The Decline of Religion in the West - Should We Be Worrying About It?

Anyway, to the actual discussion of a religious theme.

I was struck recently by a discussion, or more accurately, a whole raft of discussions of the type which surface from time to time, in which some people were lamenting the decline in the moral compass and the ethical leadership of the church (or Church, depending on how you want to describe it).

The argument goes that, at least in the West, the breakdown of social and moral values is a result of the failure of the church, not only to keep its congregations in their seats, but also to offer clear guidelines of behaviour etc to the ignorant populace (that's us) based on the revealed truths of scripture and the wisdom handed down by tradition.

It's a great shame the church does not get its act together, because if it did, there would not be so much trouble in the world.

According to another school of thought, there is a slightly massive flaw in the above argument.

If we suppose God to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all those other all-things that have been attributed in the past, then, in one sense, it doesn't matter at all what we do or think or say, because it will all work its way into God's Divine Plan anyway. And even if it didn't, at any point in history, God can simply say, "Right OK, that's enough. Stop whatever you're doing, because from now on, we're doing it my way!"

So there's no mileage to be gained in worrying about declining congregations or declining moral values in society, since it's not up to us anyway. The True Believer, then, can just get on with the business of rejoicing about the fact that, however things may look, the world we see is the absolute perfection of the best of all possible worlds.

Followers of the first view would respond that maybe that is so, but that's not what God intended us to do at all. We're supposed to work towards bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven through the exercise of our own free will, and if that means we have to worry a bit, that's just the way things are.

Of these two factions, I have to say I lean rather towards the second one (don't worry about it), but only because I enjoy just having a good time rather than getting into a major stress all the time. But I do accept that's not a particularly defensible philosophical viewpoint.

As to which one of the above two factions is correct, I don't really have a clue, so I'll leave it for you to decide.


Stella said...

i guess the problem with most organized religions is that its leaders are human, and sometimes the original message or intention has been lost to personal interest, struggles for power..etc.
I havent got a slightest clue about whos in control of our lives and this crazy world we live in, so Ive decided to try to be a decent human being and be kind to others without expecting any divine compensation for it.

Aimee said...

Yes I agree with your last point. I've always thought the idea of doing good things just so that you can get some sort of reward for it, was something of a non-runner. After all, it would be like trying to make a deal or contract with God. You do this for me, and in return I'll be a good person. Does God need this? I don't think so.

Yet many people act or speak as if this were so. Some people even commit acts of violence, believing that their God will somehow reward them for it. And on a less radical level, people often promise to shape up if God will just get them out of this mess today. Then they often get angry when they don't get what they ask for. And even if they do, they then quite frequently go back on their promise.

So yes I agree with you on that!