Do you ever wonder why Western atheism is on the rise? Why does the Christian West, by far, produce the highest number of atheists? What I believe, and have dedicated my life to reversing, is that we have not moved doctrine and dogma to the level of inner experience. As long as “received teaching” doesn't become experiential knowledge, we’re going to continue creating a high quantity of disillusioned ex-believers. Or on the flip-side, we’ll manufacture very rigid believers who simply hold on to doctrines in very dry, dead ways with nothing going on inside.
—Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance
I read The Divine Dance, and that quote in particular, a few years ago. It’s profound and furnished with insight. Rohr’s making the point that the church is largely culpable for the rise of atheism in countries like my own, here in the UK.
Sadly, many Christians and churches are still attributing fault to culture or government or Hollywood. They’re not prepared to take a more honest look at how they have contributed to atheism’s ascent.
Too many churches have focussed on getting people signed up to their ‘doctrines and dogmas’, to use Rohr’s words. They are more concerned about people believing the right things than having experiential encounters with the divine.
And anything that fails to deliver inner resonance will leave people disillusioned.
Until the churches in the West are willing to admit responsibility and shift their focus to what truly matters, the rise of atheism is likely to continue unchecked.