Bill Murchison

Just as the New York Times was front-paging a supposed upsurge in atheism (God? What God?) came complementary tidings from the Pew Research Center. To wit, it's not church spats over gay marriage or pedophilia that seem to be driving explicit Christians out the door. A complex of concerns causes their switch to another religion or none at all: namely, disgust with perceived churchly hypocrisies, the rejection of teachings perceived as false, failure to meet personal spiritual needs, and so on.

Of the population, Pew says, 44 percent no longer embrace their childhood faiths. Pew says there wasn't necessarily, in these cases, a lot of faith that required dissipating. Ex-Catholics had less faith as children than co-religionists who stayed on. Pew reports, "Former Protestants who are now unaffiliated are less likely to have regularly attended worship services as a child and even less likely to have attended regularly as a teenager."

Parental guidance and example may have been wanting -- as perhaps it was wanting in the parents' own early lives. Or the lives of the parents' parents. Where these things start you never can tell. Somewhere, anyhow. Possibly in a radiated indifference on the part of religion's stewards -- priests, teachers, evangelists? In a studied coolness to the fever and fervor of Gospel Christianity?

The habit of indifference, once contracted, is hard to shake off, except through direct experience or vivid communication of a general experience, from which human factor arise those suspicions of organized religion just mentioned -- twinned with a certain loopiness about ends and means.

The present presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, when asked by Time magazine a few years back to specify her focus as head of the church, replied, "Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development." And … and … On God, too? On Jesus? On sin and salvation? Not as the lady allowed. Not a word issued forth from her about those concerns for which the Episcopal Church -- and all other churches -- had supposedly gone into business.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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