Survey Finds Change In Religious Views

By Steve Wolfgang

The title above was the headline for an interesting article which was carried by the New York Times News Service on December 14, 1984. The article reported a University of Chicago survey which found that “Americans are turning away from the dictates of organized religions and drawing upon spiritual feelings of their own to define their faith.” Furthermore, “for growing numbers of people an individual search for meaning has become the central religious experience, replacing unquestioning obedience to religious authority,” according to the results of the opinion poll.

As a result, “60 percent of Americans recently surveyed rejected the concept ‘absolute moral guidelines'” while they “think of their faith in ‘mythic, imaginative, and reflective’ terms rather than as standards fro behavior.” The director of the survey was reported to have observed many indications of “declining influence of religious authorities on behavior” since Americans have “been told to trust their consciences, and that’s what they’re doing.”

There is both good news and bad news in the results of this survey. To the extent that individuals are exerting the right to think and study for themselves without some priest or preacher telling them what they are supposed to believe, this survey is encouraging. As more people do so, pollsters will find increasingly less dependence upon “organized religion.”

However, the survey also seems to indicate that people are rejecting not only human religious “authorities,” but also the authority of God’s word as well. If people are freeing themselves from someone’s human philosophies of religion, that is good; but if they are replacing what someone else thinks and “feels” with their own “feelings” and surmisings, what is the difference? What makes their feelings and ideas better than someone else’s? What gives your religious ideas more validity than mine? And why should you think the way I do if all I can offer you is just “my opinion”?

Isn’t that the way all these “institutional churches” got started in the first place? How can such inclinations do anything more than create yet another hundred or so religious bodies and create even more confusion? The only answer is to study the Bible – for yourself, rejecting human creeds and opinions – and let it, not some vague feeling called “conscience,” be your guide.

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 4, p. 107
February 21, 1985