Established churches are not the only institutions facing the problem and the challenges the loss of confidence presents. Governments, the political establishment, public services, police forces, private businesses, schools and banks are being put into question. Some people exaggerate the comfort, security and integrity of life as it used to be in the “good old days”, but today the permanent threat of terrorist attacks, the reality of climate change, along with unemployment, the precariousness of their economic situation and lack of perspective for a better future for themselves and their children, have led them to lose confidence in many of the institutions in which they believed and on which they depended. As President Obama wrote enigmatically in a TIME article recently (October 24) : “When people feel like the game is rigged, distrust grows.” (He was not referring (only) to Trump’s accusation about the presidential elections three weeks from today …)
The situation of religious institutions is different. Fewer people in developed countries today go to church or seek the sacraments or services of the clergy and of the institution they represent. Many have abandoned not only their religious practice but also many of their beliefs. They are no longer the fervent believers they once were, and find no need to frequent or support their church. Some go further : they are disgusted with their clergy, not only for their financial mismanagement, up to and including the scandals attached to the Mafia connection of the Vatican Bank, but especially for their scandalous sexual behavior, up to and including widespread crimes and cover-up of pedophilia. The professional personnel of churches, especially the Catholic church, are accused not only of inefficiency and malpractice as in other institutions but of being more concerned with their personal comfort and interests rather than those of their flock, and even of behavior in blatant contradiction with the message they preach and the values they represent. It must be said, of course, that many members of the clergy and of Religious Orders are beyond reproach – apart from the fact that they continue to propagate the illusions of their blind faith.
It may take a revolution to reform secular and religious institutions. They have been tried many times since 1789; some have been disasters while others have met with some success, often however at a terrible cost. But peaceful reforms are also possible. Is there any hope that the Catholic Church can reform itself ? The answer of course is “Yes !” Already in Africa and South America the Church is marshalling its troops (“Onward Christian Soldiers” is a Protestant hymn but also a Catholic reality), increasing its numbers and displaying a vitality that has put an Argentinian on the throne of Peter. Pope Francis is determined to clean out the stables.
The Church as an institution will survive. But so will the efforts of this Blog to get at least one category of the Church’s believers to recognize the folly of their faith. Already they have jettisoned some of the more outrageous of its beliefs. They are the Believers on the Brink, the raison d’être and targeted readership of this Blog. They will increasingly lose confidence in the Church not only as an institution but as a teacher of the truth. They have begun to realize that their faith was built on the sands of overconfidence, credulity and wishful thinking. Hopefully they will soon find the courage to choose atheism.