Helton, 28, and Dohm, 54, aren’t atheists. They simply shrug off God, religion, heaven or the ever-trendy search-for-meaning and/or purpose. Their attitude could be summed up as “So what?”
. . .
Only now, however, are they turning up in the statistical stream. Researchers have begun asking the kind of nuanced questions that reveal just how big the “So What” set might be:
—44 percent told the 2011 Baylor University Religion Survey they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom,” and 19 percent said “it’s useless to search for meaning.”
—46 percent told a 2011 survey by Nashville, Tenn.-based LifeWay Research that they never wonder whether they will go to heaven.
—28 percent told LifeWay “it’s not a major priority in my life to find my deeper purpose.” And 18 percent scoffed at the idea that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.
—6.3 percent of Americans turned up on Pew Forum’s 2007 Religious Landscape Survey as totally secular—unconnected to God or a higher power or any religious identity and willing to say religion is not important in their lives.
Hemant Mehta (pictured left), who blogs as the Friendly Atheist, calls them the “apatheists,” while the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde (pictured right), the new Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., calls them honest.
She finds this “very sad, because the whole purpose of faith is to be a source of guidance, strength and perspective in difficult times. To be human is to have a sense of purpose, an awareness that our life is an utterly unique expression of creation and we want to live it with meaning, grace and beauty.”
. . .
They’re uninterested in trying to talk a diverse set of friends into a shared viewpoint in a culture that celebrates an idea that all truths are equally valid, [David Kinnaman, a Christian researcher] said. Personal experience and personal authority matter most, and as a result Scripture and tradition are quaint, irrelevant, artifacts.
And the Shroud? Quaint, irrelevant? The story of course doesn’t ask. We can ask.