Christianity? Nope. Maybe in days gone by, but not these days.
Islam? Growing fast, but not America’s favorite.
Sheilaism is America’s favorite religion. Hands down.
You say, “I’ve never heard of Sheliaism. What is it?”
Sheilaism is the religion of making up your own religion. It was founded by Sheila Larson. Well, not really. Sheilaism was coined by sociologist Robert Bellah based upon an encounter he had with a woman who typified for Bellah how the average American viewed religion. Bellah explains:
Sheila Larson is a young nurse who has received a good deal of therapy and describes her faith as “Sheilaism.” This suggests the logical possibility of more than 235 million American religions, one for each of us. “I believe in God,” Sheila says. “I am not a religious fanatic. [Notice at once that in our culture any strong statement of belief seems to imply fanaticism so you have to offset that.] I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice.” Sheila’s faith has some tenets beyond belief in God, though not many. In defining what she calls “my own Sheilaism,” she said: “It’s just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think God would want us to take care of each other.” Like many others, Sheila would be willing to endorse few more specific points.
What is both refereshingly honest and frighteningly dangerous is the fact that Sheila named her own religion after herself, thus fashioning a god in her own image.
Should this surprise us? No, it really should not. In a society that has eagerly shoved the true God to the margins and has been waging an all-out assault on authority and absolute truth, why should we be surprised?
People are increasingly spiritual and decreasingly convictional. As David F. Wells has so eloquently expressed, a previous generation focused on “virtues” (fixed, permanent, transcendent qualities); this generation focuses on “values” (shifting, personal, cultural qualities).
Throw in the reality that we Americans have grown not just accustomed to, but expectant and demanding of, variety and choice and the result is a smorgasbord phenomena in religion. No two people will end up with the exact same combination of food (beliefs) when they sit down at the table to eat (worship).
Recent Barna research reveals that…
By a three to one margin (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church.
So is this a new phenomena? A natural step in man’s evolutionary progression?
Hardly. More like depraved humans falling for the same old lies after rejecting the one true God as revealed in God’s Word. At the heart of Sheilaism is the desire to do life on one’s own terms, to be the captain of one’s own soul. It is the sin of Adam in the garden. It is the same sinful cycle the nation of Israel fell into time and again through the Old Testament: Reject the King of Kings and do your own thing.
Same old stuff:
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 21.25
May God Bless America in spite of herself. Amen.