Some have suggested that recent scandals in the world of business, politics and the academy are practical consequences of a worldview that has pushed God out. Morality needs God, the argument goes, and without God the social fabric will be torn by uncontrolled greed, lust for power and striving for glory.
As a preacher and teacher, I make my living telling stories. While I know people who say that they “use” stories to make important points, I am one of those listeners who consistently remember the stories and forget the points.
Six years before he died, American philosopher William James filled out a questionnaire about religious experience. He was asked, among other things, “Do you pray?” His answer was forthright: “I can’t possibly pray.
This past May, at an interfaith conference in Skopje, Macedonia, I began a keynote address with a few remarks on what it means to speak in a Christian voice in an interfaith setting. Since religious pluralism increasingly defines the American social landscape and since religions are an important factor in the way we relate to each other, it is important for us to reflect on this issue.
The conventional wisdom has been that going to college leads people away from organized religion, and that was true for those born in the first part of the 20th century. But it’s not true for recent generations, says sociologist Philip Schwadel at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. In fact, it’s the least-educated members of Generation X—people born roughly between 1965 and 1980—who are most likely to leave religion. “Americans born in the late 1920s and ’30s who graduated from college were twice as likely to drop out of religion than people who didn’t graduate from college,” said Schwadel. However, for the generation born in the 1960s, there’s no difference between those who did and those who did not go to college in their likelihood of religious affiliation. Among those born in the 1970s, “those without a college education are the most likely to drop out.” Schwadel did not include millennials—Americans roughly between the ages 18 and 30—in the study because, he said, it’s too soon to tell if they will settle on a religious identity (RNS).