Thursday, November 29, 2012

Texas faith: What is the future of religion?

What is it that the institutions of religion are not providing a growing number of people? And if this younger generation remains unaffiliated as it ages, what’s the future of religion?
Our Texas Faith panel weighs in:

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism

Historically religious institutions had a monopoly in offering a sense of community, and a sense of unity that made families feel safe and at home. Indeed they were sanctuaries of peace, an affordable singular communal source of entertainment to a majority of families.

Do people feel the same going to a place of worship now? I am afraid not, its value as a place of solace is declining for a variety of reasons, and this is happening across the religious spectrum whether it is a church, mosque, synagogue or a temple.

As humans we are driven to where there is harmony and conflictlessness, and the religious institutions are failing to fulfill the very basic need that brought families to these institutions in the first place.

The Younger generation interacts with people of different faiths, cultures, races and ethnicities with least to no prejudice, and they reject the notion of a God, that showers his grace on a selected few and not their good friends at work or at school. The exclusive claim from the pulpit does not appeal to the young generation anymore, they may put up with it, but deep down, gradual distancing is set in motion.

Scammers like Robert Tilton, Jim Baker and a host of others, and sex abuse scandals are not helping keep the congregations either.

In a 2011Pew survey, 72% of Americans did not believe theirs is the only way to God, compared to 96% in a 1972 survey. The demographics have changed now, and it is hard to fathom their preacher’s claims of exclusivity.

The latest research from Barna Associates shows that only 32 percent of adults see hell as, “an actual place of torment and suffering where people’s souls go after death.” People have enough of it in their own lives to go listen to another one.

Future of religious institutions depend on the needs of the congregants, those places of worship that offer hope and solace with least conflicts will continue to attract membership like Joel Osteen, the non-denominational, spiritual, and meditation centers. Institutions where sermons focus on making enemies out of others to give a false sense of good feeling will wane. Deep down people want to feel good about themselves, and sermons of harmony and pluralism will give hope and will save the institutions.

Texas faith is a weekly column, where panelists from different traditions respond to the issues of the day - for all the responses, please visit Dallas Morning News at
Mike Ghouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest onSean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly atHuffington post, Smirking Chimp and several other periodicals across the world. The is updated daily and indexes all his activities.

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