Nelson Clyde's Is it Just Me Column: Religion and spirituality

Published on Friday, 22 September 2017 17:42 - Written by NELSON CLYDE, isitjustme@tylerpaper.com

Are you religious or spiritual? Or neither?

A couple of years back I went to Scotland. Walking around the city of Glasgow I encountered something unusual. A beautiful old church, let’s say hundreds of years old, replete with stained-glass windows and all the trimmings had been converted into a restaurant and bar. The only parallel I could draw from back home was if the same thing happened to Marvin Methodist Church, perhaps Tyler’s most beautiful specimen.

Walking through the building there were dance floors where there used to be recreation rooms. Refreshment stations were now bars. Stained glass windows seemed the most out of place.

Is there a chapter in our future where such a thing could happen here?

Let’s check the data.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center revealed a growing number of Americans identify as spiritual but not religious.

The most compelling move in the data is the decline in people who viewed themselves as religious and spiritual. From 2012 to 2017 the group declined from 59 percent to 48 percent. The other notable data point is those who view themselves as spiritual but not religious grew from 19 percent to 27 percent.

The growth was pretty even across gender, race/ethnicity and even political party affiliation. Of the religious and spiritual group 55 percent attend religious services on a weekly basis while the spiritual but not religious group comes in at 17 percent.

The first time I heard someone use the term religious in such a context was when a Jewish friend referred to a member of her congregation as religious. Sure we had terms such as devout, orthodox, and evangelical but it had never occurred to me to think about grading or defining religiousness.

My view of religion was probably tied to regular church attendance or taking communion or teaching Sunday school.

In discussing this topic with an older friend the other day he expressed his frustration with the challenge of people renting the religion when it was convenient for a wedding or funeral but not supporting it financially through the in-between times.

While we would all like to know the future we may get a glimpse of it in the past. While many are lamenting the possible death of shopping malls due to changes in consumer patterns, the Pew study is an indicator some of our church buildings may be the new home of Joe’s Bar and Bocce court and Wings Unlimited.