Five hundred years ago, supernatural beings played a major role in the
world. For example:
The earth was the center of the universe. Angels pushed the stars,
planets and moon across the sky.
God controlled the weather and
the changing of the seasons. He sometimes set aside natural laws and
Demons caused damaging hail, mental
illnesses, and physical disease -- often in punishment for sin.
science grew from infancy and started to explain the true, natural causes
of many phenomenon. Bishop Spong comments that "The theistic God first
became the gap-filler, explaining things that humans could not." 1
(He defines the theistic God as "a being, supernatural in
power, dwelling outside this world and invading the world periodically to
accomplish the divine will.") 2
With the advent
of such major scientific advances as Newton's laws of physics, the germ
theory of disease, Darwin's theory of evolution, Einstein's laws of
relativity, critical analysis of the Bible, archaeological discoveries in Palestine, etc.,
these gaps started to fill up. Academic Michael D. Goulder boldly observed: "God
no longer has any work to do." Bishop Spong notes that "The
theistic god is becoming irrelevant with no real purpose. Theistic power
has become impotent...Theism is dying." 7
seen an accelerating march towards secularism for the past few decades.
Friedrich Nietsche proclaimed the death of the theistic God in the 19th
century. Some radical theologians picked up the theme in the 1960s. It is
finally being accepted by large numbers of people. Spong suggests that as
people abandon their belief in a personal, protective God, that the anxiety
experienced by our ancient ancestors is returning. He notes increasing
addiction to caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, other addictive drugs,
anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication. He also notes an increase in
the suicide rate, mass murders, and road rage as byproducts as a death in
belief of a theistic God. Polls regularly show that about 40% of American adults say they attend religious services weekly; data from Canada is about half that. These same
polls show that
that attendance is dropping. A particlarly ominous sign is that on the order of 60% of older teenagers and young adults abandon their religious affiliation. 3,4
The actual situation is more serious for the
future of religion. People tend to lie when asked motherhood-type
questions by pollsters. In reality, actual nose counting reveals that only about 20% of American adults and
10% of Canadian adults regularly attend a church, mosque, synagogue,
temple or other religious service weekly. Meanwhile the NOTAS -- those who accept None Of The Above religionS are steadily increasing in numbers.
Can God survive in a postmodern, post-Darwinian world?
Atheism is one possible choice for people who
have abandoned belief in a theistic God. Atheists have no belief in the existence
of a supernatural deity. According to American Atheists, 9% of
adults in the U.S. no longer have a belief in God. 5
According to an Ipsos-Reid poll released on 2000-APR-21, about 14% of Canadian adults are Atheists;
Agnosticism is another option. The same
Ipsos-Reid poll found that 2% of Canadian adults are Agnostics. A City University of New York found that the percentage of Agnostics in the U.S. ranged from 0.0% in
Delaware and Louisiana, to 3% in Kentucky. Other national surveys have put the
percentage between 0.7 and 5%
Bishop Spong argues that there is another response to
the loss in belief in a personal theistic God. He suggests that belief in a
non-theistic God can continue -- a God with the following
Love is God.
God is in each individual.
God "is a symbol of that which is immortal, invisible, timeless."
"God is Being -- the reality underlying everything that is."
But he suggests that a number of historical Christian beliefs and practices must be dropped --
or at least be totally redefined. These include:
God as a personal deity -- supernatural or otherwise.
He admits that Christianity might not be able to make the transition from a
theistic to a non-theistic God. It might be destroyed by the changes required.
Many mental health professionals believe that, with the possible
exception of their own personal faith, all religions were originally created by
humans in order to alleviate their chronic anxiety. Their angst was
created by their feelings of helplessness in a dangerous universe, their
lack of control of the environment, and the knowledge of their own
Most people, whether they follow Animism, a fertility religion,
Neopaganism, or a monotheistic, polytheistic, or henotheistic religion
believe that their own religion is accurate:
Their own religious texts were inspired by their God. They alone
know the true attributes of God. God revealed to them alone his
expectations for his followers. God give them alone the correct behavior
and moral codes to be followed. The religious texts of other religions
are works of fiction, written by humans, and partly or fully in error.
One source states that there are 19 major world religions, which are
subdivided into a total of 270
large religious groups, and tens of thousands of smaller ones
(including 34,000 separate Christian faith groups). 9 These
tens of thousands of theistic faith traditions teach different beliefs
about deity, moral codes, behavioral codes, etc.
If God exists, then only one group, at most, can reflect his will.
If God does not exist, as some Atheists believe and some Agnostics suspect, then none of the
tens of thousands of theistic faith traditions are valid.
The chances of a given
person belonging to God's "true" religious institution is rather small. Some people are willing to accept this conclusion. However, most are quite
certain that their faith tradition is the one that is God's. Sadly, many find it quite
difficult to extend equal human rights to members of other religions. A
few are quite capable of denying human rights to, and even killing, those
that they consider to be infidels in order to further what they perceive to be their God's wishes.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Table 3-1: Religious Composition of State Populations, 1990 (%).
Self-identification of religious loyalty, phone survey w/ 113,000
people; by City U. of New York" cited in: Kosmin, B. & S. Lachman, "One Nation Under God: Religion
in Contemporary American Society," Harmony Books, (1993), Pages
88-93. See Ref. 13.