One of my favorite quotes from Lenny Bruce is, “Everyday people are straying away from the church and going back to God.” Keep in mind, he said this back in the 1960’s. What Bruce knew long before the rest of us is that the American culture of greed and the corporate mentality of the country would eventually drive people away from the church or at least from organized religion. I can remember as a child one Sunday we were getting ready for church and I would not put on my “Sunday best” and was chastised for it. My response was “if Jesus won’t take me as I am, he doesn’t want me that badly”. Growing up in the South, church was like a Geico commercial, it’s just what you do. My parents were not outwardly religious but they felt it was their duty to see that us young ‘uns had a proper moral upbringing.
Why am I going on about religion? Well, for several reasons. I have just seen a Pew research study that now concludes that over 30% of the US population does not identify with any brand of organized religion. They are basically agnostic. That does not mean that we now have a country of godless heathens. What it means is that people in the 21st century are finding other ways to be spiritual without the corporate brand of any particular denomination. I believe modern Americans are more tolerant of each other and in general have a higher moral code because it comes from within rather that something dictated to you by an organized structured entity.
I bring this all up because as I listen to the political rhetoric this campaign season, I don’t hear any talk of “family values” or really anything of a religious nature if you discount Trump’s attacks on Muslims and Mormon’s distrust of Trump. The religious rhetoric of the Reagan-Bush years seems to have dissipated which I always found offensive. in the 1980’s a casual observer would have thought that in order to be a real American or a Republican more specifically you had to be an evangelical Christian or at least have a devout relationship with some form of religion. Instead of this trend being a harbinger of the end times, I see it more of an awakening in this country of self determination and self awareness. There is a new book out I have not yet read but plan to soon. It is Katherine Ozment’s “Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age” and from what I know, it examines what this large group of people who are termed “nones” (as in none of the above) are doing to replace the community aspect and the rituals of organized religion. Over the years, many have said that they felt that they were very spiritual people but not very religious and I think what they meant is that they did not need “big brother” to tell them how to behave. They were guided internally by their own sense of right and wrong and their own relationship to their fellow man and their universe.
If nothing else, this realization that not everyone is as “religious” as they once were has helped to get the piety out of politics and for that I am thankful.