Sacrilege: Introduction

The contemporary quest to reinvent religion

Tucked inside a Nepalese monastery, a mischievous Tibetan monk listens to Skrillex and fantasizes about taking the stage as a YouTube star. A young Catholic girl in Miami feels oddly drawn to Judaism, only to later discover her family’s secret Jewish identity. In San Francisco, a German immigrant with a calling to the priesthood embraces society’s outcasts and dreams of reinventing Catholicism as the true religion of love. And in rural America, Christian rockers carve out a virtual space to spread God’s word.

Then there are those for whom God has lost clout altogether: Among millennials, atheism is on the rise. Breaking with America’s history as the most religious of Western countries, young people today are far less likely than their parents to identify with any religion.

Millennials have overwhelmingly cast their votes in the culture wars in favor of social policies that support gay marriage, birth control, and abortion. Most are tired of the furious battle over ancient ideas of right and wrong, weary of the red-faced zealots and screaming mobs. In the 21st century, the conservative religious models of the past seem obsolete, patriarchal and incomprehensible. Our modern world bears little resemblance to the one in which religion was born.

Society is less insular than ever before, and the democratization of information has exposed young people around the globe to tantalizing new ways of thinking. With the click of a mouse, we can take a new worldview for a test drive. Given so many options, it seems only natural that we pick and choose, patching together new ways of worship that meet our modern-day needs. After all, we live in an era when everything has a niche. Why can’t religion be customized too?

So is this the future of religion—a strange parfait that layers the modern and the ancient, or a sometimes crazy mashup that reimagines spirituality altogether? For many young people, this is the only way to move forward. They have asked if it’s OK to rewrite all the rules, and their answer is a resounding yes.

In “Sacrilege,” our writers take you to the brink of religion and ask you to peer into the abyss below. Our stories challenge you to envision a future in which traditional faith is renounced, only to be resurrected in radical new forms.  In 2030, will Jesus walk…with Sophia? Read on.