A sign on a commercial building in the neighborhood where I live reads, “Interested in God, but not religion?” The invitation is to attend a church that advocates spirituality over any particular faith. Evidences of “unaffiliated” or “unchurched” people are on the rise – a trend unsurprising in an age of selfish individualism and progressive ideologies.
Younger generations, always the first group in search of themselves, obviously trend away from organized religion, let alone orthodox faiths such as Mormonism, Catholicism or Judaism. Even us old guys remember the Summer of Love and the hippie movement. Everything in the ’60s was about “spirituality” and finding purpose in life. But the fact is that everyone searches for purpose in life. Everyone is significantly spiritual at least at one point in life. And everyone seeks to belong to something meaningful and communal. It’s simply a part of the human DNA – we are spiritual creatures.
And yet so many disillusioned and disaffected people are convinced they aren’t really seeking God or answers to life’s most important questions revolving around human purpose. Like zealous journalists, they insist they are “objective” about such things. Everyone has an opinion – even those people who claim some sense of objectivity.
What do spirituality, religion and faith have to do with law, politics and policy? Of course, they have everything to do with them. Even for skeptics such as Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson, a culture of faith meant a great deal to their politics and how they viewed the world around them. They and others of the founding era could easily distance themselves from “popery” or the evils of a state religion and still find themselves comforted by the reality of Nature’s God. How we view the meaning of life creates the context for how we view how life is to be lived and how our governments are to govern. In other words, everyone’s individual spirituality or demonstrations of faith – be they a hopeful thought, a heartfelt desire, a silent prayer or a seasoned sermon – impacts our view of government.
It is no secret that devoted people of faith, especially of orthodox faiths, tend to be more conservative and view the proper role of government in limited ways. Likewise, people who identify as simply spiritual or nonreligious or unaffiliated with any religion tend to be more liberal or progressive. They see government as an instrument to construct a world that people of orthodox faith insist has been constructed independent of overarching government.
There’s a reason why social issues have become points of great divide in America: Social issues reflect the great divide between people of faith and people of secular conscience. Every human being has spiritual DNA bending their obstinate will toward a discovery of the meaning of life. But secularists consistently rely on a god-less science as their god – constantly defending their ideologies with a reliance of some observable something. In truth, even these secularists are deeply emotional, often irrational and, moreover, totally human. They long for peace and happiness just like everyone else – even as they deny the very spiritual roots of peace and happiness found in the deeper rational, but non-scientific, journeys of the human soul.
When I see a sign asking, “Interested in God, but not religion?” I’m inclined to reply, “Interested in sex, but not intimacy?” And that reminds me why Americans are in a culture war because, indeed, that’s the kind of public policy “unaffiliated” progressives feel compelled to pursue – life without substance.
For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.
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