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Is the dwindling faith in God and Government a sign of end times?

Mary Thomas, Associate Editor, ATB, Jan 2019, Edmonton

Society had always been governed by principles and values, one of them being faith in God and leadership. Over the last two decades,trust in both has been dwindling around the world. Citizens dissatisfied with the democratic process? Spiritual organisations closing down and democracy itself at risk? Numerous studies have documented a precipitous erosion of confidence in government, forecasting grave consequences for the future of democracy in the west. On the other hand, we also see a rise in religious fundamentalism, segregation and economic decline in others. Climate change and the state of our planet provide the bleak backdrop.
Russell Dalton, a leading scholar of political behavior and democratic theory, ‘regardless of recent trends in the economy, in large and small nations, in presidential and parliamentary systems, in countries with few parties and many, in federal and unitary states, the direction of change is the same’. Trust seems to have declined among all societal groups – young, old, rich, poor, we are all in this together.
Citizens’ attitudes are a function of their values, which determine what they expect from government, and governments’ ability to meet those expectations. Thus, if support has declined, either governments have been performing poorly, or citizens have started expecting more from their governments.
Robert Putnam, noted political scientist, known for his books Bowling Alone and Making Democracy Work, maintains that forces of modernization, trends of social and geographic mobility, as well as other factors, such as the digital revolution, have weakened the bonds holding individuals and communities together and, in turn, eroded both interpersonal and political trust.
Things that were once held sacred are not anymore. A correlation between rising secularism and prosperity becomes evident, though in Italy and Ireland, well-off First World countries religiosity remains high and China and Vietnam, whose regimes are officially atheist, are among the poorer nations and also the most secular.
80.8 per cent of Americans believe in God and always have, a higher percentage of the population than in any other affluent nation.France had 28.9 per cent lifelong believers, for example, while Britain had 36.7 per cent).24.2 per cent attend religious services once a week, compared to 5.6 per cent in France, 10.0 per cent in the U.K. and 17.7 per cent in Canada.
Two-thirds of Canadians identify either as Catholic or as Protestant, but according to the analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, the numbers are slowly declining. Over the last 2 decades, the rising immigration has brought in a shift attributable to first generation immigrants. The second-generation story is different with a move towards cultural assimilation with an introduction of all world religions to the mix, the equation is more complex than ever.
Zuckerman attributes U.S.’s above average religiosity to socioeconomic inequality,”We have 50 to 60 million people without health insurance; we have the highest child poverty rates of the industrialized democratic world; the greatest gap between rich and poor of the industrialized democratic world; we have increasing inequality and, voilà, we also have a strongly religious society … that can’t be accidental. Prosperity is one strong causal factor in helping to explain why religion corrodes.”
Besides, there is an onslaught in the public domain on anything religious or spiritual. Individuals of all faiths or none, and from all points on the political and ideological spectrum, should be alarmed at the mounting assault on the free exercise of religion and freedom of religious expression. The erosion of one constitutional right—especially one as fundamental as religious liberty and the freedom of speech—may serve as a precedent for the erosion of other rights to the detriment of all Americans.—Jay Alan Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.
If we are conscious of these macro trends and impending impact on society, we can actconscientiouslyat the individual and societal level to soften the blow. If we go about our merry way, continuing to corrupt the foundations of society without a care, we are bound to land in a chaos that might even snuff out life entirely.
Write to us at mary@asiantribune.ca with your comments, suggestions, ideas for the column, or any issue you have been concerned about. Let’s talk.

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