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21st Century Orthodoxy

From my studies in social psychology, I have come across the view (supported by evidence in social psychology, sociology, and social observation) that having religious competition fosters higher rates of religious attendance overall.

There are a few theories for why this is, but my view, based on psychology and some sociologists (like Finke and Stark), is that the religious landscape in America as a sort of free market – where churches tailor their positions in order to capture a larger “market share,” and the competition between different churches causes people to use religious self-identification as a way of expressing their individuality.  In an individualistic society, this competition causes more people to go to church, and more people to actively engage with their religion.

By contrast, in countries with state churches, or near-universal religious homogeneity, overall rates of church attendance are lower.  Many Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic countries are this way.

For a long time, Orthodoxy has been quite tied up with governments and empires, and has taken such a strong root in some lands that it has been taken for granted.

I am interested to see where Orthodoxy goes next.  I think an older model, where Orthodoxy is taken for granted, and becomes synonymous with either governmental oppression or bureaucracy (rightfully or not), or a sort of cultural blanket over a homogeneous society, is unsustainable.  I’m not sure that is the idea model for Christianity anyway.  It seems to me that Jesus’ message was intended to be an underground message; a message for the few who “salt” or “leaven” society – but people do not eat salt or leaven exclusively.


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