Religion is an important source of meaning, and always has been. I take exception when poll results are interpreted to infer that religion is fading away in our post-modern age. Like many, I just don’t believe it. In a recent annual Gallup poll, people were asked to rate the importance of religion in their lives—whether it was very, fairly, or not very important. Fifty-one percent said “very,” 21 percent said “fairly,” and 27 percent said “not very.” All good—America has always been a religious country and a majority of 72 percent say religion remains, to some degree, important in their lives.
The problem started when a commentator noted that back in 1952 when the poll started, 75 percent rated religion as “very important.” Therefore, the current 51 percent was interpreted as religious decline. That’s a possible view, but a thoughtful observer might propose another conclusion. During World War II, there was a surge of religiosity (think of the saying, “No atheists in foxholes”). This continued as soldiers returned home, married, and started families (preachers often note that babies drive their parents to church). As a consequence, 75 percent in 1952 considered religion “very important.” It’s noteworthy that the heightened religiosity of the ‘50s coincided with an idyllic time for America. It’s true also that in our prosperity, we tend to forget what got us there.
There’s a phrase in statistics, “regression toward the mean,” which means non-typical outcomes will be followed by more normal ones. Lucky streaks, for example, never last. There were many factors in play, but by 1978 the “very important” rating had regressed to 52 percent. Forty years later in 2018 it was statistically the same—51 percent. Thus, it’s better said that religion is more sought in a period of peril (like WWII), but over time retains a threshold of importance. History supports the durability of religion. Hinduism predates recorded history; Judaism is over 3,000 years old; Christianity is nearing two millennia; and Islam arose 14 centuries ago. In this time, empires have risen and fallen, great enterprises have appeared and vanished, but religion is ever with us. Though we differ in expression, the human family is hard-wired for godly faith.
You can see this durability in Laguna’s churches. In each congregation, there is a faithful nucleus with strong bonds built over the years that help shape our town. I finished 2018 by worshiping at United Methodist, welcomed by members who reared their children together. I was also at St. Mary’s Episcopal, Church by the Sea, and St. Francis by the Sea. In each, I observed the feeling of family that grows from years of shared worship. Everyone should visit tiny St. Francis, a jewel box of a cathedral in the Catholic tradition. When Bishop Brian Delvaux raised the communion wafer high, it caught a ray of sunshine from the stained-glass window that turned it red—a remarkable moment. I’ve said it before, but attending one of Laguna’s churches is as enjoyable as a sunset walk on the beach. There’s meaning in that.
Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected].
Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):
Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.
Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.
Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.
Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.
First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.
ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.
Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.
Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.
Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.
United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.
St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.
St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.
Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.