Our personal experience likely tells us that our beliefs have shifted and changed over time, maybe only a little but maybe fundamentally and dramatically. Still, when we think of other people, we tend to picture them as not changing much or at all. Yet millions upon millions of people do change and have changed, and changed a lot.
For instance, millions have left their birth religion. Being born into a religion doesn’t guarantee that you will stay in that religion. A 2014 Pew Research Center study found the following retention rates among the world’s religions: Hinduism retained 80% of those born Hindu, Islam retained 77%, Judaism 75%, Evangelical Christianity 65%, Mormonism 64%, Catholicism 59%, mainline Protestantism 45%, and Jehovah’s Witnesses 34%. What these numbers demonstrate is that sustained belief in one’s birth religion is not guaranteed for everyone. Lots of people change their minds.
Some switch from religion to religion. For instance, 17% of American Jews say they were raised in another religion, with 4% coming from mainline Protestantism, 3% from Catholicism, 2% from evangelical Christianity, and the remainder coming from other religions. On the other hand, many who leave their religion make the switch not to another religion but to agnosticism, atheism, or “nothing in particular.” Lots and lots of people are making these switches, either from religion to religion or from religion to secularism.
Switching is the trend. Another Pew Research Center study concluded the following: that the religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults described themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.
Many formerly religious have become atheists. According to the Wikipedia entry on the demographics of atheism: “Broad estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a deity range from 500 to 750 million people worldwide. Other estimates state that there are 200 million to 240 million self-identified atheists worldwide, with China and Russia being major contributors to those figures. According to numerous global studies on atheism, there are 450 to 500 million positive atheists and agnostics worldwide (7% of the world’s population).”
Putting aside the question of the accuracy of these numbers or whether or not significant trending in the direction of atheism is occurring, we are certainly entitled to conclude the following: that people can and do change their minds; that people can and do leave their birth religion; and that atheism is a way of life for many people.
But atheism is clearly not attractive, or attractive enough, to woo most religious folks away from their religion. Let us then ponder the following question. How many more religious folks might make the switch away from their religion if they had something new, contemporary-feeling and compelling to believe in?
That’s where kirism comes in.
Atheism’s reason for being and its energetic center is its insistence that gods are manmade and make-believe. Kirism moves beyond atheism by taking for granted the manmade, fairytale nature of gods and by presenting a complete worldview that invites folks to live well in the light of their life purpose choices and their meaning-making efforts.
A religious person for whom the word “atheism” is anathema might be able to embrace kirism almost easily, as kirism doesn’t arm-wrestle about gods and doesn’t dismiss mystery. It moves beyond gods and beyond occult trappings like nirvana and reincarnation to bring our religious brothers and sisters into the modern world, where they are needed.
If you agree with my assessment, that kirism might speak to the religious and might woo them away from their superstitions and from the authoritarian dogmas of their religion, then invite someone you know who is religious to take a peek at kirism. You might say very simply, “This looks interesting.” Nothing more need be said. You don’t have to hawk it, tout it, or sell it. Kirism will have to speak for itself. Invite the religious folks you know to give kirism a look—and if you haven’t taken a peek at it yourself yet, please do come visit.