Among the Westernized nations, America seems to suffer most from violence and crime, in a multitude of ways. Yet compared to other nations such as Canada, England, or Australia; America is often considered the ‘religious’ one. Given my time in Australia, I would agree that religion has a stronger old in America that in the land down under. But murder and drug use continues to claim proportionately more people in America. Such correlations beg the question, if so many Americans are religious then why does the country seem to be going through a moral crisis? Despite a higher percentage in the pews each week, the U.S. is in a state of chaos compared to those ‘godless’, humanist nations.
Dawn quotes a variety of sources that blame Americans’ lack of understanding concerning their spiritual belief system. This includes lacking understanding of doctrine and ritual, as well as scripture. Further her sources argue that there is an overarching attitude that disregards religious duty and feelings of responsibility toward others (114). I can see how in secular society, where religion is implicitly regarded as less important by its absence from public life, that people would get slack and act on moral beliefs imparted on them by religion less and less. Such a process would be subtle and dangerous in its supposed non-existence.
This attitude is not just a tone people walk around with. It is an active component in daily decision making. In secularism, the faithful are taught to keep their beliefs and connected actions under wraps. Over time and much conditioning, all morality gained from religious belief and participation are sequestered to the private realm. As the faithful get less and less practice acting on this morality, it may start to disappear altogether. The goal of secularism is to create a climate where people of all belief systems can live in harmony and thrive. In the U.S. this has come to mean keeping all religion locked away. This means keeping the good morality in religion locked up too. Then elements of mainstream culture run unchecked; fueled by greed, selfishness, and indifference. Other Westernized nations have a strong sense of secular humanism to keep these elements in check, but Americas’ dormant religious morality is largely ineffective.
Dawn, Marva J. Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture. Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1995.