I think that we can all agree that, at this point in our development of a country, we’re living comfortably as a whole. I’m referring here to our base needs and the alike, of course. Political unrest and Social Issues could not exist if we did not have our base needs covered.
Why am I talking about how comfortable things are in America when the title clearly states that this piece is about Religion? Well, you snarky knob, I’m getting there. Recently I was sent an article titled “Myths Over Miami” by Lynda Edwards, published by the Miami New Times on Thursday, June 5th, 1997. (Read the article here). The article details the mythological canon of the homeless youth in Miami, discussing the myths themselves, the reasons for their existence, and many other topics.
There was one specific idea, however, that stuck out to me something fierce. Here’s the quotation directly from the article:
“These children, who ranged in age from six to twelve, were asked what stories, if any, they believed about Heaven and God — but not what they learned in church. (They drew pictures for their stories with crayons and markers.)”
When faced with the question about believing in a higher power (in this case, the Christian God and Heaven) the children responded with their own understanding of faith and, frankly, their own Religion. A Religion that is complete with tenants (don’t talk to adults about it), figures, characters, parables, etc.
Back to the title that you oh-so cheekily pointed out earlier- what does this have to do with Religion in America on the whole? Ask yourself this- are you religious? How often does faith in religion play into your day to day life? Well, according to this recent Pew Research Center poll, America is becoming less and less religious as time goes by- especially when you look at the youth in America. I’m not here to talk about the pros and cons of this- I’m here to talk about why religion and faith is fading in America.
Let’s go back again to the homeless youth in Miami. In Ms. Edward’s article, she discusses the usefulness and beneficial nature of the Religion that the children have created for themselves. The stories and beliefs that these children hold are created to justify the world around them in which squalor is the norm. The tales of angels, demons, spirits, God- they all function to give the indefinable definition. Check out this piece on WaheguruNet about “The Purpose of Religion”
What does this have to do with typical modern Americans, though? Americans now, due to our numerous advancements in all fields and the availability of information (along with the leisure time to consume said information), see religion as an antiquated and, in some cases, anti-intellectual. A quick note- those equating Science with Religion need to understand they are not mutually exclusive. So, uh, cut it out or whatever.
The homeless children in Miami, however, do not have the convenience of luxury. When you’re spending every day hoping that you eat again, or not knowing when you’ll have to move again, you rarely have time to give a hot damn about the large hadron collider or GMOs. The luxury of the modern age is time and comfort; those who have no time and have no comfort are not living in modern luxury. When you have no comfort and no time, it can feel as if the world is against you. So you latch onto something that gives the world meaning and a sense of justice, which is the point of religion for the homeless kids in Miami.
Therefore, it would stand to reason, that religion is dropping off in America because life, on the whole, is getting significantly better for a lot more people. Modern conveniences and the advent of the internet have really changed the face of religion and spiritual belief on the whole in America.
Ultimately, I’m not here to tell you what is good or bad, or what to think or believe. My personal opinion is very much in line with what WaheguruNet says; speaking to the power that religion has to do both righteous and nefarious. For me, personally, religion has always been a back-and-forth battle, changing every time a major life event occurs. Perhaps I need to be more consistent or stop being so consistent in my wishy-washiness. Hm.
“We were good boys, good Presbyterian boys, and loyal and all that; anyway, we were good Presbyterian boys when the weather was doubtful; when it was fair, we did wander a little from the fold.”
-Mark Twain, 67th birthday dinner, 28 November 1902