There was a recent article in “The Atlantic” entitled “American Religion Is Not Dead”. The author lays out four items that religion does for people

  1. It provides a framework for meaning-making, whether helping our ancient ancestors explain why it rained when it rained, or helping us today make sense of why bad things happen to good people.
  2. Religion offers rituals that enable us to mark time, process loss, and celebrate joys—from births to coming of age to family formation to death.
  3. It creates and supports communities, allowing each of us to find a place of belonging.
  4. Finally, fueled by each of the first three, religion inspires us to take prophetic action—to partake in building a world that is more just, more kind, and more loving
American Religion is not dead; The Atlantic

While the author admits that attendance and allegiance to churches are down, they change the question:

So rather than asking how many people went to church last Sunday morning, we should ask, “Where are Americans finding meaning in their lives? How are they marking the passing of sacred time? Where are they building pockets of vibrant communities? And what are they doing to answer the prophetic call, however it is that they hear it?”

American Religion is not dead; The Atlantic

For number 1, it is obvious we don’t need religion anymore to explain why there is a rainbow (sign to Noah that there would be no more floods?). It was once believed that the sky/heavens was a solid dome. The bible calls it a firmament, which has made its way into our temple liturgy. Since it is solid, we needed “windows of heaven” for the rain to be able to come down. We don’t need religion to explain why there are so many languages, or why the indigenous people of North America build mounds. Science can now explain all of this, and religion is no longer needed for this purpose.

For number 2, the LDS church has these rituals in spades. Baby blessings, baptisms, priesthood ordination, missions, temple sealings, etc. So what are replacing these rituals for non-religious people, or for ex-Mormons? Is going off to collage, getting married, having kids enough in a secular society to meet these needs? Maybe we don’t need to mark time with anything more than a birthday party?

Where does the non-religious person find the communities spoken of in number 3? Can social media groups on the internet fill this need? What about school clubs, boy/girl scouts, Rotary clubs? I’ve heard from people who have left the church that the one thing they miss is the community of the ward, the sense of belonging to something.

For number 4, I think there are several ways that people “build a better world” without it being a prophetic call from deity. Habitat for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, Peace Corps, and even Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen are answers to a secular prophetic calling. Do we need to believe in a God to volunteer at the battered women’s shelter, hold preemie babies at the hospital, or just pick up trash in our neighborhood?

What do you think of this? If you don’t attend church, where are you getting the needs listed above? Do you think any of the Q15 are concerned about anything other than attendance (church and temple) and tithing as metrics of faithfulness? Could they learn something by asking what is fulfilling the former members now that they don’t have the Church?

Image by Dele Oke from Pixabay