“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature,” wrote Karl Marx, “…the opium of the people.” Decades of often painful historical experience has proven his observation both right and wrong. Believing in God does ease pain and suffering of faithful followers, but he was wrong in thinking that religion, especially Christianity, leaves them with nowhere else to go from there.
Is it possible for Christians to be discerning without being cynical? If so, how? Are there ways to respect authority without being duped? Can we recognize the collapse of our institutions without wholly abandoning them, and perhaps seek to restore them? Christians must answer these questions as part of our cultural witness.
According to Pew Research Center, the percentage of American Christians has fallen about 12 percent over the last ten years, from 75 percent in 2011 to around 63 percent today. The surprising thing here isn’t that Americans are leaving organized religion behind. That’s been happening at about the same rate for a while now. However, it is newsworthy that this trend continued unabated in the face of a global pandemic. Historically, catastrophic events that bring uncertainty, stress, or political chaos tend to draw people to reconsider faith.