Tag Archives: USA
Americans Will Tolerate a Variety of In-Laws. One Exception: Atheists.
By Amanda Marcotte
Believers only, please.
Photo by wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that political polarization in the United States has reached levels only seen during the Civil War, but when it comes to our own families, we’re not quite as divided. One of the questions Pew asks to gauge how seriously people are taking their identity politics these days is how upset would you be if an immediate family member—say, a child or a sibling—married someone outside of your identity parameters. The good news: Americans are okay with their family members marrying someone who isn’t in their “tribe.”
There are all different kinds of tribes, of course. When it came, for instance, to the question of how you’d feel if your family member married someone with a different party affiliation, the vast majority of Americans responded that they’d feel either “happy” or that it “doesn’t matter.” Even for strict partisans, this was mostly true. Strong conservatives approved of a family member marrying a Democrat 70 percent of the time and strong liberals approved of marrying a Republican 78 percent of the time. Similar numbers turned up for identity markers like “gun ownership” or “went to college,” with most people being indifferent to these factors when it comes to bringing new people to family holiday dinners.
Other good news is that opposition to interracial marriage, at least overt opposition, is also fairly low, with only 11 percent of Americans balking at the idea of a new family member of a different race. (How likely you are to bothered by racial mixing rose with levels of conservatism, with only one percent of strong liberals opposing interracial marriage and 23 percent of strong conservatives doing so.) And Americans are even more welcoming to foreigners, with only 7 percent of respondents opposing marriage to someone born and raised outside of the U.S.
There’s one group, however, that continues to cause fear and loathing across the land: atheists. From Pew:
Pew Research Center
Though Pew does not dig into this, the anomalous hostility to atheists above pretty much all other groups likely speaks more to ignorance than hatefulness. Most non-believers don’t really talk about it much in their day-to-day life, because why would you? That means that most believers may think, probably incorrectly, that they don’t know any atheists, which makes it easier for ugly stereotypes to fill in the blanks. Perhaps the growing movement of visible atheists will help erode some of the fearful ignorance and provide a few families with a path out of grace before Thanksgiving dinner. All the atheists I know are all for digging right into the food.
Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today.
This story was broadcast on the “Sunday Night” programme, Channel 7 – Australia
disclaimer: “I have no claim on this video. All rights reserved by copyright owners”
AlterNet / By CJ Werleman
Christian Right Has Major Role in Hastening Decline of Religion in America
Soon, there will be more atheists and agnostics than Christians.
March 22, 2014
Of those aged 18 to 35, three in 10 say they are not affiliated with any religion, while only half are “absolutely certain” a god exists. These are at or near the highest levels of religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the 25 years the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics.
As encouraging as this data is for secular humanists, the actual numbers may be significantly higher, as columnist Tina Dupuy observes. “When it comes to self-reporting religious devotion Americans cannot be trusted. We under-estimate our calories, over-state our height, under-report our weight and when it comes to piety—we lie like a prayer rug.”
Every piece of social data suggests that those who favor faith and superstition over fact-based evidence will become the minority in this country by or before the end of this century. In fact, the number of Americans who do not believe in a deity doubled in the last decade of the previous century according to both the census of 2004 and the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) of 2008, with religious non-belief in the U.S. rising from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 14.2 percent in 2001. In 2013, that number is now above 16 percent.
If current trends continue, the crossing point, whereby atheists, agnostics, and “nones” equals the number of Christians in this country, will be in the year 2062. If that gives you reason to celebrate, consider this: by the year 2130, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christian will equal a little more than 1 percent. To put that into perspective, today roughly 1 percent of the population is Muslim.
The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.
Political scientists Robert Putman and David Campbell, the authors of American Grace, argue that the Christian Right’s politicization of faith in the 1990s turned younger, socially liberal Christians away from churches, even as conservatives became more zealous. “While the Republican base has become ever more committed to mixing religion and politics, the rest of the country has been moving in the opposite direction.”
Ironically, the rise of the Christian Right over the course of the past three decades may well end up being the catalyst for Christianity’s rapid decline. From the moment Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980, evangelical Christians, who account for roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population, identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. Michael Spencer, a writer who describes himself as a post-evangelical reform Christian, says, “Evangelicals fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith. Evangelicals will be seen increasingly as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.”
In light of the recent backlash against Republicans who supported the right-to-discriminate bills across 11 states, Spencer’s words seem prophetic. Republican lawmakers had expected evangelicals to mobilize in the aftermath of Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s veto of SB1062. Instead, legislatures in states like Mississippi, Kansas, and Oklahoma have largely backed down from attempts to protect “religious freedom” after a national outcry branded the proposed bills discriminatory.
Every denomination in the U.S. is losing both affiliation and church attendance. In some ways the country is a half-generation behind the declining rate of Christianity in other western countries like the U.K., Australia, Germany, Sweden, Norway, France, and the Netherlands. In those countries, what were once churches are now art galleries, cafes and pubs. In Germany more than 50 percent say they do not believe in any god, and this number is declining rapidly. In the U.K., church attendances have halved since the 1970s.
A recent study into thebeliefs of people living in 137 countries concludes that religious people will be a minority in many developed countries by 2041. Nigel Barber, an Irish bio-psychologist, based his book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion, on the findings. His book also debunks the popular belief that religious groups will dominate atheistic ones because they collectively have more children. “Noisy as they can be, such groups are tiny minorities of the global population and they will become even more marginalized as global prosperity increases and standards of living improve,” writes Barber.
Anthropologists have often stated that religion evolved to help early man cope with anxiety and insecurity. Barber contends that supernatural belief is in decline everywhere for the fact that ordinary people enjoy a decent standard of living and are secure in their health and finances. “The market for formal religion is also being squeezed by modern substitutes such as sports and entertainment. Even Facebook is killing religion because it provides answers for peculiarly modern narcissistic anxieties for which religion has no answer,” observes Barber.
While some polls show roughly 9 in 10 Americans still maintain belief in a god or gods, the trend of religious young Americans is toward a mish-mash of varied religious beliefs. A 2010 USA Today survey revealed that 72 percent of the nation’s young people identify as “more spiritual than religious.”
With an increasingly majority of younger Americans accepting evolution as fact, Christianity for many under 35 is becoming a watered-down hybrid of eastern philosophy and biblical teachings. “The turn towards being ‘spiritual but not religious’ points at the decreasing observation of doctrine and strict rules and a broader relationship to sentiment and ‘Jesus and me’ on the one hand alongside the rise of yoga, Buddhism, Hinduism and a blend or smorgasbord of eastern practices with the idea of being loosely/broadly spiritual—yet not in any specific context or foundation of the Trinity, Seven Deadly Sins, Karma, Nirvana or any of the pillars or branches of belief,” writes Alan Miller, moderator of a “spiritual but not religious” event.
Young people are turning away from the church and from basic Christian beliefs. While a number of non-denominational mega-churches continue to thrive, their teachings are less dogma and more self-help. Eventually, Christianity-Lite will be replaced with Spirituality-Full Strength.
Certainly, pro-secular groups have been largely successful in removing Jesus from the public square, workplace and classroom.
All of which leaves only one self-evident conclusion: that despite the Christian Right’s well-funded and well-organized effort to transform America’s secular state into a tyrannical theocracy, Christianity will inevitably mirror the days of its origins i.e. something that is only whispered about in secretly guarded places. And that may happen sooner than you think.
CJ Werleman is the author of “Crucifying America,” and “God Hates You. Hate Him Back.” Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman
extract from “Proud Atheist”
Posted by Waleed Al-Husseini on Friday, March 21, 2014
Sometime last year, the US quietly passed a milestone demographers had long been predicting: for the first time in its history, this country is no longer majority Protestant. Fewer than 50 percent of Americans now identify as Protestant Christians of any denomination.
This change has come on surprisingly recently, and from a historical perspective, with breathtaking speed. As recently as 1993, almost two-thirds of Americans identified as Protestants, a number that had remained stable for the several preceding decades. But sometime in the 1990s, the ground started to shift, and it’s been sliding ever since.
Whether it’s the “mainline” Protestant denominations like Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans or Presbyterians, or the independent evangelical, charismatic and fundamentalist sects, the decline is happening across the board. The rise of so-called megachurches, like Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California or Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill in Seattle, represents not growth, but consolidation.
What’s happening to these vanishing Protestants? For the most part, they’re not converting to any other religion, but rather are walking away from religion entirely. They’re becoming “nones,” as the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life puts it. It seems likely that this is the same secularizing trend being observed in Europe, as people of advanced, peaceful democracies find religion increasingly irrelevant to their daily lives.
The spokespeople of the religious right have noticed this trend as well, but it’s clear they have very little idea what to do about it. In a column from 2005, Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared that “theological liberalism” is at fault for Christianity’s decline, and that the only thing they need to do to reverse it is to make “a bold commitment to biblical authority.”
Far from it, the evidence is clear that churches clinging to antiquated dogma are part of the problem, as young people turn away from their strident decrees about gays and women.
All about Adam
A furious—and political—debate about the origins of mankind
Nov 23rd 2013
THAT old-time religion is strong in America. To take just one measure, for decades more than 40% of all Americans have consistently told Gallup pollsters that God created humans in pretty much their current form, less than 10,000 years ago. They are embracing an account of man’s origins promoted by Young Earth Creationists who lean on a painstakingly literal reading of the Scriptures, swatting aside the counter-claims of science (fossils are a relic of Noah’s flood, they argue, and evolution is a myth peddled by atheists). In a recent poll 58% of Republicans and 41% of Democrats backed creationism. The glue that underpins such faith is the principle of Biblical inerrancy—a certainty that the Scriptures are infallibly and unchangingly true.
A quest for certainty is an American tradition. Old World believers often inherit religion passively, like a cultural artefact. Americans, an individualistic bunch, are more likely to switch churches or preachers until they find a creed that makes sense to them. They admire fundamental texts (the constitution, for example) that plain citizens may parse for immutable truths.
At the same time, the literalist faith is in crisis. Young Americans are walking away from the stern denominations that have held such sway over post-war American life, from Billy Graham’s crusades to the rise of the religious right. After they hit 18, half of evangelical youngsters lose their faith; entering a public university is especially perilous. As a generation, millennials (those born between the early 1980s and 2000s), are unimpressed by organised anything, let alone organised religion. Many young adults told the Barna Group, an evangelical research outfit, that they felt stifled by elders who demonised secular America. Young Christians are more accepting of gay rights than their elders. In a challenge to creationists, a quarter of young adults told Barna’s study that their churches were “anti-science”.
The seeming paradox of a strong faith in crisis is explained by rigidity: that which cannot bend may break instead. The danger is keenly felt in conservative Christian circles, where a debate has broken out over the long-term outlook for the movement. That debate took Lexington this week to unfamiliar territory: the annual meeting, in Baltimore, of America’s largest society for evangelical theologians, where Biblical inerrancy topped the agenda. Some discussions were a trifle arcane, it is true, with sharp exchanges about ancient Hebrew cosmology and the degree to which the Book of Genesis draws on Mesopotamian creation and flood motifs. But a bang-up-to-date, and distinctly political, dispute hummed along underneath the scholarly sparring: what to do about core principles threatened by new facts. Evangelical Christianity is being shaken not only by the irreverence of the young but also by new discoveries flowing from genetic science.
Some discoveries mostly serve to inject fresh evidence into long-running disputes. It is nearly 90 years since the “Monkey Trial” of John Scopes, a young schoolmaster accused of teaching evolution to Tennessee children. Recent research (notably cross-species comparisons of gene sequences rendered non-functional by mutations) has greatly strengthened the case that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor. A creationist speaker in Baltimore shrugged such discoveries off, declaring that “science changes, but the word of God never changes.”
A trickier controversy has been triggered by findings from the genome that modern humans, in their genetic diversity, cannot be descended from a single pair of individuals. Rather, there were at least several thousand “first humans”. That challenges the historical existence of Adam and Eve, and has sparked a crisis of conscience among evangelical Christians persuaded by genetic science. This is not an esoteric point, says Michael Cromartie, an evangelical expert at the Ethics and Public Policy Centre, a Washington think-tank: many conservative theologians hold that without a historical Adam, whose sin descended directly to all humanity, there would be no reason for Jesus to come to Earth to redeem man’s Fall.
Academics have lost jobs over the Adam controversy. Many Christian universities, among them Wheaton (a sort of evangelical Harvard and Yale, rolled into one), oblige faculty members to sign faith statements declaring that God directly created Adam and Eve, the “historical parents of the entire human race”. John Walton, an Old Testament scholar at Wheaton, suggested that Adam and Eve are presented in Genesis as archetypes, though he called them historical individuals too.
Would you Adam and Eve it?
In a breach with orthodoxy that would have been unthinkable a few years ago, the Baltimore meeting was also addressed by a Canadian, Denis Lamoureux, who sees no evidence for a historical Adam. The Bible, he argues, is “ancient science” filled with archaisms and metaphors. Mr Lamoureux is a prominent member of the “evolutionary creation” movement, which credits God with creating Darwinian evolution and overseeing its workings (a view shared by, among others, the pope). A prime mover, Francis Collins, is an atheist-turned-Christian who directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American government’s biomedical research agency. Biologos, an evolutionary creation group that Mr Collins set up in 2007, calls this a moment to match Galileo’s trial for insisting that the Earth circles the sun.
Academic papers on Adam are flying. Perhaps a dozen Adam books are out or due out soon. Baltimore’s packed Adam session turned professors away at the door. This is a dispute between conservative Christians, not an outbreak of soggy, believe-what-you-like European deism. Much is at stake. Denying science is a bad habit among conservatives of all stripes: Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican who sits on the House science committee (and who wants to run for the Senate), says evolution is a lie “straight from the pit of hell”. That’s pandering, not piety.
Post-Shutdown the Evangelical Movement Is Going to Die Faster Than Ever — GOOD!– Now Actual Christianity Might Have a Chance to Flourish
The 2 weeks of shutdown madness has accelerated evangelical movement’s devolution by 10 years or more. The shutdown is to the evangelical establishment what that fabled 4-hour erection is to Viagra users.
I predict that the unwinding of the loony literalistic evangelical “Bible-believing” movement, made respectable by people like Billy Graham and Christianity Today magazine, just took a quantum leap. American evangelicals are looking into a grim future where they’re both loathed and feared. They are already losing their young people in droves. I mean, who wants to be led by the likes of Ted Cruz and Franklin Graham?
Sometimes everything changes instantly: 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, rock-n’-roll, the discovery that women like sex too provided a new shared awareness when there was a definite before and after change in perception. Pre-WW II Germany was where you went to study medicine, music and culture. Post-1945, there were no good Germans. Even Bach couldn’t save their reputation. Pre 9/11 we were invulnerable. Post-9/11 America was a paranoid surveillance state scared of its own shadow filled with people busy taking off our shoes for TSA agents.
Post the evangelical-Tea-Party led shutdown, (Yes, the Tea Party and evangelical movements are more or less one and the same) there will be few serious people who want to associate with the people who share the theology of the raving morons who brought us to the shutdown anarchic brink.
The heart of the matter – the religious delusions that led to political delusions that have been near fatal — is what I explore, expose, mock and I pray, will help destroy — in my new book And God Said, “Billy!” My book is a work of dark humor (by a writer who used to be an inmate in the evangelical asylum). But the funny has just gone out of the movement I take aim at. My book is funny, but the make-believe world I expose in all its insane glory just crashed into our reality and no one is laughing.
It’s one thing for a Bible-thumper to hand you a tract. It’s another thing for that same delusional person to hijack the value of your home and IRA. Ted Cruz, the Tea Party and the Republicans have done to the respectability of the evangelical establishment that has backed the “family values” folks what the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did to the “respectability” of social racism. Post-killing you might still have been a southern fried bigot but at least on business trips up north, you cooled it with your stock-in-trade racist jokes, at least in polite company.
So it is that the sort of people who used to think that working for some respectable evangelical outfit like Christianity Today magazine or Wheaton College or even a do-good feed the hungry-type NGO gave their literalistic theology cover will have to recalculate.
What’s looming now for the evangelicals is the realization that their cover is blown. They theologically affirm what is just one more version of fundamentalist Christianity– minus actual snake-handling. They may say “we’re not like Ted Cruz” and sniff at the Tea Party, but they’ll tell you, if pushed, that they believe in the “Rapture” and that gay people choose that “lifestyle.” They’ll tell you that the Bible is inerrant. In other words they can put on a tweed jacket and get a theology degree, but they’re still living in the thrall of very stupid ideas. And now we all know that living in make-believe land in one area of life leads to delusional behavior in other areas. In other words we all know that it’s not a coincidence that deluded religionists just led us to the brink. Their crazy faith made for crazy politics.
Like the Koch brothers, who’s doom is now irreversible in the history books, post-shutdown, so too will the respectable evangelicals have a hard time passing themselves off as normal or even morally decent responsible people. Tough to do with all those pictures of Ted Cruz being cheered by your cousin, your pastor and your denomination burned into the public mind. Tough to do when your friends discover that you believe in a myth-based reality where Jesus walked on water and so did Sarah Palin.
What Joe McCarthy did for anti-communism’s good name, Ted Cruz (not to mention his raving preacher daddy) and company just did for everyone that calls themselves conservative let alone evangelical. The accelerated evangelical discrediting means that evangelicals will:
- Lose their young people at a faster pace
- Have lost face for good
- Have become a feared and pitied weird minority on a par with survivalist and bigamist communities as far as national respect goes
- Will be the kiss of death for any serious political leader (Chris Christie stayed away from the “Values” gabfest this weak).
I guess the lesson is this: live in your own walled-off echo chamber long enough and you’ll start to believe your own nonsense. It started with belief in the Bible as “true in all it affirms,” despite science, “inerrant,” despite just about everything, and “prophetic” in spite of the fact Jesus never came back… and won’t.
Crazy was okay, for a while, but then morphed into stuff sane people could test like, “Global warming isn’t real!” “Obama isn’t American!” “Being born gay is unnatural!” “There’s no need to raise the debt limit!” “Who needs an economy when Jesus is coming back?!”
One other thing: With evangelicalism out of the way — thank you Jesus! – Christianity actually may flourish for the first time in American history. And to know what I think that inner spiritual flourishing might look like, you’ll have to read And God Said, “Billy!” Hint: There’s more truth found in the least experience of ancient liturgical mysticism, love and mercy than in the entire commercialized politicized fake spiritual world of big time religion…. but that another story. Or as I put it in the book: “My final word to you is this Billy: If there is a Creator — and that is a big if — perhaps He, She or It embodies love. I believe that the source of love must be outside of our cold mechanical universe.”