These days, God is dead everywhere except at movie theaters. But rest easy, America, that doesn't mean we're spiraling into an amoral abyss or a lawless society. Indeed, by most indicators of anti-social behavior, things have never been better.
Even as polls and church-attendance records show the U.S. is becoming a more secular, less pious country, current films such as Heaven is for Real (based on a best-selling account of a four-year-old boy's supposed trip to the afterlife) and Noah (based on the Old Testament's account of the Great Flood) have done boffo business.
Noah is closing in on $100 million, the line that separates mere hits from blockbusters, and Heaven is for Real easily bested Johnny Depp's poorly reviewed meditation on computer-enabled immortality, Transcendence. God's Not Dead, a drama about a college freshman challenging his professor's atheism, is also performing strongly, and so is Son of God, the latest cinematic version of the life of Jesus.
Expect to see more Christian and religiously themed movies as a result…. Yet there's no reason to think that such movies will do anything to stanch the broad and ongoing decline in religiosity. And there's even less reason to worry about the trend toward a less godly country….
That's from my latest column up at Time, which includes data on the long-term decline of organized religion in the United States (which is still much more religious than most developed nations).
What do you think, readers? Does the recent success of religiously themed movies suggest a revival of Christianity in the United States? How does what might be called "soft spirituality" (e.g., New Age beliefs) fit into this discussion)? Or is the long-term decline in most markers of religious activity and belief (church membership, attendance, etc.) pretty much irreversible, especially among younger Americans?