It occurred to me that organized religion has expired. Run out of gas. A few people like sitting in the buildings, so they go on Christmas Eve, but as a way of life for the majority of people I just don't see it.
I'm speaking of the "Western" world, of course. I'm not sure that label works any more, if it ever did, but you get the picture. Europe doesn't go to church. America doesn't go to church. There are plenty of places where religion is still the central theme in everybody's life- or else.
When I was little, I was a little shocked to see my Father go down on one knee and kiss a Cardinal's ring. I was in school with the hardcore penguin nuns and went to a Catholic Church with real incense and stained glass and the rest of it, but it still was jarring to see it. It would be jarring just to see a nun in North America now.
The religions I am most familiar with consist of a framework of behaviors that you're supposed to accept without thinking about them all the time. The "not thinking" part gives their shallow detractors a lot of ammo, but there's nothing sensible about being ambivalent and thoughtful when placing your hand on a hot stove, for instance. People who instinctively don't put their hands on a hot stove are wiser than "smart" people who think it's stupid to reflexively do anything simply because someone told them to -- I'll find out if that stove is hot. And I just might find out tomorrow, too, because nobody tells me what to do.
So religion was good for not wasting a lot of time worrying about what you should be doing all the time. You had an abstract sense of right and wrong that carried you quickly through the mundane affairs of men, and you wondered about the big themes from time to time. People spend more time thinking about whether they should take the last donut in the breakroom than they used to contemplating eternity. By the way, I know the security camera is broken in there, but you've got frosting on your face. There was some friction, of course, between competing frameworks. And it's all fading fast. What has replaced it?
The vast majority of my fellow citizens have a new framework for unblinking reflexive activity now: Whatever I can get away with that I feel like doing. That's coupled with: Whatever I'm forced to do. The luxuriant undergrowth of laws is a symptom of people trying to constrain others. This constraint has two prongs. People are not content with minding their own business. Anything they do not care for -- and they do not really know how they came to be a big bag of preferences -- must be banned. Nothing you don't want must be allowed. Until the faddish quality of your lifestyle makes you pull a volte-face and start chaining yourselves to the fence at nuclear power plants, demanding they build more of them this time.
The second prong is people who are making a mess of their own lives want someone to compel them to stop. Stop me before I kill again. I borrowed too much money and took too many drugs and slept with too many people and ate too much food and I'm lazy and watch too much TV and someone should pass a law to keep me from doing all this stuff. Suing a restaurant because you dumped a cup of coffee in your lap is a corollary of Stop Me Before I Kill Again. The murderers will sue their victims' estates, eventually if they haven't already, for allowing themselves to be killed and ruining the murderers' lives with their mortality.
The alternative to religion is a terrifically intrusive government. I've seen your politics and it's a tent meeting you don't invite god to, and your church is a political action committee. But because the government can't just pick up the trash and leave the contemplation of the sublime to others, one man's deity has become another man's ban on bottled water.