I was just reading Time Mag’s “10 Ideas that are Changing Your Life” and specifically the section “The Rise of the Nones” by Amy Sullivan. She refers to the current trend of more people checking “none” on the religious affiliation demographic. The writer is careful to say that this is not to be construed as a reaction against religion but against organized religion.
I have often thought that if I were more enlightened then when asked what religion I am, I would answer, “I am nothing.” This would certainly be more Taoist, though an enlightened Taoist wouldn’t answer.
I’m not that enlightened.
I sometimes answer “Taoist” if I’m reflecting my mindset, other times “Buddhist” if I suspect that would require explanation, and then “Quaker” if referring to my cultural roots.
There’s an out-of-print children’s book that we read in our family entitled Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like by Jay Williams. In this story, a city prays to the sky dragon for deliverance from impending doom then reject the deity when he appears as a short, fat, bald old man. In spite of this, the dragon saves the city for the sake of a humble young servant who treats him respectfully and offers his final meal.
I find the moral to be that no one really knows anything for sure; true religion is defined by how we treat one another.
And I am reminded of the passage in the Christian Bible in which James the brother of Jesus says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
A conservative friend posted a political picture today that depicted an image of Barrack Obama with the following attribution: If you’re a soldier, or a Christian, or a hunter, you’re probably a TERRORIST! This struck me because other friends attribute to conservatives the notion that every hippie, Muslim, and environmentalist is a terrorist. And I find our country to be so polarized between such extremes, reacting under banners of Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal.
I can only observe that the trend described by Amy Sullivan could give us some hope. She describes those who self-select their religious affiliation as “none” as “turning away from organized religion and yet seeking rich if unorthodox ways to build….” (Read More) It is a shame that people don’t have more allegiance to their country and less to their government. That is to say, we should be ashamed that we don’t define ourselves by our dedication to each other instead of our dedication to some creed or political party.
While we dig around in the catacombs of what our country’s forefathers said for skeletons to hurl across the partisan aisle, why not remember one that united people.
“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
— Benjamin Franklin
It could well be in our zeal to hang over us our own particular banner of heaven that we have unfurled the flag about our collective necks.
Let us hope there still to be some hope for our country. And there may be… if the “nones” have it.