Losing Our Religion
Americans as a whole are becoming less religious and some people are panicking about it.
A recent Scientific American article points out the extent to which religion, at least in the form of organized religion, seems to be fading in American life while the percentage of Americans who say they have no religious affiliation continues to rise:
Since 1990, the fraction of Americans with no religious affiliation has nearly tripled, from about 8 percent to 22 percent. Over the next 20 years, this trend will accelerate: by 2020, there will be more of these “Nones” than Catholics, and by 2035, they will outnumber Protestants.
The GSS, which surveys 1,000-2,000 adults in the U.S. per year, includes questions related to religious beliefs and attitudes. Regarding religious affiliation, it asks “What is your religious preference: is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?”
Among people born before 1940, a large majority are Protestant, only 20-25 percent are Catholic, and very few are Nones or Others. But these numbers have changed rapidly in the last few generations: among people born since 1980, there are more Nones than Catholics, and among the youngest adults, there may already be more Nones than Protestants.
However, this view of the data does not show the effect of age. If religious affiliation increases or decreases, on average, as people get older, this figure could be misleading.
Fortunately, with observations over more than 40 years, the design of the GSS makes it possible to build a statistical model that estimates the effects of birth year and age separately. Then we can use the model to generate predictions, by simulating the results of future surveys. The details of this methodology are in a longer version of this article (see links below).
The results of the survey show the extent to which religious affiliation has changed over time:
And this chart, which shows the answer to the same question grouped by year of birth shows how the change is even more apparent among younger generations:
The most apparent thing from both charts, of course, is the extent to which they are largely identical in what they show for various attitudes toward organized religion. Whether one looks at it from the perspective of the response of the population as a whole or based on year of birth, there are two distinct trends. One is a marked decline in those professing membership in the large number of different faith traditions that can be grouped under “Protestant,” a group that includes everything from the relatively mainstream faith traditions such as Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, to more conservative traditions such as the Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, and so-called “Born Again” Christians as well as smaller groups, has declined markedly since the turn of the 20th Century. At one point, that group made up the vast majority of Americans who claimed membership in any faith tradition to a point where they now comprise less than 50% of the population. At the same time, the percentage of Catholics has remained relatively steady to the point where it comprises somewhere in the low 20% of all Americans. Members of other religions, which would include everything from Judaism and Islam to Hinduism, Buddhism, and other faiths associated with immigrants from non-European parts of the world, has also remained relatively steady. What has increased markedly, though, is the percentage of people who say that they have no real religious affiliation. This group is now at a point where it is essentially equal to self-identified Protestants and, based on the fact that younger generations are as likely to have no formal religious affiliation as they are to consider themselves Protestant. Given that trend, it seems inevitable that we’ll soon be at a point where people with no religious affiliation compromise a majority of the population.
The manifestation of this phenomenon can be seen in many examples from the real world. Over the weekend, for example, Jazz Shaw at Hot Air noted the fact that the Episcopal Diocese in Baltimore has been closing a number of churches that have stood for years due to declining attendance and the increasing costs of keeping such churches open. The same phenomenon is apparent in the Roman Catholic Church, where the combination of an aging population, the fact that people are moving to other parts of the country, and a decline in the number of available Priests has led to the closure or consolidation of many Churches in recent years. In some cases, such as the small town outside of Scranton, Pennsylvania where my mother grew up, those changes are due to changes in the population and a gradual lessening of the differences between various ethnic groups. In that town, for example, there were once as many as four active Catholic Churches, that catered to the Slovak, Polish, Italian, and Irish immigrants that lived in the community in the early 20th Century. As those immigrant groups became more assimilated, though, the need for separate ethnic parishes declined and eventually the idea of four or five different Catholic Churches in one small town made no real sense. The other reason, of course, can be attributed to secularization overall that led one Baltimore Pastor to say “we no longer live in Christendom.”
As for why this is happening, and why the increase in people with no religious affiliation seems to be accelerating, Allen Downey makes some excellent points:
Why is this happening? I suspect that it’s because the social well-being of America is increasing over time, and there’s plenty of evidence that increased well being—measured by a variety of statistics like healthcare, income inequality, incarceration rates and so on—is associated with lower religiosity both among countries and among states in the U.S. But of course if this is the reason, some unpredictable cataclysm, like nuclear war with North Korea, could upset these trends.
Absent that, we can still say with confidence that those who proclaim that “religion in America is stronger than ever” are simply full of it.
Downey has an expanded look at the data from the survey at his personal blog that provides more evidence of the extent to which American society is becoming more secular, including these two charts regarding the strength of religious belief generally:
As these charts show, the change in belief has been somewhat less marked that the change in formal religious affiliation, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been non-existent, especially among those expressing a “strong belief.” One suspects that the reasons for this decline are similar to those that help explain the changes in faith identification. In other words, as a society becomes more modern, religion and strong religious belief tend to weaken. This has been true for much of the Western world for some time now and it’s now becoming apparent in the United States.
Downey’s insights are largely correct, I think. If you look at the rest of the Western world, the trend away from organized religion has been even more apparent in places such as Western Europe than it has in the United States. Church attendance in nations with “official” religions such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the nominally Lutheran nations of Scandinavia began declining years ago and his now at a point where most of the largest churches in these nations are virtually empty of anyone other than the older population on the average Sunday. Another aspect of this phenomenon both in Europe and here in the United States is the fact that it’s simply no longer the case that Sundays are seen as a day for religion. Instead, it’s fast become a day for sports and other activities and, thanks to the repeal of so-called “Blue Laws” that forced businesses to stay closed for all or part of the day on Sundays, commercial activities such as shopping. Given this, churches are finding that fewer people are attending services, especially younger people and even young families with children, which used to be a large part of the church-going community.
As for whether or not this is a good thing, that depends on where you sit on the religion question itself. In his post about the church closings in Baltimore, Jazz Shaw laments the trend to some degree:
What’s causing this? I blame the internet. Okay… that’s partly a joke because I essentially blame the internet for everything these days. But there’s also some truth to it. An age of mass, instant communication and exposure to not just an ocean of good facts but an epic amount of conspiracy theories, dystopian drama and culture wars are probably driving more people toward despair and a loss of hope in any sort of greater good or lofty ideals.
I don’t think this is a case of the churches “failing to keep up with the times” or somehow veering away from the needs of the people. It’s the people who are choosing to leave the church and raising new generations of children who are never brought into the faith to begin with. Being religious isn’t mandatory in the United States, but the more we veer away from such beliefs as a nation, the more coarse our culture has become. Or at least it seems so to me.
Rod Dreher, meanwhile, is alarmist about the whole thing and things such as the Baltimore church closings as more evidence in support of his advocacy of the so-called “Benedict Option” that essentially calls on the religiously orthodox to withdraw into their own faith communities rather than letting the allegedly poisonous world of secularism impact them or their children:
All that might sound like a lot of theoretical hoo-ha, but what it means, deep down, is this: Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me. Not on Sunday morning, not ever. Choosing Sunday sports over church is many things, but it is also to induce cultural amnesia into your family, and to embrace a new, godless culture and its liturgies — sports on Sunday morning, say — by sedimenting its values into your family’s bones. You are teaching your children and yourself that there is no sacred order other than the one you choose. Do not be surprised if they learn this lesson well from you, and as adults, choose not to pretend that they really believe in God. And you will not be blameless in this.
I know I’m being harsh here, but people, this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around. We American church people like to tell ourselves that if the secret policemen were to show up at our door to arrest us for being Christians, that we would bravely go to our fate, as the martyrs and confessors of the past did. What crap. Many of us won’t even say no to soccer on Sunday morning. If the secret police in some distant dystopia were to come to our door and ask if we are Christian, we will already answered that question many times in the past, by the quotidian choices we will have made.
This is why I am, yes, alarmist about the Benedict Option and the future of Christianity. Things really are as bad as all that. When I talk about “strategic withdrawal” as necessary for the preservation of the Christian faith, I’m talking about things as mundane as taking your kids out of sports leagues that require them to play on Sundays (or Saturdays, if you’re Jewish) and holy days. It really is a big deal, bigger than most people realize. You might think, “He’s saying head for the hills, but we can’t do that, because we have to stay engaged, to be salt and light to the world.” Come on, really? If you really want your kids, and yourself, to be salt and light, then you cannot choose sports over Sunday worship, because in so doing you will have lost your savor, and accepted assimilation over fidelity.
The alternative to Dreher’s alarmism, of course, is to accept the fact that what is happening in the United States is simply a natural evolution that mirrors what has happened in the rest of the world as nations have become more prosperous and more ethnically and religiously diverse. It’s something that has been happening in Western Europe since at least the 1960’s, and arguably since the end of World War Two, and it was only inevitable that the same thing would begin to happen in the United States as time went on. Additionally, it’s worth noting that while the number of people who claim no adherence to a specific faith tradition, the vast majority of Americans continue to believe in a God of some kind and many Americans who don’t attend church on a regular basis do end up attending services on holidays such as Easter and Christmas. The one thing that has changed is that religion has become a more personal thing for many Americans, and many people have realized that there really isn’t a need for organized religion in their life.
The difference is that we no longer live in a country where religion can dictate to politics and culture in the manner that it used to. The most notable recent example of this, of course, can be seen in the debate over issues such as reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, and the rights of the LGBT community where the public as a whole, including people who do attend services on a regular basis, have moved away from more conservative religious doctrines and become more respectful of the rights of their fellow citizens. From my perspective, that’s a good thing, but obviously, people such as Dreher see it as a sign of the if not the times then the beginning of some new Dark Ages. That kind of paranoia notwithstanding, it seems to me that increased secularization has largely been a good thing and that we could use a lot more of it. If Dreher and those like him wish to close themselves off from the modern world, that’s their choice, of course. Absent living a life like the Amish, though, it strikes me as not an easy thing to do unless one is willing to deprive oneself of the very things that make living in a nation like the United States in the 21st Century so great notwithstanding the fact that our elected representatives continue to embarrass us on a daily basis.
Look…when so-called Christians embrace Donald Trump as a religious man…then the institution has rendered itself meaningless.
Religion exists largely as a replacement for knowledge and information. When you don’t understand how the plane flies – you throw your hands up to God to keep you safe.
All of which makes me wonder – how could an Alex Jones/Brietbart-type reverse this trend?
Preaching to the choir is no longer working.
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
Yep. Speaking personally, my faith has absolutely plummeted since the events of last November. Seeing so-called Christians rally around Trump has truly shaken my beliefs.
The common problem I’ve found with aetheists is that they while they throw out most of the sex stuff, they otherwise continue to practice and take for granted Judeo-Christian morality. But if you don’t believe the the Judeo-Christian religion, the accompanying morality is unsustainable.
And no, the decline in religious belief is not something that “just happens.” It is the result of willful decisions we make about what kind of life and world we want. We could make different decisions, if we choose.
And it’s endlessly amusing how the “smart people” never seem to notice how the only two major civilizations to embrace aetheism in the 20th century turned out. Hint: It wasn’t good.
Religion (or “faith traditions”, whatever they are) is nothing more than a tool for social control. The less superstition & blind conformity, the better.
The non-stop hypocrisy we hear from the Christo-fascists who practically worship the moral exemplar/Golden Calf that is Trump is certainly not helping religion either. If nothing else, Trump is continually exposing his own people, “religious” or not, for the lying & corrupt scum he & they are.
You are just making a fool of yourself.
That is so much nonsense…it’s hard to believe a sentient being spewed it. I guess you’re not one.
Christianity’s problem has always been that it is supposed to be true. Even in the early 19th century respectable scientists were looking at markings in the Alps and trying to figure out how they related to the Flood, rather than to deep time and the ice age. I’m not an atheist and I find much more potency in the Old Testament and its stories than the tedious theocracy that comes of modern Christianity. People like Dreher are so nuts that they think if Dante he would hang out with them, rather than with a bunch of hipsters in Bushwick. Dante, like most of us, would doubt that the people who cling to strict orthodoxy believe in anything, least of all God.
Do you honestly believe that it is necessary to recognize an infinitely old, infinitely powerful, omniscient being for whom/which there is absolutely zero proof, in order to tell right from wrong? That if one does not recognize this imaginary being (imaginary, by definition, until there is some kind of tangible evidence that does not exist solely in ones imagination) it is impossible to avoid killing, adultery, stealing and lying?
What a maroon…
What does that mean to you?
Honest question —there’s some God stuff, some sex stuff, and then about half of it is don’t kill people, don’t covet thy neighbor’s goods and wife, and treat people with respect, help your fellow man, etc.
The “Christians” in this country often tend to get caught up on the god stuff and the sex stuff (or their interpretation of the sex stuff), and ignore the rest. Not that they are running around killing people, but the opportunity rarely comes up… the rest of it gets lost.
I’ve seen Buddhists and Atheists who follow the rest of it better than the conservative “Christians”.
Morality doesn’t come from a belief in god, morality comes from accepting that you live in a community and that you are a part of that community, and that you have responsibilities to the community. Morality comes from a belief in other people.
Many years ago I read an account by a woman who grew up in Quebec in the mid or early 20th century. She recounted how when she was young the Catholic Church was present in virtually every facet of their lives. Her impression was that the shedding of this system grew from a trickle to an overwhelming torrent in no more than a decade. It was as if everyone simultaneously decided it was just embarrassing childish fantasy and, without discussion, dropped it from their lives.
Flake is out…won’t run for re-election.
Part of the problem is that in today’s America, whether or not one attends church is almost a partisan decision. I would even go so far as to say that the rise of political involvement by religious entities starting in the 1980s has been a significant contributing factor to many people’s current disinterest in religion. This is just anecdotal, but I recall an incident about 5 or 6 years ago when my wife and I were at the house of a very devout neighbor. She had her radio tuned to a “religious” program that really didn’t sound any different from something one might hear from Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin. The entire 45 minutes we were there, I don’t think I heard a single segment that wasn’t some form of how horrible President Obama specifically, and Democrats in general really are.
In some respects I would like for my family to be able to enjoy the social and community aspects of church. But if the price is that they will be taught to hate, I will continue to pass.
As for Mr Shaw’s observation about the coarsening of our culture, I find it interesting (again anecdotally) that many of the most aggressive and mean-spirited people one is likely to encounter on the Internet are often self proclaimed “Christians”.
Discussions like this always fascinate me, given that, probably quite unusually for someone of my generation, I wasn’t raised in any religion and have never been in a church or synagogue other than to attend a wedding or funeral. (I assume sightseeing at Westminster Abbey or Notre Dame doesn’t count.) To this day, I am not sure whether either of my parents harbored any religious beliefs. Certainly they never imposed any on me or my siblings.
What I’ve noticed is that the most bitterly anti-religious people I know are lapsed Catholics. Get two of them together at a dinner party and they’ll obsess about how much they hate, hate, hate, the Roman Catholic church.
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
Nutpicking is one of the cheapest and most worthless types of argument. That people frequently do not live up to their professed values does not, in and of itself, make those values worthless. If what you meant is the the institutions that support organized Christianity (e.g. Churches, the Vatican, etc) are often immoral, corrupt, etc, I think many Christians would agree.
MBunge, arbiter of virtue: It is the result of willful decisions we make about what kind of life and world we want.
Like the willful decision to support a pussy grabbing sexual pervert for President USA.
A concept popular with Christians, given Christian cluelessnes of the conflicts between Christian morals and Judaic teachings.
There is no such thing as Judeo-Christian morality, which is a term Christians use to describe what should properly be called what it is – Christian morality.
Why do we never hear of Islamo-Christian morality? Islamic teachings are similar to and arguably closer to Christianity than Judaism?
Much of what Christian morals have in common with Jewish are shared with many other religions also.
So why do Christians need to draf Jews into their Christian agendas?
In other news: Water’s wet.
In tomorrow’s news:
Hoping to keep and attract others to their base, Conservatives deny the wetness of water and state that water wetness is fake news.
In short: Education trumps ignorance and fear.
Which explains then candidate Trump loving the poorly educated.
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
It’s about the ends justifying the means. Trump’s character is less important than packing the judiciary with judges who will save the babees.
But those values are not exclusive to religion; morality and ethics are wholly independent of religion. They have been appropriated, certainly, as part of most zealous dogmas. But no matter; they existed before religion and they will exist post-religion.
If you wipe out all humanity and another intelligent race comes along then they will inevitably discover the same math and science and morality that we have. They will not, however, discover Christianity or Islam, or Buddhism. The difference is that the former are basic truths; the latter are not.
Religion is the Church, and the Church is Religion.
When “the Church”, or Christians, embraces evil, as personified in this President, then it/they forfeits any claim to moral or ethical standing.
“Judeo-Christian” is an old term, but when political people use it today, it means something like “supporting the Christian Right’s agenda while keeping Sheldon Adelson writing checks.”
When did Jazz Shaw become an idiot?
This is Christian code for “we also wish to impose selected parts of Old Testament law on everyone, even though God explained to Peter in a dream that the old law has been superseded.”
Well, they continue to practice morality. If they’re genuinely good people, they drop the parts that are specific to ancient Judaism and crusading Christianity. If your God wants you to subjugate women, persecute homosexuals, etc. then he’s not a very moral God.
The common problem I’ve found with Christians is that they’ve been brainwashed to think that there can be no other foundation for ethics than (one particular) divine revelation / authority. Since they tend not to be very educated, they don’t notice that (for example) this would imply that Aristotle had no ethics.
The is / ought gap is a very real problem in ethics, but “My dad told me that God says so” is not the only or best way of bridging it.
Show me a religion that does not agree that murder, theft and perjury are wrong? No such religion exists. The overlap of putative moral codes is about 95%. And the number of adherents to any faith that manage to get through even a single week without violating both the letter and the spirit of their claimed moral code approaches zero.
“Judeo-Christian morality” is a nonsense term. It is fundamentally the same as every other religious code, and is not significantly different from the moral beliefs of atheists. In other words, what we have are really just iterations of basic rules necessary to the functioning of any civilization. Religious practices vary widely, the internal rules of obedience vary widely, but under it all the morality is nearly universal.
And by the way, on numerous occasions over the last 2000 years Christians have done their level best to annihilate Jews, so Christians, you can take your Judeo-Christian and shove it where even Jesus won’t go. Harping on about Judeo-Christian morality is just another excuse for tribalism and false notions of superiority.
This entire comment is utter tosh.
And while this is par for the course with MBunge, he’s spreading some completely mistaken ideas that are unfortunately common.
So allow me to elaborate.
There is no such thing as “the Judeo-Christian religion.” After all, Christians absolutely loved persecuting Jews, generally well into the nineteenth century, i.e., until social-Darwinist thought became the main factor behind antisemitism. An even then, it was still mostly Christians doin’ the persecutin’.
“Judeo-Christian,” by the way, is nothing more than barely hidden code for “Israel good, Muslims bad.”
Shorter MBunge: “There is no (proper) morality without (Christian) religion.”
Again, utter tosh. Ever heard (for example) of Kant’s categorical imperative or “perfect duty?” One way to formulate this categorical imperative would be: “Treat every human being as and end in itself, never as a means.”
You could even slightly rephrase this as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But without the whole son of God-shtick.
While it is of course entirely possible to disagree with Kant, this is a clear example of sound moral theory that is based on reason rather than revelation (and supernatural punishments).
Fun fact: Nazi-Germany was not atheist. At all.
The Nazi regime did, of course, object to politically independent churches, but embraced all kinds of religious thought, ranging from Christianity (mostly) to Deism and even (somewhat rarely) Germanic paganism.
In other words, religion, most assuredly, does not prevent genocide.
But I gues it’s easier to parrot Fox News than to think for yourself.
@Ratufa: it’s not just institutional leadership that supports Trump. For instance he has 70% support among evangelicals. To me, that says that all their talk about Christianity was just that – talk. On the plus side, I never have to take an evangelical seriously if they start blathering on about morality.
@Kylopod: “Judeo-Christian” is an old term
“Yet both sides are mistaken. The Judeo-Christian “tradition” is not as old as people think. If it had a precise date of origin, we would likely be marking its 75th anniversary this year. And perhaps more surprisingly, considering how the term is used now, the notion of a “Judeo-Christian tradition” was born during the presidency of a liberal Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt.”
@Lynn: Per Wikipedia:
I read your link. It supports what has been said here – Judeo-Christian is a term Christians use in support of Christian agendas.
Obviously, wherever Judaism and Christianity conflict, and they do, what the term refers to is the Christian teaching.
What you are describing is a different meaning for the term than contemporary American usage.
We have people in this country called “Messianic Jews” who seem a lot like what you describe. These people are not really Jews though, they are Christians.
Jews for Jesus. The movement was founded in 1973.
My ex J4J relative informs me that that term is obsolete. Currently Messianic Jews.
BTW. J4J was a project launched by the Southern Baptists.
Agreed. That’s exactly what I said earlier: it’s an old term, but it has a particular meaning today. What exactly are we disagreeing about?
I think your J4J relatives are BSing you, or perhaps you misunderstood them. “Jews for Jesus” is the official name of one so-called Messianic Jewish group, evidently the first one.
It’s like saying “The term ‘Lutheran’ is obsolete. They’re called Protestants.”
“Judeo-Christian morality” is such a fundamentalist / evangelical Christian dogwhistle, it isn’t even funny. It is up there with “Democrat Party” for unintentionally revealing the true motivations of a right-wing nut job trying to pose as a concerned but principled moderate.
I disagree with that explanation for less religiousity.
What I think is more and better historical and archeological knowledge is becoming available, which makes it increasingly obvious the lack of provenance for many sacred documents such as the gospels, combined with paucity of archeological or historical corroboration for religious claims. So it is hard to believe unsupported claims from clergy or mystery documents. People wonder why there is no independent supporting evidence.
Plus, the obvious conflicts with scientific knowledge.
Also, as nonobservant people become increasingly common, lack of belief becomes normalized and thus less socially stigmatized – it becomes easier to admit to and practice nonbelief.
I think this rings true. I also really like the terms nonobservant or nonbeliever as opposed to atheist. There was a freethinkers group in Arizona that I sometimes hung out with. Generally very nice, conscientious, caring people. But the ones who proudly proclaimed themselves to be atheists tended to be every bit as dogmatic (about their lack of belief) as the devoutly religious people they were so opposed to.
Just because you haven’t read any humanist or existential philosophy doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Read a book, or google ‘humanist philosophy’, ‘existentialism’, or ‘atheism+’ to give yourself a start. I know there isn’t much point in engaging with you since you joined the trump cult, but hope springs eternal, even for the godless.
Well, if you believe in GOD as the ultimate authority, then Secular Humanist writings are the doorway to perdition.
So, don’t expect them to be well read. Education kills ignorance.
You’re selling it short, Michael. You’re overlooking the special contributions of Judaism and Christianity to morality — such as
* it’s immoral to wear cloth made of more than one fiber
* it’s immoral to have sex with a woman during her period
* it’s so immoral to be homosexual that you must KILL THEM NOW
* it’s immoral to eat shellfish, or pork
* it’s immoral for women to speak up in church
* it’s immoral for slaves to disobey their masters
* it’s immoral for slaveowners to mistreat their slaves
* it’s immoral to do anything useful on a Saturday/Sunday (choose one)
Clearly this is a special revelation.
@MBunge: @DrDaveT: “When did Jazz Shaw become an idiot?”
When was he anything but?
Neitchze said God is dead.
Stephen Hawking more recently said,
Once upon a time if your kid asked, “Why is there
airrain?” There was no answer without God. Now there is. That’s why religion is fading, it’s not needed. I wouldn’t get wrapped up in sociology to explain it.
Also, Christianity cannot possibly explain the world, it has no Loki, no trickster god.
It’s way too late in this thread to actually address the main topic, but what the hell…
While it is true that Americans are becoming less devout in general, and less affiliated with organized religions, it is also true that America is still vastly more devout than any other first-world nation. We are the outlier in the West, and have been for a long time:
— Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835)
Religions which are anti-gay are doomed.
If you believe this is true, then you should be worried as your morality could come to support those of your community, but also support the killing or enslaving of those not of your community. It lends itself to having no moral compunction toward anyone who is not “one of us”.
So basically you are headed for the religious wars of 16th century Europe or the Shia/Sunni divide today.
Without Christian morality, then religion, believing yourself a part of something larger, is easily perverted into sectarian violence.
That’s some hardcore Islamophobia there.
I have, on various occasions, confessed to being Christian in these very threads, and even I know that Christianity has contributed more than it’s share of the sectarian violence over the history of the world.
And I’m an ignorant cracker (which everyone knows because I confess to believing Christianity–what else could I possibly be?).
Like everyone in the entire world, I was born atheist. The concept of a ‘god’ was not there, rather I had only the world around me. I was slowly indoctrinated into the Episcopal church, then moved into more and more evangelical parishes within that group. By high school, we had moved from the traditional bells-and-smells to holy-rollin’ and speaking-in-tongues.
The feeling I remember most about those days was the idea that I was a victim to the fates. Whatever society/God/whomever handed me was simply my cross to bear.
It took a long time to regain the clarity of atheism after that youthful indoctrination, but even today I struggle with those feelings of being swept along by the river of fate instead of taking charge of the things in my life.
Religion is evil.
@JKB: “If you believe this is true, then you should be worried as your morality could come to support those of your community, but also support the killing or enslaving of those not of your community. It lends itself to having no moral compunction toward anyone who is not “one of us”.
Unlike in religious communities, where that could never never never never happen.
FWIW, here is why I don’t call myself an atheist, despite the fact I find it vanishingly unlikely that any organized religion is more than just made up stories and once practical dietary advice repeated until perceived as revealed truth. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t onto something.
Here’s an analogy. My neighbor has a really smart dog. But no matter how much time I spend with here, no matter how clever my teaching strategies, she will never understand calculus. Her brain is simply not capable. I suspect that our brains, our senses, are not capable of perceiving 99.99% of the universe. At the very minimum, I think people who are truly searching for religious revelation are grappling with this.
Christianity can and is, from time to time, in some ways a positive influence.
But but but,
I consider the Rod Dreher/Frank Sergeant Hoffman/JKB/Mike Pence/etc. claim that Christianity dominance or influence is on balance desirable to be an assumed fact not in evidence.
The anti-science/ anti-intellectual support for Creationism, Global Warming Denialism etc.
Intrusive meddling in reproductive and marriage choices.
Book and art banning – e.g., Rudy Giuliani and Chris Ofili.
Bigoted shunning of people who do not conform to Christian standards – e.g., baking wedding cakes or wedding photography.
Etc., etc., etc.
To the extent fewer Bible Believing Christians can mean less of this, I am all for it.
Read more: https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/losing-our-religion-2/#ixzz4wWSD1Oba
Some religion, some religions, some more so than others.
@charon: Anything that encourages “faith” – which is by definition belief without evidence – is cynically setting people up to be manipulated.
People literally kill and die for religious beliefs.
If that’s not evil, I don’t know what is.
Or morality could simply be something baked into human nature that we are born with. A lot of other animal species display what looks a lot like morality.
Only people have invented religion though, which I see as deriving from indoctrination and social conformance for most people.
I assumed the second civilization MBunge was talking about was China.
You are displaying an understanding influenced by the specifically Christian notions which emphasise and prioritize “faith,” (comes from living in such a Christian influenced society and absorbing the worldview)
and comes from mistranslating a word that in the original Gospel language meant more like having a sense of duty or doing the right thing.
Encouraging believing stuff without evidence is more a Christian thing than universal – it’s a worldview that leads to calling other religions “faiths.”
This appears to be a common argument – why should I be good if there’s not a secret god spying on me at all times? One who makes this argument reveals how infected their brain is with dogma.
On the other hand, *I* want to live in a world where people are nice to each other. How else can I accomplish that goal then to be nice to others and teach my kids to be nice to others? It really is as simple as the Golden Rule, which is found in some form in almost every culture and religion. (I won’t digress into arguments about how the Golden Rule is not always perfect.)
BTW, this is coming from someone who grew up Christian, drifted away towards non-religious, but is sympathetic to the idea that we humans will never know how everything works (i.e. I feel that militant atheists are unjustifiably arrogant).
@charon: I’ll accept that – Buddhism was pretty great before it became a religion!
What about the “people literally kill and die” statement? That can’t be merely U.S. perspective driving my perception – right?
@Franklin: Agreed. Militant atheists are missing the point.
I will believe in a god when there is observable and repeatable evidence that one exists. And that means evidence that does not have other scientific explanations (“God’s beauty is evidence we are loved”, or “we are so complex, that’s proof we’re not random”).
Until then I don’t care what others believe as long as they don’t try to push it on me. For example, I am somewhat “militant” about some things such as removing tax exemptions for religious organizations – I don’t want to subsidize something that destroys (or discourages) critical thinking.
@JKB: As others have pointed out, Christianity has had its fair share of sectarian violence — North Ireland, the Inquisition, the Crusades, Nazi Germany…
No religion, or non religious philosophy is entirely immune from this. Right now we have Buddhists(!) commuting genocide and ethnic cleansing — and Buddhism is all about inter-being.
Defining people unlike you as the “other” is an inherent flaw in humanity that we all must strive against, irrespective of our religion or lack thereof.
If your religion brings you peace and comfort, good for you. But you might want to reread your own comments on this post — you are using your faith in your religion to define those who don’t believe in your religion as lesser people, incapable of even having morality.
I am OK with that.
I think that is kind of unfair, characteristic mainly of Christianity and fundamentalist and militant versions of Islam. (Islamic civilizations were reservoirs of knowledge during the Christian Dark Ages.)
I think most religions allow people to reconcile observable facts with religion by regarding some supernatural stuff as metaphorical or teaching or whatever.
You could, for example, (as an ancient Greek) regard Aphrodite as a metaphor for love, Ares as a metaphor for war, etc. (As apparently ancient Greek intellectuals sometimes did.)
I don’t know much about Hinduism, but I understand it is possible to be a Hindu atheist. There must be some way to reconcile that to the many Hindu gods.
In general,I do not think anti-intellectualism is universally characteristic of religion.
@Tony W: I don’t want tax breaks for any book club, be it the Bible or the Lord of the Rings.
The good works that they do — feeding and sheltering the homeless, for instance — are entirely worthy of a tax exempt status, and I would have no objection to religious organizations keeping two ledgers to keep the book club and the good works separate.
@Franklin: The militant atheists are insufferable. I’m reminded of a line from The Big Lebowski — “You’re right, but you’re an asshole”
They often then use being right about one thing (or at least very likely right about one ultimately unknowable thing) as an excuse to be wrong about countless other things, and to look down on other people.
I would rather spend my time with people who are wrong about invisible omniscient sky beings, but aren’t assholes.
@charon: Personally I regard religion as the root cause of a lot of our problems. It leads to magical thinking in all things. If you can believe transubstantiation you can easily believe trickle down econ.
@Gustopher: But there are so few militant atheists. I just drove back to OH from FL thru Alabama and Tennessee, the land of large crosses and holy roller billboards. (Also rebel flags (Confederate second naval jacks to be pedantic) and that gawd awful Bedford Forrest statue.)
Most of us are born with an evolved behavior to:
A: Divide the world into “us” and “them.”
B. Trust what we are told by “us.”
This works great if the tribal elder teaches us which berries are safe to eat and which frogs are good for poisoning arrowheads.
Not so great if we simply believe what political leaders or religious authorities say lacking any skepticism of what other agendas than truth telling such authorities might have.
Just like everything else in this country, politics stuck their big noses in. The media has made Christians out to be thugs by finding the most outrageous, and vilifying all. All the while they do the opposite for other religions. This is our new culture, beat down everything that was America and get everyone fighting against each- other. The media gets off on the drama and we lose more and more of what is America. Wake up before it is too late to go back. We are giving up our rights willingly supporting all this nonsense. I never was very religious, but I do support those who are. If good people get together to do good, then great. I wish everyone would just get back to some common sense and stop saying things that they think others will pretend to agree with. We have been beaten down by the loud mouth people who really don`t care how America turns out. The biggest thugs are our elected officials, who replaced the mob. BOTH SIDES. It isn`t a coincidence that nothing is moving again in DC. They want us in this rivalry. What a effing joke on us.
The media has made Christians out to be thugs by finding the most outrageous, and vilifying all. All the while they do the opposite for other religions.
What a load of crap.
We have been beaten down by the loud mouth people who really don`t care how America turns out.
Who is this we you claim to speak for? You are not speaking for me. STOP IT!
I am not speaking for anyone. It is an observation. If you do not agree so what. I have seen a lot in my years, and now is the worst. I do not believe everyone here likes everything that their side says or does, but they go along just to be a part of something. I guess this is how so many counties started to become communist. Start separating, offer free everything. Take away speech. Some here use bullying tactics to everyone who does not agree with them. they use fear and intimidation to get what they want. we tax everyone so high that the government tells us what we need. Eventually it breaks down. I myself do not want to live as they do in the middle east or in N Korea. I want people to start to be real again. Some of us are the worst cowards ever, they lie to themselves. We are not perfect people and our country has had some infamous scars. I believe we were moving forward, but many do not believe we were. Now I see we are moving backwards, it will be our demise. Who will be our captors and how do you think they will treat us? Do you think they will give you all you ask for? I think not.
@Mister Bluster: I get you hate the president, but most people who voted for him did not really like him either. They just really hated Hillary and her whole family of crooks. Funny how every Democrat over looks her and her family`s shaded past. Maybe we need better candidates next time hopefully a honest group we can choose from. I don`t think that will happen in my lifetime. Trump may be an ashhole but he was the chosen one. He was chosen because Hillary thought she had it in the bag. She offered nothing and expected the people to love her. They both suck, but he won. This is the America of today. Of all the intelligent people in the country this is what we had to choose from.
@barbintheboonies: Do you cut out words from the newspaper and randomly string them together, or does your computer have a gibberish generator? You use more words to say absolutely nothing than anyone I’ve ever come across.
That’s some pretty selective cherry picking. For example, the largely atheist Northern Europe has some things figured out better than the U.S.
Religion is not necessary for morality, in fact if it was required, then human nature would be pretty horrible. Atheists do good things because they are the right things to do. It sounds like any good you do is done to avoid eternal damnation.
Oh, and what’s the deal with a super-needy God that requires constant praise and worship? Not an attractive trait.
@barbintheboonies: Seriously, this thread is about religion. You are the first and only person to mention a certain candidate from the last POTUS election. Everybody’s moved on except you, apparently.
@barbintheboonies: We get that a lot of people are pissed, as you are. But we’re puzzled as none of you seem to be able to articulate just what it is you’re pissed about. I think it comes from living in the RW bubble. You’re stating what you believe to be commonly held beliefs, but they are not.
I’m Jewish, and I personally find it very disappointing when many other Jews I know are so secular that they have lost all sense that God not only chose our people to be given the Law with Moses, but that we called on to be a blessing in the world. to enrich the culture, as well as to do good works toward others. When you put on a yarmulke, you are aware that God walks with you and you should always do good will and good works towards all others.
“Christians” are not a fungible commodity. I’m a Christian whose theology comes more from Bonhoeffer and Niebuhr than latter-day spokesmen; my role models are Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela.
@Tony W: I will believe in a god when there is observable and repeatable evidence that one exists. And that means evidence that does not have other scientific explanations
That would only make sense if God is a natural phenomenon. By definition, anything that’s repeatable wouldn’t be supernatural. So you’ve set up a standard for proof that excludes the possibility of proving the Western concept of God. Really, is there anything that could be repeated that would constitute proof of God for you? If it could be repeated, you’d simply call it a principle of physics. So you’re saying a lot less than you think you are.
@Franklin: This is a thread about religion. Three of the first five comments mentioned Trump and one mentioned Breitbart. Did you complain about those?