04 Mar What others may be thinking of you
March 4, 2016
Religion: What Others Are Thinking
By Ann Bailey
Most of us rightly care what our neighbors think of us. We value our civic relationships and want to be seen as responsible, caring citizens. Barna Group, a highly-regarded survey and research organization, recently released a study of how Americans think about their neighbors – those who are religious, that is. And, the news is troubling.
The authors of the study give this synopsis:
“Society is undergoing a change of mind about the way religion and people of faith intersect with public life. That is, there are intensifying perceptions that faith is at the root of a vast number of societal ills… The decades-old trend that Christianity is irrelevant is increasingly giving way to the notion that Christianity is bad for society.”
The survey takes a look at what Americans view as “extreme” religious behavior. You’ll want to read the full research release of the study, but here’s a sampling:
50 percent to 79 percent [of survey respondents] think this is “very” or “somewhat” extreme:
- Preach a religious message in a public place
- Attempt to convert others to their faith
- Teaching their children that sexual relationships between people of the same sex are morally wrong
- distribute religious materials door to door
- Believe that sexual relationships between people of the same sex are morally wrong
20 percent to 49 percent say this is “very” or “somewhat” extreme:
- Quit a good-paying job to pursue mission work in another country
• Wear special clothes or a head covering for religious observance
• Adhere to special dietary restrictions for religious reasons
• Fast or refrain from food for a period of time
• Wait until marriage to have sex
6 percent to 19 percent indicate this is “very” or “somewhat” extreme:
- Regularly donate money to a religious community (tithing)
• Abstain from alcohol or tobacco for religious reasons
• Read the Bible silently in public
• Attend church, synagogue or temple on a weekly basis
• Volunteer to help people in need
Are you a Religious Fundamentalist?
When we at United Families first became aware of this new study and what people currently believe to be extremist, we had a flashback to an article that we wrote and sent out to our UFI mailing list in May of 2011. The article documented a report that was presented at the UN during one of the UN Commissions that we were monitoring. We would have laughed it off as pure silliness if the subject matter and its implications hadn’t been so serious. This past article was written with a little bit of a “tongue in cheek” attitude and carried the title of “You Might be a Religious Fundamentalist.”
As we review the UFI article just five years later, it is sobering to realize that what we hoped was just an isolated bunch of UN radicals spouting their anti-religion rhetoric, has now become quite mainstream thinking here in the United States. Take a minute a read the past article, (here) and see the similarities to the attitudes documented in this new study.
How did we reach this point?
At least part of the explanation for this phenomenon may lie in these points:
- People have lost sight of the contribution religion provides to individuals, families and to society.
- Society is becoming increasingly irreligious – although many perceive themselves to be “spiritual,” they increasingly reject organized religion and view it as a negative force.
- The constitutional understanding of “free exercise of religion” has been perverted into a misguided belief that public life and public policy should be completely “free of religion.” The individuals that support this position don’t seem to recognize that pushing religion from the public square and replacing it with secularism is not displaying neutrality – it is simply the path to unduly privileging another form of religion – that of secular belief, actions, and positions.
- Those who actively work to remove all vestiges of religion from everywhere but the church, synagogue, or mosque – or inside the walls of your home -seem to have forgotten that religion in public is but the public opinion of those citizens who are religious. Religious opinion and advocacy has just as much right to be actively involved in the public square as a secular group and its opinion – no matter the topic or issue.
- People in the U.S. are moving closer to losing the understanding that religious liberty includes being able to speak, live and work in a manner consistent to one’s religious beliefs.
- Media and popular culture reinforces these anti-religion messages.
There is much you can do to support a positive understanding of religion
- Be aware of issues in your area that might affect religious liberty and work with others to protect it.
- Work to educate those around you as to the importance of religion to individuals and society and use social science research. Click here to view a compilation of some of that data.
- Teach your children the historic role of religion in the founding of the U.S. and its continuing role in teaching values which create strong families and communities.
- Don’t be bullied or intimidated by anti-religion rhetoric and assaults. Your voice as a religious person is needed, valued, and protected by the U.S. Constitution and many other nations’ constitutions offer similar protections. The United Nations Universal Declaration (1948) adds to that understanding:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” Universal Declaration, Article 18 (emphasis added)
- Continue to serve others and live your life so as to reflect the goodness and richness that your faith brings to you and your family.
- Be civil and kind, but continue to put forth the religious voice in the public square. Be brave. Be bold.
Ann Bailey is a longtime advocate for the family with a focus on UN and international policies.