Losing My Religion

What has been the most significant change in the American experience over the past century? The internet, civil rights, antibiotics? The transition from a manufacturing to a service economy, or rapid urbanization? Right up there, I believe, is the displacement of religion from the center of our culture and what has taken its place. Religions and religious institutions play key roles in society, practical and spiritual. Humans are meaning-makers, we’re wired to imbue our actions with purpose. We will have gods, even if forced to make them of mortals … or machines.

It Works (Sometimes)

Religion is successful because it works. Participation in religious services is correlated with a reduction in mortality by a third, depression by 25%, and suicide rates by 3 to 6 times. Religion motivated the construction of cathedrals, pyramids, and temples that, set against space travel and pocket computers, still invoke awe. Here in the secularizing U.S., religious people are 3 times as likely to be active in community organizations and twice as likely to participate in local sports leagues. They’re also 44% more likely to vote and 44% more likely to describe themselves as “very happy.”

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