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Is Religion Nearly Extinct?

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield has been making a big splash in the media lately with a very inclusive view of world religions, writing books like “You Don’t Have to be Wrong for Me to be Right”.  Most recently, the Rabbi authored an Opinion piece for Fox News entitled “Is Religion Headed for Extinction”.  (http://blog.beliefnet.com/windowsanddoors/)

This piece discusses the implications of a study conducted by scholars from the University of Arizona and Northwestern University.  The findings of the study were presented at a meeting of the American Physical Society.  (I have no idea what that is.)  The upshot of the study, according to Hirschfield, is that religion may be dying in nine countries. The study projects the extinction of religion in Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Canada, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Switzerland.  It seems clear from the article that Hirschfield believes the trends observed also apply in the United States, though perhaps to some lesser degree.  He points out that polling conducted for the American Religious Identification Survey identifies the fastest growing religious group in America as the “nones” (people indicating that none of the religion-oriented categories offered by the study fit how they would describe themselves.)

Several points are made in this article, including:

  1. Rabbi Hirschfield asserts that: “None of our faiths has been here forever, and according to most of them, each is an improvement over what preceded them, so it’s likely that if these traditions should actually die out, they too will be replaced by potentially superior alternatives.”  The Bible disagrees.  “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” (Genesis 1:1).  While religious practices have certainly evolved, and traditions as well, God has not changed.  Hebrews 13:8 says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  While specific traditions may fade and be replaced, anyone who says that none of our faiths have been here forever is denying the perpetuality of the God who created mankind, and will ultimately sit in judgment of each of us.
  2. Rabbi Hirschfield asserts that: “It may be that in all of these places, both where religion is in decline and where it is on the rise, what’s happening is that people are insisting on the expansion of those options which have defined their spiritual and religious possibilities until now.”  Options!  Doesn’t that sound great?  It’s like deciding whether you want heated seats in your new car.  Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t teach us that there are really any options.  It says: “There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”   (1 Timothy 2:5) One.  Not several options, but ONE.
  3. Rabbi Hirschfield asserts that: “The real story emerging here is not the potential extinction of religion, but the explosion of choice which people increasingly feel is their right.”  Again, this is diametrically opposed to Biblical teachings, and the very premise of Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.  The Bible warns Christians again and again about an “inclusive” approach, and makes it clear that this is a path that leads only to destruction: “Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.”  (Matthew 7:13-14)
  4. Rabbi Hirschfield asserts that: “No faith can succeed if it does not work in the lives of the faithful. This study just reminds us, particularly those of us connected to organized faith traditions, that we must never lose sight of that fact, and if we do, we probably deserve to go extinct anyway.”  The Rabbi’s perspective is man-centered rather than God-centered.  He seems to take the position that there are no absolutes, and certainly there is no absolute truth.  There are lots of “options”, and religion only “works” when it satisfies the needs that people perceive they have.  But the fact is that God created man, not the other way around.  When men have tried to remake God, it has never turned out well.  (Remember the story of the golden calf?  See Exodus Chapter 32) Whether men decide that the Bible is true or not will not alter the facts.  There are no “options”.

The Rabbi is obviously an intelligent guy, and he has clearly found a way to get his message out to a broad and accepting audience.  In my experience observing both political and religious figures, the more diluted and ecumenical one’s message, the more widely accepted it is; Rabbi Hirschfield seems to be another example of this phenomenon.  I think the general assertion made by the book title “You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right” just about sums this all up in a proverbial nutshell.  And that position is wrong. Jesus said:  “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  (Matthew 7: 21-23)  I am not always right, but God always is.  And God is very black-and-white when it comes to good and evil, truth and lies.  He doesn’t deal in “options”.  God is always right, and therefore, in this case Rabbi Hirschfield does indeed have to be wrong.

It is a nearly universal truth that the easy path in life is never the best path.  The best path for Christians is to follow is not the easy path represented by Rabbi Hirschfield.  It is the direction provided in scripture (2 Thessalonians 2:15): “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”

What do you think?

2 Responses to “Is Religion Nearly Extinct?”

  1. Martha Eck says:

    I LOVE #4. You hit it right on the head, when you said God created man, not the other way around. Our society is so lazy and doesn’t want to put work into anything. Many people believe that being saved life will be easy road. Maybe for some, but the best Christians in the world have had to face many difficulties to grow and see God face to face. All the growth with Our Lord and Savior comes from dedicated work to Christianity and Faith that God will see you through. The best part is that God grows our faith in these “trouble” times. Today so many people want to take the easy way out. Like there is a simple pill they can take and everything will go just there way. Christ died on the cross for us, and we owe Him everything. Whether in good times or bad, christians need to give 110% of their time, money, dedication and love for one another in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. It seems as though in the times we are living alot of people just don’t want to do the work, they want that simple pill. Deception of the devil plots his attacks and so many listen and give in. Where is Christiany??? It should be pressing forward from us Christians that know the truth and can spread the word to those searching or questioning where they belong. God is calling His children home and blesses each one of us to spread his work. The true questions to Is Rligion Nearly Extinct, falls on us believers and are we truly ready to fight this christianity battle in the name of our Lord and Savior. Put on the armor of the Lord and battle what is being called extinct and let us believers re-populate christianity and fight the Lords battle to spread His word. The Lord almighty is worthy of us spreading His word 110% and eliminate the word extinct. To God be the Glory!!!!

    Martha Eck

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Truly outstanding, Martha: Thank you so much for this post. I was having lunch with a friend yesterday and told him that I truly believe although God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us, He must be pretty disgusted with most of us most of the time. We expect Him to answer our prayers but we rarely have any time to do what He directed us to do in the Great Commission. We usually have time for TV, ball games, etc. though. I cannot even imagine living through what you endure daily, and I have great respect for your attitude through all of this. God bless you.

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