Reading the Spiritual Tea Leaves

I'VE BEEN THINKING about how much things change, and yet how little they really do. In other words, things appear to change because the particulars differ, but the underlying principles at work remain the same.

Case in point: the election of the least-prepared president in the history of the country prompted millions to writhe in an ecstasy prompted by His presence and the promise of change they really, really believed in. We're now seeing that change: an unprecedented restructuring of America toward statism and away from personal responsibility.

But Tuesday's elections proved how short Obama's coattails really are, though he inexplicably remains personally popular. Why? In a previous post I posited that many white Americans voted for Obama primarily because he was black, in order to prove to themselves and others that they were not racists, which of course, proves them to be exactly that, because racism by definition includes taking race into account when judging a person. Yet these same devoted voters stayed away from the polls in droves this last week, showing the true fervency of their love for the Dear Leader.

China and India, the world's two most populous nations, decline to be bound by the sort of legislation now wending its way through the U.S. Congress in the form of "cap and trade" restrictions on CO2 emissions. These two ascendant behemoths are responsible for over one-quarter of the "poisonous" (so says the EPA) carbon dioxide emissions on the planet. English PM Gordon Brown has declared that the world has just thirty days to prevent an environmental catastrophe if the proposed Copenhagen emission standards are not adopted worldwide.

Yet facts are stubborn things. There are more polar bears now than there were fifty years ago. The world has been demonstrably cooling for the last ten years. So, "global warming" has been cynically replaced by "climate change" as the Left's latest mantra. After all, who can dispute that climate changes? A low incidence of sunspots over the last decade is ultimately responsible for the cooling, but this takes mankind out of the equation and makes his attempts to protect Mother Gaia laughably impotent. As a result, only one percent of Americans rate "climate change" at the top of their concerns. (Wages and jobs predictably hold that position.)

Western religion is in decline, while childish, tantrum-throwing Islam rises steadily, due to low birthrates in the West and high Muslim birthrates everywhere. It is only a matter of time until Islam becomes the world's dominant religion. Christianity is on the wane except in the impoverished and uneducated Third World, and then only for the most strident evangelical sects. Church attendance in America is at historically low levels and is practically nonexistent in Europe. More than half of Americans judge themselves "spiritual but not religious."

What all these events and trends have in common is this: the ardent acolytes of politics, religion, and science prove a universal and innate human search for meaning. Historically, meaning was found through the three professions: the church, medicine, and the law. All three are now in decline. Given the reprehensible behavior of so many religious leaders, who can trust someone who claims to speak for God? Doctors until recently enjoyed great respect, but the healthcare debate has revealed that their vote (e.g., the AMA on Obamacare) can be bought as cheaply as anyone else's. And no examples need be given for lawyers, who are barely more popular than Congress.

So what happens when traditional sources of meaning and purpose evaporate before our eyes? The church is passe and uninspiring, with few answers that satisfy modern believers. Politics is a cesspool of needy liars and false messiahs. Its latest incarnation, the nanny state, is insufficiently adult to inspire respect and obedience. A nanny, after all, is not a parent; she's a teenaged babysitter. Can we believe in a government that takes from those who produce and gives to those who do not? Environmentalism is supposed to be based on science, yet supercomputer models of climate change are as wrong as a pocket dog in a tutu. Mother Gaia doesn't even know we exist. What then, can we believe in? What is the next religion?

Man is a spiritual being and religion, no matter how it's clothed, is an innate expression of his spirituality. But in today's world, what religion can truly satisfy our natural need for union with the Ultimate?

When no religion is believable, will we still believe in God?

Or will we see the following headline on the cover of TIME: "We're all Nihilists Now."

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