Changing U.S. religious climate helps nurture personal growth

More than one-quarter of Americans have left the religion of their upbringing by either claiming a new religious affiliation or becoming a non-believer altogether, according to an article by The Associated Press.

Regardless of our individual religious views, and without stirring a religious debate, it is astounding. I am intrigued by this statistic mainly because I am one of those individuals who changed his or her religious affiliation.

I was born and raised Catholic and the members of my extended family are almost entirely made up of practicing Catholics, at least on my dad’s side. When I left for college, I stopped going to church altogether. I soon realized I needed the church in my life, but I wanted something new that I could apply to my daily life.

Almost three years ago, I was invited to attend a non-denominational church, Fellowship Church in Grapevine. Soon after, I joined the congregation and became a member. Churches like the one I attend are growing. Many people are calling them “megachurches” because of their size and reach in the population.

“The American religious economy is like a marketplace – very dynamic, very competitive,” said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum. People have a choice and everyone fits into a different sect of religion. That is one of the amazing things about the freedom of religion we experience daily.

The pastor of my church teaches me something every weekend. He doesn’t read me Scripture, expect me to already have a solid understanding of it and then give a short summary of what he just read. He takes Scripture, explains what it means in today’s world and then concludes with how we can apply it in our lives.

I walk out with a new sense of understanding in a world full of misunderstandings every single weekend, without fail. In our world, I believe that people search for meaning, search for ways to make sense of the things we cannot and most often are not supposed to understand. The survey found that Catholics are losing the most members from this new denomination swap that is occurring. Could this be a possible reason that traditional churches are losing members?

Lugo also attributes the drop in organized religion to the “high tolerance among Americans for change.” He said, “People move a lot, people change jobs a lot. It’s a very fluid society.”

He’s right. We live in a world that embraces and takes advantage of change. Change happens to carry a more positive connotation than it has in a long time.

I can’t say for certain that I will not return to my Catholic roots when I am older and possibly looking for something more traditional. As for right now, I need what the megachurches offer. I am learning what I need to learn to survive as a healthy Christian in the church I call home.

Everyone responds to a different tone and everyone needs a different church. People are looking for something different and in order to thrive, churches are changing and adapting.

When I made my decision to attend this non-denomination church rather than a Catholic church like the one I grew up in, my dad told me something. Churches show you how to become a better individual. He said as long as I was learning and growing and living a respectable life, then the name of the church I attended was meaningless.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Marissa Warms is a senior advertising/public relations major from Irving.