a way to look into the future, into the meaning of life because that’s how we are – curious.