Friday, March 27, 2015

Inequality and the "Church"...

Article at WaPo here.

Makes a correlation between dysfunctional degrading economic outcomes and "church" attendance decline.....

Why so many empty church pews? 
 The 1970s saw declines in employment for less-educated men, divergent incomes for college-educated and less-educated men, and a “breathtaking increase in inequality” — all of which left college-educated families and their communities with more financial resources, and poor and working-class communities with fewer resources.

Many in the "church" see the "church" itself to blame for a lot of this decline.

While perhaps the problem is not with the "church" but rather perhaps secular dysfunctional economic outcomes as the cause and what we may see as a "church" in decline as an effect.


Marian Ruccius said...

I think that Church attendance is closely related to leisure time, which itself is related to inequality. Despite unnacceptably high unemployment, Americans who do have work are still working much longer hours than they did a generation ago. The decline in unionization, and increases in inequality, have devitalized many working-class communities, and this has led to reduced Church attendance. I think Putnam would say that this a viscious cycle -- devitalized communities have fewer active places of worship, and with fewer dynamic places of worship, you have more devitalized communities.

Tom Hickey said...

This is extremely important, although church attendance is only a symptom of an underlying issue. Previously, cultures were much more homogenous being based on extended kinship and common traditions, customs and conventions. Religions were foundational, and most cultures were based on around a single religion, albeit there might be different sects and denominations.

That era is quickly passing out of existence, with no single religion dominating particular cultures and secularism rising. This leaves a vacuum in the foundations of various cultures that religions had previously provided.

Religions had provided a philosophical and normative foundation that united a culture around a particular way of life. Now that his foundation is crumbling, the question becomes what is to replace it if anything. If nothing specific, then it would appear that the result is relativism and pluralism, which the liberal approach to social organization encourages.

However, freedom from constraint simply creates a vacuum in which to exercise freedom to choose. Freedom to choose is necessarily based on some decision making apparatus and criteria. This is what religions provided. What is the substitute in liberalism.

Liberalism offers no standard other than allowing others the same freedom from constraint as oneself. But the problem here is that then people make choice based on different criteria and these choices may and often do conflict with each other.

Enlightened liberalism adds freedom for individual self-actualization and and social and political self-determination to freedom from constraint and freedom to choose. This requires pondering the enduring question, what is a good life in a good society?

While there are different answers to this, some of which may conflict, a dialectic manifesting one one hand as debate is launched as a platform for development. This is the foundation for creating a liberal society peopled by free individuals cooperating voluntarily for mutual benefit and willing to compromise in order to accommodate differences.

Can enlightened liberalism provide the kind of foundation that religions provided in the past? It had better be able to.

Matt Franko said...

Interesting points Pearce and Tom...

One thing I see on the side of the "church" (btw I tend to put words I see as metonyms in " ".... so as to point out that the word is unsound... "money" ,etc...)

One thing I see on the "church" side is that the people in the church perhaps think they are failing in some way as the attendance goes down ... like the church people think "we're not doing a good enough job.." or something... I'd actually put the Pope in that cohort... imo its like the Pope is often blaming the church for not doing a good enough job when he looks at the socio-economic dysfunction and chaos...

When what I see as causal in this case has nothing to do with the church it has to do with failures in the secular institutions that actually posses the authority to do something about the dysfunctional economic outcomes that are manifesting and actually harming the "church"...

Typical "correlation/causation" type of issue here... I dont see the "church" being involved in any type of causal activity in this situation.... rather it is more of a typical non-govt victim...


Anonymous said...

I believe this is story explains the decline in church attendance.

The modern church is simply a place where people go show off social status. I like what the PUA chateau heartiste calls church; the Sunday morning nightclub.

If you are poor why go? You'll just be mocked and eventually kicked like I found out the hard way.

Atheism is growing because most atheism are more intelligent, kinder and better people than most Christians.

Matt Franko said...


That's a WHOLE other issue....

If we can get the economic issues fixed then even the snobs will be fully funded... ;)


Tom Hickey said...

Generally speaking in anthropology, sociology, and history, the terms "religion," "faith" and "church" signify a cultural institution that has identifiable characteristics that similar institutions in other cultures share, as well as similar types of influence culturally wrt to mindset, norms and behavior. Since this has been a foundation component of a culture, questions arise about its correlates in modern societies.

Obviously, science plays a role similar to religion in prior cultures wrt to mindset. This manifests is scientism, materialism, and scientific humanism, positivism, empiricism, and naturalism, for example. However, there is no overarching model similar to religions wrt to ethics and morality.

This results in the curious situation where science is taught in schools but ethics and morality are relegated to the home. The result is a judge-podge in comparison with previous cultures, and also a source of potential conflict within a single culture. In addition, all cultures are characterized by ritual and observance. A secular culture develops secular rituals and observances.

Ignacio said...

Due to the liberal bias of history religions will die eventually, is an inevitable trend, and the more developed a nation is the more evident this is (I don't see some traits of USA as very developed tbh, seems more like cults and of various sorts).

Religion are man-made tools for power control like other form of governments and have nothing to do with God or spirituality so the most pragmatic a population becomes the less appeal religions have. Unfortunately when one form of religion is substituted by other ('money', 'free markets') we are stagnating, but we will have to overcome this eventually or just die as failed species, just like we overcame barbaric religiousness in most of the developed nations (aka not these craptastic dessert nations).

Tom Hickey said...

Evolutionary theorists like David Sloan Wilson (who has also written on economics) views religions as collectively developmental.

Darwin's Cathedral

Social institutions have a collective influence that elude individuals actin alone in aggregate. A society is a collective comparable to an organism n this view rather than an aggregate of individual agents acting independently.

As social institutions religions produce not only social cohesion but also coordinated functioning that enhances the capabilities of the group behaving as a unit.

Religions tended to be based on mythology, even highly organized religions with well-developed theologies. As science replaced mythology as a mode of explanation, religions lost much of their previous influence as cultural foundations.

Scientific thinking was certainly an advance over mythology, but only in certain respects. Science is chiefly quantitative while most of the matters that humans regard as highly significant are qualitative.

There seems to be a gap between the science as a replacement for mythology and whatever servers to replace the qualitative aspect of religions wrt to values and norms.

Moreover, life cannot be separated into the positive and normative. They are entangled in brain functioning, for example. For this reason, the social sciences are very different in subject matter and method from the the natural sciences.

Human beings are not neither atoms nor cells, although they function more like cells than atoms. thus, neither physical nor biological models are sufficiently complex to represent human behavior adequately.

The role played by laws of nature in the physical and life sciences are often played by culture and institutions in the social sciences, for instance.

Therefore transformation in major institutional types such as religion have far-reacing influences on human behavior.

This is particularly evident in the case of pluralistic liberal societies that are moving away from the traditional cultural and institutional paradigm into unknown territory. It is also evident in the clash between those holding to traditional paradigms — broadly speaking "conservatives" — and those engaged in a phase transition between paradigms that his not yet clearly define — broadly speaking "liberals."

Anonymous said...

'Religion' is first of all, a feeling, that arises from within. Like when you look up at the stars at night and wonder about the Universe wheeling by. I can imagine the cavemen doing it. Then you take this simple feeling and paint a religion on top. Wisdom says: 'plumb the feeling'! Let the mind be still. Not all knowledge is a product of intellect; it can also be a product of experience. Why else would you 'fall in love'?

Tom Hickey said...

I call that the distinction between spirituality and religion. The way I use the terms, which admittedly are used in many sometime contradictory ways, spirituality signifies that which is inner and personal, and also interpersonal and interning based on a feeling of oneness, of which love is a manifestation.

In contrast, religion signifies that which is institutional and normative, reflecting cultural differences, whereas spirituality is a characteristic of human nature and it is universal in scope and character.

Religions and wisdom traditions have a spiritual basis in the testimony of mystics and teaching of sages, but that gets obscured through cultural and institutional emphasis on doctrine, ritual and observance. When religions become rigid culturally and institutionally they can suppress spirituality or require that it be channelled in an "orthodox" fashion.

I would further say that enlightened liberalism is based on separating spirituality from religion and basing culture and institutions on spirituality rather than institutional and normative religion. This is needed for pluralism based on the individual freedom that characterizes liberalism.

Then spirituality can be mediated as ethics and social and political philosophy through the use of reason. There needs to be a proper balance of head and heart, heart leading head in that love transcends reason.

The Golden Rule is a product of reason that can be understood and practiced intellectually, but it is natural only the degree that a person appreciates the unity of existence, which is the basis of spirituality in the sense I am using it. To the degree it is appreciated, one loves others unconditionally as oneself. That remains an ideal for most but it is manifested in the (spiritual) heroes.

Nietzsche, whom some see as the forerunner of Libertarianism (radical liberalism) broke with Wagner ostensibly over Parsifal, which portrays the hero as the compassionate one rather than the one who exerts self-will to power.

This dichotomy is significant here in that Nietzsche very explicitly define the modern problem that emerges with the decline of religion ("God is dead") and the need for a new theory of value, which he felt was his calling to provide the foundation.

Wagner was impressed with Schopenhauer's philosophy, which was rooted in his understanding of Buddhism as a form of spirituality rather than a specific religion. In the words of the present Dalai Lama, "My religion is kindness." This is a reference to the Buddhist concept of metta (from Sanskrit martini), which signifies benevolence, friendship, kindness, etc. This involves transcending self-will.

Nietzsche rejected this, as do radical liberals like Libertarians and Objectivists (Ayn Rand).

Left liberals and libertarians are basically in agreement with it, however.

Matt Franko said...

Paul used the word deisidaimonesterous for 'religion' which translates as "dread-demoned"...

Paul does not use the word in a positive context at all...

Tom I really agree with the distinction you draw here:

" the distinction between spirituality and religion. "

When I am using the word "church" here I am referring to what you describe here:

" that which is institutional and normative,"

ie these human institution(s) which is often referred to as "church"... these institution(s) are imo just as much a victim of all the present socio-economic injustice as individuals and households...

AND they posses no authority whatsoever to do anything about it either...


Tom Hickey said...

"interpersonal and interning" should be "interpersonal and inter-being."

Automatic spelling checker got me when I left out the hyphen.

Anonymous said...

I call that the distinction between spirituality and religion. [TomH]

I’ll have to be careful how I use the word ‘spirituality’ then Tom as I use it in a much more modern and superficial sense (not having been steeped in the ancient texts as you)! For me I think of all of the new-age nonsense ‘painted’ on top.

Djwhal Kuhl uses the framework of the word as a symbol, masking meaning, which in turn masks significance or purpose. For him everything has a triple aspect (Active Intelligence – Love Wisdom – Will) and four attributes (Beauty Harmony – Concrete Knowledge – Ideal - Form Organisation). E.g. on this blog it is usually the concrete knowledge attributes expressed under active intelligence, which I guess is OK given its purpose; sometimes there is some idealism. But you know, I feel the successful blend is often the most effective at expressing some truth. And I think that love is more important to human beings than we let on. We have learnt to ‘love’ all of the wrong things – why not peace, beauty, the magic of form to provide a basis to the ‘good life’! It does not need to be such a long and winding road.

For me, in practical terms, like the earth is green and the sky is blue - the feeling that springs from within leads to a ‘door’ within the consciousness of every human being, and that is where we want to go whether we know it or not. It is the engine that drives the world around on the outside, and it is the engine that lifts the human being up to the Self on the inside, and allows him to become who he is.

Tom Hickey said...

I use "spirituality" in the sense of "the human spirit." Rather than denoting something supernatural it is naturalistic and compatible with humanism. In this sense, the boundary of the what the term denotes is a horizon that recedes as it is approached rather than a rigid boundary. In this sense of being indeterminate rather than determinate it is "infinite."

I am a libertarian in the sense that in my view radical freedom is required to explore that horizon and all must be accorded that freedom in a society that is humane. In my view there is also a responsibility to use that radical freedom for self-actualization as an individual and collective self-determination as a citizen.