As scientific knowledge advances, the all-inclusive dogmatism of religions recede. People turn from religion and from those values directly, and sometimes indirectly, derived from sacred authority. However, because religions have developed total approaches to life and ready answers and ritual-like responses to life situations, independence from religious beliefs presents problems of autonomy and responsibility for individual behaviour for many people. Their independence gives them a greater vulnerability to self-doubt and uncertainty. From the standpoint of individual psychology, a more-or-less abrupt loss of faith can be symptomatic of a personality crisis or of emotional or mental disturbance or disorder. Loss of faith can aggravate depression or be produced by it. A gradual loss of faith may undermine 'divinely' sanctioned interrelationship patterns, for example, of offspring to parents, and of marital partners. Loss of faith therefore may lead to family break-ups but more importantly, as a contagion or chain-effect reaction, may undermine all positive values, leaving only a vacuum of egoism or nihilistic residue.
The inability of traditional religions to meet the spiritual needs of people has resulted in an increase in attendance in fringe religious organizations and in individualistic spiritualism.
Matthew Arnold wrote in the 19th century of the 'melancholy, long withdrawing roar' of the sea of faith.