Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Religious change in America

Way back in February, I appeared on Radio Free Acton talking about Pew’s Religious Landscape Survey. While it was fresh in my mind, I also wrote something about it, which appears here.

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Mr. Knippenburg complains that the poll does not reflect devoutness, and then equates devoutness with church attendance-frequency. He cannot imagine that the person who shows up on Christmas day can possibly be as religious as mr. every-sunday, counting his attendance with an abacus. Kierkegaard taught us about these church-attendee types. Closer to the truth is that these people exhaust their religiousness in their sunday attendance. They have nothing left to give after that, except in answering promptly to some 'poll' as to their religiousness. Knippenburg chides relativism, yet lumps Hinduism, Judaism, Protestantism, and Catholicism into some amorphous notion of the 'religious,' knowing these 'isms' are mutually exclusive, which is a sort of relativism in itself. When he says he is "hopeful about America's religious future" I presume he means he is hopeful about his own religion's future in America. I doubt if he is hopeful about America's Muslim future. Since to Catholicism, for example, other religions, such as Hinduism is false, then to say that the 'flow toward evangelism is stronger than the flow out of religion" makes no sense, because the various flows into the various religions other than one's own is a flow out of religion.

If you’re going to come up with a "social scientific" proxy for devoutness--of course, only God can know what’s really in your soul--regular church attendance isn’t bad. Most of the regular church attenders I know want (or rather feel called) to worship communally and aren’t counting their visits "with an abacus."

I also don’t know how you come to the conclusion that regular attenders "exhaust their religiousness" with Sunday worship. Perhaps you know some who do. I know some who don’t. People who are involved in a church tend to be active in a variety of ways--mission work, social service, and service to the congregation. And there’s some pretty good evidence (going beyond the anecdotal or personal) to back that up.

The main point of my article is that the standard secularization narrative is overdone. I know there are big differences between, say, Christianity and Hinduism, but I also recognize what C.S. Lewis calls the "Tao." So I’m not a relativist.

And yes, in the end, my argument is that rumors of the demise of Christianity in America are greatly exaggerated. I regard that as a kind of latter day good news.

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