`Today, I quit being a Christian.''
With those words last week on Facebook, Anne Rice delivered a wake-up call for organized religion. The question is whether it will be recognized as such.
``I remain committed to Christ as always,'' she wrote, ``but not to being `Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to `belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious and deservedly infamous group. For 10 years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.''
You will recall that the author, famed for her vampire novels, made a much-publicized return to the Catholicism of her youth after years of calling herself an atheist. Now, years later, she says she hasn't lost her faith, but she's had it up to here with organized religion.
``In the name of Christ,'' she wrote, ``I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life.''
But Rice is hardly the only one who feels as she does.
According to a 2008 study by Trinity College, religiosity is trending down sharply in this country. The American Religious Identification Survey, which polled more than 54,000 American adults, found that the percentage who call themselves Christian has fallen by 10 since 1990 (from 86.2 percent to 76 percent) while the percentage of those who claim no religious affiliation has almost doubled (from 8.2 to 15) in the same span.
Organized religion, Christianity in particular, is on the decline, and it has no one to blame but itself: It traded moral authority for political power.
Consider that, after the election of 2004, a church in North Carolina made news for kicking out nine congregants because they committed the un-Christian act of ... voting for Democrat John Kerry.
Who can blame people for saying, If that's faith, count me out. Has atheism ever had a better salesman than Jerry Falwell blaming the Sept. 11 attacks on the ACLU or Pat Robertson laying Haiti's earthquake off on an ancient curse?
...it might behoove keepers of the faith to keep in mind the distinction Anne Rice drew in her farewell:
Christ didn't fail her, she said. Christianity did.
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Here's a pertinent quote from The Urantia Book:
Christianity suffers under a great handicap because it has become identified in the minds of all the world as a part of the social system, the industrial life, and the moral standards of Western civilization; and thus has Christianity unwittingly seemed to sponsor a society which staggers under the guilt of tolerating science without idealism, politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without restraint, knowledge without character, power without conscience, and industry without morality. 195:10.2
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