Damon Linker claimed last week that possibly “the most daunting obstacle to getting the nones to treat traditional religion as a viable option is the sense that it simplifies the manifest complexity of the world.” Millman quibbles:
I do think that pluralism poses a fundamental challenge to traditional religion. But it’s not the pluralism of modes of knowledge that poses a challenge, but the pluralism of identity. It’s not that traditional religion can’t “handle” natural selection, or psychopharmacology, or biblical source-criticism; it’s certainly not that it can’t explain the evil of the Holocaust. It’s that traditional religion – Abrahamic religion, anyway – demands that you identify yourself definitively as an adherent. It demands an unequivocal commitment. And contemporary young people, according to all the evidence, are very wary of making commitments like in any walk of life: in love, in work, or in terms of religious identity.
Picking up on similar themes, David Session offers advice to millennials facing this pluralistic world, claiming that “whatever earnestness and work ethic millennials may have, they face seemingly endless indistinguishable choices, and respond with defeated detachment—indecision.” What they should do:
All we have to do is start living different ways, a little at a time. Start committing to people, places, things. Say yes to your friend’s party Saturday night, and go anyway even when something better comes up. Join an organization that fights for an issue you care about, and keep going even when the meetings are long, boring, and seem pointless. Fight for someone below you, anyone: immigrants, minorities, the homeless, the incarcerated, whoever; you’ll realize you had more in common with them than you thought. Commit to a person or people; stay in the same city with them, live with them, marry them. Join a union, especially if you’re the only member under 50; if there isn’t one where you work, start one. If you can find one that hasn’t retreated into spiritual apoliticism or reactionary traditionalism, I don’t even care if you take up a religion.
The point is to build human ties, add little by little to your network of solidarity, make it thicker and stronger. It won’t be enough, but it’ll be a start.