Reaching the 21st Century: A Loss of Faith
A quick look at the history of Christianity will reveal a dark past. We see the atrocities committed during the Crusades, for example, following through to torturous incidences committed by ‘Christians’ to heretics for centuries after. Of course, evil is ever-present and we do not discount the current problems caused by many religions, including Christianity, still today. However, overall, Christianity has evolved. We have graduated, for the most part, into a socially accepting, tolerant and positive structure, happy and forthcoming to accept all. Not all proponents of our Faith have grown towards this light, but we proceed on the basis that Christianity seeks to provide guidance towards a kingdom of justice and truth. Below, you shall find other prominent reasons that the Church has lost a significant level of attendance and, in some cases, respect.
The Enlightenment period was one of great progress; scientifically, philosophically and socially. Beyond a decline of religious belief, it bought about a new kind of faith; faith in humankind to act without guidance, counsel or any beyond authority. Many see the loss of faith as a ‘struggle between science and religion’ (Kenan Malik). But this is not exhaustive; the Enlightenment period saw wider social, intellectual, political and religious debate than ever before. Much of the Enlightenment period’s impact on faith, or the loss of it, stemmed from the discussion of social order, as opposed to just science. Previous to this, Christianity and the Bible had provided a guide. Many saw developments in science specifically as consistent with Christianity. However, many Protestants in particular thought differently; arguing that God was ‘benevolent, rather than arbitrary, deity’ (Scientific and Religious Transformation, Feross Aboukhadijeh). Overall, every aspect of the Enlightenment fostered a sense of religious liberty. It encouraged those to choose ones faith, if at all, rather than living by the law of the land.
What with the increase of contraceptive medication and so on, the ability to enjoy sexual relations for pleasure, as opposed to purely for reproduction, has had a truly revolutionary attitude over the years. Society, particularly younger people and millennial’s, tend to perceive the Bible and Faith generally as having very traditional views on this matter. As a result, we have a juxtaposition between the activities regularly enjoyed as a fact of modern life and the perceived attitude of Christianity. Here, we arrive at one huge reason for the loss of faith practices; perceived (and not necessarily true) attitudes based on ancient text versus that of modern habitual routine.
Similarly, we have this exposure to social networking. Generations below us and those yet to come have more information, more controversial and opinionated debate, at their fingertips than ever. We are encouraged to become politicised in our every opinion, which, of course, does not have to be a negative thing. However, modern trends tend to follow anti-religious practices and the press, which we all know to thrive off of hyperbole and pessimistic opinion, are given the room to draw in more of our somewhat vulnerable society. Young people, in particular, tend to follow societal trends and movements.
Following the events that we have touched upon, the Enlightenment and Sexual Revolution for example, we see negative perceptions of traditional faiths gaining more and more traction with the help of a worldwide social network.
Less need for Prayer
We have touched upon scientific development as a key reason for the loss of faith. In context with this, medical advancement comes hand in hand. Modern medicine has, in very recent years in particular, provided a cure for countless numbers of illnesses and diseases. It is nothing short of a miracle. However, this progress in medical advancement has meant regress in prayer practices. Why pray for recovery if we only need to look for NHS? Of course, for believers, this is an easily answerable question. But, for most of society, it is a reasonable and just one. People often turn to prayer in times of desperation, whether they are religious or not. Now, if we can simply look to the wonderful staff of the NHS, for example, to provide our ‘miracles’, there is seemingly less ‘need’ for prayer within the present day.
We see the ‘Rule of Science’ as comparable to the Rule of Law. Science is now perceived as the supreme source of knowledge; no person, or deity rises above it. Of course, as believers, we respectfully disagree. However, Science is, as it should be, a very widely respected field. Religion has internal disagreements between streams; this conflict is seen as a justification for non-believers. Alternatively, internal disagreements between scientists are respected, and this does not seem to impact judgment of the field in general. Like religion once was, and fortunately still is by some, seen as beyond our human entity and selves, Science is now regarded as something almost supremely extraneous.
On a similar note, in history, we can see examples of God being perceived as Supreme Arbiter. Theology could resolve conflicting opinion, which man could not. God was, and still is, almighty. Now, we see modern science unseating the Master Classifier (Thomas Szasz, Ideology and Insanity). This blog continues to explore this main thesis.