According to a survey by Trinity College in Hartford,
Connecticut, the number of Americans claiming to practice no formal
religion went from 8% in 1990 to 15% in 2009. Our guess is that the
number may be even higher today.
Outranked in numbers only by Catholics and Baptists, the group
claiming no religion is the third largest category surveyed.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find people who believe
some things are holy and worthy of reverence. Holding on to the
sacred honors the Creator, protects the best in us and requires the
humility to admit many things are beyond our comprehension.
The words we use to describe the sacred - "almighty, holy,
ever-lasting" - sound off-key in a culture that has an instant fix
for anything that happens to be an
Where do we find the sacred today? Marriage? Even
the words "For better or worse, till death do us part" have the
ring of something from another era. Children often grow up without
a sense of identity in homes where family structure is
Human life? The millions of abortions performed are too
painful to think about. Today, embryos can be stored or discarded
according to the whim of the parents. According to the World Bank,
15 million children will die of hunger every year. We have put
ourselves in charge of life without the knowledge and the wisdom of
the sacred. The result is chaos.
In the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments provided a sense of
awe for the sacred and a structure for daily life to a rag-tag
bunch of refugees wandering in the desert. Though the
Israelites couldn't keep the Ten Commandments, they returned to
them time after time to recover a sense of who they were.
In a gospel reading, the moneychangers and sellers of
sacrificial animals placed personal gain above the deeper need to
worship. In a burst of holy anger, Christ rid the temple of people
who had forgotten how to honor the sacred.
Perhaps the deepest human thirst is a need for an encounter with
the transcendent. There are those who point out that encounters
with the holy can happen at any moment; in a quiet walk in the
woods, seeing the glory of a sunrise or sunset, at the birth of a
child or the death of a loved one.
True enough, we can experience the presence of something greater
than ourselves in unexpected places. Connecting with the holy eases
our hearts and brings a sense of peace to our souls. But, faith
without the joy of companionship and the comfort of well-loved
celebrations results in unsupported belief steeped in
Recently, a young friend wrote that she feels she belongs to a
generation that has lost something. What we have lost is a
sense of the sacred that anchors our hearts, surrounds us and leads
us into something greater than the petty concerns of daily
Only when we rediscover a sense of the sacred will we recover a
sense of ourselves.