When incoming patients register at hospitals, they are asked to identify a religious preference.
The majority self-identify as either “nones,” (having no religious affiliation), or as “nondenominational.” “Nondenominational” really means a church not affiliated with a specific denomination, but many patients opt for that label when registering because they believe in God but don’t belong to any faith community. It’s the same whether the hospital is faith-based or secular. And that reflects the general population. Most Americans consider themselves spiritual; many believe in God, and many pray; but more people are unaffiliated with religious organizations than connected.
The reasons why so many people are disconnected from organized religion are ubiquitous. Some people feel like churches are too aligned with conservative Republican politics. Others see churches as intolerant of LGBTQ+ folks, or not concerned enough with social issues like racial justice. Churches are viewed as being superficial, inauthentic, or just irrelevant. Most of the non-affiliated have no desire to find a church.
Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of us see ourselves as spiritual in some sense. We are searching for meaning, for purpose, for authenticity, for connectedness with something bigger than ourselves.
Enter the internet influencers. With millions of followers each, these secular evangelists proclaim wellness, wholeness, self-love, and prosperity. It feeds the American psyche, the ideal of the self-made man, the female cheetah, the unstoppable achiever. Their message, however exciting it may seem, is as superficial as any purely external religion. It fails to touch the heart.
In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Leigh Stein wrote: “Contrary to what you might have seen on Instagram, our purpose is not to optimize our one wild and precious life. It’s time to search for meaning beyond the electric church that keeps us addicted to our phones and alienated from our closest kin.”
The very fact that we yearn for meaning indicates that there is meaning to be found. Why would nature produce thinking creatures with an insatiable craving for something that does not exist? Hunger proves the existence of food. Thirst is answered by water. Meaning by the Divine. By God.
Not the god of America. That would more properly be named Mars or Mammon. Not some mean old man god looking for an excuse to squash us. Certainly not a racist patriarchal god. Not the grandfatherly Santa Claus god of the prosperity preachers. Not a distant aloof god “out there,” nor the narcissist god I call “Me.”
What most of us are looking for, I think, is pure, genuine, eternal, unconditional connectedness with Love. Helping people find that is what I’m all about.