My wife, prompted by the birth of our first child, had found a religious tradition in which she was comfortable. I began keeping her company and started reading on religion. I still describe myself as an agnostic, but my unbelief is getting shaky.
Taking religion seriously means work. It can easily require as much intellectual effort as a law degree. I certainly have developed a far greater appreciation for Christianity, the tradition with which I'm most familiar. The Sunday school stories I learned as a child bear no resemblance to Christianity taken seriously. You've got to grapple with the real thing. Start by jarring yourself out of unreflective atheism or agnosticism. A good way to do that is to read about contemporary cosmology. The universe isn't only stranger than we knew; it is stranger and vastly more unlikely than we could have imagined, and we aren't even close to discovering its last mysteries. That reading won't lead you to religion, but it may stop you from being unreflective.
Find ways to put yourself around people who are profoundly religious. You will encounter individuals whose intelligence, judgment and critical faculties are as impressive as those of your smartest atheist friends—and who also possess a disquieting confidence in an underlying reality behind the many religious dogmas. They have learned to reconcile faith and reason, yes, but beyond that, they persuasively convey ways of knowing that transcend intellectual understanding. They exhibit in their own personae a kind of wisdom that goes beyond just having intelligence and good judgment. Start reading religious literature. The past hundred years have produced excellent and accessible work, much of it written by people who came to adulthood as uninvolved in religion as you are.”
I said I was surprised by the article. While admitting that “a lot” of youths (and himself, although he notes he is 47) don’t believe in God or religion, he does get around to thinking about it. It’s a start. I also thought it interesting WHY he began thinking about religion: his family. Building a family can be a start point for re-building a culture.
But then, as if to re-emphasize the point, in today’s Wall Street Journal I read of a recent study which said that 2012 was the lowest fertility rate EVER recorded in American history. It noted record low numbers of grandparents associating with their grandchildren. It also noted that by 2020 25% of American women over 50 will NEVER have grandchildren.
For any who would doubt the seriousness of the increase of atheism, the decrease of religion, the decrease of family, you only have to read the newspapers. Mr. Roth hits the nail on the head in the first quote above. At the heart of our culture’s decline is how we are using our freedom. We are thinking --- and teaching --- that freedom is all about you and what you want, for yourself. You have the freedom to make yourself happy, in any way you want.
In our country’s history, in the history of Christianity, that is not the definition of freedom. And if we continue with this thinking, whether atheist, agnostic, or Christian, we will all be the worse for it. We need to change course. Somehow.