During the last census in Australia, the first question that was asked in the religious section was whether individuals identify themselves with any particular religious groups. According to a Pew research, the global religious patterns in western countries show that affiliation to a religious institution is going down. More and people are either identifying themselves as atheists, agnostics or nones. In the last census in Australia, 30% of people reported having no religious affiliation, which is a 5 % rise, compared to 22.3% in 2011. Although, Christianity still remains the most common religion. People reporting no religious affiliation rose sharply from 19 percent in 2006 to 30% in 2016. The years between 2011 and 2016 saw the largest change when 2.2 million people were added to the nones.
This trend can be seen in other western countries as well, interestingly though the rise of people not affiliated with any religious institution coincides with the rise in spirituality. What is even more, interesting is that a large number of people who report as Nones were raised religious before they decided to leave the religion. Some of the reasons these people gave where, Science, lack of evidence and one in five expressed an opposition to organized religion in general.
In a way, Christians helped accelerate this trend, for example, currently the catholic church is rippled with scandal after scandal of sexual abuse. The loss of credibility has been accelerated by the church’s lack of transparency and coverup in dealing with sexual abuse cases. Considering the way these sexual assault cases have been reported in the media, you would be forgiven to think that only the Catholic church abused children. And it should be reported this way, any institution with that much power and access to people should be put to higher standards of accountability. What is even more interesting is that it does not matter how secular a society is, religious people and institutions will always be put to a higher standard. For example, the criticism Joel Osteen received when it was reported that in the media that his church will be closed after the flood.
Another reason is the rise of militant Christian evangelicals in the 90s’. Mega churches where popping up everywhere, with Posters driving fancy cars and preaching while sitting in golden chairs. This was followed by scandal after scandal, the Jim Bakker sexual harassment scandal for example. The seeds of what we are seeing now, in my opinion, was sewn decades ago. In the years after the start of the sexual moral revolution of the 60s and people wanting to do away with the institutional structures, Christians made a fatal mistake of trying to influence culture through politics. Forgetting that it is the culture that influences politics. When Christians stopped doing Christianity, spirituality took over.
Secondly, religious people do not seem to behave differently from people without religion. For, example the rates of divorce is just as high in religious people compared to people without religion. This, in my opinion, is the reason why there has been a big shift in people’s attitudes towards gay marriage. If the model marriage is not working, what is wrong with the alternative and if what you believe in is not being shown in how you act then why would people want to believe in what you believe?
Thirdly, the lack of biblical teaching from the people in charge, It has been shown three out of four students from Christian homes lose their religion during their years at university. It seems the watered-down version of Christianity is working when you consider that Orthodox Christian churches are growing partly due to immigration and their focus on Jesus Christ. One of the main jobs of the church is to prepare people for the real world and real-world issues. And increasingly religious institutions are not doing enough to prepare people for what the world will throw at its congregants.
Finally, Globally Peoples affiliation to religious institutions have declined, but this coincides with the rise in spirituality. This raises two question, is the decline just a general revolt of the people towards power structure and people see religion as just another power structure? If so why turn to spirituality?