In Part 2 of this series, we introduced two members of the Millennial generation. John Haworth, a 23-year-old agnostic atheist business student in Del Mar, California. And, Andrew Ouellette, an 18-year-old candidate for the Roman Catholic religious order known as the Capuchin Franciscans in Chicago, Illinois.
In the first half of this interview, both talked about their religious philosophies, religion in their upbringing and the challenges of today’s youth. In this entry, we’ll focus on how the two see the challenges facing religion today, the influences of different religions, and the challenges each one’s beliefs face in today’s society.
B.K. Bergman: What do you think the greatest challenge is for religion in America right now?
Andrew Oullette (AO): I think that not only are materialism, secularism, and relativism, a problem for our youth but they are also are problem for religion in America. When I look at all of these new “mega churches” with their coffee shops, large multimedia screens, light shows, gift shops, and their concert arena like sanctuaries, I see that materialism as swept into some of our churches and have taken over that which is sacred.
John Haworth (JH): It’s definitely woven deeply into the fabric of our society. America has a problem with consumerism, this idea that we over-exert our financial selves because we’re constantly bombarded and tempted by the “quick pleasures” posed to us by advertisements and the media. Most religions and philosophies teach us to show restraint when confronted with temptation, and many institutions seek to make money by appealing to our more primal urges.
BK: Do you see this problem getting worse or getting better in the future?
JH: I couldn’t say with certainty. That would seem to depend on the political state of this country, which is an entirely different conversation.
AO: I see it getting worse in our church’s all across America and it does not look like it will be changing anytime soon.
BK: What do you think prevents young people from getting involved in organized religion?
AO: As I said before, many of my generation see the hatred that has come from religious people and that is what sets the youth off about organized religion. They see the intolerance in some of our churches that is going against the message of Jesus and they choose not to be a part of a crowd that they view as being hypocritical. Of course this is not the youth’s fault but the fault of those select intolerant Christians.
JH: Some view organized religion as a form of control, especially since the youth of any generation will tend to be rebellious against what it perceives as authority. Over generations, it would appear that within certain communities, the need to practice religion becomes watered down and less potent, which translates to the youth as well. At the same time, with a growing population, I don’t think religion is necessarily on the decline when it comes to how many people practice it.
BK: What do you think organized religion should do to encourage America’s youth to get involved?
JH: The one thing I can think of is largely being done already, which is appeal to people’s (of any age) need to belong to a group. Younger people generally struggle with self-esteem issues more than older people and religion helps people find acceptance.
AO: Organized religions needs to show youth the goodness of religion, whatever religion they may choose. We need to also show the youth that there is still good in this world and that the world is not some evil hate-filled place to live in.
BK: What three separate religions interest you the most (outside of your own)?
JH: Taoism, Zen Buddhism, and for completely different reasons, Scientology.
AO: I have always been fascinated by Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism.
BK: What is the thing that interests you the most about each of those?
AO: I have many friends who are Muslim and they are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. I really admire the Muslim fasting and I think that we as Christians can learn from that since we have almost forgotten that fasting is a big part of CONTINUES ON PAGE 2