Cathy Lynn Grossman reported in the USA Today on Tuesday, September 13, 2011 that more Americans customize religion to fit their personal needs. Cathy quotes religion statistician George Barna who states that we are a designer society who wants everything customized to our personal needs – our clothing, our food, our education and now religion.
Cathy, within her article, and George, with his research, expose a drift of more Americans leaving defined religious denominations. However, their interpretation of the statistics is that people are moving towards faiths cut to fit their personal preferences, as Cathy states ‘folks who make up God as they go’. This is a shallow analysis of the data. Research clearly shows that more Americans are deciding to shed their ties to traditional faith beliefs and practices. But, they are moving towards faiths that offer an alternative to religious denominations that stress adherence to theological creeds over individual reasoning.
Even though religious loyalty has changed its form, what is really happening here is the shedding of ancient understandings that leave spiritual questions unanswered and the emergence of a spiritual renewal among the American people.
Deciding to leave one’s faith community requires a change of heart, scrutinizing one’s history, questioning theological assumptions and a reexamination of values. This process of taking one’s experiences seriously can be both painful and exhilarating. As Americans, we possess the power to make our own choices rather than living under imposed understandings, to carve out new paths, discover fresh insights and uncover our own potential for meaning.
Skepticism has had its place within religious life throughout history because we are free agents capable of exercising our own will and taking hold of the power within us. As religious pilgrims, with open hearts and minds to the forces that create and uphold life, we celebrate this power that requires a radical authenticity.
As people of faith, we walk within living traditions that recognize the mysteries of creation that can overwhelm every human attempt to capture them in a single channel of religious faith. When we are encouraged to listen to our direct experience with the transcending mystery and wonder which moves and inspires, we find ourselves drawn to teachings that challenges our minds and touches our hearts. No matter what one’s circle of faith, I believe the spirit is moving among us all and because of that, there is no end to the fruitful and exciting revelations the human spirit can find.
To your success