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Cedar Rapids Ranked as 15th Most Post-Christian City
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- The ringing of chapels bells is a familiar sound to those on the campus of Mount Mercy University, but if those bells got quieter, because fewer people count themselves as Christians, it wouldn't be a bad thing, said Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Tom Wetzel.
"Yes, I think in some ways it's really, really good," Wetzel said.
Cedar Rapids was recently ranked as the 15th most post-Christian city in American, in a study by the Barna Group. To qualify as post-Christian, survey respondents had to agree with 60 percent of 15 different criteria, including believing in God, identifying as atheist or agnostic, and disagreeing that the Bible is accurate.
Wetzel said the decline in Christianity started in Europe as far back as World War I, and that disillusionment only continued throughout the 20th century. He said America is finally catching up with Europe, but he doesn't really see the decline as a threat.
"I think it unleashes some thing that we have been tied to, particularly in the United States," he said.
Wetzel hopes that churches in Cedar Rapids and the rest of the country take the results as a challenge. He hopes they do more to persuade people to come to Christianity through their own free will, and not through the force of tradition.
He said that frees the church from being the "American gatekeeper" and allows for more diversity in public dialogue.
"Because then it leaves room for that public sphere to have that influence from Islam, from Judaism, from Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, from Atheism, because all that is part of the American experience," Wetzel said.
Atheist Nate Mohling would like to see that change. He said he works in a very Christian environment.
"To the point where I'm not really comfortable being an atheist around them," Mohling said.
And though Mohling doesn't believe in God, his hope for what comes out of the the study is almost the same as Wetzel's.
"A better future and a more free society where people can believe what they want to believe and feel free to state that belief without pressure to stay silent," Moling said.
Mohling is an organizer for the Corridor A-Team, a social group for non-religious people. Find out more about the group on its Meetup page.