This is not a new concept, but it deserves more consideration. Charles Taylor, in his book, The Secular Age, wrote about religious transformation through the years, and, just in my lifetime, religion's role in society has been reduced, although every so often there seems to be a revival. It's indisputable, though, that massification and urbanization have developed without the type of religious influence common in the past. In many small town communities, religion still plays a major role in people's lives, but as more and more people gather in large urban areas, it appears that they've drifted away from religion, and community no longer seems possible. Perhaps diversity breaks the religious bond, as people are influenced by different cultures and different lifestyles in large urban areas. Also, in large urban areas, there are many forms of entertainment and forms of excitement to capture people's attention. The small-town, southern Baptist preacher would claim that the temptation of sin in large cities is the reason for the shift to secular interests.
One has to wonder, though, how much the social aspect of church-going has influenced small town attendance -- the sense of belonging and interacting in community has centered around the churches. In the large urban areas, this sense of belonging has been more difficult to realize -- people have searched for a sense of community through different forms. Being a part of a political party which offers social purpose is one way of filling the religious void in large urban areas. The Democrat Party, which does better in large urban areas, has appealed to this need for purpose and meaning in people's lives. In a large way, the State has replaced the Church, and it's why among partisan members of the Democrat Party there's solid devotion to the liberal dogma. It's not seen as ideology by the believers -- it's strong belief in the righteousness of liberal causes. The State is seen as the vehicle to social change. Perhaps this is why many Tea Party goers from small towns have questioned both political parties, because the sense of community they get outside the State is stronger than party loyalty.
But, just like religious belief was shaken by serious questions and secular tendencies, belief in the State is now being questioned and shaken. Is the God of the State dying? We're definitely seeing a lack of trust in government, but we're also seeing a reaction among true liberal believers which is creating a deeper division between urban liberals and small town Christians than existed before. But it's not only small town Christians who are questioning the State -- it's also independents from all over who never used the Democrat Party, or State, as a church to express their faith. The independents, who may or may not be religious in the traditional sense, are not, however, exempt from the need for meaning in their lives, so what fulfills this need for them? Perhaps family and work -- perhaps private spiritual beliefs -- or, perhaps, they're searching for meaning, too, they just haven't found it in Church or State.
I believe there's a larger void created now that Church and State have failed to provide the needed purpose and meaning for people. Maybe there's the realization that meaning and purpose are generated from within and not from church leaders or politicians. Maybe people are rejecting authority from Church, State and the trend toward global authority. Maybe people are realizing that search has to be a free search which every individual makes in free interaction with other searchers -- it can't be mandated or coerced from Church bosses, the nanny State or a conglomeration of States. Free people working together to find the best ways to live -- what a concept. How to make this happen might be our most important challenge -- collectives, either in Church or State, are nothing but groups of individuals -- it's free individuals who improve the world, not Church or State or some New World Order. The collective mindset creates conformity and dullness -- individuals searching for creative answers inspire an interesting and better world. Questioning authority is not only a duty, it's the only way to remain free -- authority is given and authority can be taken away, if it's not used to protect our rights.
There's no natural authority we're born to obey -- each generation must re-consent to government authority, and make a free choice regarding Church authority. Authority has been voluntarily given to some to use wisely. Authority must be questioned and it must be determined if power is being abused -- if power is being abused, it must be limited. This is the responsibility all free people must accept and diligently act on. Once we blindly submit to authority, we become slaves to masters. We have to be the masters of our destiny or we're just powerless subjects twisting to the whims of authority. Each generation has to be reminded.