TEXAS FAITH: Why are so many losing their religion?

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A new study concludes that religion is becoming extinct in nine countries: Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Canada, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Switzerland. What the authors see in their mathematical modeling is a trend in which people in some modern secular democracies are increasingly identifying themselves as non-affiliated with any religion.

Bill McKenzie of Dallas News asks, What’s happening here? What is it that’s missing in communities of faith? And is there anything that can be done about it? 

Every week Dallas Morning News poses a question and the people of faith respond at http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/05/texas-faith-why-are-so-many-lo.html and here is my response;

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas
The first confession from folks who attend interfaith meetings and workshops on Pluralism is, “I don’t believe Mahatma Gandhi is going to hell even though my pastor says he will if he does not take Jesus as a savior.” The second one says, “We were told that they are not Christians, they are Catholics and the hell is waiting for them.”
Whenever a Rabbi gives a sermon about oneness of humanity or talks about the rights of Palestinians, some one will proudly share the pluralistic nature of the sermon. Likewise Muslims do not want to hear anything negative about their Christian, Hindu or Jewish friends. Many people are reluctantly putting up with sermons about ‘others’ going to hell.

Not only is “unaffiliated” a fastest-growing religious group, but those who do not believe in the dished out versions of God are growing even faster. While checking for trends in atheism, the results in the search were mind boggling. In North America, it has risen from 0.04% in 1980 to 1.7% in 2001 to 4% in the latest survey (Pew 2007). Authors Norris and Inglehart (2004) write, “Social health seems to cause widespread Atheism, and societal insecurity seems to cause widespread belief in God.

What’s happening here?

Just about every major city in America reflects the full diversity of God’s creation in terms of religion, race and ethnicity. The kids and adults simply refuse to believe that their good friend is going to hell. It is repulsive to them. Instead of sharing that with the clergy and possibly receiving a perceived rebuke they choose to stay away from a place that bombards those conflicts.
The image of hell is emphasized in Christian and Islamic places of worship, completely sidelining the dominant grace and mercifulness aspect of God. Ironically both the groups believe in the Day of Judgment but pre-empt God in eagerly sending every one to hell. If they want to keep the flock together, they need to emphasize the dominant aspect of God in creating a society (Kingdom of heaven) where no one is apprehensive of the other
What is it that’s missing in communities of faith? 

It is the deviation from the inclusive teachings of Jesus, Zoroaster, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, Nanak and other traditions that is missing in communities of faith. Many of the people equate it to religious racism, when others are denigrated to hell.

And is there anything that can be done about it?

Indeed, it is inviting and listening to the congregants in a heart to heart as no one will open up in larger group discussions, it can start with reviewing the sermons.

Our sermons will become attractive when a Mosque, Church, Synagogue, Temple or other places of worship talk respectfully of other forms of worshipping the divine and respecting the otherness of other.  People light up when there is harmony, go figure your sermons.
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Mike Ghouse is committed to a cohesive America; he is a speaker, thinker, writer and an activist of Pluralism, peace, interfaith, Islam and India. His work is indexed in 4 websites and 27 blogs listed at www.MikeGhouse.net

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