His family are the salt in the salt of the earth, a large and close-knit unit that I've always greatly admired. The kids all went to college, all got good jobs, all were active in sports and the community. People living the American Dream.
True to form, the family were solid, in good spirits, strong, gracious, warm and personable in their time of tragedy. I wasn't so much myself. I felt ashamed because I had a very hard time concealing my grief when talking to the family. But again, there they were; understanding, smiling, accommodating, stolid.
But it struck me that in Roman times you had a powerful and evangelizing faith which atomized, rather than gathered. And that was the religion of cosmopolitanism, an umbrella under which all of the systems of disbelief such as Epicureanism and Stoicism coalesced. And of course, like today you also have Nü Atheism.
The Christian churches helped it along by cynically allying themselves with partisan political interests of post-Cold War conservatism, ignoring that the so-called Mainline churches thought they too were surfing the crest of a wave by allying themselves with 60s liberalism. Didn't work out that way.
It's in the graying, dying, shrinking precincts of Western Europe and North America where religion is in decline.
I don't know, it's no longer my fight. I left the Church for very complex and powerful reasons. Part of this was my disgust with the politics, with the aggressive partisanship of the 90s Southern Baptist and nondenominational ascendancy. I disdain Nü Atheism and its tributaries for the same reason, though in this case the politics are a mirror image. Same aggressive polarity, different party.
We are hearing cases seeming to pop up on a weekly -sometimes daily- basis from the public schools, and yet we don't see any movement from the Atheist movement to abolish the public schools. Why? Why the double standard?
Science and math teachers especially commit rape, statutory rape and other forms of sexual abuse at alarming rates and yet the media seem to look the other way.
I've written about the New Age, and how its power and influence is often unnoticed because it presents such a nebulous target. But it continues to grow and influence the mainstream religions in ways people don't quite yet understand. There are yoga cults most people have never heard of that have tens of thousands of followers.
We can't really guess at what they are yet. These things tend to follow larger streams of environment and event, meaning they arise in reaction to what is happening in the world and respond to the needs that present themselves to be filled. Social media may well be the medium in which the contagion may take root.
Aggressive atheism pops up from time to time and breeds itself out of the gene pool (I keep meaning to create a graphic using an old man mourning at a grave and write "Atheist Family Reunion"). It may be how Gaia or the Overmind cleans out certain social maladaptations in the body politic, I don't know. But already many- if not most- of the articles we see from atheists in the mainstream media are protests about how the author isn't like those atheists, the jerks.
Religion predates America and will exist long after America has disintegrated into a Balkanized collection of corporate serfdoms (which is to say 'in 30 years or so'). It serves a basic human need and has done so for millennia. I see nothing of any real value or permanence filling that need in its absence. The only question in my mind is whether the old religions will revive or that black swan will take flight.