Polls show Americans are losing faith in religious institutionson August 4, 2012 @ 11:48 am (Updated: 1:12 pm - 8/5/12 )
A Gallup poll saying that most Americans believe in God, but not church, has many people talking about the state of faith in the United States. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A Gallup Poll shows that many Americans have faith in God, but not in religious institutions. Does that mean that we can live without religious texts guiding our lives?
To address the numbers of individuals who are living "spiritual" but not "religious" lives, Gordon Tanner, a Washington stake (regional) president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints State, and Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg of Temple B'nai Torah in Bellevue, joined The Bill Radke Treatment to talk about whether or not religious texts still matter.
President Gordon observed that the Bible contains many important guidelines for living that aren't readily apparent to an individual who just follows their conscience.
For example, the Bible's passages concerning money are some of the most specific and obviously prescriptive. Scripture is often quoted as saying that "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get in to heaven." To theologians, the message is clear.
"We have long-established rules around money. They start in the Old Testament. Malachi was clear about opening our pockets so that the windows of heaven could in turn open back to us," says President Gordon. "Those principles, called 'tithing' - this is a common word in many faiths - is the Lord's law of economics."
Bill Radke asked Rabbi Yohanna how she knows that something as ancient as the Ten Commandments still applies to her life - not just to Moses. She says that lessons from holy books are definitely still applicable. It's just important to know what significant passages mean to your life.
"When you read through the Ten Commandments and discuss them and debate them and think about them from a variety of different perspectives, you come to a conclusion of what that means to you," says Rabbi Yohanna.
Even for experts, there are some parts of ancient religious texts that can be really confusing to modern readers. Some sections even appear to give mixed messages, or messages that conflict with our common sense.
"I think anytime you read Leviticus and all of the rules, you think 'Wow, I am so glad I don't need to live with that strictness today,'" says President Gordon.
Both President Gordon and Rabbi Yohanna agreed that the Bible and the Torah are open to interpretation. For the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, this is accomplished by worldwide church meetings with religious authorities to reaffirm interpretations of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Rabbi Yohanna, on the other hand, sees scripture as a guide book for life passed down through the years that is subject to the intellectual determination of each generation.
"If you're looking for answers and you're looking for a list of 'this is how you should live,' you're looking in the wrong place when it comes to liberal Judaism. We're about how to ask better questions," says Rabbi Yohanna.
Although opinions may vary across other religious traditions, Rabbi Yohanna and President Gordon tell us that it's important to be grounded in the Bible and the Torah, despite the need for modern reinterpretation of these sacred books.
From the Gallup poll, it looks like many Americans may be turning away from organized religion altogether. It's unclear what effect this may have on religious groups, but for Rabbi Yohanna and President Gordon, reflecting on the meaning of texts rather than scrapping them altogether is key.
"What I'm looking for in my community is for people to find an authentic sense of what it means to be Jewish in 2012," says Rabbi Yohanna.
By Jillian Raftery
Listen to the full Bill Radke Treatment:
The Bill Radke Treatment can be heard on 97.3 KIRO FM on Saturday at 6 a.m. and noon, on Sundays at 7 p.m. Available anytime ON DEMAND at MyNorthwest.com.
Bonneville Media encourages site users to express their opinions by posting comments. Our goal is to maintain a civil dialogue in which readers feel comfortable. At times, the comments can descend to personal attacks. Please do not engage in such behavior. We encourage your thoughtful comments which: have a positive and constructive tone, are on topic, are respectful toward others and their opinions. Bonneville reserves the right to remove comments which do not conform to these criteria.