Living in a World with No Religion

My wife and I just returned from a vacation in Europe along the Danube River. From early on, we were convicted by how little we knew about the history of the region prior to the 1900s. The trip was amazing but also left me wondering: Is religion still relevant in the world?  

Our river cruise started in Budapest, Hungary and traveled up the Danube to Nuremburg, Germany, followed by two days in the city of Prague in the Czech Republic. We learned about the periods of nobility and the Holy Roman Empire (the HRE ran from from 962 to 1806 and is much different than the western Roman Empire… just Google it!). The architecture was beautiful including various churches, castles, and palaces full of statues and ancient relics. We saw Jewish heritage locations, including historic synagogues and heard of concentration camps used during the war. Our guides spoke of emperors and kings, changes in borders, varying languages and currencies. In many cases, there was an undertone of religious belief that held the people together during the upheaval of government regimes and multiple wars.

But I left wondering: Will the belief in God get lost amid the changing views of young people in a new European Union? And what do we make of the decline in Christianity in the United States?

The non-Religious Europe

According to an article from World Economic Forum, a report found that religion was “moribund” in Europe. The report found that young people, ages 16-29, in the Czech Republic are the least religious in Europe, followed by Estonia and Sweden. In the UK, 70% have no religion and only 7% call themselves Anglican (followers of England’s established church), while 6% of young people identify as Muslim. In France, 64% do not follow a faith. Overall, in 12 of the 22 countries WEF studied, over half of young adults claim not to identify with any particular religion or denomination. 

Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University in London, says religion is no longer passed down from parent to child. He told The Guardian that “With some notable exceptions, young adults increasingly are not identifying with or practising religion.” Bullivant says that “In 20 or 30 years’ time, mainstream churches will be smaller, but the few people left will be highly committed.”

The Rise of the “Nones” in the U.S.

The religious landscape of the United States continues to change as well. A Pew Research Center surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, indicated that just 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians, down 12% over the past decade. The religiously unaffiliated now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009. The biggest declines are in mainline Protestant denominations and Catholicism.

In his book, The Rise of the Nones, James Emery White explores the fastest-growing religious group in America: the “Nones.” The term describes the phenomenon of religious disaffiliation in the U.S. to describe people who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular. In surveys, more and more people check the “None” box when asked about their religious affiliation.

The good news is that the increase of religious “nones” has flattened out according to Pew’s 2023 polling

Some Christians Act So “unChristian”

Sadly, I think one of the reasons for the increase in religious disaffiliation is that many our world has become too “unChristian.” Despite living with a “True Freedom” of Independence, American Christians have become too political, too hypocritical, insensitive, and judgemental. Unfortunately, evangelical Christianity has become a large part of the political message. Our country is losing the separation of church and state defined by our Constitution. People no longer listen but shout at each other, rather than fight for the common good.

Problems from power and abuse by clergy has also led to the decline in church attendance. It created more “Nominal Christians,“ which is defined as those who believe in God but do not actively engage with the faith. Many are against organized religion and have chosen to become “dechurched.” Parents are now raising a generation of “unchurched” children who do not know about God’s love and saving grace.

So how should believers in Jesus Christ live in today’s changing culture? 

Living Christian in an un-Christian World

Christians have always lived, and often thrived, in cultures where they are the minority. Christianity began in a Jewish culture and thrived in a pagan Roman empire. They were called to live different than the rest of the world. The ancient people wanted a king or messiah. But God sent His Son Who became their servant. He didn’t start a religion. He taught a new way of life.

The apostle Paul, writer of nearly half the New Testament, offers advice to the church in Corinth which lived in the midst of a very pagan society. In 1 Corinthians 5:9, he encourages the Christians to clean up their own affairs. The church was in a mess with sexual shenanigans, internal bickering, and a deep division between rich and poor. Paul gives them some advice, but also says not to worry about whether others follow Christian moral teaching. His point: Be strict with yourselves and expect fellow Christians to obey the demands of Jesus. But don’t hold others to the same rules. That’s judgmental.

Peter also gives us advice on living Godly lives in a non-Christian pagan society. He reminds us to love one another and revere God (1 Peter 2:11-25). We must treat everyone with dignity and respect, and see beyond differences in ethnicity, race, social status, or religion. It also means we are to honor God and have a healthy respect for our Creator.

GodBuddies Live Like Jesus

GodBuddies help each other believe in something greater than oneself and follow Jesus. Christ gave us a new way of life that leaves behind any desires for power or privilege. It puts aside resentment and eases anxiety. It helps us forgive others and even love our enemies. He commands us live in harmony with those who have different beliefs. So trust in the real King of the world, not any ruler, emperor, dictator, or president.

Wisdom for Men is based on my opinions on topics that help men become better men. The sources used for these posts are not fact-checked, but support my theory that men are better with deeper, more authentic friendships. My GodBuddy theory is based on biblical principles but applies to all men, regardless of their beliefs. Better friendships among men will help solve the crisis of male friendships and many of today’s problems… because the world needs better men!

[Feature photo by Rich Gorecki from the Charles Bridge in Prague, the city of a Hundred Spires]


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