|Belief + Doubt = Sanity, by Barbara Kruger (Hirshhorn Museum)|
On May 11, 1833, “Chicago’s first reformer,” Rev. Jeremiah Porter, arrived here to find “a wide, wet prairie, as far as the eye could reach, on a muddy river winding south over a sand-bar to the Lake with a few scattered dwellings.”
The Presbyterian minister also found, to his horror, a priest, John M. I. St. Cyr, who arrived 10 days earlier, and got busy raising a Catholic church, St. Mary’s, at State and Lake.
Not one to accept fate passively, Rev. Porter knelt beside St. Mary’s late at night and prayed for its destruction. Setting the tone for interdenominational relations for centuries to come.
That prayed-for doom has been slow in arriving. But a milestone was sailed past last week, as the Gallup Poll reported that for the first time in its 80-year history of prodding the American soul, most people in this country don’t belong to a religious congregation.
Only 47%t of Americans are members of a church, mosque or synagogue. In 1999, it was 70%.
That figure will only dwindle, since, like using a handkerchief, regularly sliding your keister into a pew is an elderly practice. The Gallup Poll found 66% of those born before 1946 belong to a congregation, but only 36% of millennials do.
The press is supposed to be the dread Beast, dancing around the bonfires of pagan secular humanism. But the story barely made a ripple.
Could all those naysayers be right? Does the media really ignore good news?
Is the decline of organized religion good news? Scratch any act of meanness, cruelty or spite and half the time you’ll find a religious person nodding vigorously, explaining how his big imaginary friend in the sky demands acting in an otherwise indefensible manner. Look at all the evil that faith has endorsed and it’s hard not to view religion as an engine of suffering, like disease.
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