Conformity and Marginalization

Religious diversity might not represent a dramatic threat to religion, but it may represent another small hole in an already sinking ship.


I think the loss of organized religion is not a great one.  I much prefer disorganized religion, or, even better, simple spiritual seeking.  To see the numbers of adherents of formal religious groups decline indicates to me that those religions have outlived their usefulness.  Clearly, their adherents are no longer finding enough of what they need there, and are going elsewhere.  What is encouraging is that some of those people are looking for spiritual fulfillment on their own, or with a loosely organized group.  These folks have moved to the margins of religious life, and from that vantage point, they can see further ahead.  Traditional, organized religion is far better suited to those who are able to conform.


The practical effect of rising religious diversity is to expose Americans to ideas and views that could challenge their religious beliefs.  This weakening of America’s religious consensus means there is far less social pressure to conform to religious norms.


Those on the margins have called society forward and brought about greater awareness of different modes of worship and belief.  This has cast traditional belief in a relative light for some, and weakened their religious adherence.  If they don’t have the One True Way, then it must not be worthwhile at all.  Although this is intellectually unfortunate for those people, the variety of theologies and practices we are now exposed to is ultimately broadening, and shows me at least, that we are all striving for the same end, just on different paths.  The fact that others do not believe as you do should not imply that your belief is inferior or untrue; they have just seen a different face of God.

Contemplative life shows us that specific beliefs and practices are relative; what matters is one’s connection to the Divine, and different people arrive at this in different ways.  Who is to say how we are to find God?  Dictating one way is very limiting, as those who cannot follow that way are shut out.  The greater the variety of spiritual paths, the more people who can find a way for themselves.

If it is the comfort of conformity people are looking for, then today’s diverse religious and spiritual landscape is going to disappoint them.  I, for one, prefer to move ahead.


Please refer to this article for the source of the above quotations.


Copyright © 2016 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.


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