Desolation Angels: The Empty Churches of Ireland
Are we finally splintering off from the evil epoch of organized religion’s incontrovertible power over vast populations, on the verge of entering of a new age of reason?
This certainly appears to be the case in many the world’s most advanced cultures and countries, and no where is this metaphysical revolution more blatantly obvious at the moment than what’s happening within the Republic of Ireland (and Northern Ireland, too — although the casualty here is Protestantism).
Once one of the most fiercely loyal Catholic societies on the planet, Ireland is now changing before our eyes, certainly by the day, and almost by the minute with every new birth certificate being inked. Each new birth currently means it’s more likely that child will not be part of what used to be called the traditional religious order. So severe has been the decline of conventional practices of faith and the collective national trust in organized religion within Ireland, that a whopping 25 percent of all former practicing Catholics (from just a generation ago) have since abandoned the church. Two things — (1) rampant indifference to organized religion and (2) secular humanism — have stepped in and filled the void. READ MORE HERE [SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN]
The reasons for Ireland’s accelerated abandonment of religion when measured against other societies are plentiful, and irrefutable, and don’t have as much to do with a mass intellectual awakening as much as anger directed at the church on at least two fronts, one completely unique to the Irish cultural experience, and the other a far more menacing global controversy.
Clearly, as ordinary Irishmen (and women) today increasingly distance themselves from the once-violent Catholic-Protestant conflict that devastated so many regions of the country during “The Troubles” period (1968-1998), elapsed time and space have since allowed for a collective reflection of that tortured experience. Now, the overwhelming consensus among most Irish is that religion didn’t comfort citizens during the crisis, at all. Rather, religion clearly magnetized the battle lines and then created the violence, or at least fanned the flames of what became extended acts of terror and suffering which lasted for 30 years and impacted just about everyone.
Then, there were the numerous sex scandals involving priests, and worse — the Catholic Church’s overt denial of any wrongdoing at first, and the cover up of crimes later on — practices which certainly weren’t unique to Ireland, but shattered faith in the institutional order, nonetheless. It’s hard to imagine anything more heinous that terrorists killing each other in the name of religion, but if there’s such a thing as kicking masked bus bombers off to the morality curb, it’s priests doing some pretty disgusting things to kids, followed by the most powerful institution in the world LYING and insisting those crimes didn’t happen. Shame isn’t strong enough a word.
So what does all this mean? How will the decline of religion within Ireland impact the rest of society? What, if any, implications does this have for other countries who may be headed down the same path? Might Ireland simply be way ahead of the rest of the world, particularly the Christian world, about to spin off into a precipitous decline where churches simply don’t influence what people do or the way they think?
Call me the eternal optimist. Let’s hope so.
Against some rather strong evidence to the contrary, particularly as it pertains to Muslim societies, when freedom of thought is an option and access to unfiltered information is readily available, religious faith elsewhere simply cannot stand up to the scrutiny of reason, or the principles of science, or common sense. Just as I drove throughout Ireland last month and saw abandoned castles scattered everywhere across the countryside, I expect the future generations will look upon deserted churches with the same sense of curiosity. It’s already happening.
Religion was once at the center of human civilization, one reason we tend to see churches always positioned in the center of towns and villages. Wherever you travel in the old world, especially within Ireland, there’s a church barnacled to where all the crossroads meet. The apex isn’t merely geographical, but all-encompassing — political, economical, cultural, and social. The church used to be at the center of everyone’s life.
Thing is, today when you pass thought the center of town and see a church somewhere in Ireland, it’s either abandoned already, or seemingly in grave danger of shutting its doors. On at least two occasions, I came upon religious services taking place, and both times it was difficult to tell if a mass was bring held, or the local nursing home was doing a Bible study. Put in marketing terms, the demographics for religion are not good. If Catholicism in Ireland were a stock, good advice would be as follows: SELL
Alas, churches will gradually become like those crumbling old castles we now tour, medieval attractions worthy of both inquisitiveness and ridicule. Just as today we roll our eyes about lofty lords and lowly serfs and wonder how blind obedience was once so prevalent, the time shall come when religion is bunched with unflappable allegiance to royalty. No sane person would die for a king or queen anymore, and similarly — we are headed for a time when people won’t be fooled into dying for gods or religions. Most of the Christian world just so happened to be ahead of the progression, and Ireland, in particular, seems to be taking a lighthouse role, guiding the levelheaded to the port of sensibility.
Yes, the binding shackles of superstition are rusting away and slowly= breaking apart. Increasingly, The Bible is looked upon by many educated people — and particularly the youngest generation — as some contorted version of an ancient hieroglyphic, certainly interesting and worthy of study by scholars, but about as relevant to modern realities as a buffalo hunt somewhere in Mesopotamia.
There have been historical precedents for what’s happening now. Alchemy, the transformation of common matter into gold is now little more than junk science, and a collective joke among scientists. Slavery, once thought to be a noble virtue by virtually all Christians, including kings and queens and popes for centuries, has since been disgraced and repudiated. People do get wise. Truth prevails. It just takes time. Sometimes, way too much time, but the wheels of greater awareness and reason do revolve.
The human mind, when given ample pasture, inherently will graze. And true to the color most associated with this proud nation, the fields are the greenest — in Ireland.