There is a lot of stigma surrounding religion in some circles. It is some times described as oppressive and homogenizing. Criticisms about traditions of various religions come in to question for moral reasons. At the same time we find ourselves more and more secluded and disconnected from each other in a data driven world. We seek meaning and connection in our lives now as much as ever. As much as it is criticized so much of this meaning has come from religion through out our history. So what is so different now? Why when we have an ever growing hunger for the needs religion fills are we further and more detached from it? The answer is Trust.
With the growth of the technological revolution, we have seen story after story of religious institutions and individuals betraying our trust and calling our faith in organized religion to question. In the US we have seen Christian terrorist groups like the KKK, and the Army of God just as we have seen international groups like the Al-Qaeda. It is not only that radical violent groups of religions have alienated us from organized religion but we have also seen questionable behaviors within non violent religious groups.
Revered Jeremiah Wright came under fire in during President Obama’s first campaign for openly making racist remarks to his congregation. Several Catholic priests were accused of sexual molestation in the early 2000s and women’s rights is an on going issue in Muslim nations. With all of this it is scandal we have seen an even further separation of young people from organized religions voluntarily. In addition there are some fundamental Christian groups in the United States that denounce gays and those that have abortions, and even the use of contraceptives. So separation is also caused by religious groups at times.
What seems to have happened as this generation has matured is a deterioration of the core belief that religion was a safe place, and a community where the priority was connecting with a higher power or enlightenment. Instead religion has come to represent dogma and blind tradition for a lot of young people. Not that this is the case entirely, but it has certainly led to people speaking less openly about their faith and sharing their beliefs.
It could be that this separation is partially responsible for our disconnectedness. We are not digging deep in to the heart of our beliefs in the peer groups we frequent and as such can not form stronger bonds with those that share our beliefs because we don’t even acknowledge them publicly. The Church, Temple, or Synagogue should be a place where you can come to celebrate your faith and share it with like minded people. For the most part this still seems to be true but there is an overwhelming sense that our society at large is less comfortable with the open expression of religion than it would be of non-religious beliefs.
We debate over whether or not God should be mentioned in schools or printed on the dollar. This debate creates some division, but it more so highlights a division that is already there. A division that occurred as a result of the above but also because of scandal, and exclusion but also because of a lack of faith, not in the principles the institutions stand for but, the institutions themselves. And if there is no place to safely practice faith and exercise traditions, then how can we expect it to do so?
In or for us to build faith, and connectedness to religion we must restore faith in the institutions whose purpose it is to facilitate it.