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America is becoming a secular nation

DCblogger's picture

This video points out that fewer and fewer Americans attend church regularly. It takes the view that this is a problem that needs to be corrected, I suspect readers of this blog will take a different view.

But it shows that the conventional wisdom of politicians wearing their religion on their sleeve may no longer be required or even acceptable. People no longer need religion to explain the natural world and many do not feel a spiritual need for church.

Politicians who openly oppose the religious right on issues such as science, women's rights, stem cell research, and other hot button issues should do very well if they stick to their guns and have good field operations.

The public face of religion is a very ugly one. We see people like Rick Warren endorsing torture and the death penalty for gays. We see Pat Robertson blaming America for 9/11. We see violent mobs in front of a hospice, doctors murdered, and clinics bombed.

We see science teachers unable to teach science because of religion. Religion has become an excuse to oppress women, hurt children, and unpopular minorities. Religion has become an excuse to hurt people.

Religion has become discredited. And that will continue until reasonable religious people demand access to the public airwaves to set the record straight. Not so much for the purpose of evangelism, but simply convince the public that those of us who are religious are not a bunch of ignorant, anti-science haters.

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techno's picture
Submitted by techno on

The REAL reason people stop going to church is that they cannot afford it anymore.

I mean, I wish I could be encouraged that the drop-off in church attendance meant that we were as a nation getting more rational, more willing to approach problems empirically, etc. But no, the former church goers are still getting their fix—they're just getting it in more affordable ways. However they adjust, rest assured that anything remotely attached to the Enlightenment will be the LAST option they try.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

you don't have to dress up, I don't. You don't have to put anything in the basket, until very very recently, I never contributed money, I simply didn't have any, not even a dollar. Church is where you can go if you don't have a dollar.

techno's picture
Submitted by techno on

Not getting married, not sending your kids to Bible camp, not popping for a funeral.

So you go to some house of worship and don't pay your share of the costs to keep the church doors open? Who does? And if the answer is "not enough people" how long can those doors stay open?

Of course, when the small fry can't afford to keep their congregations running, the charlatans with the big-money backing step into the gap. (Hunt brothers backing Billy Graham, anyone?) And because the primary selling point of devout observances is entertainment, the big guys that can put on a professional show suck up the donations from the small fry that would normally go to the local church. (My freaking mother gave money to Robert Schuller)

Mega-churches with right-wing political agendas? I'll bet you don't have to go five miles to find one of those.

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

But don't kid yourself. She and her converts are ultra fundamentalist rapturites and nuttier than fruitcake.

Submitted by Alcuin on

Like society at large, house churches run the gamut from left to right. There is no need to reject the idea just because a relative is a member of a house church with beliefs that repel you. For anarchist house churches, check out Jesus Radicals.

jumpjet's picture
Submitted by jumpjet on

discredited, and I think we have the rise of the Religious Right to thank for a lot of that. Turning Christianity into a weapon of oppression has naturally cooled many people to it. This is quite tragic, for me at least, because my Christianity is what compels me to take leftist political stances. From my perspective, the Church should be an instrument of liberation and advocacy, constantly pushing against the forces of world oppression.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

but the reluctance of mainstream religion to confront it. In the end Silence is more damaging than lies.

Submitted by Alcuin on

I bought land in a very conservative Bible-Belt area of the country and decided that I would have to come to terms with the brand of Christianity that flourished there somehow. I don't know that I have, but I did discover, in my learning curve, that Christianity does not belong to the Religious Right. I suspect that there are a lot of very reasonable, social-justice oriented Christians who are every bit as intimidated by the bullies of the Religious Right as every secular person is. But that doesn't mean the the message of Christ, on the Sermon on the Mount, has changed. Christianity has a very, very long history of standing for the oppressed and not for the oppressor, as the Religious Right believes. I have long believed that the Left needs to get over its fear of religion and reach out to Christians who are working towards the same goals. But every time I say that, I'm either ignored or criticized. Sigh....

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

After my incident in Zuccotti park on #N17, I understand the Jesus movement even though I don't believe the supernatural parts of the new testament or even in a biblical god. I'm a panentheist which is not atheism but pretty darn close.
Butcha know what? We need a break. Seriously. I have been battling the crazy right wing for all of my life. No joke. And I'll keep fighting it because it is as dangerous as the islamacists in Yemen or Saudi Arabia. It would be nice if your version of christianity were more popular but I am burned out on religion. I have had enough to last 40 lifetimes. You have no idea what it's like to grow up with one of these lunatics as parents. She's like a zombie. As soon as she ditches one extreme religion, she finds another that is even more extreme and keeps coming at you. I hate the grip that religion has on her on people like her. So as lovely as I'm sure you are, please do not expect me to promote your brand as an alternative. What I really want to see is the rise of the non-believer so that Christians like you represent the mainstream. Just don't expect me to battle for you until there is more balance in society.

Submitted by Alcuin on

I never said that I was a Christian. In fact, I'm very much attracted to panentheism. And I completely understand where you are coming from re: your mom. A very good friend of mine is a wiccan and her parents are religious fundamentalists, so I've learned a lot from her. But I still maintain that it is very important for people on the Left to re-examine their beliefs about religion and enlist the support of those who can help. MLK was a Baptist preacher, after all. It does no good to reject potential supporters just because they describe themselves as Christians.

tom allen's picture
Submitted by tom allen on

Religion is a joke. But that's the point! Laughter! He who laughs last is the Lord (or whoever you worship, or don't -- again, that's the point.)

Nobody gets the joke till the very end. Till everything is revealed. Till all the hypocrites are cast down and all the lowly are ennobled.

Matthew 6: 1-8

1“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

Just sayin'. :-P

Also, BTW, this is why science rocks. Because everybody mocks us first. :-P

Kathryn's picture
Submitted by Kathryn on

...leading to wishful thinking.

Gallup poll after poll, shows that Americans -- while becoming more "unchurched" or "never churched" are not becoming "secular." The shift is instead from patriarchial, institutionalized, authoritarian forms to individualized, self-autonomous practice. Hence "I'm not religious, I'm spiritual" -- which if you teach undergrad religion coursework you'll hear from students all the time. Americans who respond that they have no particular religious identity is up around 18% -- but that doesn't mean they are a-theistic.

More than that, church attendance is slightly up for the conservative half of the country.

If you go to:

...and scroll down to the chart on Church Attendance Among Subgroups, you'll see exactly why politicians still jump to the religion side of the fence. The demographics for the GROUPS THAT VOTE are majority religious.

Where I find hope is the 18-29 yr old group that is at 35% (and falling) beaten only by "Liberals" at 27%.

Liberals should be much more aware of religion, and that the tendency to reject it outright makes us very handicapped in fighting for our vision -- as nicely expressed in the twelve word platform. This is tool like any other in the media war, and as long as the political reality is "religion matters most" we should be able to fight on that ground.

Medicare for all should be framed as a wholly Evangelical Christian objective. This is clearly established in the parable of the Good Samaritan. But Christians don't know their scripture as well as they know what leaders tell them. So I say, remind the hell out of them. When the good Samaritan left the injured man at the inn, he told the innkeeper "whatever you have to do to help this man, you do, and I will repay you when I return." The entire parable is about "who is the good neighbor" and at the end, Jesus says "go now and be this good neighbor." There is no distinction to who gets care, and there is no end to the responsibility of the good neighbor to provide care. Medicare for all.

But no one made this argument and it should have been daily thrown at conservatives. We lose when we can't fight fire with fire. There was a time when moderate and liberal churches across the north east, north central and west would have been in the fight on the liberal side -- but those congregations have died off and those churches closed. There is no moderating voice in Christianity. One of the most poignant polls to come out in the last few years showed that a large percentage of pastors no longer held the beliefs they preached, but on the policy of "do no harm" and the hard reality that they had no other profession to turn to, stayed on in the pulpit, know they were hypocrites.

Submitted by Alcuin on

Hear! Hear! Now, if we could just convince others besides the choir ...

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

The person who is credited with writing the first non-anonymous book-length text in defense of atheism was a priest who similarly did not hold the beliefs he preached, largely unknown today.

Following his death in 1729, Jean Meslier, the priest of the tiny parish of Étrépigny, in the Champagne-Ardenne region in northern France, was found to have written a several-hundred-page long treatise—actually, three meticulous transcriptions of the same treatise—in which he made his stunning declaration of unbelief.

He writes of his guilt and remorse in misleading his congregation:

How I suffered when I had to preach to you those pious lies that I detest in my heart. What remorse your credulity caused me! A thousand times I was on the point of breaking out publicly and opening your eyes, but a fear stronger than myself held me back, and forced me to keep silence until my death.

While the quote “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest” is credited to Denis Diderot, Meslier had expressed the sentiment before him (Testament de Jean Meslier, p 37). His recommendation for his own remains was more culinary:

Let them do what they want with my body; let them tear it apart, cut it to pieces, roast it or fricassée it and then eat it, if they want, in whatever sauce they want, it will not trouble me at all. I will be entirely out of their reach; nothing will be able to frighten me. (Testament, pp 43-44)

goldberry's picture
Submitted by goldberry on

How many of those who say they are spiritual would really say they were atheists if it weren't for the fact that there is such a stigma applied to that word?
The good news is that the voices of non-believers are exploding on the Internet, on blogtalkradio and at conferences like those hosted by the Freethought society and the reason rally.

Even I have been surprised by the many new voices of skeptics, freethinkers and atheists online. And their radio shows are popular. Most of them have only been around for a few years. Check out The Thinking Atheist, for example. That guy came out of Christian broadcasting. And he's very good, engaging, and warm. You can find clips from conferences online. Jane Caro, feminist and atheist, is hysterically funny as well as wicked smart. They're starting to come out of the woodwork and they're going to push back. The religious better be prepared. The genie is out of the bottle.

Submitted by Alcuin on

Would you agree that there is quite a large difference between early Christianity (pre-Nicene Creed) and the Christianity that Jean Meslier preached?

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

Would you agree that there is quite a large difference between early Christianity (pre-Nicene Creed) and the Christianity that Jean Meslier preached?

Was that in response to what I posted? I’d imagine there is (although not being a Christian I’m not well-versed in such matters).

I’m not so sure that any difference would have mattered to Meslier—he was unequivocal in stating his atheism; his Testament contains no fewer than eight “proofs” [PDF] of the falseness of all religions.

Submitted by Alcuin on

Yes, it was in response to your post, JeffW. I didn't click on the right "reply" link. I liked this part of the essay you linked to:

"Essentially, he seeks to demonstrate ‘the vanity and falsity of all the divinities and of all the religions of the world’ as inventions and purely human institutions fostered by ruling elites to oppress the mass of the people."

I don't disagree one bit with this. BUT. An enormous number of people DO believe in religion, for whatever reason. Just because they do, should we shun them? My point is that by shunning the possible help of religious people, we are marginalizing ourselves even more than we already are. We don't have to agree with these people, we just have to recognize the core truths of what Jesus said and use those truths to combat the ignorance of those who fall into the trap of religion. Kathryn had it right when she commented about the tale of the Good Samaritan.