Invincible apathy

The Pew Research Center recently published a study that reveals “the Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing.” None of this surprises me. I’ve always been skeptical about the high percentage of Americans who profess to be Christians and equally skeptical about the rise of the so-called “nones,” atheists or agnostics. Although Walker Percy’s novel The Moviegoer was written in 1961, its protagonist, Binx Bolling, was a harbinger of the new religious landscape in America: he is neither settled in his belief nor unbelief, but suffers instead from what he calls “invincible apathy.” Apatheismnot atheism or agnosticism – is the enemy of full-throttled Christian faith. Hear Binx:

Neither my mother’s family nor my father’s family understand my search.

My mother’s family think I have lost my faith and they pray for me to recover it. I don’t know what they’re talking about. Other people, so I have read, are pious as children and later become skeptical (or, as they say on This I Believe: “in time I outgrew the creeds and dogmas of organized religion”). Not I. My unbelief was invincible from the beginning. I could never make head or tail of God. The proofs of God’s existence may have been true for all I know, but it didn’t make the slightest difference. If God himself had appeared to me, it would have changed nothing. In fact, I have only to hear the word God and a curtain comes down in my head.

My father’s family think that the world makes sense without God and that anyone but an idiot knows what the good life is and anyone but a scoundrel can lead it.

I don’t know what either of them are talking about. Really I can’t make head or tail of it. The best I can do is lie rigid as a stick under the cot, locked in a death grip with everdayness, sworn not to move a muscle until I advance another inch in my search. The swamp exhales beneath me and across the bayou a night bittern pumps away like a diesel. At last the iron grip relaxes and I pull my pants off the chair, fish out a notebook and scribble in the dark:

REMEMBER TOMORROW
Starting point for search:
It no longer avails to start with creatures and prove God.
Yet it is impossible to rule God out.
The only possible starting point: the strange fact of one’s own invincible apathy–that if the proofs were proved and God presented himself, nothing would be changed. Here is the strangest fact of all.
Abraham saw signs of God and believed. Now the only sign is that all the signs in the world make no difference. Is this God’s ironic revenge? But I am onto him.

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