Every now and then, when a slow news week rolls around, there is a story about how religion is dead – or at the very least dying. This week was one of those weeks. I am not joking as I retell the story of a kitten that got stuck in a car’s suspension spring. It climbed up there overnight to stay warm and couldn’t get out in the morning. Nor could it get out as the owner of the car drove it around his suburb all day. Don’t worry, it ended well when (cliché alert): firemen saved the kitten! I didn’t know they actually saved cats in distress, I thought that only happened in American movies. I was surprised that it was such a slow news week but there is only so much you can say about the tragedy in Japan and the travesty in Libya at the moment. It’s not news when an awful situation remains the same.
During stories about the death of religion, which means “death of Christianity” when it’s on Australian TV, there are usually images of old guys in robes, high ceilinged cathedrals, bells, incense (and as a protestants might gibe, nonsense). There is some evidence to suggest people are indeed leaving traditional Churches in large numbers. However to call it the death of religion is a bit of a stretch. Perhaps what is passing away is the perception of religion in this country and I think there are some people who would indeed like to kill religion and are enjoying the decline of their perception. They may be disappointed when they find that their perception of religion has all but disappeared only to find that it has not actually died but it just morphed and now it looks different. It only appeared dead but it rose again. You can’t kill something that is part of our human nature and collective reality. For there to be no more religion there would have to be no more humans.
It could be that society’s religion-perception is dying and therefore in direct proportion we are increasingly becoming what feels like a nanny state. As we place an ever increasing value on the relativity of truth and morality there is a simultaneous panic at the thought that people are losing their traditional (western) moral compass. There must be something to fill the gap. The masses must be buried under an ever growing plethora of rules as we legislate correct behaviour. Our governmental system is assuming that religion is dead and people are generally bad and therefore need to be controlled by more laws, speed cameras, cctv cameras, security checks and more social interventions than ever before.
So if you think religion is dead, just give it three days and it might just rise again. When Jesus was killed it didn’t work out as planned for those who were besotted with and weighed down by laws, rules and ceremonies. He brought grace and freedom to a region, and later to the rest of the world, a freedom which previously never known.
The death of religion this time around might be just what we need.