Faith Column: Associating with the ‘none’
2012’s top religion stories don’t inspire devotion
Just when you were relieved that there wouldn’t be another year-end list, the top religious stories of 2012 emerged courtesy of the Religion Newswriters Association.
The compilation was a fascinating one; in a sense, it summarized what the most important memories of religion were of 2012, at least in North America. The concept was flawed, drawing only 100 votes from religion reporters, but telling nonetheless.
Coming in the lead was the tale of the near-epic battle between Catholic bishops and Obamacare, when a bunch of old, white religious men became angsty that women were being guaranteed more of a choice in life and their own bodies. The bronze medal went to the chaotic and deadly response in the Middle East to the dumb “movie,” Innocence of Muslims.
But, the most intriguing part of the entire list was the second report: that “nones” are the fastest-growing religious group in the States, according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.
The news emerged in late October: some 20 per cent of those polled stated that they were “religiously unaffiliated,” a number that has leapt a full five per cent in the last half-decade.
The group, simply labelled the “nones,” is predominantly young, politically leftist and supportive of social issues such as abortion and gay rights.
Bigotry, oppression, mass shooting, molestation and sexism are the religious stories that people are remembering from the year. Not stories about compassion, love, peace, progress or justice, the concepts that always seem appealing about religion in its more ideal form. It’s the hatred that lingers.
The list ultimately contains the reason for why I would more often label myself as a “none,” as opposed to a religious person. That’s not to say that I don’t personally believe that there’s something out there that binds us together — call it a Creator — but the religion of the present day as exemplified in this list, the one full of opposition to universal health care and civil rights, is proof to me that religion is an adolescent institution.
Teenager-me was a terrible person. I was immensely privileged, although I didn’t recognize it. My opinions were undeveloped yet professed to anyone who would listen. Challenges to my thoughts weren’t embraced, but dismissed as foolish and naive. The Bible was my manual. Any other book that didn’t jive with the “truth” in it was disregarded.
Sound familiar? That’s institutionalized religion today.
It’s tribal, archaic, anti-science and clearly opposed to the progress of human rights. It’s an entity that defies the tangible needs of the oppressed people of the world — things like free contraception and access to positions of political power — in order to defend some ancient rules that have no more relevance than recommendations of animal sacrifice do. Religion was left behind at the Enlightment, with only fringe groups (think the United Church) expressing a willingness to change with the times.
I’m not suggesting that every form of spirituality be tossed; it may be more important than ever to possess a sense of universality between people and responsibility to something greater than ourselves.
But until organized religion confronts its abundant flaws, it’ll continue to lose followers. This generation cares about more than an ancient doctrine that oppresses the already-vulnerable. Count me in as a “none.”