Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Return of the Jedi

A short break from the Samuel/Saul series to reflect on the religious state of the nation, as caught in the last census.

I have to add that I'm talking about the 2006 New Zealand census here. Any resemblance between Kiwi religiosity and Uncle Sam's is, I suspect, purely coincidental.

Firstly, the imperious Anglicans are in freefall. In this little nation of four million, that church is now down under 600,000. That doesn't surprise me, having read three books recently about the contemporary Church of England. Simply stated, they're seriously screwed up. The Catholic numbers are drawing level, and one suspects that their commitment factor is vastly higher (even in Blighty there are more Catholics in church on Sunday than Anglicans). The Presbyterians barely scrape 400,000.

Having put the boring old conformist sects to one side, the second-rankers provide more interesting fare. A mere 56,913 Baptists - still ahead of the Mormons (43,539). Wicked, depraved persons who wrote "Jedi" as their religion (20,241 of them!) outnumber Jehovah's Witnesses, Exclusive Brethren, Jews, Sikhs and Rastafarians.

The Dominion Post article which I've used as a source hasn't bothered with outer fringe groups like the WCG, but I'd say they're out-light-sabred by the Jedi by at least 40 to 1.

Lutherans in the US outnumber the Episcopalians last I heard (even if a few million belong to deviant groups like the Missouri and Wisconsin synods). Here Lutherans are lucky to reach 5,000, and the DomPost article ignores them altogether. However no less than 1.3 million New Zealanders described themselves as non-religious last year, the fastest growing "faith" in the land.

May the Force be with them all.


minimalism said...

This reflecte the US trend where here too the fastest growing segment is the inactive/indifferent. Even of those who align themselves with mainline denominations in surveys, we know vast numbers of them are inactive/indifferent (How many of those "60.000" WCG members would be in this category ?)

Yet Douglas Winnail would like to bluff us into thinking that secularism, science, scholarship, and rationalist critics of religion are having no impact because there's "a worldwide resurgence of interest in religion"

camfinch said...

What's interesting in the U.S., as well as in other parts of the world, notably areas of Latin America, is the shift that seems to be taking place within Protestant Christianity. I think it's probably true that the inactive/indifferent category is growing substantially in the U.S., not to mention what might be a new assertiveness by agnostics/atheists/Deists emboldened by an anger toward the theocratic Religious Right and the apparent disdain by the Bush administration toward hard science. But the striking trend is that mainstream Protestantism in America, in slow decline for decades, has pretty much given way to various forms of born-again evangelical revivalist Christianity. They're the ones who make waves, stand out, get all the attention. So that it may SEEM that there is a burst of religious interest going on here in the U.S., as well as in some other countries. But maybe it's really a case of squeaky-wheel Protestant evangelicals making a lot of noise.

Revivalism has come in different waves in America since the First Great Awakening of the 1700s, and more notably the Second Great Awakening of the early 1800s, which created modern revivalism as we know it to this day. Over time there have been swells of revivalistic fervor, including right now. And fervent evangelical Christianity, especially of the Holiness variety, is "stealing" so many people away from the Roman Catholic churches in Latin America that over time the religious demographic in that part of the world may be radically altered.

Stan said...

Evangelical Protestants flood the airwaves with little to no oversight. With so many well publicized financial, sexual, and religious scandals, who can blame the public for tuning out and turning off Christianity entirely?

Exploiting the vulnerable with the prosperity gospel “plant a seed” really pays off handsomely with millions in the bank. That, along with false prophecies of World War III, the Second Coming, crowd manipulation, faked miracles and fraudulent healing.

Jim Bakker served a prison sentence for financial improprieties associated with his ministry. Herbert W. Armstrong should have for his deceitful financial fraudulence.

Jimmy Swaggart had his tearful confession about prostitutes, but not GTA who didn't see it as a problem. Oral Roberts incident demanded that his audience give him $8,000,000 or that God would take him home. The ploy worked, he got the loot. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blame September 11th as divine retribution on American immorality instead of a religious crusade.

Personality cults are promoted around televangelists all too frequently, with their flamboyant personal jet set lifestyles, large homes and properties, and luxury cars. Accountablity is a joke. Board of directors are made up of appointed cronies or family members with the operations run with less accountability than a privately held family business, just as it is with the WCG.

So it is with the Tkachs. The Tkach family had considerable personal experience living under the Armstrong family. After shrinking the WCG bank, Joe and Tamara Tkach now want to talk nonstop about grace. But they now act as if they are completely above the law and genuine public accountability to the membership. Don’t ask about their salaries, and what their jet plane or all expense paid luxury fall cruises travel are costing. Or for their denominational financial statements.

papal said...

Minimalism said "a worldwide resurgence of interest in religion"

However, one cannot suffer religious persecution in an irreligious society.

Maybe it's time for a prophet to come on the scene to turn the hearts of the children to their Father and the Father to His children before He comes and smites the earth with a curse. Isaiah tells us that our sins have hid His face from us … Repent and flee from the wrath to come! And Peter tells "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up."

Corky said...

There are more atheists and agnostics than people think there is. Most though, cannot afford to let it be known because of jobs, careers, business and social standing.

More importantly, they consist of the better educated and the more intelligent people of the population.

One only need to visit some of the "christian" forums on Delphi to see this fact.

I've also noticed that the defenders of the faith on those forums are all poor in grammar and spelling and show a complete lack of education in history and science.

The most remarkable thing is that the atheists and agnostics on those forums know the Bible better than do the "Christians".

You would think that a professing christian would at least read the bible one time in their life. It is said though, that the cure for the religion is to just read the book and it's true, unless the person has already been indoctrinated, in which case, nothing helps until they help themselves.

Charlie said...

Corky - I take issue with your statement. Not every Christian is from the hills of Tennesee, many of us as just as educated as your Atheist or Agnostic. I have noted that Atheists tend to be even more strict literalists where it pertains to the bible than Christians are. I guess they feel it proves their points better.

Poor written grammar is not necessarily an indication of intelligence, rather more likely an indication of sloppiness and laziness.

You are painting with the same broad brush as armstrongists do, just using a different color.

Corky said...

Charlie said...
"Corky - I take issue with your statement. Not every Christian is from the hills of Tennesee, many of us as just as educated as your Atheist or Agnostic."

Agreed! But, you have to keep in mind where the most "christian" are. The Bible Belt - where the least educated of the population exists.

I realize there are a FEW educated and highly intelligent Christians, as Paul pointed out "not many" (I Cor. 1:26) but instead God chose the weak things of the world etc. etc.

The vast majority of "christians", millions and millions, believe that 1+1+1=1, go figure.

Was there literally one angel in the tomb or was there literally two? And if not literally, what?

But, I reckon it doesn't matter if one can't count anyway.

A person's intelligence can't be too high if they believe that Israel had an army of 1,300,000 men in ancient times. Poor ole Alexander must have been scared s**tless what with his pitiful army of only 40,000.

There is hardly anything that impresses me more than an intelligent, educated believer in myths.

Charlie said...

Corky - Believing in God and recognizing the faults of the bible are not mutually exclusive ideas...Just for the fundamentalists. It is no different for your hardcore Athiest. They insist that evolution is science when it is in fact not, evolution is a philosophy.

Corky said...

Charlie said...

"It is no different for your hardcore Athiest. They insist that evolution is science when it is in fact not, evolution is a philosophy."

That will be news to evolutionary biologists and geneticists, they think it's a science. I'll let you tell 'em.