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Hallo again to all.

Over the quarter century that we at AO have been studying and writing about churches and religion (typically from an Anglican perspective), we have noticed that more often than not, unresolvable conflicts and irreparable disagreements have led to schism, division, and separation. One church becomes two, with each accusing the other of some heresy or immorality. Many new religious groups find their identity in shared hate or shared antipathy. A group can feel unified because its members all hate the same things.

We are seeing more and more that church conflict, disagreement, and dislike result not in separation but in apathetic abandonment. Many a household philosopher has noted 'The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is apathy.' The combatants are not walking from their church to another, they are walking away from all churches to give something else the mindshare once occupied by worship and prayer.

Well-known historical separations in the Christian world include believers leaving their churches to become Lutheran, or to become Methodists. In modern times it is realistic to talk about reuniting Methodists and Anglicans, or sharing communion between Lutherans and Anglicans. There might have been passionate and seemingly irreconcilable differences, but most everyone kept on attending some church somewhere.

In the last year, what we are seeing more and more is not people leaving one church in anger or hate to join another church, but people giving up on the concept of church in their lives. The opposite of loving your church is no longer hating your church and favouring another. The opposite of loving your church is reading or gardening or sitting in a pub watching televised sport on Sundays, and forgetting the name of the archbishop.

For decades the surveys and statistical studies have shown some decrease in the number of active Christians in first-world countries. It's been a slow decline, just a few percent per year. Everyone who has had a savings account knows that if the balance increases by a few percent each year, then in several decades it will double or triple. A small increase or decrease every year, compounded over decades, will not result in something small.

The American comedian Jon Stewart once famously said 'Religion. It's given people hope in a world torn apart by religion.' Were he still a public figure today, he might instead say 'Video games. They offer the semblance of hope in a world torn apart by religion.' In the same interview, he also said (much less famously) 'Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality.' We see entirely too many people making that choice, walking away from organized religion because they have become bored by all of the conflict and hate.

Since you are reading this, we know that you have not given up on religion. Perhaps you did not go to church this morning; perhaps you haven't attended church in 3 years. But you haven't given up, despite all the conflict and bitterness that you see around you.

We very much hope to see you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

9 September 2018

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