Sunday, July 04, 2021

Are We Going To Hell in a Handbasket?


I follow the work of Ryan Burge at Eastern Illinois University. He's a political scientist who's been tracking the secularization -- unchurching -- of American culture. A couple of days ago he tweeted this polling data from three years ago:

In 2018 - "I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it." 

Silent Generation: 70% 
Boomers: 59% 
Gen X: 62% 

But, look at this huge gap between Gen X and Millennials. 

Millennials: 44% 
Gen Z: 33% 

The decline for Gen Z is staggering, too: 
49% in 2014 
39% in 2016 
33% in 2018.

I realize that someone in thrall to Trump would see those numbers as signs of a Second Coming -- judgment and redemption, in about equal measure for those who love the Lord; mainly judgment for everyone else -- because America must return to its Christian roots or perish from the earth. As someone not in thrall to Trump, I see those numbers like a liberation. Skepticism strikes me as a particular evolutionary advancement. 

That's a claim I can't begin to prove. Belief itself, the impulse to create religious objects and ceremonies, probably evolved in Homo sapiens as an adaptation that conferred "some sort of evolutionary advantage." The creation of religion meant greater cooperation between individuals who believed the same creation myths. Greater cooperation meant greater strength to withstand annihilation. Everyone who grew up in church in a rural community knows this to be true.

Belief and skepticism actually may be locked in a death match over control of the species. For belief, the numbers above suggest a reversal of fortune. Plus fundamentalist religion under Trump acts like a death-cult, as pious Republicans everywhere refuse the vaccines. Meanwhile, the American Catholic bishops thought it might be a good idea to use a daily ritual like a battle axe against a political opponent, and too many Protestant churches rain Old Testament fire and brimstone down on the heads of the gay and transgender. 

No wonder the young are abandoning religion in droves.

1 comment:

USMCwalker said...

I try not to talk for the young, but your numbers are significant and your memory strong.