I know language changes or at least how words are used within cultures or by groups. One example is the Greek word “idiot” which simply described a private citizen who held no public office. I will avoid any political observations but perhaps we can agree the word has a much different meaning in our current culture.
C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity talked about the idea that the use of the word “gentleman” had morphed from a specific definition of a person who was a land owner into a general masculine idea, sometimes only a sign on a bathroom door. Lewis explained that to the term “Christian,” which at one time indicated a Christ follower, has become any concept with a vaguely spiritual idea. I would suggest the word Christian is often misused within the general context of religion and has suffered by its lack of a consistent definition.
Under the demographic heading of “religion,” one of the more recent categories is “none.” World magazine Global Briefs will at times indicate demographics when they are reporting an incident within a country. These usually consist of population, language, religion, governance, GDP, and major exports. A recent statistic for Latvia for example cited religion as 36% Lutheran, 20% Roman Catholic, 19% Orthodox (Russian) and 24% none. A “none” then would be a person not identifying with any particular group as in none of the above.
Google reports the demographic for “nones” in the United States at between twenty and twenty-nine percent. That number according to Google represents atheists and agnostics with others who have simply given up on “organized religion.” Given that statistic, I suppose we can assume “disorganized” religion is on the rise.
Some see the popularity of events like the “Burning Man” in the Nevada desert as an indicator of the rise in the interest in paganism in America. The word “pagan” itself has a historical root in the idea of polytheism (the worship of many gods). Currently paganism is popularly viewed as a religious/cultural community, worshiping the earth or nature. I am not sure if they view themselves as a “none” since worship is involved.
The point is everybody worships, serves or gives their lives to something. I am not sure who said it first, but someone suggested people are created with a God-shaped hole inside of them and it will be filled with something.
In what is often referred to as the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 20:3 (NIV) God made this simple command: “You shall have no other gods before me.” You may want to read verses four through six for the specifics. Of course our enlightened minds recoil at the idea of idolatry, but it does bring into question what we are spending our life on.
There is a simple observation Jesus made as recorded in Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our calendar and checkbook will show us what we are giving our life for. The good news is if we don’t like the answer we can always replace what is there with what was designed to fit.
Bill Upton is a retired chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.