Most people throughout history believed or practiced their religion because they were raised to do so, made to feel guilty if they failed to do so, or coerced by social pressure to “fit in” with their family/clan/neighbors/local elites. Prior to the 20th century, there was generally little questioning of authority, and swift, vigorous punishment for those who dared to do so. What people learned in the home and school was also not all that demanding – it took an hour or so on a sabbath-day, or was the “price” for a feast day off from one’s work demands, or on fairly rare occasion required some self-denial for a fast day. There were always privileged, authoritative “religious” to obey: priests/monks/nuns on up through archbishops, or rabbis, or imams/mullahs, or the like, many of whom in turn had still higher human authorities to whom they were held accountable. These religious did not share their shortcomings, therefore many of the laity were convinced that they, unlike themselves, didn’t have any.
Beginning with the continental [European] Enlightenment of the late 18th century and accelerating through the 19th century, there was a growing consensus amongst academics that God was either a “crutch” for the weak-willed or superstition for the ignorant and gullible. The academics increasingly asserted that the supernatural didn’t exist – that all that was real was in the natural world that was increasingly being identified, categorized, and analyzed by “Science.” To these self-confident, self-righteous academics, “man is the measure of all things.” There was no Creator, no Higher Authority, than Man – and specifically, Man-made government. Ironically, even as the widespread assertion of the statist “divine right of kings” had fallen by the wayside in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, there was a new assertion of “vox populi, vox dei” – the voice of the people is the voice of god. The will of the mob [as manipulated by the ruling elites] supplanted the will of God. This rejection of God increasingly spread among the laity, the common people, after the horrors of the “The Great War,” and the even greater death and destruction of WWII and the Holocaust — “If there is a God, He is either irrelevant, powerless to intervene, or callous to the point of embodying evil, not good.” This led to a general decline in Church activity and regular attendance over the next few decades.
At the same time the evangelical movement in Protestantism and the Charismatic movement within the Catholic Church began to gain momentum. Catholic Charismatic’s often partnered with Pentecostals. Worshipping in each other’s churches was not uncommon. Yes this originated first with the Pentecostals but this was all a part of the Jesus movement during the 1970’s. In Roman Catholicism many Catholics who joined the Charismatic movement began reading the Bible and questioning what they had been taught. Often this caused division within the Church. At the same time reports started to surface about sexual abuse allegations concerning priests. Eventually the Church began to discourage or not support the movement and it ended.
During this period many Jews began questioning what they and their ancestors had been taught by the rabbis about the nature of God, sin, eternal life, and Messiah. Some of these became Messianic Jews – that is, they recognized and acknowledged that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah or Christ [Yeshua HaMoshiakh] foretold throughout the Tenakh [Old Testament]. Through the ’70s and ’80s these movements gained more adherents. In response, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Reformed Jewish rabbis and lay leaders [and some of their followers] became more vocal and aggressive in their “anti-missionary” campaigns and worked feverishly to ensure that traditional Rabbinical Judaism would not be corrupted by Messianic or millennialist thought. This effort included use of the Christian-led “ecumenical movement” as a forum to coerce Christian churches to abandon evangelistic outreach to the Jewish people and publicly affirm that the Jews didn’t need Jesus. [This was despite the clear Gospel record indicating the Jesus came first and foremost to the Jews, and the record of the Apostles, including Paul, always going “first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”]
Throughout the twentieth century, the Progressive movement in the US and its social democratic/socialist counterparts in Europe steadily gained control of academia, media, the leisure/entertainment/recreation industry, organized labor, and the elected and appointed branches of government. Secular Humanism increasingly became the de facto accepted belief system. Religious faith, of which the free exercise had been protected in the US by the 1st and 9th Amendments, became restricted – secular law and regulation were given predominance over religious requirements and beliefs. One could believe whatever one wished, but one could only behave in accordance with the “non-judgmental” secular humanist creed of “being nice, and affirming everyone in their beliefs and lifestyle choices.” A majority of Americans still claimed to believe in God, but this “Santa Claus” version of god tolerated sexual immorality, profanity, laziness, and irresponsibility in the name of “love.” Agnosticism, atheism, non-Christian religious beliefs, and non-heterosexual monogamous sexual relationships were all promoted under the moniker of diversity, inclusion and tolerance. Outside the Western hemisphere, even nominal Christians had become minorities. Meanwhile, Christianity was under physical attack in most of the eastern hemisphere by a host of foes including Muslim Literalists, adherents of Hindutva [Hindu sectarians that asserted that India was to be a Hindu nation, and all Indians should be Hindu, with conversion or apostasy warranting death], and radicalized Buddhist movements as well as the remaining Communists and secular statists in more Westernized/modernized societies.
Under the guise of not enforcing one faith over another the Biblical God has all but been eliminated from the socio-political mainstream. Government-run Media and Entertainment reinforces a totally secular agenda intentionally seeking to mold viewers to their “open-minded” anti-traditional perspective. Traditionalists – including Jews and Christians who oppose gay marriage, abortion, “non-traditional” family/sexual relationships — can be publicly scorned as “bigoted” or “intolerant” by the secularist elites that controls most of the levers of public information and public attitude formation. They will only tolerate those who say they believe in God so long as that claim does not actually influence their actions or attitudes. Bizarrely, secular Progressives and social democrats have often become apologists for Muslim activists because they both oppose the allegedly oppressive domination of Christianity, even though any such domination ended generations ago.
Believers in Jesus Christ [Yeshua HaMoshiakh] must realize that those who do reject or deny God also reject His teachings as recorded in the Bible. Nevertheless, the Christian’s sword is the Word of God, and the Christian’s armor is faith. Christians are all – not just the clergy – called by God to share His Word – the good news [Gospel] of eternal life and reconciliation with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, always being ready to explain what we believe and why, starting with our own personal experience. Those who refuse or do not want to engage in anything that could be considered controversial or risk conflict may live to experience this day: Will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry out to Him day and night? Will He continue to defer their help? I tell you, He will promptly carry out justice on their behalf. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:7-8)