You shouldn’t discuss two topics with people: politics and religion. A growing segment of the population is unwilling to entertain facts that may contradict what they think about culture, politics, and society. The ancient Greeks thought bringing your best argument to a debate was a gift for your opponent. It was a way to help your opponent understand another viewpoint and lets your adversary rethink their view of the world.
These days, verbal disagreements are about having the sharpest comeback. We’ve strayed from the Grecian model of public discourse. To see the world empirically is a gift. Having an empirical worldview means your knowledge comes from sensory experiences. An empirical worldview gets you closer to the truth in the world than any other approach. Finding the truth is the ultimate goal of any believer of Jesus Christ. So how do we find the truth? We start with the facts. Here are some myths about religion and politics in America and why they aren’t true.
Evangelism is declining.
Every couple of years, a national media outlet releases a story about the decline of religion in America. It started in 1966 with a TIME magazine cover that read “Is God Dead?” Arguments around the alleged death of religion have only increased since then. No one could blame the American public for thinking that religion is in its twilight in our society. However, it could be said that some people reach that conclusion by reading a bit too much into the headlines they see, a news app, or their social media feeds. These stories reinforce a narrative saying that evangelicalism is poisonous to the average American, but the truth is quite the opposite.
Researchers are biased toward Christians.
There are many different religions that people in the United States practice, from Latter-day Saints, Hindus, Buddhists, and even Wiccans. However, some people feel that researchers ignore these other religions and solely focus on Christianity. Admittedly, there can be some blind spots in research, but is it intentional? You could argue that writing about Christianity is easy for some researchers because that’s the religion they grew up practicing. However, the myth that the media and the academic world’s obsession with Christianity aren’t rooted in bias but a statistical reality that most people don’t think about.
On the bright side, the lack of research on other religions means there’s room to grow. Numerous small religious groups feel excluded and ignored by academia. However, with more data becoming available, the discussions of researching smaller religious groups will be more challenging to come by.
College pushes young adults from religion.
Some people believe that religion and academia don’t mix. Parents wonder how their child can maintain their faith when they go off to a large university or a private college. Most believe that as soon as their child walks onto a college campus, they’ll throw their Bibles away and take a walk on the wild side. This idea was the premise of the 2014 film “God’s Not Dead,” which rocketed to popularity in the Christian world and led to two sequels. With this reinforcement, the assumption that going to college coaches them toward religious rebellion is deeply rooted in the minds of conservative Christians.
However, the data shows little evidence that college is turning wholesome Christian children into heathens. Other scholars reinforce this finding; two Baylor University sociologists created a survey for young people between 13 and 17 years old in 2002. Then, they reconnected with the same respondents in 2005 and 2008. They found that those who went to college were no more or less likely to embrace an impersonal or uninvolved view of God. They also found that college attendees were less likely to express doubts about those who didn’t continue their education. Challenging a young person on what they think in a supportive environment may be the kind of test that a teen needs to consider their beliefs.
Nondenominational Christians are uncommon.
One of the best things about the Internet is that you can find your corner of cyberspace and research it every day. That’s the case with people who want to understand religion. There’s a network of news outlets that discuss the intersection of society and religion, both abroad and in the United States. In addition, theologians and scholars collect information about religion and distribute it to their followers.
The Southern Baptist Convention holds a get-together yearly where thousands of members gather to network, listen to prominent leaders, and vote on upcoming resolutions. The United Methodist Church also has an annual convention. Their meetings are similar to the Southern Baptist Convention; the media extensively covers both events and can give the impression to a casual observer that the Protestant world revolves around these large denominations. However, there’s been a steady shift in Protestant Christianity that some people might miss; denominations are on the decline, and nondenominational churches are on the rise in the United States, yet the media don’t cover them.
The increase in nondenominational churches has generated various issues for people studying American religion. As for why the media covers the significant denominational events, they’re well-organized, and something newsworthy typically happens. Nondenominational churches are the ultimate expression of the “bottom-up” shift in numerous American aspects. They lack the hierarchy of the United Methodists and the Southern Baptists. Most of them started in their homes and grew from there. Many stories of these churches begin with only 20 people and flourish into thousands.
Reevaluating our worldview can be a terrifying experience because it leads to a surge of changes that we can’t foresee when we start to think carefully about our perspective on things. The ability to change course, think differently about the world, and approach situations with a fresh set of eyes make introspection worth it. We all have predispositions that we take as truth. However, when we open our minds to different possibilities, we can let go of those predispositions and see things from a different perspective. With so many different views, it’s best to keep your mind and heart open.