We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. [....]
This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.
And while I agree with some of the general predictions, I think there are some fundamental flaws with the reasoning here, due to bias on the part of the author. He got many of the symptoms right, but the true prognosis is much more dire than he'd like to believe. I mean, if Christianity is on the wane due to growing anti-religious intolerance, where could the intolerance have originated from? It's like if the chicken and egg created each other simultaneously.
Because intolerance of Christianity isn't what he's describing, but rather, intolerance of Christian intolerance. People are sick of Christians who stick their nose in our business and tell us how to live our lives. And that has nothing to do with Christianity. The real problem is that Christianity has been on the wane for centuries and what we call "Christianity" have been a series of substitutes, with each incarnation getting further from original. And we're slowly reaching the point that we won't be calling it Christianity at all.
Flag, Family, and Jesus
As a seminarian at Carpetbagger's wrote:
I agree with the comment that the number of "Christians" is overstated unless you equate Christianity with the common "folk religion" of the U.S. and espcially the south and otherwise rural areas. That is the religion that is flag first, family second, Jesus third and maybe God and Bible in there somwhere as well. Oh yeah, and condemnation of how other people conduct their sex lives (that's definately ahead of God).
And that's the real reason why these groups are going down: Because it's not really about religion any more. This isn't Christianity. It's about the culture war. It's about the megachurch. It's not about Christianity; it's about the Christian identity. This is a group of people who are lost in modern society and found an island of sanity that they can believe in. "Christian" is who they are and "church" is where their friends are.
Not that all Christians are like this, as I've known many Christians who have a deep understanding with their religion. But for too many, their religiousness is restricted to very specific areas of their lives. For them, religion is a person, a place, a set of actions. But it's not an overarching belief system that extends to everyday life. They might pray for rain, but they still understand weather patterns. They'll nod in approval at the Sermon on the Mount, but they'll obey the tenants of "tough love" that satisfies their moral code.
And honestly, how many of them truly act like death is a great reward, rather than a horrible event to avoid? None that I know of. They might say that their Uncle Joe is in Heaven, but they rarely celebrate the idea or seem eager to join him. Nor have I seen conservatives trumpeting the number of American soldiers they sent to Heaven. They might find comfort in the concept of Heaven, but they rarely act as if it's real.
The Beginning of the End
And the reality is that God is Dead. And the people who "killed" him are the ones who imagine they're keeping him alive. They've made religion "real." They've given practical solutions to eternal questions, as well as a complete set of political beliefs. And they've given it charisma and a self-help mentality to woo the masses. Gone is the suffering Jesus of the Middle Ages. It's all about the power of positive thinking these days, and figuring out how to make God work for us.
And by doing these things, they took the immaterial and made it material. God now has a price tag and the only "mystery" left is how much praying we have to do before He gives us that big promotion. God for them is little more than the anthropomorphic version of their own desires. And before long, they'll set the god aside and just reach for what they desire. But of course, the only difference is that they'll have to justify these desires on their merits, rather than attributing them to a supernatural power. They'll say that God is too mysterious to understand, but that never stops them from insisting that he supports their actions.
But these aren't variations on an ageless theme. These are short-term bandaids that mask the effects that our expanded worldview of have given us. The old school religions are only hanging on due to habitual attendees who feel obligated to remain faithful, while the newer incarnations will only last until the charismatic preacher dies or the culture battle wears thin. And for as much as people hold on to this "faith," it's really only their identity as The Faithful that they so desperately cling to. They made God in their own self-image and refuse to relinquish the authority they imagine He gave them. But even that will fade over time.
And I should add that I don't say any of this to be antagonistic towards religion. I'm not anti-religious and think that if a belief system helps someone become a better person, I'm all for it. I'm not trying to push for the death of religion. I'm just giving a better explanation for the phenomenon that was described in that Christian Science article. And much of it actually came from that article, though I obviously have a more pessimistic conclusion from it all (or more optimistic from my POV, I suppose).