Being one of those Baby Boomer antiquaries, I was caused by (and witnessed) a unique cultural evolution. No, not the 60s. It began with Prohibition, which was tried on my parents’ generation and was an epic fail — its genesis was unassailable and its failure inevitable.

Before the Industrial Age, hard cider was relatively safer to drink than well water, so many were drunk soon after waking. Drinking (and smoking) were just things people did amid the chaos of our 19th century culture, until it became clear that drinking simply killed people. Then, Prohibition became the cause of Saviors. And their families. Drinking was as obviously wrong as ½ of all humans not being allowed to vote. So along with abolishing slavery, suffrage and Prohibition became full-on cultural vectors starting in the early 19th century and reaching a 3-for-3 success by the 1920s. Control was attempted.

But the Great Depression was so depressing that the attempt to control human behavior failed; the Savior’s attempt to reform our collective need for mind-alteration belied its psychic reach. That redress, ending Prohibition, recognized the inevitably “wrong” choices we make are, well, inevitable: It turns out that we will do what we know is wrong if it feels good enough. We are now at that point with the legalization of marijuana — a product that has all the appeal and moral force of inebriation.

But we want Prohibition to work, to be saved from our baser realities. We also want to protect the innocent. We want to prevent pain. We want to be righteous. So we outlaw booze. And grass. Until we simply cannot sustain the legal mechanisms to obtain the Greater Good.

However, we still want to be saviors, and our efforts often work. It is not a buzzkill when women vote, when people use seatbelts, when no one smokes inside. But we do not even try to outlaw cigarettes, even though they kill us — just like booze.

After The Big One, WWII, a flood of returning Saviors of Civilization, America’s Greatest Generation, launched into the land around its cities. Suburbia was born. It was supposed to be a time of healing, since millions of lives were wrecked during World War II.

We could not prevent Hitler, so we had to end him. But, for those charged with saving us from him, that proved to be much more damaging than the Depression was. That damage, when undeniable, was called “Shell Shock” — but we now know that when those tens of millions of broken vessels returned, their invisible damage had all the complexities of PTSD writ huge and cultural.

Many of us, then, who were created by that Greatest Generation who saved the world, were the children of PTSD. We were on the frontlines of trauma, because many of us were created as a way to cope with the human outcomes of the insanity and desperate violence of war. Many of us were just like smoking and booze — and lawns, and TV, and church. My generation lived through mid-century PTSD therapy, without the diagnosis.

Part of America sought out a suburban sanatorium which became the central pin of our weekly lives, a.k.a. church. Joanne Beckman of Duke writes: “Religious membership, church funding, institutional building, and traditional faith and practice all increased in the 1950s. At midcentury, things looked very good for Christian America.” But all that church did not change the humans.

Faith is, for me, undeniable — but it is facilitated by church, not created by it. My faith was there before I went to Sunday School. My very dysfunctional but high-functioning family went to church, well, religiously in the 1950s. But eventually my father stopped going, being perhaps too hungover, or simply not connected to God. Now, fewer of us Boomers go to church than our parents did, and our children go even less than we do. Societal prescriptions only work when personal connection validates those prescriptions.

God is with each of us: I know this like I know the dawn will come every night. But when God is said to be found in church, and church is part of a huge, now old, cultural therapy — like Prohibition — it cannot be sustained. Like Prohibition, unless church changes, it will fail.

I know my parents made bad choices, but they were also victims of circumstances, huge and small, that made me and my siblings necessary — and yet served to lame us. The therapy of having a family in a safe place could not, ultimately, succeed. Perhaps it was because those in need largely did not know they were damaged. At least publicly, they were “fine.” The Greatest Generation, like my family, was exquisitely high-functioning.

So Prohibition (mostly) does not work. Applied legal requirement is deeply problematic. In most things, to be cured, we have to know we are in need of therapy. Unless we know why we drink, smoke dope, or do not wear seatbelts, it’s doubtful we will ever change. When we really “get” that seatbelts can save our lives, the effortless act of buckling up becomes a no-brainer.

I think—I hope—humans will similarly find that this is the case with faith, despite the obvious hypocrisies of traditional religion. It is way easy to mock the mid-century church. The popular rejection of church may be the next wave of Prohibition for many of my peers in the Northeast. Thank God, literally, that church is not faith. Just like booze is not being drunk.