Most Americans are, or should be, aware that the United States is clearly the epicenter of protestant fundamentalism. By my rough estimate, around 80 per cent or religious focused TV sound the old themes of Biblical inerrancy ,skepticism of science . opposition to the findings science, no matter how widely accepted such findings are. All the way from the thousand year old earth, the denial of evolution. the mocking of global warming. sexual preference as innate ==the findings bearing on these issues. and others, are still stoutly denied.
But my focus here is not on the ignorance of these views but how such immunity to science and reason is effecting the American religious landscape and what it could lead to.
Must has been said and written in the last decades about the decline in numbers, and thus in influence, of what is called "the main stream churches." And such decline has clearly been evident. Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, some forms of congregationalism struggle to keep membership figures. Even the Southern Baptist, historically fundamentalist. have had to creep up to the Republican Party, to help secure their, now mainly Southern anti liberal tendencies.
Now, I think there are two principal causes for the weakening of the main-line religions. First, the steady advance of science has made the rational undergirdings of supernatural religion less firm. What might have been accepted as quite believable ,say, 100 years ago, has become hard to accept. Just one example: The special creation by a creator of the world 5000 years ago is simply not acceptable even to those of very limited education. Denominations that attempted to grow by a combination of reason, tradition, and faith have seen reason(science) win much of the field , tradition not so sacrosanct , and faith, belief in the unseen, maybe not as good a tool to base living on
Second, we live in a world of many competing interest, and organized religion is just one among many. So how does organized religion 'hold its ground'?
Well, I suggest a "more bang for the buck" approach. I'm not just talking about bowling alleys, free movies, dawn to dusk activities, making the church your second 'home.'
No, I'm suggesting change the theological/practice scene, Bring back with much greater fervor the idea that was called "Enthusiasm" which was always around at least at the edge of historic Christianity and which Ronald Knox wrote so elegantly about. Religion is not primarily about reason and tradition. IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS RELIGION IS JUST A MATTER OF FEELING . Get the faithful together and through music, or preaching or visits of the holy spirit stir the emotional pot to boiling and reap the harvest of souls. How dare reason, tradition stand in the way of what we know by our own "inner feelings!!"