For many decades, the Christian religion has attempted, with some but not enough success, to make themselves appealing through modes such as becoming contemporary, adopting the garb and music of the cool kids, and the like. Yet, they fail to address the principal reason younger generations are leaving religion. Simply, they don’t believe in it. They’ve never seen magic and they’re worldly enough to have been exposed to the fact that other religions and atheism exist and it doesn’t make sense why those people are wrong and their own parents are right. The problem is more of apologetics than of aesthetics. For the most part, the contemporary preachers trying to appeal to the modern audiences don’t spend much time doing apologetics and this is quite curious.
Is existence worth suffering for? That is not a question I have ever heard from a preacher. Is to dissolve into nothingness or lose one’s individuality to a blob a righteous end? Is the individual ultimately evil and is it immorally selfish to appreciate all attributes that make one special, even the ones that are traditionally considered virtues? Is the perfect end a society where everyone is in a state of perfect love or where there is no love because no one exists to love each other? Between the traditionally religious virtues, is asceticism or altruism more important? That’s where I would start. This religion has a fighting chance if it puts up the least fight but no one’s fighting, at least, not well.
When apologetics is done, it usually goes the historiographical route attempting to argue for the veracity of the Gospels. Yet, that’s a weak argument. Not that it doesn’t have merits. As a historian, I attest to the fact that sources far less reliable and older are taken at face-value and much of the time those ostensibly worse sources have their proofs dug up proving their veracity and compared to the religious competition, the documentation for my people is, mostly, closer in time, place, and social proximity to the events documented. However, it is undeniably true that without photographs, audio recordings, or archeology (like with many historical events) there can be no definitive answer. The only thing that can be argued more concretely is the philosophical angle.
Of course, where would one do that? YouTube ads? Facebook ads? Well, my suggestion would be to do what the Buddhists did to attract Western liberals who didn’t believe in their magic. Welcome them in and say they can just practice the rituals and philosophy and we’ll consider them full members with some caveats and let them take communion and everything else. We just say, our philosophy is different than our competition and you’ll probably like ours best. If they start agreeing with the parables used and their preacher’s translation for them, they will likely be drawn further in, many to the point of believing in the magic stuff just like many Western Buddhists began as secular liberals. Also, in addition to stuff like Bible studies, offer meditation classes, group therapies, political roundtables, and the like. Like what the Buddhists did, offer a secular gateway to the religion.
As a political activist and scientist, when movements lose, the blame lands on those within it. And when we lose, it is best that other successful models be used to emulate. I would much prefer that not only because it would give numbers and strength to a waning religion but also fill the pews with liberals to drown out the more regressive voices and elements within the religion. I love my religion and my religion has a lot to offer anyone who would like to join. Alas, the psychological barriers to joining are too difficult for many to overcome and it is on the faithful to remove those. To let them know that they can be participating members and take communion and join our small groups even if they don’t believe in the magic, yet. They can do therapy, meditate, do the rituals, and discus philosophy with us because once they taste it, they may find they like it but they’ll never do that if they’re averse to tasting it.