Of course, there are various reasons for the steady decline of participation in traditional religion. Is there any doubt that there is also a steady secularization in societies? The reason I would like to focus on is the incredulity of many religious claims found in the traditions. Most of the traditions, at least in the West, still point to an interventionist supernatural mode of causation. The miracle stories in all the traditions are still taken seriously by many adherents. For some people, however, the idea that there are supernatural interventions taking place in the cosmos has become less and less tenable. Why? In a large part I think it is a result of people getting a feel for how things work in reality. I use the word “feel” purposefully. Most people in populations do not have a strong grasp of the details of causation as described in science. Instead they steadily attain a feel for the causal dynamics of life. Certainly the success of science in explaining many of the causal factors associated with reality has had a big impact. As people become more educated and science literate they attain some sense of how things nominally work. This sense has created a dissonance between what the traditions claim and what science claims. (more…)
The rise of religious pluralism in societies has created a new climate for theologians. As prominent theologian Langdon Gilkey says:
If I were asked what are the biggest changes in theology since the first half of the twentieth century, since the great neoorthodox days, I would mention, first, the concern for the issue of the pluralism of religions, and second, the deep, and very new, theological concern with nature.
There are many things that religion has in common with other forms of human endeavor. Religion creates community. It offers support and structure for society. It may even venture into the political and activist arena. However, the one area that makes religion distinctive is its focus on ultimates, the depth of reality. For whatever else religion is, its primary focus is on ultimate foundations and ultimate concerns. Religion asks the deepest questions about reality. Why is there something and not nothing? What is the meaning of the cosmos? What is the meaning and purpose of my life? What happens when I die? These are questions implied by life itself. They point to life’s deepest mysteries. They are the foundational realm of religion. (more…)