So, in the same week that the Mormons announced that they were changing the ages at which young people could serve their missions, effectively increasing their marketing force by a substantial margin (as we discuss in episode 47 of the podcast), I encountered two other interesting articles. This one from USA Today discusses a new study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life that shows "nones," or people professing no religious affiliation, rising to almost 20% of American adults (yay!). And this one from RNS is about the Pope convening a Synod of Bishops on “New Evangelization” to stem that "tsunami of secular influence.”
"Lock the door and hide!" "Is it the Mormons?" "No…"
What? The Catholics looking at "evangelization"? Shit just got real!
Seriously. Gone, apparently, are the days of the Catholic church resting on its laurels as the all-powerful religious monolith. These days, they're going to have to work for their money like everybody else. I suppose they'll stop short of sending young folks door-to-door for converts, but you can smell the desperation, can't you? I know I can.
We "nones" have gone from 15.3% in 2007 to 19.6% today. That's a pretty speedy ascent if you ask me! I certainly don't think it will continue at the same pace for long- this comfort with not having a religious affiliation is really new, and I suspect this could be termed our honeymoon period. But I'm guessing the pedal will be to the proverbial metal for a while, yet. Where will it slow? Who knows? 30%? 45%? Surely it will slow before it hits 50%, but at that point everything will look VERY different for us.
Mind you, being an out-and-proud atheist, I'm not sure how comfortable I am sitting in the same category as my wishy-washy "spiritual but not religious" friends. I find belief in "Universal Energy" or "healing light" or even just "there's gotta be SOMETHING out there, right?" pretty damned religious, even if the believer can't really nail down any specifics. I'd probably prefer that the Pew people separate them out, when all is said and done, but whatever.
The point here is that we are a very real and rapidly growing force, and the religious world is scared. This isn't just a trend, it isn't just a short-term change from which the pendulum will soon swing back. This is how it's going to be. These noises you're hearing from the mouths of religious leaders the world over aren't the clarion call sounding the rise of religion back to the top- they are the death throes. The long, angry, violent thrashing of an anachronistic institution sensing (but not admitting) it's impending irrelevance.
We're going to win. They're going to lose. Society will be better for it. And yes, I'll take bets on that. Hell, I'll give you odds!