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    Commentary and Devotional

    In this Age of Self, the language is filled with phrases that glorify personal choice above all other values: self-determination, self-knowledge, self-esteem, self-help even do-it-yourself. In this climate, no doctrine is safe, no dictate accepted without scrutiny....The touchstone of belief today is the individual, not the institution. Priests., like precinct captains, have lost authority. The same voters who talk back to their political leaders on call-in shows and town meetings are talking back to their religious leaders at parish council meetings and Communion breakfasts. While 85 percent of American Catholics look up to the pope as a moral leader, 4 out of 5 say they follow their own conscience, rather than papal authority, on moral questions...The phrase "cafeteria Catholics" describes those who pick and choose among church teachings. But in religion, as in politics, the more appropriate analogy for modern mores is to fast food rather than to cafeterias; as the slogan for one hamburger chain puts it: "Have it your way."...How do leaders lead when followers don't want to be led?

    Steven V. Roberts, Leading the Faithful in an Age of Dissent, U.S. News and World Report, August 23, 1993, p. 6.

    Statistics and Research

    A March (1994) poll for U.S. News and World Report's April 11 issue found that 93% of Americans say they believe in God or a universal spirit. Of those polled, 65% say religion is losing its influence on American life, although 62% say religion is increasing its influence in their personal lives.

    Other findings:
    The Bible is the actual word of God to be taken literally, word for word: 34%
    The Bible is the inspired word of God, but not everything in it can be taken literally: 46%
    The Bible is an ancient book of legends, history and moral precepts, recorded by man: 16%
    God is a heavenly father who can be reached by prayers: 76%
    God is an idea, not a being: 11%
    God is an impersonal creator: 8%

    The following are Agree/Disagree percentages:
    We have to keep church and state completely separate 53% 42%
    There is no one set of values that is right 48% 44%
    Each individual must determine what is right or wrong 70% 25%
    The president should be a moral and spiritual leader 78% 17%
    Our government would be better if policies were more directed by moral values 84% 9%
    Individual freedom is critical to democracy in this country 91% 4%
    God is the moral guiding force of American democracy 55% 35%

    Nearly 60% of Americans say they hold their current religious beliefs because of their parents' example. More than 8 of every 10 Americans today believe that it's possible to be a good Christian or Jew even without attending a church or synagogue.

    U.S. News & World Report, April 4, 1994, p. 48 - 59.