John & Shari: Why are people turning away from organized religion?

Apr 18, 2023, 11:16 AM

church religion...

A general view inside Westminster Abbey in London. (Dan Kitwood/Pool Photo via AP)

(Dan Kitwood/Pool Photo via AP)

Only 39% of Americans said that religion is “very important” to them, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/National Opinion Research Center poll, down from 65% 25 years ago.

“I think that it symbolizes a radical shift in America’s adherence to religious doctrines,” guest host Greg Tomlin said on The John Curley and Shari Elliker Show Monday. “And I personally believe it’s a problem for our country. And for every complex problem, there’s an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. I think it’s a very multifaceted and complex issue, to say the least.”

Shari said her grandfather was a minister and religion played a big part in her life, but that has since changed.

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“I grew up in the church, and it meant a lot to me. And I can remember the church being the community that you belong to more so than even your neighbors,” Shari said. “I mean, it was the church that you relied on if there was trouble, or I can remember my mom making baked goods and doing things for people that were in the church that were going through difficult times.”

Shari said her family moved a couple of times, which led them to stop attending church.

“I have great affection for what a church and what a congregation can mean in your life. And I do think it does take a very strong leader to promote that. I don’t really have any friends that go to church anymore,” Shari said.

Greg said that he feels people need to feel inspired to get involved.

“I think part of the issue is the questions have changed over time,” Greg said. “I don’t think the Billy Graham message would work for this modern generation because no longer is culture asking ‘how do I be good?’ Culture is now asking, ‘what is good?’ And that’s a completely different question fundamentally.”

Greg said that he believes the church has taken people for granted and assumed people would always be there, claiming religion is moving away from cities and moving into rural areas where people find their “bubble.”

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Shari also said that people aren’t making religion a priority.

“The idea that we are so busy. We used to make it a regular ritual. We went to church every Sunday. We got dressed up and we went we every holiday. We were there. I don’t know anybody that does that anymore. I don’t know anybody that even goes to Christmas services,” Shari said.

Both agree that the unveiled scandals connected to organized religion have turned many people off.

“I have a lot of Catholic friends who turned away because of the horrific scandal and the lack of trust that they have in the institution of religion, in the business of religion, with the televangelists, with the priests with all of these things,” Shari said. “It just makes people not want to put their faith in something that has hurt people.”

Both commented that a congregation that fits a person can be very appealing and allows someone to be part of a community.

By contrast, the only value that has grown in America is the love of money. 43% call cash “very important” compared to 31% at the turn of the century.

Listen to John Curley and Shari Elliker weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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John & Shari: Why are people turning away from organized religion?