All-too-often these days we hear about the rise of doubt and the loss of certainty with regard to religious faith; the rise of angst and the loss of confidence; the rise of sorrow and the loss of joy; the rise of suffering and the loss of innocence; the rise of the ‘nones’—or the ‘nons,’ whichever you prefer—and the loss of believers. The trend in America has (relatively recently) finally begun to align itself with that which has characterized Europe for nearly a century—i.e., the pews are less and less full, and religious communities are doing better and better at failing to hold sway in the hearts, minds, and souls of their saints and sinners. With virtually every report comes some speculation or explanation for the decline, but what becomes quickly apparent is that almost no one really knows what’s going on or how to bring about a stable long-term course correction.
But, what if these developments are indicative of a fundamental confusion about religion itself? What if religion isn’t about what so many have so often presumed it to be? What if, for example, religion is not about belief? What if religion isn’t about truth-claims? What if religion isn’t about the sort of truth-telling that provides information about actual/factual/historical states of affairs? What if religion isn’t about the existence of an all-powerful creator, the creation of a universe, or the control of a planet? What if religion isn’t about the existence of a supreme being? What if religion isn’t about the absolute origin of things—the primordial beginnings of the universe that took place in some remote corner of the cosmos? What if religion isn’t about the final destination of things—the absolute end game that will take place in some far away, transcendent, unseen place? What if, instead, religion is about this time, this place, this people . . . here, now, together? What if religion is about renewing, recovering, reviving, and reforming? What if religion is about the making of persons, and not of worlds? What religion is about intimate loving relationships, bringing persons in close proximity to one another? What if religion is ultimately dependent on me, us, human beings and not other-worldly demonic or heavenly beings? What if what matters most in religion is right here, right now, this world, the present, that which is entirely imminent?