Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Sixth Wind

6/11/2009--The cover story of World’s Magazine’s current issue raises the question of the decline of Christianity in the United States—“Is Christianity in the U.S. doomed?” One aspect of that story is an essay by the publisher Marvin Olasky entitled “The Sixth Wind?”

Olasky makes several points about reports such as the American Religious Identification Survey to which I have often referred. First, almost all of the decrease in Christian identification and increase in nonreligious identification took place between 1990-2001. There has been little change since then. Second, nonreligiously identified people often report that they believe in God and that religion is important to them. Third, nonreligion turns out to be unstable. The children of the nonreligious turn to religion at a greater rate than the children of the religious turn away.

But Olasky is more interested in kinds of religious belief—he calls it quality—rather than in numbers per se. What may be happening is that nominal Christians, or nominal religious believers generally, are now more honest with pollsters than they had been in the past. There is perhaps a polarization: people who don’t care about religion now are willing to say so, whereas serious religious belief is on the increase.

All of this is intriguing and we should all ponder Olasky’s views. On the other hand, Olasky had lunch with the authors of God is Back, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge and he gets part of his message from them. In doing this, Olasky is playing a dangerous game and he knows it. Micklethwait and Wooldridge are employed by The Economist magazine and it shows. God is Back is pure individualist capitalism, with God playing the part of the item to be consumed and the believer the part of the customer. There is no real religion there. Olasky would be better off with atheism. At least atheism does not defile the name of God.

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