Are we witnessing the rise of the irreligious in America? Many (Christians) will say that this is nothing more than the latest media creation, on par with the “summer of sharks” in 2001 which saw reporting of shark attacks rise, while shark related fatalities and attacks decrease. Others (atheists) claim that the news is finally catching up to the long-established trend and that our nation is on the verge of witnessing the dawn of the age of knowledge. Me? I think it’s somewhere in between.
It should be clear that Christianity is losing much of its grip on the American culture. A recent Barna study found that the younger a person is, the more likely they are to define themselves as being outside of Christianity.
As people continue to become post-Christian like Brad Pitt (yes, that Brad Pritt) recently discussed, the society will move closer toward post-Christian status itself.
The Barna study illustrated that the younger a person is the more likely they are to be irreligious (excluding children, of course). Christian were seen as judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) by the younger (my) generation.
Right now atheism is cool. It’s the iPhone of philosophy. Everybody wants one because everyone thinks that everyone else wants one, but eventually you realize that sure it’s a cool gadget but I don’t really want to mortgage my future for an adult toy. Most people don’t want what comes along with atheism – a lack of self and no real hope for anything better.
As Christianity is going through a period where we are trying to shake off the ramifications of fundamentalism and isolationism, which soured many (most) outsiders on our faith, so atheism will eventually succumb to the same problem.
Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are the new Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. James Watson is the new James Baker.
Hitchens and Dawkins are already beginning to grate on people, even those on “their side,” just as Falwell and Robertson did. Watson’s idiotic, racist statements about Africans and non-whites remind people of the skeleton in evolution’s closet: eugenics.
Twenty years from now, judgmental, hypocritical, old-fashioned and too involved in politics will describe atheism as it swings back out of cultural fashion. Just as the iPhone will eventually be relegated to the antique pile, so the hipness of the new atheism will wane.
Hopefully, Christianity will be in the midst of a rebirth after learning how to answer the questions without sounding as if we know it all. We will have titled the pendulum back toward us as we will have gone outside of our bubbles to serve and love those around us.
You can see the signs of this around us as churches are learning how to engage in culture without going to war. This period of winter for Christianity will serve as a cleansing time, as we are forced to do the hard work of proclaiming Christ without the aid of cultural crutches. As atheism will grow fat and lazy from the preferred treatment given to it by academia and the media, Christianity in America will have to regain fighting shape and will suddenly look appealing again.
Atheism enjoy your time in the sun for now, eventually a hungrier, relevant Christianity will be back to claim the culture once again.