Is organized religion losing its relevance in our world?

Robert Frost – The Road less travelled
October 30, 2010
old navy blazer
A tale of two summer jackets
November 6, 2010

Pew research certainly seems to think so. More and more world citizens are opting out of living religious lives –religion is definitely losing its relevance, influence and the ‘cool’ factor By Fareeha Qayoom

Pew research certainly seems to think so. More and more world citizens are opting out of living religious lives –religion is definitely losing its relevance, influence and the ‘cool’ factor

By Fareeha Qayoom


GOES
Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video

I

f you are a Pakistani citizen, you are definitely interested in politics and current affairs (doesn’t matter if you are literate or not, there’s always the television and radio if you can’t read the newspapers or surf the net!)– When situation at home is so volatile and fluid, trust me, knowledge is power.

If you tune out even for one day you might miss something vital…take last night for example, they (Pak government) announced the price hike for petrol in tune of PKR 5-7. There are always signs before such an announcement and if you are smart, you would catch on early and go and get your tank filled at least once on the old prices before the petrol pumps refuse you petrol till the new announcement! They do it all the time. A few times, we have been ahead of the curve, but not last night. We were caught by surprise too. I mean, who could imagine that they would raise the prices to such an extent? PKR 7 is pretty steep for even PPP government. I also heard that they are planning to raise the electricity prices by 2 percent today…not that I wasn’t expecting such measures, after all debt servicing has reached an all time high with the recent Pakistani floods and government’s all out effort to acquire foreign aid (read loans, more loans and yet more loans!).  Anyway, the point is, you can’t afford not to know what’s going on minute by minute in Pakistan if you plan to continue living in this country (even if you can’t do much about the acquired knowledge!).  By the way, it’s another fallacy that Pakistani citizens are pretty intolerant lot, if the government can’t get them to come out on streets to register their protest against the current anarchy, lack of governance, sudden price hikes in energy, fuel and essential commodities almost every other day, double digit inflation and rising and corruption which has more impact on their daily lives, why would they come out for or against obscure religious fringe groups who have little or no relevance in their lives? I know my peers think I am pretty naïve when I say that religious type protests are funded in this country by vested interest groups to create essential advertising and news headlines. But I know I am right. Simply because activism in this country costs money too, activists have to run their kitchens too. If someone is willing to pay for it, you might get some activists together, otherwise, not. As they say, Time is money and the meter is running.

I have started reading the news religiously – I tune in for at least 20 minutes on the television news channels too if I can help it and also drop by at my Facebook page every other day to gauge what my peers are thinking about. You would be amazed to know more friends (and work mates) spend their time mining the net for news than they spend on airing their state of mind or sharing personal photos or videos! When I can’t take the stress, I tune out for a couple of weeks (meaning I don’t spend hours reading up the news, just the odd 30-60 minutes or so!) For the past month, I have been spending my spare time reading books (and watching television but that’s another story, more on that later!) – unfortunately, my work also involves doing considerable research, hence, I have to spend substantial time reading at work too and commenting on some of that …one recurring  theme I have seen emerging from the news I read daily is the current conflict between organized religion(s) vs. politics being played out on the world stage across all nations of the world.

Not only are the newspapers full of it, the books are full of it too. (As you know, I recently picked up couple of books on current affairs and politics from Readings, you already know about Irshad Manji’s book, the trouble with Islam Today and my review on that, the other one is, No god but God, the origins, evolution and future of Islam by Reza Aslan. I am still reading it but its hard going I tell you– I am having considerable difficulty moving beyond the third chapter – if you lose your trust in the author’s accuracy and objectiveness in the beginning, it becomes harder to go on and read what else he has to say. On the face of it, it seemed like more objective, accurate portrayal of history and politics -Yasmin Alibhai of the Independent certainly seemed to think so based on the back cover blurb- than Manji’s effort but actually it’s not. I have no beef with his scholarship or with his penmanship. I have beef with his sources. You don’t take the word of a historian who has no understanding of the culture, has a natural antipathy against that particular set of unfolding events of history anyway and was born fourteen hundred years after the event to boot over the word of historian who was at least born in the same century and culture! Even if he was not an eye witness, he at least had access to some eyewitnesses and second hand sources of the unfolding events! If you think the historian is exaggerating and bragging, you have to read the rebuttals of his work from his own time period, if his peers accept his account of history as significantly accurate, you have to also – you know what I mean? So Aslan’s work has become a chore that I have to do, not something I look forward to completing). But I digress. I was talking about current affairs. They say history repeats itself. So if you want some perspective, you have to revisit history. It’s unfortunate that history is not like other sciences. There are always at least ten different accounts of the same thing. Sigh. Witness any news report on any subject. Different news wires and newspapers have different versions on the same set of events…today’s news is tomorrow’s history.

Politics is about expediency and power play. Religion is about morality. More and more world citizens are opting out of living religious lives because religion is no longer relevant– how can I say that? Quite easily – I have eyes. I have ears. I can observe what’s going on around me. This phenomenon might not get documented in Pakistan because we don’t have research centers and think tanks like Pew Research, but elsewhere in the world researchers are documenting this phenomenon; 67% – Religion Losing Influence in America, Americans don’t know much about religion and U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey. Strangely enough, Americans are more religious than Pakistanis; (in fact many other cultures including the neighboring Indians are considerably more religious than Pakistanis too! If you just take the newspaper accounts, television soap operas and movies on face value, not to mention, if you happen to talk to your Indian counterparts, you would know I am not making this up!)   – Again, how can I say that? Quite easily, (I have worked for and with various Americans – and other cultures too!- when I worked for the multinational buying offices like Associated Merchandising Corporation, Colby International that was later acquired by Li and Fung and Linmark Group for example.). I might have lost touch with most of them, however, their books, their newspapers, their websites; their magazines often mention God and quotations from their scriptures more frequently than we do. They also pride themselves on being more ethical than we are. We seem intent on hiding our spirituality behind a cloak and think ethics is for the birds. For example, how many news papers columnists quote from the Quran in Pakistan in their normal discourse? None, but you find various biblical references littering the western news feeds, books (those that have nothing to do with religion!) and opinion pages. Couple of years ago, I bought this self help book on shopping and fashion from Readings and guess what?  It was full of biblical references! After reading it, I quickly gifted it to my friend and ex-colleague Marian! I thought she would find it more relevant than I did. She is pretty religious too. (In fact, she is more religious than I am. When her husband visited Africa on a business trip some time ago, she didn’t ask him to get her African souvenirs or the usual gift items like shoes, bags, toiletries etc for her, she asked for religious –Catholic- artifacts! All of us found that pretty strange! We are consumers and pretty proud of it too, we didn’t see what she was going to do with the religious artifacts! :))

So why is the world moving away from organized religion?

On the face of it, organized Religion seems to be the root of many world conflicts today, (it’s beside the point that when you take away the ‘religious’ labels, you are left with economics, scarcity of world resources and conflicts over acquiring some of them for the powerful nation states), the world citizens are not interested in making any in depth study of the problems of world peace, they are more into superficiality. More and more world citizens think might is right. In this endeavor, the international media helps a lot in swinging the world opinion on the side of might instead of right. There is a rat race going on with the top rats trying to acquire more and more clout every day. It’s about survival of the fittest. If you want to survive, you have to align yourself with the oncoming tide.

Science is to blame for some extent too – for example, Darwin’s theory of evolution has considerably contributed to this phenomenon too in the past and current century. The current new hot ‘ism’ – secularism is also to blame, not to mention, the current crop of scientists like Hawking and co. who also keep spreading doubts on the story of earth’s creation – when all the facts have not come in yet, it’s premature to jump to certain conclusions on incomplete scientific data – science is still exploring the story of world’s creation. (Check out Pakistan: Diary of a concerned citizen on September 7th, 2010, comment no. 6). Since “God” is not offi­cially rec­og­nized by major­ity of sci­en­tists nowa­days, He has no place in our world or soci­ety today.

So what brought this on anyway?  A friend of mine shared the following with me today.
You have to think twice if your church has to run an ad campaign to get your attention as this particular Church had to do. Apparently, the following ads are from a successful press campaign run by a Church in Singapore – enjoy!

Quote:

God’s adverts on Billboards

Please don’t drink and drive, you’re not quite ready to meet me yet. God

Could you imagine the price of air if it were brought to you by another supplier? God

When you’re weary, feeling small. When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all. Simon and Garfunkel

Ditto. God

What do I have to do to get your attention? Take out an ad in the paper? God

Earthlings, don’t treat me like an alien. God

I was thinking of making the world black and white. Then I thought…naaah. God

If you miss the sunrise I made for you today, never mind. I’ll make you another one tomorrow. God

How can you possibly be a self made man? I specifically recall creating you. God

If you think Mona Lisa is stunning, you should look at my masterpiece. In the mirror. God

Don’t forget your umbrella, I might water the plants today. God

I think you are the most beautiful person in the world. Okay, so I’m biased. God

Tell the kids I love them.God

Let’s meet at my house Sunday before the game. God

C’mon over and bring the kids. God

What part of “Thou Shalt Not…” didn’t you understand? God

We need to talk. God

Keep using my name in vain, I’ll make rush hour longer. God

Loved the wedding, invite me to the marriage. God

That “love thy neighbor” thing…I meant it. God

I love you and you and you and you and…God

Will the road you’re on get you to my place? God

Follow me. God

Big Bang theory, you’ve got to be kidding. God

My way is the highway. Need directions? God

You think it’s hot here? God

Have you read my #1 best seller? There will be a test. God

Do you have any idea where you’re going? God

Don’t make me come down there. God

Unquote.

Today’s international theme song seems to be R.E.M’s ‘Losing my religion!’

R.E.M. – Lyrics: Losing my Religion

Oh, life is bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up

(chorus)
That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight, I’m
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour I’m
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I set it up
Consider this
Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I’ve said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

(repeat chorus)

But that was just a dream
Try, cry, why try?
That was just a dream
Just a dream, just a dream
Dream

R.E.M. – Losing My Religion [drums and bass] video original HQ

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwUZVkKfE70

This brings me full circle – is organized religion relevant to our lives today? What do you think?

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Fareeha Qayoom
Fareeha Qayoom
Publisher and editor-in-chief of Tkfr.com and former print editions of The Knit-Xtyle Fashion Review (tkfr), a trade newsletter for the textile and apparel industry of Pakistan. In short, Publisher, editor, and a blogger. In addition, she has served as Managing Editor of MIT Technology Review Pakistan, print and web editions (2015-16). Total of 7 editions were published under her leadership by ITU, Punjab's first public technology university under the license of MIT Technology Review (USA). She has also managed Value Mag in the same capacity, a real estate and lifestyle magazine for Value TV - 2008-9. Published freelancer for The News on Sunday 1994-96. Fareeha has over 21 years of solid management experience – of managing brands (like Harley Davidson, Munsingwear, Chaps, Chaps Ralph Lauren etc.,), Retailers (like Target, Mervyns, Kohl's, Marks and Spencer etc.,), customers (VPs, Product Managers, Unit Managers, and Buyers), and products (apparel - woven, knits, men's, women's, children's, Print and online publishing units), projects, teams, and processes, information, content, and data, staff, vendors, and time. Versatile and adaptable with international exposure, communication and language skills (oral and written), and a consistent track record of achieving company targets and objectives, plus a MA in Political Science from Punjab University, a MSc in Economics from La Salle University, Louisiana, USA, and a BA in Economics from Kinnaird College for Women.

12 Comments

  1. Losing their religion? Catholicism in turmoil
    Sex abuse scandal prompts soul-searching across the globe
    NBC, msnbc.com and news services
    updated 3/30/2010 11:41:16 AM ET 2010-03-30T15:41:16

    Editors note: In a headline that appeared within this report earlier on March 30, a statement by a German priest about alleged sexual abuse was incorrectly attributed to Pope Benedict XVI. Msnbc.com corrected the error and sincerely apologizes for any unintended confusion or offense it has caused.

    WARSAW, Poland — An Austrian priest avoids mention of Pope Benedict XVI in his Masses. A Philadelphia woman stops going to confession, saying she now sees priests as more flawed than herself. British protesters call for the pontiff to resign.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36094806/

    Young Americans Losing Their Religion
    New Research Finds Number Who Claim No Church Has Risen Sharply

    By DAN HARRIS
    May 6, 2009

    New research shows young Americans are dramatically less likely to go to church — or to participate in any form of organized religion — than their parents and grandparents.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=7513343&page=1

    Gallup: Americans see religious influence waning
    Updated 12/31/2008 8:03 PM
    By Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
    Two-thirds of Americans think religion is losing its influence on U.S. life, a sharp jump from just three years ago when Americans were nearly evenly split on the question, according to a new Gallup Poll.

    Sixty-seven percent of Americans think religious influence is waning while just 27% say it is increasing. That perspective demonstrates a continuing downward trend, Gallup said.
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2008-12-26-faith-influence_N.htm

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  2. Losing My Religion: Unbelief in Australia

    By Tom Frame. UNSW Press (2009)

    Reviewed by Geoff Page

    In his new book, Losing My Religion: Unbelief in Australia, Tom Frame proposes seven reasons for Australians increasingly abandoning their faith in God. They include (not in any order) the growth of non-religious community organisations, the collapse of sabbatarianism, the decline in religious tokenism, the impress of scientific views (which seem to exclude God), the more open discussion of atheism and agnosticism, together with the seemingly reactionary nature of many churches and their often debilitating theological disunity. Of course, this is only a summary and it should be pointed out that all of these factors (and their subsets) are persuasively elaborated throughout the book.

    http://www.publicchristianity.com/losingmyreligionreview.html

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  3. Is the Church Losing Its Relevance With Christian Youth?
    By Willard Estes

    Is the church out of touch with today’s world, and especially with today’s Christian youth? Sunday, mostly a welcome day on any young person’s calendar, in religious families though, usually starts with an early morning rousing with the exhortations that every young person needs to get scrubbed down and ready for Sunday church attendance. In a survey done by the pew research Center, two out of three young adults in America say they cannot stand the thought of congregating as their family traditions and religion would require. What could the reason be that these otherwise observant young people should rebel openly against tradition and the requirements of their faith?

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Is-the-Church-Losing-Its-Relevance-With-Christian-Youth?&id=4907545

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  4. the other view…

    Science is losing to religion
    DECCA AITKENHEAD – Jan 11 2009 05:00

    He sold 1,5-million copies of The God Delusion, and stumped up thousands of pounds for atheist adverts. Decca Aitkenhead interviews Richard Dawkins — “Darwin’s Rottweiler”

    One evening in 2006, at a colleague’s house, I met a friend of her teenage daughter. He was intellectually curious and obviously bright – but implacably loyal to his parents’ born-again Christian faith. We spent pretty much the whole evening arguing with the poor boy, appealing to his logic and reason – all to no effect. There must, we despaired, be some seminal atheist text we could refer him to. We just couldn’t think of one.

    http://www.mg.co.za/article/2009-01-11-science-is-losing-to-religion

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  5. Losing their religion
    Tuesday, 27 April 2010 19:23 Sandy Hill – Reporter

    NE student Amelinda Jaramillo, actively attended church for most of her childhood until the increasing demands of school, work and life took precedence.

    Poll indicates more college students leaving churches.

    NE student Amelinda Jaramillo was an active member of her church growing up, attending church camps and conferences. But her attendance began to slow down once in high school.

    http://collegian.tccd.edu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=951:losing-their-religion&catid=43:front-page

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  6. Losing my religion by REM
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Losing_My_Religion

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  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ruki , Ruki , Ruki , Ellie Robins, Reforming Islam news and others. Reforming Islam news said: Pakistan: Is organized religion losing its relevance in our world … http://bit.ly/9RU0IR […]

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  8. October 24, 2010, 5:15 pm
    Stories vs. Statistics
    By JOHN ALLEN PAULOS

    Half a century ago the British scientist and novelist C. P. Snow bemoaned the estrangement of what he termed the “two cultures” in modern society — the literary and the scientific. These days, there is some reason to celebrate better communication between these domains, if only because of the increasingly visible salience of scientific ideas. Still a gap remains, and so I’d like here to take an oblique look at a few lesser-known contrasts and divisions between subdomains of the two cultures, specifically those between stories and statistics.

    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/24/stories-vs-statistics/?ref=afternoonupdate&nl=afternoonupdate&emc=auab1

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  9. Can Civilization Survive Without God?
    A Conversation with Christopher and Peter Hitchens
    October 29, 2010

    On October 12, 2010, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life invited brothers Christopher and Peter Hitchens to address the question of whether civilization needs religion in order to preserve values, ethics and order.

    Speakers:
    Christopher Hitchens, contributing editor to The Atlantic, Columnist for Vanity Fair, is the author of more than 10 books including the best-selling manifesto God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1785/hitchens-brothers-debate-does-civilization-need-religion

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  10. Updated Dec. 21, 2010

    Q. How many people would say that they believed in God if they were able to answer with complete anonymity? That is to take a ballot, check off “yes” or “no” in complete privacy and drop it in a box. The point of my question is that most people will say they believe in God in the presence of others when they think that it is the politically correct answer and, more importantly, that they will be judged on their answer. Their declaration of belief often has little to do with their personal convictions and beliefs. Would such a poll put the lie to the broadly held theory that approximately 80% of Americans believe in God.

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1770/ask-the-expert-pew-research-center

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  11. Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
    American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us
    A Conversation with David Campbell

    January 7, 2011

    …..But by historical and international standards, that is historical comparing the United States against itself in times past but international in comparing the United States to other countries today, the U.S. actually does present a very unusual environment for religion in that it simultaneously combines three things. First of all, Americans are religiously devout. We are also a country that is religiously diverse. And yet in spite of those two things, we are also a country that is religiously tolerant. Now, the third of those three is the one that often causes audiences to sit back and say, What? Americans are religiously tolerant?

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1847/how-religion-divides-and-unites-us-david-campbell-conversation-transcript

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  12. Religious studies
    The good god guide
    Tentatively, scientists are asking: exactly what is religion, and what is it for?

    Apr 20th 2011 | from the print edition

    *
    *

    RELIGION is ubiquitous but it is not universal. That is a conundrum for people trying to explain it. Religious types, noting the ubiquity (though not everyone is religious, all human societies have religions), argue that this proves religion is a real reflection of the underlying nature of things. Sceptics wonder why, if that is the case, it comes in such a variety of flavours, from the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church to the cargo cults of Papua New Guinea—each of which seems to find the explanations offered by the others anathema.

    http://www.economist.com/node/18584074

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