By Macalan B-J
“We live in a society which says we should tolerate everybody except those who don’t tolerate us.” (Dr. Gerald Krispin)
Why is religion being expunged from our society? It has been the central character in the story of human history, yet today, we notice it less and less in our society. What are the causes and effects of this phenomenon as it continues to shape the modern day? Why is religion being expunged from our society? These are the opinions of our CUE professors.
Dr. John Maxfield: Since the 18th century enlightenment, both the ideology of secularism and the idea that religion is superstitious (or even, among some atheists today, a source of hate and conflict). An ideology forms that says that the secular society is better and creates a tendency toward a secular society. Not that fewer people are religious, because evidence says that many people are religious still, but their religion is increasingly privatized.
Dr. Joy Berg: First of all, I define religion as a relationship between God and his people. It seems that our society has pulled away from that relationship with a lot of our social media, television, and computers. We are looking at connection on a very basic surface-level, so the idea of connecting, relationships, and independent connection with God is very important to us–that’s how we develop in society. These days, we have pulled away from our independence as well as pulled away from our life being centered in somebody else. We want our life to be controlled by us, so I think this is another reason that we pulled away from religion and God being so prominent in our lives–we want to be in control. People in society want to be in control of their lives and everything that happens around us, whereas religion and the God-relationship means being able to let go of our control and knowing somebody else is in charge. I think this is because of how we’ve framed ourselves and society in general as there are many different eras throughout history where society takes on certain traits; not everybody conforms, but our society functions as a whole, and it seems like our society now has taken on the trait of individualism. Independence of money has become the most important, powerful thing, and we value ourselves for the sake of wanting to be famous or prominent rather than looking at a community-based relationship and giving up oneself. I think we definitely can go back to this, but our society has evolved into the individualistic state we see now.
Dr. Gerald Krispin: I believe it is because of the misinterpretation of the causes of conflict people have. When people hold two ideas tenaciously in a relativistic society, people are bothered by that, and I think our society is the type of society where people say, “you have your beliefs, I have mine, and they are contradictory, but it doesn’t really matter.” Then when people have a concept of absolute truth–a concept of “this is right and this is wrong”–this will obviously offend people’s sensibilities who don’t like to be told what is right or wrong. Leonard Cohen wrote the following lines in his song/poem titled “The Future”:
The blizzard of the world
Has crossed the threshold
And it has overturned
The order of the soul
When they said repent
I wonder what they meant
These words talk about the relativism of a society. At the core of this is a question. and my simple answer would be this: in a relativistic society, people who hold to traditional ideas that have a long history of conservatism–those ideas are deemed offensive. Whereas the relativistic approach of today is seen to be open, inclusive, and accepting. Paradoxically, however, there is a corresponding intolerance, a corresponding vilification of those who don’t want to be relativistic. So relativism becomes its own orthodoxy requiring a certain acquiescence to that particular understanding. It becomes its own ideology that says unless you are now as relativistic, as open, or as accepting as you should be, you are not tolerated. Religion is deemed to be problematic, because it puts forth certain truths or absolutes which do not fit into a relativistic society which basically says we should tolerate everybody except those who don’t tolerate us.
Dr. Bill Anderson: I think a lot of it has to do with a number of complex philosophical premises that are being smuggled into our society, from the enlightenment, through the Industrial Revolution, and into the concept of consumerism–which is being perpetrated through marketing, advertising, and the realm of entertainment. It is commodification of happiness. We think that to be happy is to be guilt-free, to do whatever we want and say whatever we want. Consequently, religion is perceived as a barrier to that freedom. Freedom is very important to marketing and advertising because it puts the emphasis on the consumer’s choice. You can choose the type of shoes that you want as well as the amount of money you want to spend on them. More importantly, through marketing and advertising, we are manipulated into turning wants into needs. We need food, we need water, we need sleep, and so forth. Now we are told that we need better cars, better clothes, a better hairstyle, etc. I think it’s very integrated and permeated throughout society. The fact is that we live in a first world country where we have our basic needs like food, water, shelter, clothing as well as an abundance of free time and quite a bit of disposable income. Therefore, we are distracted. We are being dumbed down. The focus is being put on the superficial–like happiness. There’s a difference between happiness and joy. Going to the movies can make me happy for a very short period of time, but joy–joy is a deep sense of contentment that you are safe and secure no matter what the circumstances are. We’re not really dealing with things on a very deep level. We are being dumbed down and becoming a very superficial culture; therefore, we feel like we don’t have a need for religion.