Religious affiliation in the United States is at its lowest point since it began to be tracked in the 1930s, according to analysis of a 2013 survey by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and Duke University.
In 2012, about 1 in 5 Americans claimed they had no religious preference, more than double the percentage reported in 1990, according to the General Social Survey, which has been tracking major social and cultural trends in America since 1972.
“This continues a trend of Americans disavowing a specific religious affiliation that has accelerated greatly since 1990,” said Mike Hout, lead author of the study and a UC Berkeley sociologist.
According to the survey, “Men are more likely than women to claim ‘no religion’ (24 percent of men verses 16 percent of women). More whites claimed ‘no religion’ (21 percent) compared to African Americans (17 percent) and Mexican Americans (14 percent), while more than one-third of 18-to-24-year-olds claimed ‘no religion’ compared to just 7 percent of those 75 and older.”
American confidence in organized religion took a noticeable fall in the 1980s, amid sex scandals associated with televangelist preachers as well as child molestation charges and cover-ups in numerous churches. On April 14, 2013, Pope Francis said in his discourse during the eucharistic celebration, “Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility.”
Recent research indicates the number of people who do not consider themselves a part of organized religion aren’t saying they don’t believe in God. They’re saying they don’t believe in religion. Reasons vary from too much emphasis on money and politics, disagreements with church teachings and not wanting to be ‘labeled,’ to religious hypocrisy, abuse scandals, personality conflicts, as well as disagreements on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion.
As a result, the number of people who prefer a relationship with God without organized religion is steadily on the rise. This begs the question: Is belonging to an organized religion really necessary? What do you think? Most people will agree that merely attending religious services cannot take the place of a personal relationship with God. It is this relationship, based on truth, not merely religion or its location, that matters most to God, according to John 4:21-24.
Is organization, in itself, the real problem with religion? It appears that at Mount Sinai, God organized the Israelites into a nation. He gave them laws and regulations to govern their worship and their relations with one another. He established a priesthood to take the lead in matters of worship. He appointed a king and judges. In doing so, he provided an organizational arrangement, although He listened to their individual prayers.
Centuries later the Christian congregation came into existence. Whose idea was this? 1Corinthians 12:28 says, “God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.” — New International Version.
Instead of using the term “guidance,” the GOD’S WORD Translation uses, “managers,” while The Message Bible uses the word, “organizers.” These translations convey the idea that God Himself established the Christian congregation to be an organized, managed way of worship. In fact, 1Corinthians 14:40 says, “let all things be done decently and in order.” — King James Version.
Jesus Christ also told his disciples at Matthew 24:14 to preach the gospel of the kingdom in all the world for a witness unto all nations. One could rightly ask, how could this global task be accomplished without organization? When Jesus trained his disciples for this work, he did not simply tell each one to go wherever he wanted to go and share his faith in whatever way he chose. Instead, he trained them, gave them instructions, a theme to speak on, and sent them out in an organized manner, according to Luke 10:1-17.
Even though true Christians would have to be patient and understanding with each other’s flaws, they were told at Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.” — Good News Translation.
If you feel you have been let down by organized religion, you are not alone. The very things that frustrate most people about organized religion are condemned in the Bible. Read Matthew Chapter 23 and notice how Jesus condemned such religious hypocrisy.
Instead of rejecting organized religion as a whole, why not take a closer look into God’s Word to discover the kind of worship He approves. Then ask God to help you worship Him “in spirit and truth,” as Jesus said. In His own way and time, God will bring you in contact with those who do.
For if who we worship, how we worship and where we worship matters at all, it is going to matter most in the coming “Day of the Lord” — a day when all religions and their practices will be set in order.