Monday, May 27, 2013

Chesterton shows up in Canada (faith doesn't)

There was a piece in a Canadian newspaper about people in Canada leaving organized religion, and especially Christianity. Some folks are going to other religions - Islam has doubled its numbers, for example. But a significant part of the population surveyed now identify themselves as having no religious affiliation.

The writer - Martin Wissmath - notes that the decision to leave faith and be unaffiliated has an effect on society and culture.

I think he's right, but it's not limited to Canada. Go to the movies, read a secular publication or book, watch television shows and news, or look at the decisions of government in the U.S. and Europe and you see signs of the waning of religion and desertion of Christian and moral values. Heck, a lesbian coming of age story involving scenes of graphic sex between a minor and an adult just won at Cannes.

Wissmath also points out that as people leave faith, it's not due to passion or thought.

"It's not so much an examined rejection of faith in favour of some other philosophical worldview, as a passive, fading, giving up. They just don't care anymore."

In grumpier moments I think it's not so much that people don't care, it's just that they don't care about anything that interferes with their own self fulfillment and gratification. They care about what feels good for themselves. Other things that require work - practicing religion, growing intellectually, being an informed citizen, etc. - are deemed not worth the effort.

Wissmath concludes by citing two great writers, one of them being, of course, G.K. Chesterton.

Since at least the 19th century Christianity has been waning in North America and Europe. With the exception of some years of resurgence, such as the 1950s, it's been a very gradual ebbing of the tide: the "melancholy, long, withdrawing roar," of the Sea of Faith that the poet Matthew Arnold predicted almost 250 years ago. But the shore of post-Christianity is emerging faster than ever.

The words of the early 20th century English journalist G.K. Chesterton come to mind as an apt description of the situation, even timelier now. He wrote, "the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult, and left untried."



Inkling said...

I'd add that some varieties of Christian grow less appealing. I know that, with each passing year, evangelicals become more and more self-obessed, focused almost exclusively on their own feelings.

A Secular Franciscan said...

I see what you are saying about many evangelicals. Meanwhile, the mainstream denominations - Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc - are straying further and further away from their Christians/moral roots, so they are losing people in droves.