Monday, August 9, 2010

Is organized religion falling from grace?

The Baltimore Sun and other outlets recently reported that novelist Anne Rice says she's committed to Christ but is quitting Christianity.

Rice, famous for her lavishly gothic and erotic novels, returned to the Catholic church in 1998 after many years of being a devout Atheist, rededicating herself to writing spiritual and religious books from that point on (though not denouncing or distancing herself from her earlier, more famous non-religious works). But now she says that while she's her faith in Christ remains central to her life, "following Christ does not mean following His followers."

She explained why on her Facebook page:

I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outside. My conscience will allow nothing else.

I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
I totally relate.

I've always felt that there's a big divide between the divine and those who judge others for the way they try to seek it. I'm a Zoroastrian, and most of the time I feel connected to my faith but disassociated from the other people who practice it. The stubborn adherence to antiquated social rules, the petty arguments, and the ridiculousness of excluding people from a community whose numbers are dropping rapidly (less than 200,000 worldwide, some say as few as 120,000) is alienating and offputting, and my reaction to it makes me wonder if individual spirituality isn't simply more important to more people than a congregational focus has been in the past. Is organized religion in general experiencing a fall from grace?

Recent research bears this out. A 2008 study -- which was itself a repeat of a 2001 poll -- involving nearly 55,000 respondents found that the percentage of American adults who identify themselves as members of a specific religion dropped nearly 10 percentage points, from 89.5 percent in 1990 to 79.9 percent in 2008.
Americans who identify themselves as Christian dropped from 86.2 percent to 76.0 percent during that time -- a loss of about 0.6 percentage points per year -- and a similar decline was observed in Canada.

Over at The Huffington Post, Michael Rowe offers up a great piece on why Rice's decision makes her more of a Christian than she was before. It boils down to actions speaking louder than words, and an emphasis on individual spirituality instead of group think -- something that may explain the overall numbers across the US as well.

1 comment:

Leandra said...

In rebuttal, I'd like to ask you to read this article, written by a local minister. The kinds of people she talks about in this article are the kinds of people that go to my church and the kind of person I strive to be.