What Do ‘The Undecided’ Want in a Religion?


My friend Gary Runn recently posted a link to a thoughtful New York Times article by Eric Weiner called, “Americans: Undecided About God?”

Weiner finds himself dismayed by his lack of religious options during the holiday season. Although he would once have described himself as an atheist, hitting middle age and weathering a health scare influenced him to become more open spiritually; now he would identify himself simply as “religiously unaffiliated.”

As Weiner “drifts” and “dabbles” in the religious world, he can’t find a place he feels at home. He belongs somewhere between the “True Believers” and the “Angry Atheists.” But where? 

Here’s what Weiner would find attractive in a religion:

  • Spiritual practices that actually make its followers better people
    (Specifically: “more loving—less angry”)
  • Followers laugh often and well
    (He quotes G.K. Chesterton: “It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.”)
  • Straightforward, unencumbered, intuitive
  • Space that celebrates doubt and encourages experimentation
  • Most important: Highly interactive

Unfortunately, here’s how Weiner has experienced organized religion:

  • Too political
    (Specifically, “too Republican.”)
  • Irrational and superstitious
  • No fun
  • Angry God, angry followers
    (“He is constantly judging and smiting, and so are his followers.”
  • Leaders who shout

Finally, here’s what Weiner offers as a solution:

“The answer, I think, lies in the sort of entrepreneurial spirit that has long defined America, including religious America. We need a Steve Jobs of religion. Someone (or ones) who can invent not a new religion but, rather, a new way of being religious.”

Fellow Christians: How shall we receive this? What can we learn from Weiner’s article (which really is worth a read)? How shall we respond?

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