Then, too, the manifest failure of many churches to keep their own commandments, the pulse of scandal in religious life, makes their claim to offer higher and harsher wisdom seem to be discredited.
A second hurdle is the anti-supernaturalism of meritocracy: The average Ivy League professor, management consultant, or Google engineer isn’t necessarily a strict materialist, but they’ve all been trained to some sort. of scientism, which views strong religious belief as fundamentally anti-rational. , miracles as superstition, the idea of a personal God as so many pious wishes.
So, when spiritual ideas re-enter elite culture, it is often in the form of ‘welfare’ or self-help disciplines, or enthusiasms like astrology, where there is always some denial. to know if you are really invoking spiritual reality, truly engaging in metaphysical belief.
My feeling is that these two obstacles work together effectively to prevent people from believing in religion. If someone has an experience that questions their disbelief, their association of mainstream religion with sex prohibitions, bigotry, or scandal is often enough to keep them from being drawn by that experience to a church or synagogue. .
Alternatively, if they feel drawn to a desire for community or moral training to experience church practice – perhaps in a liberal or “seeker-sensitive” community, rather than reactionary or republican – then their materialistic prevents them from persevering, getting up early to perform rituals or recite beliefs they cannot really believe.
I’m not sure exactly how this blocking pattern could be broken. But I will say that the second hurdle seems by far the weakest. In other words, I think I understand fairly well why my secular neighbors doubt the piety of churches that seem to treat homosexuals or women unfairly or that appear to be run by fools and hypocrites. But I’m more intrigued by secular people who think that the rationality of religion has, in modern conditions, been somehow refuted.
Yes, science has undermined some religious ideas once held with certainty. But our supposedly “disenchanted” world remains the kind of world that inspired religious belief in the first place: a miraculously ordered and lawful system that generates conscious beings who can mysteriously reveal its secrets, who display divine powers in miniature. and also a strong demonic tendency, and whose life is constantly shaken by encounters difficult to explain and clues of transcendence. To be abandoned in such a world and not to be constantly open to religious possibilities sounds much more like prejudice than rationality.