In many European nations, churches and cathedrals stand empty, saved from the wrecking ball only because of their historic value. In some cities, the buildings are occupied by tourist information centers; by clothing stores; by shopping malls; by nightclubs; even by strip clubs. Given the current sad state of affairs exhibited by many religions, this should come as no surprise to anyone.
Contrary to the numbskulls on Fox News Channel, it has nothing to do with any perceived “attack on religion.” Rather it is the consequence of self-destruction; of religions actively causing harm to themselves.
In many countries once dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, people have left the Church, horrified by the Vatican having turned a blind eye to sexual predators who have worn the trappings of priests. Many young people have abandoned other denominations due to a lack of relevance in their lives. Many accurately see churches as little more than tax-free social clubs. And many are disturbed by the tendancy of church leaders to engage in politics and to promote misguided, often provably false beliefs. The recent speech by James Dobson at what was billed as a nonpartisan, nondenominational National Prayer Breakfast is a perfect case in point. During his speech, Dobson labeled President Obama “the abortion president,” calling him responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent, unborn children. As a result, a Democratic Congresswoman understandably spoke up and walked out.
She should have known better than to have attended in the first place.
Dobson has long been a shill for political conservatives. He views himself as a kingmaker amongst conservatives. He has immersed himself in organizations devoted to passing legislation that discriminates against those he dislikes. Indeed, one of his groups was behind the discriminatory bill known as Arizona SB 1062…a bill that has been signed into law in Mississippi and elsewhere. Dobson is one of the evangelicals whose primary message is believe as I do…or else.
Dobson is but one of the many church leaders who regularly cross the line and use their status as “spiritual leaders” to sway politics. Many “pastors” have turned their pulpits into venues for political action. They have proselytized as much about politics as Biblical concepts. They have urged their followers to vote for candidates who meet their own narrow-minded views. They have rallied their flocks to support violence. They have turned military interventions into holy wars. They reject science and secular education. They cynically use natural disasters as examples of the failings of our society. They obscure the real teachings of Christ and selectively choose passages from Biblical texts to attack homosexuality and the poor.
And that’s just the Christians. Muslims and Jews have done much of the same and worse!
Given how far many religions have degenerated, it’s little wonder that more and more people, especially educated young adults, describe themselves as not being attached to any religion. It’s why traditional churches are shrinking. And, although some evangelical churches have seen growth based on a strong anti-abortion, anti-gay message, the overall trend is downward. Enlightened leaders such as Pope Francis may be able to reverse that trend, but it’s doubtful. Those leaders are outnumbered and out-shouted by Dobson and his ilk.