A black and white photo of a billboard that shows 3 children with their parents on their knees praying together with a caption next to them saying: The Family That Prays Together Stays Together. Also, this looks to be a picture taken at night with a car from the 1950’s era off to the side.

America’s Religious Decline: The Cause and Effect

By Calvin Miller
Web Content Contributor

In my last article “America’s Religious Decline: Our Changing Country,” I talked about how religious affiliation is on the decline as well as church membership. In this article, I want to discuss how other factors in society seem to be on the rise in proportion.

Disclaimer: I am in no way taking any side, religious or not, or saying one thing is right while another is wrong. I am making observations and pointing them out as such.

I want to show a quick graph to show how groups now identify.

Image from the Pew Research Center

A Gallup poll dating back to November 13th, 2020 reported that 78% of Americans say there is more crime in the United States than there has been dating back to 1993. This could be politically motivated, but there seems to be a mindset growing that crime is increasing and becoming more heinous.

According to a CNN article, there have been at least 50 mass shootings since March 16th, when a gunman killed eight people and wounded one at three Atlanta area spas.

Image from Gallup

If that was not enough, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicides for the first time ever in American history, were in the top 10 leading causes of death for all ages in the United States.

Suicides were at number 10. In addition, the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) reported that 1.6 million people had an opioid use disorder last year and that 70,630 people died from a drug overdose in some form in 2019. We are still waiting on the 2020 numbers, but preliminary numbers show over 81,000 drug overdoses occurred over the past year, with my brother being one of them. These numbers are in fact, startling.

Image from Center for Disease Control

So, what is going on? The Pew Research Center has even recorded that just 20% of U.S. adults say that they trust the Federal Government to “do the right thing.” Well, that answer is complicated.

As these incidents arise, the question eventually becomes: is a lack of religion or a belief system a predicate for a rise in these areas such as crime, drug use, loneliness, distrust and suicide? Well, the answer is more complex than just saying “yes” or “no.”

Religion has been around for a long time, with some sources dating it back 5,000 years ago. Since then, there have been numerous wars, world wars, diseases, famines, earthquakes, volcanoes, drug use, suicides, genocides and so on. Many of the times, certain events happened in the name of one group’s god over another group’s god.

The word “religion” according to the Webster dictionary means the service and worship of God or the supernatural. This in layman terms means that people are worshipping what they believe to be God or some higher power.

As you may talk to people, especially older people such as Gen X’ers or Baby Boomers and you ask them how they think society is going, they most likely will say “crazy” or “bad.” There are many people out there who will say the loss of religion, the giving up of a belief system or the lack of accepting something else out there, is propelling these issues to become more common.

In my own opinion, I do not think it is an actual loss of religion or a belief in God or gods that cause these issues alone but more so a loss of hope and optimism. If society begins to feel hopeless and without purpose, this can cause a rise in many societal ills.

Last year was a stark reminder of that, with nearly half the population saying they felt hopeless around June of last year. As the news seems to worsen and these awful incidents arise, it is smart for us all to take a step back and ask what is really going on. Rather than blaming a group, an entity, a religion, a culture, a social movement or anything else, everyone should look inwards and ask how they are contributing to what is going on whether positively or negatively.

We all together will create the society we will have to live in, and then that begs the question: What kind of society do we want to leave not just for our possible children, but for ourselves?

Featured Image by MIT-Libraries via CreativeCommons

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