The article, on CNN’s Belief Blog, recounts the results of an international census study by a team of mathematicians. The study concludes, “Organized religion will all but vanish eventually from nine Western-style democracies.”
Those countries, according to the mathematicians, are Ireland, Canada, Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.
The study’s authors base their report on two assumptions:
1. It’s more attractive to be part of the majority than the minority and in the countries named, people who are not part of any organized religion are the fastest growing group.
2. In these nine countries, there are “social, economic and political advantages” to being unaffiliated with any organized religion.
What attracted me to this article is the whole idea of belonging to an “organized religion”. I don’t think I’m stating it too strongly when I write that those two words are even less popular than “tax increase”.
And I have a pastor to back me up.
Ross Carkner, of Whitby Baptist Church in Ontario, told me this study isn’t even mildly alarming.
“You could be talking to a real Jesus follower and ask them about organized religion and they’d say ‘I’m not interested’. So I’m not in the least bit concerned.”
There’s something else at play in this study, something the authors don’t bother to consider. They seem to assume that being part of a religious group is the same as belonging to the Kiwanis Club or a lawn bowling league. For some people, that may be the case and they might, indeed, drift out of “organized religion” based exactly on the authors’ two assumptions.
But were those people ever really part of a faith group? For serious Christians like the ones Ross was referring to, it doesn’t matter how popular the group is because it’s not about the group. It’s about a living, day-to-day relationship with God through His son, Jesus. And that transcends any popularity contest or sociological label.
I would be a pretty sorry Christian – and a despicable example to non-Christians – if I examined the state of my faith, decided it was as solid as the Greek economy, then bailed out.
So what about you? Are you interested in being part of a group? Or are you intrigued by a living faith that transcends groups, disregards popularity, and ignores study results? If you’re reading this because you’re willing to consider the latter, then ponder what Jesus told one audience in the Bible: “Are you tired? Burned out on religion? Come to me . . . and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.”
What do you think? Post your comment below and let’s have a conversation.