Texas Faith 16: Why are fewer Americans identifying with a religion?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

The number of Americans who don't identify with any religion is growing. A new study by Trinity College suggests that more than one in five Americans will identify themselves as "Nones" in religious terms in 20 years (up from 15 percent now). Most would not consider themselves atheists. But they are increasingly skeptical of organized religion and clerics. They are, said one researcher, a stew of agnostics, deists and rationalists - and their numbers appear to be increasing.

Clearly, interest in religion is high. News magazines run cover stories. Megachurches are booming. Political campaigns target churchgoers as a valuable metric to win elections.

So here's this week question:

So why are fewer Americans identifying with a religion, denomination or particular faith group? Why are a growing number of people becoming faith-free? And if the trend continues, is it a matter of alarm?

Read on to see how our panelists respond:

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

The trend of faith in science and materialism is on its sway. As we see that people in countries around the world who for decades and centuries were satisfied with a simple life have been leaving the countryside to work in factories in the cities. All this for a so called higher standard of living. Giving up their stress free lives of good organic food and good relationships they adopt the modern religion of materialism. Without spirituality one must look for a sense of satisfaction outside of one's self. Much of this is due to education, for in general it is ok to speak about religion in education provided that your speaking is criticizing religion.

It is true however that denomination is not so important. While faith/religion may change, dharma does not. One can change from a Christian to a Catholic but spiritual needs remain all the same. What is Dharma? Dharma means one's essential characteristic. For example the dharma of fire is that it is hot. Or the dharma of water is that it is wet. It would not be fire if was not hot. What is the Dharma of the soul? The Dharma of the soul is to love and this loving propensity is only satisfied when applied to the Supreme Lover, God.

In which way IS denomination important? Denomination is important in the sense that if someone claims that they follow all religions, or all teachers, or picks an choose, a jack of all trades, in reality such a person does not follow any really follow any teaching.

It is matter for alarm? Yes, people suffer because lack of actually connecting to God. They therefore suffer as eternal beings trying to find happiness in a temporary world.

Hare Krishna :)

Your humble servant,

Nityananda Chandra Das

To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here

Comments

Wed, 09/30/2009 - 17:03 — NityānandaChandra

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Here are some comments that I have left in the forum

Dear RelicMM, You have stated "God is truth. Truth has no variations(?)" Do all people have the same ability to digest that truth? The Buddha gave a wonderful example. A group of blind men examine an elephant.

One who touches the belly describes it like a barrel,

another touching the tail describes it like a rope,

another touching the feet describes the elephant like a tree trunk,

another touching the nose describes it large serpent,

another touching the ear describes this elephant as a like a thick piece of leather.

Are these not truths that the blind men speak?

then one person madjess left this response

Posted by madjess @ 8:33 AM Wed, Sep 30, 2009

Great example by Nityananda Chandra Das, of the variations of truth. We on earth are all blind to some degree in relation to God.

Relic and others talk about the truth as they see it through their eyes, or their other senses, or their experiences, etc

Turth is everywhere yet nowhere.

Relic continues to talk about the Church that God built, like it's some physical place and if you are outside that physical place that determines who is in and who is out in God's plan, (according to Relic).

Scripture in the Holy Bible states that God's church is ultimately not a physical place but is in the hearts of His followers. Those followers come from all walks of life, (Romans Chapter 2, Romans Chapter 15 and numerous other passages that I have already quoted on these blogs verify this).

From a Christian viewpoint the Spirit of Christ is not found by looking inside a physical structure but is is found by looking into the hearts of your fellow human being, whether they be Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Baha'i, etc., but a lot of Christians don't realize this.

I know just as many Christians that lead a Godly life as don't. I also know many people of other faiths that are more Christian and Jesus like than those that call themselves Christian.

Once humanity can look into the hearts of God's followers through the Spirit, instead of what is purported through the flesh, then we can finally move beyond all prejudice into God's true Kingdom here on earth.

And that is exactly why fewer people are identifying themselves with a religion, they see it as nothing but decisiveness, full of hypocrites, it's of the flesh and not of the Spirit.

this was my response

Dear Madjess, thank you for words of encouragement. I also enjoy reading what you have stated. That is what I would call a bodily conception of life, or as you said flesh. God is not a bigot, it is the quality of ones love that attracts the Lord's attention and nothing else. Just a good man will accept a loving wife born of a broken family so similarly the Lord will accept the genuine love of anyone, even if that person is from a broken tradition.

Wed, 09/30/2009 - 17:06 — NityānandaChandra

NityānandaChandra's picture

then a person by the name of Jerry left

the following comment

Posted by Jerry @ 11:48 AM Wed, Sep 30, 2009

In response to the elephant analogy, Nityananda Chandra Das, the whole thing fails at one major point: the Buddha telling the story must be able to see the entire elephant, and know that it is an elephant. The narrator, the Buddha, therefore is not blind. This analogy backfires in that it betrays an attempt at humility, but is in reality cloaked in the same claim to superior knowledge of a singular truth, that it attempts to reject.

this was my reply

Posted by Nityananda Chandra Das @ 12:30 PM Wed, Sep 30, 2009

Very good point Jerry, one note is that it is not only the Buddha who using this analogy.

So God; Can the infinitesimal soul know the infinite completely? no.

Can God, the infinite have the power to empower souls to understand Him to a certain degree? Yes.

In the Bhagavad Gita God states that He simply reciprocates with us according to our faith, love and surrender. So as per the reciprocation of the atheist, God become nothing for that person. In fact God within the heart of the atheist gives him arguments against His own existence. For all knowledge comes from God. Krishna states according to degree and quality of love He will reveal Himself. Because love can be of different qualities, not stale but dynamic, realizations of the Lord are dynamic.

You have people in this world that you love as a superior, your teacher... You have people that you love as equals, such as a friend. You have people that you love as a dependent such as a child, and you have people that you love in conjugal way. So in this limited material world relationships and reciprocation are dynamic. Are we do expect any less in the spiritual world? or from the source figure of this world, God? So according to how we approach God He reveals Himself.

Therefore one perfected soul's realization of their relationship with God will not be exactly the same as another perfected soul's realization of God. This is because everyone has an individual relationship with God.

So God is no blind, nor are the perfected soul's A perfected soul they still cannot understand all aspects of God.

This is just like a man who can see. He can see a mountain but all of the mountain at the same time. He cannot see all sides of the mountain and the inside and outside of it at the same time. He has limited scope of vision, unlike God's scope of vision

Tue, 09/29/2009 - 19:47 — jivatattva

jivatattva's picture

Dharma and Denomination

Words that begin with a D.

I like what you are saying about Denomination, that's good Dharma!

I read thru all the other statements from some of the others like, DANIEL KANTER-

"Many souls are hungering and thirsting for religious knowledge, truth, and righteousness. To them the old dogmas, doctrines, and creeds appear outgrown. These persons are at sea without a chart or compass...."

Or

GEORGE MASON-

"religion has done a poor job generally of answering the difficult questions about the mysteries of human existence and the meaning or purpose of life in the face of a world that has lost its imagination"

I find this is a reoccurring theme with people and at the Top of the list of complaints people have about organized religion.

I have found though, that we seem to be embarking on a new energy in society. Its my observation that a great deal of the lack of association with religion in society is due to peoples associating religion with a 'slowness' - with all the fast pace stimuli in modern society and massive numbers of people having short attention span, short fuses and little time. This could be seen as a lifestyle flaw, and it is to a degree.

But this lifestyle has enhanced 'the speed of comprehension' out of the necessity to react quicker to a quicker moving external environment.

This quickening in combination with other states of the societies ego, has created an intolerance for anything that seems to be archaic.

But I found this to be a positive thing in some ways.

Within the past few years or so it seems ordinary People seem to comprehend more advanced ideas and concepts of spirituality very easily when they are just simply presented with the challenge of a heavy spiritual concept - this is a profound change in the aptitude of the general populous- something is different, greater numbers ordinary people know that they are not the body (they may not have internalized it totally) and they are just plain board hearing these things, and many just blank out on the 101 stuff.

Of course there are many people that have not assimilated lesson one- but the general populous seems to be able (and more willing) to assimilate lesson two.

There is a new energy, it seems on the surface that people are backing away, but they are willing for 102, its like a collective ADHD in society, two steps ahead of the moment.

Haribol

Wed, 09/30/2009 - 16:56 — NityānandaChandra

NityānandaChandra's picture

Thanks for your comment

Thanks for your comment Jivatattva Prabhu