I recently reported the data from our last census showing the decline of the numbers of Christians in New Zealand, and the associated increase in people declaring they have no religion (see Census 2013 – religious diversity). It’s interesting to consider the consequences if the trend continues. As the graph below shows, the”crossover point” (when the number of Christians = the number of No religion) will occur in 2016 – only 2 years away. Christianity itself will decline even further so that in about 20 years it will likely have only 20% of the census responses.
I think most people now accept that secularisation in the modern pluralist, democratic societies is a fact. (Although Christian apologist WL Craig still clutches at straws to deny this – see Philosopher reveals his predictions for the future of Christianity in America). Only the reasons for this are debated.
Of course, there is not going to be just one factor – life is never that simple. But one that interests me is changes in the way we perceive the representatives of religion. In my younger years I was quite happy to respect religious leaders – and give to religious charities. Despite my rejection of their beliefs I still held a certain amount of trust in those leaders. But not any more – and I think I am not alone in this.
Gallup recently released results of their latest poll of American’s attitudes towards professions (see Honesty and Ethics Rating of Clergy Slides to New Low). The poll asks people to rate the honesty and ethics of people in different fields. Gallup reported:
“Americans’ rating of the honesty and ethics of the clergy has fallen to 47%, the first time this rating has dropped below 50% since Gallup first asked about the clergy in 1977. Clergy have historically ranked near the top among professions on this measure, hitting a high rating of 67% in 1985.”
The graph below demonstrates this decline of trust in clergy.
Again, the decline in rating of the honest and ethics of religious clergy will probably have multiple causes. Sex abuse in the church will be a significant cause. As will attempts to promote outdated and inhumane attitudes on moral issues.
For me another strong cause of declining trust is the way that prominent Christian leaders and their news media will flagrantly misrepresent science – particularly evolutionary science . I agree, those specific leaders might not be representative of all Christians (who is), but these other Chrsitians seem unwilling to criticise them.
How can one maintain trust in people who knowingly misrepresent well established scientific facts and ideas? And how can one maintain trust in their associates who remain silent about that misrepresentation?