Religion is Becoming Irrelevant

From marginal revolution: An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America.

The grand confluence of Protestantism has dwindled to a trickle over the past thirty years, and the Great Church of America has come to an end.

…The death of Mainline Protestantism is, as we’ve noted, the central historical fact of our time: the event that distinguishes the past several decades from every other period in American history. Almost every one of our current political and cultural oddities, our contradictions and obscurities, derives from this fact: Mainline Protestantism has lost the capacity to set, or even significantly influence, the national vocabulary or the national self-understanding.

Church attendence has been delining for decades:

And millenials are the least religious of any generation:

The default response is that millennials are more liberal than other generations and hence less religious. But another possibility is not that millennials reject religion on political grounds; instead, they don’t view religion as being aligned with empirical reality, deeming it a waste of time to engage with something that is obviously wrong. Perhaps that’s why atheist conservatism is becoming so popular. In the hyper-competitive post-2008 era where IQ is more important than ever and the specter of biological determinism hovers in our everyday lives, the Church seems antiquated and irrelevant. All that feel-good ‘you can be saved/we are all children of God’ doesn’t agree with the evidence that shows that some people by virtue of wealth, intellect, fame and accomplishments seem intrinsically better than others.

The Protestant work ethic doesn’t seem to work anymore unless you are really smart and or have some connections, as IQ has become our new caste system in post-2008 America. And there is some truth to this. If you have a high-IQ, you can lean how to code apps and possibly become a millionaire should the app become a success. Or you can code for a web 2.0 company and get filthy rich overnight should the company be acquired. Or you can become a professional trader at home, at a proprietary firm or on Wall St., making thousands of dollars (or even millions) a day speculating on the direction of stocks, options, futures, and other financial instruments. For people of more modest intellectual means, unemployment is higher and wages are obviously not as good, in addition to more job insecurity for fear of being fired for the slightest mishap (as you’re easily replaceable). For this intellectually average cohort, work, which is already hard to come by given that the supply of labor vastly exceeds demand for most jobs, is less about ‘self-actualizing’ and more about providing immediate, direct units of economic value to a boss. Some of these jobs can actually pay well (Mike Rowe’s dirty jobs, for example), but the majority are low paying service sector work.

Perhaps through fed & fiscal policy of bailouts, QE, and forever low rates, combined with a winner-take-all economic environment, this is the ‘real world’ version of ‘god’ (policy makers) choosing those who should be saved (rich, smart, successful people). I suppose that’s the closest thing to religion in America today, but it’s reality. So there’s no need to look to deities, holy men and ancient books for the answers.

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