Vol. 2 No. 2 - Pentecost 2007
Canary in the Mineshaft
The End of Organized Religion
"In the last days, perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves... having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. From such men turn away." - 2 Timothy 3:1-2,5
Perhaps it is your uncle at Christmas dinner, an old school friend, or a work colleague: in every circle today there is at least one person who will condemn, or call for an end to, organized religion.
The forms of this quiet but growing movement are varied. One will raise the dangers of "militant" religion (not just terrorists, but those who advocate views different than "mainstream" - i.e. Secular, liberal, and materialistic views). Another will shroud his sentiments in vague praise for "spiritual" things: i.e. religion that sets its own rules, but which is completely relativistic. A third will even express a love of ancient Orthodox Christian symbols, and the beauty of icons - all very "mystical" in a vague sort of way - allowing spiritual feelings without requiring belief in anything in particular, like a Saturday trip to the art gallery, or a sweet encounter with "God on the beach". Still others will suggest that the whole "problem of religion" can easily be solved if we simply put aside our differences (i.e. any beliefs which define the distinct reality of our faith), and concentrate on building a humanistic, pan-religious union, along the lines of the United Religions Movement.
Support for this esprit-du-temps is widely evident in the media. Religion, as a non-confrontational social force (i.e. any group that believes essentially the same things everyone else believes), is celebrated. "Fundamentalism" (i.e. any religion that believes something absolute) is a frequent target, wherein the media can often make a quick and easy jump from those who support prayer in schools, to those who block entrance to abortion offices, to the Taliban, and back again. One big, troublesome mess it is, they say - and why can't it all just go away?
More and more, there are those who will argue not only that it can go away, but that it should go away - and the sooner the better. A decade or two ago, British pop star Elton John mused about the idea that one fine day in the future, men would be legally able to wed other men, and women to wed other women. In the mid 1980s, this seemed like the strange musings of an extravagant celebrity, prophesying a future which would never come to pass. This little prognostication came to mind several months ago, when the pop star once again offered his thoughts on the betterment of society, suggesting that all religions be legally banned, since they are inherently too divisive, harmful, and bigoted. Media coverage quipped that John's views were interesting, and bound to spark a debate about the role of religion in western society.
And so it begins...
Father Geoffrey Korz, (Pentecost, 2007)
© All Saints of North America Orthodox Church
Orthodox Church in America, 2007.