Exploring the Alaskan faith revolution

Photo by Kayla McGraw
Photo by Kayla McGraw

What is faith? Is it hope? Is it simply believing without seeing? Or is there concrete evidence that faith exists, only in different forms?

Deacon Mick Fornelli of Saint Patrick’s Parish believes faith is evident in Alaska. Although it may be hard to find at times, he says, “When there are two elderly people who have been married seventy, 80 years, who hold hands and pray together … to see that love exemplified is a tremendous statement of faith.”

Likewise, the chances of finding a couple that have been married for over 70 years is becoming slim. As the divorce rate is increasing among the newer generations, this particular “statement of faith” seems to be changing into something much more difficult to find. Like a stone in a river, Alaska’s faith appears to be dwindling with the ages.

According to the 2010 Association of Religion Data Archives report, Alaska’s religious adherent rate has dropped 0.4 percent over the past decade.

Despite the increasing population, members of various mainstream religions have simply lost their original foundation of faith. Some of the reasons for this decline could be stated in the antagonizing statistics of Alaska’s suicide rate, domestic violence and crime report, which may lead victimized believers to think their gods, goddesses, deity, betrayed them — thus destroying any grounds for their initial belief.

In 2011, the Disaster Center reported our violent crime index was more than double the national average. Consistent with neighborhood scout, a website used to determine the safety of an area. This violent crime index means that about 1 out of 165 people have been victims of murder, rape or assault in 2011. However not all crimes go reported. Even so, Alaskans have still found ways to cope with the harsh crime, domestic violence and high suicide rates.

Yet, beyond the pews and holy books, another reason for this decline could be the increasing number of new unconventional and unaccounted for, faiths. (unconventional according to who?) A reform Christian, Joel Kiekintveld, believes that, “everybody has faith in something in the world. It may not look like it on graphs and charts but I feel, like faith is growing.”

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With this in mind, the highest percentage of all denominations is those who have yet to claim a traditional religion (ARDA). Though, while searching for other methods of faith, people all over the world have discovered alternatives to following any sort of conventional, organized, religious body. Taken from a website called, a good life without religion, some of these practices include turning towards atheism, agnosticism, humanitarianism, or even secularism. People may even choose to have faith in themselves rather than someone they can’t see. There are a plethora of ideas, thoughts, people, places, and deity’s one can believe in. Why stop at just one?

No matter what faith people have, be it categorized, or unlabeled, Faith exists in many different shapes, colors, and forms. Sure, it can be personal, or even publically displayed. Either way, the verdict, of what to believe, is solely up to the believer, entirely.


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