Dr. Wayne Baker is traveling and welcomes back popular guest columnist Terry Gallagher.
“I don’t care to belong to any club
that will have me as a member.”
Funny? Maybe, but Groucho’s famous joke turns out to have been prophetic. There’s lots of evidence.
In 2000, Harvard’s Robert Putnam made the point in Bowling Alone: “We sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often,” according to a website on the book. “We’re even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues.”
Partly this reluctance or inability to connect with our neighbors is due the increasing demands we all face in our modern lives. Putnam’s book “shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors have contributed to this decline.”
Then, a few days ago, Gallup published a startling report: American confidence in “organized religion” has hit an all-time low. Since Gallup tracking began in 1973, when 66 percent of us expressed confidence in organized religion, that confidence has eroded to only 44 percent. Here’s the shock: The vast majority of Americans still say that religion is an important part of daily life—80 percent of us, a portion that has remained solid for years. The conclusion? Americans aren’t just bowling alone, these days. Millions of us increasingly want what Putnam now is describing as a “Church of One.”
It’s all an expression of our American commitment to individual liberty—our passion for freedom. I mean, who wants to show up at the same place every Thursday at 6:15 p.m. for the next eight months just to go bowling? That’s a restraint on our liberty, right? And, who wants to limit our faith to the preaching of traditional priests and pastors? We want our freedom, don’t we?
Well, do we? Come on—tell us what you think.
Does the principle of bowling alone—solo sports—appeal to you?
Does the Church of One appeal to you?
What are the advantages? What are the costs?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.