Wednesday, October 6, 2010

You're either a lazy Christian or a Secular Humanist

Which sounds better? Here is a recent article that I read:

The study published by the Church of England concludes that people born after 1982 - known as "Generation Y" - have only a “faded cultural memory” of Christianity. For many young people, religious observance extends no further than praying in their bedrooms during moments of crisis, on a “need to believe basis”.

The findings are contained a new book, The Faith of Generation Y, whose authors include the Bishop of Coventry, the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth. Sylvia Collins-Mayo, principal lecturer in sociology at Kingston University, said most of the 300 young people questioned for the study were not looking for answers to “ultimate questions”. “For the majority, religion and spirituality was irrelevant for day-to-day living,” she said. “On the rare occasions when a religious perspective was required, for example coping with family illnesses or bereavements, they often ‘made do’ with a very faded, inherited cultural memory of Christianity in the absence of anything else.”

The authors described this approach as “bedroom spirituality”. Some teenagers prayed for the health of loved ones or for success in relationships and exams, while others made “confessions” in an attempt to express their anxieties. But most young people today define themselves by a “secular trinity of family, friends and the reflexive self”, giving them an “immanent faith” based on relationships in this world, the study found. Fewer than one in five young people believe in a God “who created the world and hears my prayers”, and teenagers were more likely to believe in the “nicer” parts of religious doctrine than those about the devil and punishment.

Their images of God tended to be of “an old man with a beard”, while pop songs were played at memorial services “because the young congregation did not know any hymns”. The book suggested that the “chain of Christian memory” has become “eroded” in Britain, particularly as the authority of the church has declined, society has become more interested in technology to solve problems, and globalization has led to a “spiritual market” of competing beliefs.

“It is undoubtedly the case that the Christian memory is very faint and in many respects Generation Y are a largely unstoried and memoryless generation,” the study said. The 2001 census found that 62 per cent of young Britons still call themselves Christian, although in a more recent survey only 27 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds felt they belonged to a Christian denomination.

Only two-fifths of children are being baptised into the faith as “fewer and fewer young people are being brought up in households with religiously inclined parents”. However, despite their distance from traditional religion, the young people interviewed were not actively hostile to Christianity.

The book points out that about one in three schools in England has links to a church, while all state schools are supposed to provide “acts of collective worship”. Without school religion the Christian memory would be “much weaker than it currently is”. But there was a risk that the “compulsory nature” of religion in schools could “undermine” pupils’ interest in Christianity."

I love this article for a variety of reasons... Let's look at it first from an educational standpoint:

Any teacher knows that, for the most part, when you force education upon a Gen-Y'er, they will immediately rebel and not respect its worth. Is this perhaps also why forcing religion on them is not working either? Why Catholic schools churn out Secular Humanists like myself (and other friends and relatives that I have talked to also).

I will admit to being a "bedroom spiritualist" up until the age of around 12 or 13. I recall wanting something to happen so badly that I would lay in my bed, hands clamped, and begggggggg for it to happen. I would plead to God, make bargains with him. You know, I actually recall this working once! I was playing in the kitchen one morning, with a ball and a mini stick, and I knocked the ceiling light off and it smashed on the floor. I went to my room, fearful of my father's wrath when he woke up. I prayed that he would not be mad, I prayed that he would be gentle. As it turned out, he was. He was not angry at all when I told him what happened, apologized, and it was already cleaned up.

So, did prayer work? Some would say so! But even if we assume there are only two options (being angry or not being angry) and we assume that there are equal probabilities of each, there's only a 50% chance that my prayer worked, the other 50% of the time, he was going to act like that anyway. Now, reality suggests that there are many more options (levels of anger) each with its own probability of happening. This lessens the chance that my prayer actually worked, because my father was generally not angry or abusive at all.

I digress, as this blog IS my ramblings, I still like to put something coherent to paper --urrgg to screen. The point of this post was supposed to reflect on that article... if fewer and fewer people believe in a God that created us and the world and responds to our prayers, how long will it take before our culture rejects the likelihood of a God altogether? And you know what, that's when we should be really scared. Because, as all good Catholics know, when nobody believes in God, and when we're all heathens, zealots, and sinners, that is when God will reveal himself and save those who still believe in Him and have never stopped. So let this be my warning!

Lastly, reflecting upon my title for this blog post, if all you do is "pray" in times of dire need, and nobody else knows, and you don't represent your faith by congregating on Sundays or abstaining from sex before marriage (or other archaic beliefs)... do you really believe in God at all? If you did, you would know He is displeased by the majority of your actions, and you haven't went to confession, so why would He help you anyway? You aren't really praying to "God", you are just simply arranging thoughts and hopes in your head, and when you have your thoughts and hopes aligned, they are more likely to happen, which makes it likely that you will also remember when "God" answered your "prayers" whereas it likely would have happened exactly the same way had you prayed or not! So what do you want to be? A lazy Catholic sinner or a Secular Humanist? Nobody can hate a Secular Humanist, because Jesus was a Humanist also. Well, maybe a Catholic could hate a Secular Humanist...

Anyone out there listening? Love to hear what you have to say. Either way, I'm fine with just talking to myself.


  1. I'm listening! I'd like to make damn sure that no-one plays any hymnns at my funeral! I am familiar with hymnns but none of them are relevant to me even though I'm much older than a generation Y person. I'd prefer "Memory Of A Free Festival" by David Bowie - now that's one hell of a message. If you haven't heard it already, go listen!

  2. I can definitely picture that song being sung at a funeral... not mine, however. I couldn't live (or die) with having God mentioned on purpose at my funeral.