Will two million Catholics enter Mosques and Synagogues in next decade?

A new Gallup poll reveals that more UC Catholics are questioning whether they should remain in the church today than when the first news of the child sex abuse scandal started in Boston in 2002.

The poll released on March 13 found 37 percent of Catholics surveyed in January and February of 2019 said they have questioned whether they should remain in the church. That’s up 15 points from 22 percent in 2002, when reports detailing widespread child sex abuse by priests in the city of Boston were first published.

Even frequent churchgoers [22%] say they are rethinking their affiliation with the faith this year; compared to 12% of those who attended church weekly in 2002.

Among those who attend church seldom or never, 29 percent said they had considered leaving the church in 2002; compared to today’s 46 percent of those who seldom or never attend.

Even so, Gallup reports that most American Catholics [80+ million of them] still say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in Pope Francis and the priests at their own church [58 percent]; although only 30 percent said the same about U.S. bishops in general.

Gallup also released data in January 2019 showing that the percentage of U.S. Catholics who rate the honesty and ethical standards of their clergy as “very high” or “high” is at its lowest since at least 2004: Only 31 percent of Catholics rated their clergy as such in 2018, a 32-point drop from a 2008 spike in support.

If only five percent of Catholics do leave the church [four million] and half who leave the church leave religion totally behind them; an equally great number will eventually find another way to worship God.

More than ten thousand people in G.B. and the U.S.A. move each year from a Trinitarian Christian Church to a Unitarian Islamic Mosque or Jewish Synagogue.

In the United States most converts to Judaism each year are women; but unlike the Muslim experience, most conversions to Judaism do occur in connection with an impending marriage or childbirth although that is beginning to change.

Although each person’s path is unique, both Jews and Muslims should recognize several common factors that motivate most of these people. These factors fall into two groups: push and pull.

Push refers to the issues that push people to leave the church in which they grew up. Pull refers to the religious principles and personal experiences that attract people to religious life within a Mosque or a Synagogue.

For example, many ex-Christians leave a church that teaches that only believing Christians can feel confident that they are going to Heaven; and all those who do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God are going to Hell.

So Emma, at age 55, who lives in the Protestant “Deep South” of the United States, described her discontent with Christianity ever since childhood; “as feelings of dissatisfaction with the doctrine that her religion damned all the people of other religions to “Hell” for not believing as they do.

Reading the Torah opened a new world of the “greatness and unity of God”. She was able to leave behind her uncertainties about Christianity, due to her new found ‘guilt free’ assurance of God through Judaism.”

Others found that while they could easily believe in God, they could not believe that God had a Divine Son named Jesus. They may have enjoyed celebrating Christmas, but they could never pray to Christ.

Most people who become Jewish do not feel that they have converted. Rather, they feel that after years, and sometimes decades of aimless wandering, they have found their spiritual home.

In many cases this is literally correct because these people actually are descendants of Jews who lost or abandoned their Jewish identity and loyalty to the Jewish community through assimilation and marriage into the majority community.

Erkan is a 28 year old son of a Jewish father, whose parents were Romanian Jews who, in the 1930s, fled the Nazis for safety in Turkey. His mother is a Turkish Muslim. In the 1960s his parents emigrated from Turkey to Germany where his father practiced his Judaism secretly within the German Turkish Muslim community. Erkan identified with Judaism as his religion while his brother decided on Islam.

Until his father’s death he was unaware of his lack of a formal conversion process because he had always identified as being Jewish, even though his mother remained a Muslim.

When his father had to be buried in an Islamic cemetery because his Jewish life was a secret; Erkan realized that it was necessary for him to make his commitment to Judaism official and public.

Then there is Yossi, who went from being an Oklahoma, White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant Minister to being an Orthodox Jew. He writes “I was born with a Jewish soul. From the age of 13, I read about the People of Israel and the one God. With all of my heart I wanted to be a Jew, but at that time I believed it was not possible so I became the best Christian I could be. It was all a small farm boy could imagine.

I graduated from a Southern Baptist University and became a minister. Through the years I earned my doctorate in Religion and Society and moved to larger staff positions in the university. At the same time, my religious system was clearly not in line with the holy scriptures that I read.

One might say I “studied” my way out of Christianity. No amount of learning and years of professional ministry could resolve the misgivings I had with the Christian tradition. It simply does not align with the Tanach (Hebrew Bible).

I can say today that all of my searching has been fulfilled in the Torah. I pray that in my remaining journey I will always be a light to the nations.”

Yet there are difference in the processes of conversion between Islam and Judaism. Unlike Buddhism, Christianity and Islam; Judaism, (like Zoroastrianism) does not have much of a missionary impulse. That is why there are so few Jews and Zoroastrians in the world.

Mormons, who very actively seek converts, already outnumber Jews and Zoroastrians combined, even though Mormons have been in existence for only 200 years, compared to more than 3,000 years for Jews and Zoroastrians

Judaism lacks a strong missionary impulse because Judaism is a pluralistic religion. Judaism teaches that the Jewish way is right for Jews and those non-Jews who want to join the Jewish Community.

But Judaism also teaches that good and kind people in other religions, who follow the teachings of their own religion, also have a place in the world to come.

As the Qur’an says, “ To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race [compete] to [be] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. (5:48)

According to Jewish teachings, correct behavior in society is more important for all human beings than correct detailed beliefs about God, although for Jews, as for Muslims, correct beliefs about God are also vital.

Thus, while Jews welcome non-Jews to join our community, we do not have an urgent motive to ‘enlighten’ or ‘save’ all non-Jews.

Lacking the missionary impulse of the more active proselytizing universalistic religions, most non-Jews have to push their way into Judaism.

For those who believe in God but cannot fit into a Trinitarian church, and for those people who do not need, or want, statues and graphic images of God, both the Mosque and the Synagogue are the right places where they can worship:

Islam offers its believers: a worldwide, multi-national monotheistic community—yet all praying in one language and facing a single focal point.

Judaism offers those who belong to it: a monotheistic community with a 3,500 year long tradition of overcoming national adversity and of adjusting to international cultural change yet all praying in one language and facing a single focal point.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 450 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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