The rise of alternative spirtualities in the US as traditional faith declines

Wutang

Hummingbird
Gold Member

Churches are bleeding members and less and less people are identifying as Christian but it doesn't mean that most people are turning into type of aggressive atheist we're used to seeing online all the time. Instead we're seeing a sort of non-Christian hyper-Protestantism where people are adopting whatever sort of beliefs they feel suits their spiritual needs.

There has been much discussion in the last few years about the rise of religious “nones,” or those who do not identify with a particular religion. The Pew Research Center reported in October 2019 that 26 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, up from 17 percent in 2009. Among Millennials, 40 percent are nones.


But this doesn’t necessarily mean that America is becoming a more “secular” society. Burton suggests a more complicated religious landscape, one in which people are still very much seeking something spiritual in their lives. Their spirituality is “a blend of what you might call traditional religious practices and personal, intuitional spirituality: privileging feelings and experiences over institutions and creeds.”

Indeed, Burton considers the social-justice activism of the Left to be perhaps the most compelling of the new godless religions: it provides adherents with a meaningful framework for understanding reality (original sin is rooted in the patriarchy and the other unjust institutions of society) and a sense of purpose in showing solidarity with the oppressed. These are reinforced by a church-like moral community that performs “call-out” rituals against oppressors on social media and at rallies. Burton continues in this vein throughout her book, chronicling the meaning-making and at times bizarre rituals of wellness culture, social-justice witches, the techno-utopians of Silicon Valley who want to turn us all into machines, acolytes of Jordan Peterson’s masculinist self-help, other “atavistic” men’s-rights groups, and even polyamorists and sexual utopians. (Sexual acts you shouldn’t Google are described by practitioners as “transcendent.”)


Something that I was a bit surprised about was a claim in the article about how only 15% of people in the US belonged to a church during the Revolutionary War era. My impression was that the decline of religion that we see right now is something that is unique in US history but it's actually something that has taken place before.

These “intuitional” religions and forms of spirituality are not exactly a new phenomenon, however. They have deep roots in American religious history. During the Revolutionary War era, just 15 percent of American adults belonged to a church. Christians at the time dabbled in fortune-telling and astrology. Ever since the birth of our country, there have been battles between institutional religion and more personal forms of piety.

A lot of the New Agey "you are God" stuff we see these days isn't new either.

One 19th-century craze known as “New Thought,” a precursor to the modern self-help movement, was particularly influential. New Thought founder Phineas Parkhurst Quimby believed that, as Burton puts it, “God—or at least a nebulously defined higher power—was in you, and you had both the right and the responsibility to channel that spiritual relationship in order to gain personally fulfilling results.” American religious affiliation hit its apex in the mid-20th century (an incredible 75 to 80 percent of Americans belonged to a local congregation in the 1950s) and subsequently declined, as the intuitional strain identified by Burton came roaring back. Traces of New Thought ideas like the “God within” and willing oneself to health and wealth can be found all over this renewed intuitionism, from the New Age and self-care movements, to the “pray and grow rich” prosperity gospel, to the belief on the social-justice Left that subjective feelings and experiences are inherently authoritative.
 

kel

Ostrich
Institutional traditional faiths - Christianity, but also Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. - have been becoming new-agey and unorthodox themselves, which doesn't help their case. Once you start telling people "this is all vague, flexible, optional stuff that you can adapt to suit yourself", why should they bother with "traditional" faith rather than just sampling from the buffet in a way that affirms their lifestyle?
 
The guy who runs the "Stuff White People Like" website said this back in 2008. In fact it's #2 on his list.

***************************************************************
#2 Religions that their parents don’t belong to
January 18, 2008 by clander

White people will often say they are “spiritual” but not religious. Which usually means that they will believe any religion that doesn’t involve Jesus.

Popular choices include Buddhism, Hinduism, Kabbalah and, to a lesser extent, Scientology. A few even dip into Islam, but it’s much more rare since you have to give stuff up and actually go to Mosque.

Mostly they are into religion that fits really well into their homes or wardrobe and doesn’t require them to do very much.
***********************************************************


This is satire of course but remarkably prescient. Lets be honest here. The vast majority of people don't know anything about "spirituality", that which pertains to the spiritual realm or the spirit of a person which was created by God. How can someone remotely understand "spirituality" if they can't even acknowledge that their spirit was created? They don't want to bothered with following God's commandments and statutes (I say this from a Christian perspective). See Psalm 19: 7-14.
 

SpyofMoses

Sparrow
A few even dip into Islam, but it’s much more rare since you have to give stuff up and actually go to Mosque.

This was the line that had me laughing so hard I marathoned that site's archives for a few days some years ago. "Religions their parents don't belong to" was such an accurate post, I thought, because I could relate to it. I doubted and became an apostate very young. Eventually I took to yoga, and in the yoga community there were a lot of people who were exactly this type of 'lazy spiritual'- people who just wore hippy attire, touted quotes from some Buddhist-themed self help author, etc. Some of them go as far as to put more effort in their pursuit of understanding another culture's religion than their own parents ever put into religion at all, and you will see these people either convert to one specifically(like the rare white person who converts to Islam and actually practices it), or create an ever-evolving amalgam of old religions to make excuses and thus hinder their spiritual growth. A third option is, of course, to convert back to your parent's religion(which is what I have done).

Once you start telling people "this is all vague, flexible, optional stuff that you can adapt to suit yourself", why should they bother with "traditional" faith rather than just sampling from the buffet in a way that affirms their lifestyle?

I think some clergy and the like are adopting this message in an attempt to convert more people since it makes it sound more agreeable. If you give people a list of rules right away they'll shy away from the message of why you do those things in the first place before they can understand it. Not every time, but often enough. Whether or not this makes for more of genuine faith, though, I dunno...

I wonder if America was a Christian nation by way of the more radical observers putting pressure on the less observant majority by way of taboos to create a religious majority?
 

Mithras

Chicken
Role of women in New age spirituality is crucial and not only from a quantitative perspective. We can speak about essentially matriarchal approach to spirituality. The major influence on almost all neospiritual streams was Theosophy, which was founded by a woman (Blavatsky) and significantly marked by women's leadership (Besant, Tingley). This is a kind of spirituality that is naturally appealing to women. What they found oppressive and too difficult to follow in traditional religions shaped by masculine principles of verticality, hierarchy, order, and law here is not present. In neospiritualist sects, we can find truly "progressive" and feminine features - democracy, pantheism, reincarnation, feminism, communication with spirits, a mix of sentimentalism and subjective phantasies etc.

Interesting is also a commercial aspect of it. Followers of New age consider as normal to pay for all kinds of "esoteric" stuff that is being sold to them by "enlightenment" gurus. The fact that these pseudo-gurus are often times millionaires and live luxury life is also normal to them. So it's evident that unlike traditional religions, New age is completely compatible with their decadent lifestyles and that's what is so attractive on that. Describing himself as materialist and atheist is not very popular, but "witch" or "pantheist" sounds certainly more cool and modern.
 

Dr. Howard

Peacock
Gold Member
Role of women in New age spirituality is crucial and not only from a quantitative perspective. We can speak about essentially matriarchal approach to spirituality. The major influence on almost all neospiritual streams was Theosophy, which was founded by a woman (Blavatsky) and significantly marked by women's leadership (Besant, Tingley). This is a kind of spirituality that is naturally appealing to women. What they found oppressive and too difficult to follow in traditional religions shaped by masculine principles of verticality, hierarchy, order, and law here is not present. In neospiritualist sects, we can find truly "progressive" and feminine features - democracy, pantheism, reincarnation, feminism, communication with spirits, a mix of sentimentalism and subjective phantasies etc.

Interesting is also a commercial aspect of it. Followers of New age consider as normal to pay for all kinds of "esoteric" stuff that is being sold to them by "enlightenment" gurus. The fact that these pseudo-gurus are often times millionaires and live luxury life is also normal to them. So it's evident that unlike traditional religions, New age is completely compatible with their decadent lifestyles and that's what is so attractive on that. Describing himself as materialist and atheist is not very popular, but "witch" or "pantheist" sounds certainly more cool and modern.

I wish I could remember the name of the event but I know it started in the late 1800s and was centered around Battle Creek MI. It added things like seances, communing with the dead, crystals etc. to Christianity. It split a number of churches but women were really drawn to it as it was "new" and added in the things you reference above.
 

Garuda

Kingfisher
The Battle Creek movement was called Harmonia.

I find it interesting that a very similar article saying Christians are deviating from the core truths was released the same time as the above.

https://www.christianpost.com/news/...uths-of-christian-worldview-survey-finds.html

Sixty-eight percent who embrace that notion identify as Christians, including 56% of self-described evangelicals and 62% of those who identify as Pentecostals. Sixty-seven percent of mainline Protestants and 77% of Catholics also embraced that idea, the findings show.

Slightly over half of Christian respondents said they believe someone can attain salvation by "being or doing good," a figure that includes, 46% of Pentecostals, 44% of mainline Protestants, 41% of evangelicals, and 70% of Catholics.

In addition to the viewpoint that eternal salvation can be earned, survey results show that 58% of Americans believe that no absolute moral truth exists and that the basis of truth are factors or sources other than God. Seventy-seven percent said that right and wrong is determined by factors other than the Bible. Fifty-nine percent said that the Bible is not God's authoritative and true Word and 69% said people are basically good.

The problem with these articles is that the sample sizes they use to create these statistics are way too small to be a truthful portrait of what's really going on.

The results are from a January 2020 survey among a nationally representative sample of 2,000 adults, with a maximum sampling error of approximately plus or minus 2 percentage points, based on the 95% confidence interval.
 

AlwaysMe

Sparrow

Churches are bleeding members and less and less people are identifying as Christian but it doesn't mean that most people are turning into type of aggressive atheist we're used to seeing online all the time. Instead we're seeing a sort of non-Christian hyper-Protestantism where people are adopting whatever sort of beliefs they feel suits their spiritual needs.






Something that I was a bit surprised about was a claim in the article about how only 15% of people in the US belonged to a church during the Revolutionary War era. My impression was that the decline of religion that we see right now is something that is unique in US history but it's actually something that has taken place before.



A lot of the New Agey "you are God" stuff we see these days isn't new either.

America is trash. All this shit is trash. Depressing. “When a man stops believing in God,” said GK Chesterton, “he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”
 
My impression is that Christianity as a faith is anti-fragile. The more it is attacked, the stronger it becomes. If the radical left really manages to steal this election and implements their agenda, there might be a resurgence of Christianity among younger Americans. There will be a day when Christianity is an edgy counter-culture in the US.
 
This is a sypmtom of the falling away of traditional Christianity. Many people who were raised in the church never really put in any effort, whether it was full participation, reading and studying their Bibles or partaking of the full experience in whatever church they belonged. These people in turn had children and were quite unprepared to pass on their faith. Some people, a lot of people I would say are in rebellion, against their parents, God, the system, patriarchy or what have you. Some just never had any spiritual guidance at all. And other reasons I am sure. The fact of the matter is humans are programmed for spiritual things and to seek after God. This is where the lost come in. People are lost and seeking something and they have only a vague idea of what that is. Modern churches in their attempt to fill this void falls very short, they try to be trendy and good feeling and behind it all very shallow and impotent. To top it off a lot of Christians present a poor example of Christ. Faith is not so much declining, it is lost and fumbling in the dark. There is something called the great commision, that is our work today.
 
I think it was Charles Murray (the sociologist who wrote The Bell Curve) who suggested that the "rise of the nones" was not much of a thing. His statement was that in prior decades if you asked someone who did not go to church what religion they belonged to, they would state whichever denomination their family had the strongest connection to. Now, they just say none.

Sure, people leave the faith, and always have. But I think some of the impression that Christianity is done for is foisted on us by the media. A great way to defeat a people is to make them think they have already lost.

Has there been a positively portrayed active Christian in a sitcom since the 1980's? Duck Dynasty was maybe the exception--but the religion came on the show after it was too big to stop. The last couple of business flights I was on last year, I noticed people quietly reading the Bible or some other Christian book. I had a fairly obscure religious book and the fellow next to me said he wanted to read it some day. Those were all well dressed, had-it-together, young professionals. They are not supposed to exist, are they? But there they were.

If people who are not actually religious say as much, is that such a bad thing?
 

Wutang

Hummingbird
Gold Member
I think Trump is a pretty good example of how a lot of boomers identify in terms of religion. He was baptized and confirmed as Presbyterian and was also married in a Presbyterian church and also attended for a bit when Normal Peale was still the pastor of his church. Other than that, religion seems to have been no part of his life until he started gearing up to run for the presidency. I'm guessing that there's millinons of other Christians from his generation that a similar relationship to the faith.

I remember reading once in a high school US history textbook about how church membership boomed after World War 2 and how an incredibly high percentage of Americans were part of one of the mainline Protestant denominations. At the same time, there was wide-spread religious illiteracy. The textbook mentioned how a ton of people who identified as Christians had trouble naming one of the Gospels. Now these people are simply just not even bother to maintain the illusion of being a Christian.
 

wannable alpha

Woodpecker
The pendulum can swing the other way pretty quickly. Someone on this forum had talked about how the Puritans were a reaction to the degenerate behavior of the English majority in 1500s-early 1600s. I don't see USA becoming USSR lite without a massive government effort to actively shut down churches. And that's just not going to happen.
 

Advorsor

Sparrow
Popular choices include Buddhism, Hinduism, Kabbalah and, to a lesser extent, Scientology. A few even dip into Islam, but it’s much more rare since you have to give stuff up and actually go to Mosque.

Mostly they are into religion that fits really well into their homes or wardrobe and doesn’t require them to do very much.

Don’t forget pantheism which Hollywood has been pushing for years now.
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Gold Member
It's not surprising to see Millennials acting this way because they treat every aspect of their lives as a buffet of personal preferences - just look at the incoherent musical tastes of your typical Pitchfork-addled startup-employed urbanite bugman, for instance. Religion is all about what makes them feel good or suits their preferences.

But religion that asks nothing from you and demands no change is little more than useless. That's why mainline churches parroting the Current Year narrative are deader than dead. If you're already getting the same messages from the dopamine IV-drip of mainstream news and entertainment media, what more do these churches have to offer? There's no point.

It's much more widespread within Christianity than the easy-target mainline churches, though. Evangelicalism is rife with this problem, too - they just position their goalposts at different spots and still offer some cursory resistance against ideas like gay marriage. There's the same lack of vitality, but they address it in different ways, using laser lights, fog machines, and slick power ballads to elicit an emotional response bringing people back. The high of seeing friends at church and participating in small groups consists of the rest of evangelicalism's glue, but in small groups, it's much more about the social aspect, with the actual theological content mostly feel-good fluff. A reliance on entertaining people to keep them coming back makes these churches scared to offend in many cases. The problem is that if this is why you come to church, it's easier and more convenient (and more fun) to get it from other sources.

Of course as somebody who's addressed this by going the Orthodox route, I'll tell you that although Orthodoxy is much more demanding and difficult, it's also much more rewarding because it challenges you to change rather than tailoring the faith to fit your personal preferences. Submitting yourself to the Church and being obedient and doing hard things like regular prayer, fasting, confession, and long services isn't easy at all but it actually makes you aware of your sinfulness and need for salvation and holiness.

- - -

So witchcraft and neo-pagan nonsense is the natural endpoint of the (post?) modernist mindset. It lets its adherents (particularly women) indulge in yet another identity-marker hobby to worship through their disposable income, and fill their luxury apartment with crystals and tapestries and other self-indulgent nonsense, without any demand or expectation to change anything about their themselves to meet any external standard. It's purely a lifestyle marker, like the car you drive, the single-origin pretentious coffee you drink, the cool French indie films you watch, and so on. This is without even getting into the malign spiritual side of things, wherein you're opening yourself up to demonic influence, but the average witchcraft adherent is probably already so spiritually deluded that the demons don't even have to put in much effort.
 
Top