The dubious debate over religious versus non-religious in the United States has captivated many minds in the field of thinkers. That’s because in addition to millions of religious folk, a significant number of non-religious (nons) would benefit from religious clarity.
The polls estimate that one in five Americans declare no religious preference. Together with the 80% of Americans who do recognize a religious affiliation, many of them had ancestors who fled to the United States for religious freedom. We favor religious freedom for the sheer fact we favor being able to think for ourselves. Americans carry a general sense of sensitivity to the oppression of religious intolerance.
The United States today is a far different place than it was in its earlier history. Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison put into writing the separation of religious and civil realms. Laws were created to curb the religious intolerance brought here by the very people escaping religious intolerance.
Religious reforms in the 18th and 19th century painstakingly began rooting out the doctrines of predestination and damnation. The admittance that we could forge our own destiny also began uprooting the inequality rampant in society. If we could accept a God that loved us and gave us a chance, we had to accept a God that loved everyone and gave them a chance to think for themselves and prosper.
The growth spurt of the hard and soft sciences also affected religion, causing superstitions and creeds to lessen their grip on the human psyche. But, the sciences, though bolstered with impressive 20th century technologies, still don’t answer the many legitimate questions asked by the people. Religion in affect still maintains a level of importance. A Gallup Poll reported that 75% of Americans say that our society would be better off if more people were religious.
Today, our minds are fragile. Religions and the sciences have not delivered on their promises of deliverance from the deluge of useless information, tragedies, unexplained miracles, and insights. While turning to spirituality is the rage, that very spirituality is found more effective with an infrastructure. People still want a community. Naturally, the community of religion, historically linked to spirituality, is being demanded to clean up its act and adapt to the fact religion is fluid, not fixed.
To enforce old creeds is futile in light of the fact that two things have not changed: the humanity of most Americans and their respect for spirituality. People without an agenda realize that most people want to think for themselves and this includes thinking about the deep questions in life. But we also realize non-thinkers pretend they are thinking or they allow chaos and crime within their own organizations, damaging the very fabric of religions. Religion simply cannot foster non-thinking without any accountability. And, that is what has happened.
To think is to have a conscious mind, to have some extent of reasoning and remembering, to be able to make rational decisions. Thinking that results in a terrible consequence is non-thinking trying to take control. We earn our right to think.
Religion should be able to grow up. Religion should be able to leave behind its non-thinking, often disguised as purist’s attitudes. Religion should be able to combine empathy with responsibility, and not injure the hard-working thinker who is promoting spirituality rather than a religious organization.