Number Attending Church Creeps Lower

By Davis Clipper
Bryan Gray
November 2, 2016

Experienced journalist, businessman living in Davis County

I have seldom written about religion or spiritual matters. There are three simple reasons. First, there are people who are more knowledgeable and passionate than I am. Second, religion is deeply personal, not the type of thing to bait in a weekly newspaper column. Third, what someone believes is nobody else’s business!

But as most of you are aware, the number of people attending church services in the U.S. continues to creep lower. Furthermore, the fastest-growing “religious group” in America are the “nones,” comprising people who have fallen away from established religions and found a personal spiritual life apart from church buildings, services, and dogma. Among Americans under age 35, there are reportedly more “nones” than membership in any single organized religion. The Pew Research Group finds a decreased membership and activity in almost every single religious faith.

Utah families recognize the fallout. Every family I meet admits to a son, daughter, or grandchild, sometimes even a spouse – of leaving his or her previous faith. Often, those who leave don’t join a different faith either.

The reasons vary of course. Some would trace it to the urbanization of America. Others point to an anti-religious sentiment from the entertainment industry. Still others blame the publicity surrounding the pedophile priest scandal. Then, of course, some religious stalwarts give all the credit to Satan himself!

I have a different take, helped along by a few events of the past week. I believe the drift from organized religion is simply a belief that many so-called Christians just don’t act very Christ-like.

At the University of Utah –Washington football game, a player suffered what appeared to be a severe concussion. A fan behind me simply shouted, “Give him some smelling salts and get the kid back in the game.”

A Utah political poll asked voters if the infamous video about Trump boasting about groping women had any effect on their vote. More than two-thirds said no. (Granted, some of these voters are Democrats who weren’t voting for him anyway.) In red-state and faith-centered Utah, can you tell me how a candidate can get by sexualizing his own daughter, brag about forcing himself on women because he is famous, and then denying accusations by saying the woman wasn’t pretty enough for him to assault? He can make fun of prisoners of war. He can ridicule handicapped people. Yet religious people are still fully on board with the man Tribune editor, George Pyle, calls “the creepiest man in the world.”

For followers of a man who taught that the second great commandment was to “love your neighbor as yourself,” it is remarkable that a blind eye is turned to how a person aspiring to leadership treats others.

A successful LDS rock singer, Tyler Glenn (Neon Trees) leaves his church and mocks founder Joseph Smith. He receives an email: “Was a fan, now I’m not and hope you get into a (car) wreck going to your next venue.”

Admittedly, many of those mentioned above are probably not active church goers, and we all know faithful members of any church who practice their religion humbly and meekly, without bombast and finger-pointing.

But I also suspect that the number of Utahns who find spiritual comfort outside of organized religion will continue to grow, just as it is across the rest of the country. Too often, they don’t see the “cup of kindness”; they see a mug of hypocrisy and ladles of guilt.

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