web analytics
empty church

Nowadays, People Believe Anything

empty church
A pretty empty church

On Saturday, I went to the film Spider-Man: Far From Home (no spoilers). One of the characters said:

People, they need to believe. And nowadays, they’ll believe anything.

Earlier that day, I read an article in our local Christchurch newspaper how the percentage of Christians in Britain has halved in 35 years and how the percentage of atheists continues to rise. “Confident atheists” have risen from a tenth to over a quarter of the population. The chief executive of the organisation that did the survey said that scientific rationalism plays a more significant role now.

One interesting part of the analysis was the generational nature of the stats. It is not that people are leaving church – it is simply that younger generations are not joining. And this while 55% of the population express “some sort of belief in some kind of God”. If anything, the situation in New Zealand is further along the trend explored in this British survey.

But wait; there’s more…

In the same Saturday newspaper, there was a large, two-page article about a Pascha group led by someone who has seen “dead people before she could walk”. She says, “At one stage I had two-thirds of the Crusaders coming to see me and half the All Blacks…. Some of the people who lead the Crusaders now are old clients of ours.” As an aside, I note the Crusaders, Canterbury’s rugby team overflows with religious symbolism as does most of the national game, rugby.

The article explains that the leader of the Pascha group ‘was first visited in 1986, when she was 26, by her spiritual guide and “teacher”, Raman Pascha – the Master Khamouri, a Persian man who lived 2000 years ago.’ They have trained over 400 Pascha therapists. Costs are $198 per hour. A year’s membership is $1175. They employ 30 staff.

While Christianity struggles to move into the 21st-century, post-modern context, other belief systems are rapidly filling the vacuum that has been created. Because, people, they need to believe. And scientific rationalism isn’t something that most people are able to build a life upon.


And, having prepared this blog post, I saw this tweet reminding me that Dietrich Bonhoeffer had been grappling with this 75 years ago:

What is bothering me incessantly is the question what Christianity really is, or indeed who Christ really is, for us today. The time when people could be told everything by means of words, whether theological or pious, is over, and so is the time of inwardness and conscience – an that means the time of religion in general. We are moving towards a completely religionless time; people as they are now simply cannot be religious any more. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious’ do not in the least act up to it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious.’…

…if our final judgment must be that the western form of Christianity, too, was only a preliminary stage to a complete absence of religion, what kind of situation emerges for us, for the church? How can Christ become the Lord of the religionless as well? Are there religionless Christians? If religion is only a garment of Christianity – and even this garment has looked very different at times – then what is a religionless Christianity?

Bonhoeffer’s letter Bethge 30 April, 1944

If you appreciated this post, consider liking the liturgy facebook page, and/or signing up for a not-very-often email, … if you are on Instagram, please follow @liturgy.

Similar Posts:

4 thoughts on “Nowadays, People Believe Anything”

  1. Methinks ‘religionless christianity’ is indeed a major step forward toward Christian community forming through Christianity-in-practice whether of individuals or corporately. Lloyd Geering’s recording of the phenomenon was, in my view, widely misunderstood although it did give rise to other efforts to understand the obvious changing patterns in both attendance and types of church experience emerging in the latter 20th century and, more significantly, recognition of the overarching evidence of ‘healing the sick, showing mercy, seeking justice for the downtrodden, by ad hoc bodies and/or individuals unaffiliated to any religious organisation.

  2. Good Morning Bosco,

    I have for the last 10 years, been in discussion on why the Anglican churches in New Zealand are not growing?

    My personal conclusion is;

    1.That the church has achieved its objective as the first point of call for services to the community.

    2. The community can now see that the services that the church has provided are needed and they have now taken that responsibility off the church. eg: foodbanks, caring for the sick and saving the planet etc.. ( religionless Christianity).

    This is only a part of what church is. We still need to attend to pray with others as I havn’t found peace of mind outside yet of a church building? Blessing Ruth

    1. Thanks, Ruth. Your point (2) is very interesting – God still acting beyond the church, often sourced in the church and moved beyond it. Blessings.

      1. Ruth Hendry-Rennie

        Yes Bosco, but the source /God seems to be loss in this movement. I don’t think mankind has married the two yet? It appears to me there is still a disconnection and unhappiness in the world that proves this!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.