American unbelief on the rise

Over at AlterNet, Adam Lee (whose website is Daylight Atheism) has a nice article on the rise of atheism—and atheist groups and support networks—in America, “Goodbye religion? How godlessness is increasing with each new generation.” Lee documents some horror stories about what has happened to students who opposed the incursion of prayer and religion in public schools: the principal of one such student’s school wrote to the colleges he applied for and tried to block his admission, another student’s cat was killed.  But despite this vilification, godlessness is on the rise.

The facts:

“This demographic transformation has been in progress ever since World War II, but in recent years it’s begun to seriously pick up steam. In the generation born since 1982, variously referred to as Generation Y, the Millennials, or Generation Next, one in five people identify as nonreligious, atheist, or agnostic. In the youngest cohort, the trend is even more dramatic: as many as 30% of those born since 1990 are nonbelievers. Another study, this one by a Christian polling firm, found that people are leaving Christianity at four times the rate that new members are joining.”

he quotes a sociological survey by Putnam and Campbell that says this:

” . . . Today, 17% of Americans say they have no religion, and these new “nones” are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25% and 30% of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation — roughly four times higher than in any previous generation.”

This is all good, but why is it happening?  Lee says that only one theory makes sense in light of the facts: that churches are making themselves—and religion—unattractive and irrelevant by continuing to push conservative social values in an age of increasing tolerance and liberalism. We’ve all seen the rise in approval of gays and gay marriages in just the last decade, and Lee gives statistics showing not only this, but a substantial opinion by non-Christians that Christianity is “anti-homosexual.” Too, many churches hold conservative stands about women and about contraception and abortion.

The Catholic Church is, of course, the most prominent offender here, but many conservative Protestants also adhere to these dogmas.  At some point, the Catholic Church is going to wake up, for if it doesn’t liberalize it will dwindle to total irrelevance. Yet it seems blind and deaf to what’s happening.

According to Lee, then, the rise of secularism is not so much the doing of secularists or New Atheists but the result of intransigence by churches:

What all this means is that the rise of atheism as a political force is an effect, rather than a cause, of the churches’ hard right turn towards fundamentalism. I admit that this conclusion is a little damaging to my ego. I’d love to say that we atheists did it all ourselves; I’d love to be able to say that our dazzling wit and slashing rhetorical attacks are persuading people to abandon organized religion in droves. But the truth is that the churches’ wounds are largely self-inflicted. By obstinately clinging to prejudices that the rest of society is moving beyond, they’re in the process of making themselves irrelevant. In fact, there are indications that it’s a vicious circle: as churches become less tolerant and more conservative, their younger and more progressive members depart, which makes their average membership still more conservative, which accelerates the progressive exodus still further, and so on. (A similar dynamic is at work in the Republican party, which explains their increasing levels of insanity over the past two or three decades.) . . .

. . . The major churches, clinging to the inferior morality of long-gone ages, are increasingly out of step with a world that’s more enlightened, rational and tolerant than it once was. And the more they dig in their heels, the more we can expect this process to accelerate.

So much for the mantra that “religion is here to stay,” a claim that I always find annoying—and wrong in light of the dramatic decline of religion in much of Europe over the last two centuries.  If religion does stay, it will increasingly be in a less virulent form that doesn’t oppress women or gays, or intrude into the sexual lives of consenting adults. And we can count that as a victory.  (This, of course, assumes that the spread of intolerant forms of Islam doesn’t overcome this trend.)

Now maybe Lee is right (he’s surely at least partly right), but that doesn’t mean that we can’t accelerate the trend by standing up and speaking out.  As I’ve found myself, the more one points out the dangers and irrationality of faith, the more encouragement it gives others to “come out.”  I’ve discovered this from emails I’ve gotten since I became more vocal on the issue, and of course someone like Dawkins has been hugely more successful in getting others to stand up.  And I know from people who come up to me after talks that there is a large number of Americans who are nonbelievers but choose to remain silent lest they be stigmatized.  All we have to do is what gays did to gain acceptance: point out the irrationality of intolerance—and of religion—and, when we face faith-based attempts to coerce others, keep thinking that we’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore.

h/t: Grania Spingies

115 Comments

  1. Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    “Lee says that only one theory makes sense in light of the facts: that churches are making themselves—and religion—unattractive and irrelevant by continuing to push conservative social values in an age of increasing tolerance and liberalism. ”

    I’m sure that’s part of it, but I don’t think that’s the only valid theory. The prevalence of the truth of evolution and other scientific evidence that flies in the face of religion is surely part of it as well, don’t you think? It becomes increasingly difficult to believe that a book which not only supports slavery and war and restricts the freedoms of women but also says the earth was created in 7 days, people lived for hundreds of years when there was no modern medicine or hygiene, and a man was born of a virgin and rose from the grave.

    • daveau
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

      It’s all equally untrue, though, isn’t it? It’s lies all the way down. The only time religions tell the truth is if they accidentally stumble on something that serves their purposes.

      However, statements that women/blacks/whatevers are inferior or that teh Gheys are an abomination or god wants you to give us your money are much more relevant to modern society than are vague statements about how the universe was created or why some god leveled some city in antiquity. Which is why it appears to be a different kind of thing.

  2. Tulse
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    many churches hold conservative stands about women and about contraception and abortion.

    The Catholic Church is, of course, the most prominent offender here, but many conservative Protestants also adhere to these dogmas.

    In the US I think that Protestants have been far more at the forefront of the anti-abortion movement, at least politically (and the same goes for ant-gay policies, and anti-evolution stances, and anti-stem-cell-research positions). There are certainly more Protestants, and even more evangelicals, in the US than there are Catholics (and many Catholics that I know are fairly liberal on these matters).

  3. Kevin
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t think religion is making itself unattractive as much as it’s becoming irrelevant.

    There’s no benefit to joining when the “sophisticated” theologians tell us that god can be described as “the ground of all being” or some such nonsense. When every god is as good as the next, what’s the point of adhering to the strictures of just one?

    Plus, I think the attitudes of people towards social networks has changed dramatically over the past 50 years or so. Time was, every man joined the Kiwanis and the Rotary, the Masons (or the Knights of Columbus). And every woman was in the Junior League (no patriarchy in evidence there!), and on and on. Churches are just an extension of this social networking.

    Membership in all such groups has plummeted since the advent of television and accelerated once the internet became available. Our total-immersion connectedness via Facebook and Twitter makes all such groups quite archaic.

    Plus, atheist parents tend to raise atheist kids, while religious parents don’t necessarily end up with religious kids (despite early conditioning).

    Add to that the “truth claims” of religion are simply too ludicrous to believe, and you have the makings of a secular society.

    • Mark Plus
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      >Plus, atheist parents tend to raise atheist kids,

      I’ve met a few people who had the good fortune to grow up as atheists. To me they seem like characters from an advanced civilization out of science fiction.

      • Kevin
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        My niece and nephew, despite living right in the heart of Billy Graham country, were never sent to church, never baptized, never indoctrinated in any faith (although as ‘cultural Christians’, they do enjoy getting presents at Christmas).

        Two very nice people – hard-working, solid citizens, well-respected, clear thinkers.

        In public, when the issue of religion is raised in their presence, they merely roll their eyes and keep their own counsel. In private, they reserve their harshest criticism for friends who profess to have ‘faith’ but then behave in a manner inconsistent with religious dogma. They have a highly sensitive hypocrite detector.

      • Don
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        My father, born in 1917, was an unbeliever who’d been raised a Catholic in Brooklyn. Because my mother’s father, a newspaper man in Ohio, was an admirer of Robert Ingersoll, my mother (now, at 92, an staunch atheist) grew up an agnostic.

        So, growing up on Long Island, my three sisters and I were raised outside of any religious tradition. I went to church once, on an Easter Sunday, to see what it was like. At home, when God was mentioned, or when the conversation impinged on some aspect of faith, which wasn’t unusual, it was like talking about classic fiction.

        Just the same, two of my younger sisters fell in somehow with evangelicals, and although their politics remained fairly progressive, in spite of their upbringing, they turned into fundies. Their own children, however, seem to have freed themselves.

  4. Mark Plus
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    I wonder if the zero-sum nature of time management has something to do with it. I’ve noticed from observing the Harry Potter phenomenon that some children have become so obsessed with this new mythology that they even risk defying their parents’ prohibitions in the process. Every hour a child spends reading about or discussing Harry Potter’s world with his or her friends subtracts an hour that could have gone towards the child’s religious indoctrination.

    Moreover, children don’t display the same sort of enthusiasm towards reading the bible and learning about Jesus. If anything, christian parents have to force this chore on their children against their organic inclinations.

  5. Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I don’t think the secular movement is as irrelevant as Lee seems to think. The existence of public atheism — both as an articulated position and a social movement — provides a place to go to, thereby making it psychologically easier leave religion.

    Lee talks about the ugliness of much conservative religion, while ignoring the more socially benign liberal religion, but I suspect that is obsoleting itself as well. Unlike the simplistic dogmas of fundamentalism, liberal theology is too vague and high-falutin’ for most people to wrap their heads around, and the liberal churches tend to present a sort of unfocussed “Let’s be nice to everyone” message (which is fine in itself, but doesn’t provide much motivation to show up on Sunday morning. I might as well join a service organization that just does stuff, and skip the boring sermon).

    However, I continue to have misgivings about the significance of the “None” category. How many of them are really skeptical atheists, as opposed to “spiritual” but not affiliated with any specific group, or into some other superstition? OTOH, it still represents a diminution of the power of organized religion, and I think that’s for the good.

    • Mark Plus
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      >The existence of public atheism — both as an articulated position and a social movement — provides a place to go to, thereby making it psychologically easier leave religion.

      I grew up in “rapture ready” Tulsa in the 1970’s, and from hindsight I wish I could have joined an atheist group in my teens just to have some sane people to talk to. Now Tulsa has an atheist organization which has advertised its existence on billboards, thanks to support from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and it has apparently grown to several hundred members. It also recently held a one-day conference, the first of its kind in Oklahoma, which attracted about 300 people. The internet, social media and the high profile of ballsy New Atheists have unfrozen the market for atheist education, networking and activism, even in places like Tulsa.

  6. Jer
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Okay, let’s suppose I buy Lee’s thesis – it’s a decent one. Now the question backs up a step –

    Why, in the face of intractable religion, is society becoming more tolerant? If religion held sway on people’s hearts in the past, why is it that tolerance is now the watchword and marginalizing religion?

    Various religions have always been at the forefront of the push for tolerance – folks like the Quakers and the Unitarians come to mind. If it’s just that society is becoming more tolerant and leaving regressive religions behind, shouldn’t churches like the Unitarian Church be seeing boom times? Shouldn’t there be room opening up for a more tolerant, less fundamentalist religion?

    And yet we’re not seeing that either. So it seems to me that there has to be something more underlying the shift. Because if the shift to tolerance is causing the new generation to leave their religions, what caused that shift towards tolerance in the first place?

    • Linda Grilli Calhoun
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Exhaustion?

      I’m only half kidding. Keeping up all that vitriol takes a lot of energy. Eventually the activities of daily living have to be attended to. L

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Better education, wealth, health and generally more security in life. It’s not for nothing that this trend has progressed the furthest in the social democracies of Western Europe.

    • TheBrummell
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Cheap air travel.

      Tolerance, to a large degree, comes from exposure to people, places, cultures, and ideas that are different from what you have already encountered. “Us vs. Them” is a 2-part system, but if you travel to 10 far-flung places you’ll come back with 10 “thems”, all as different from each other as they are from you. Even if you never leave home, you’ll have more friends and relatives who do, and they’ll come back and talk to you.

      I’m sure there’s much more going on than simply affordable holidays, but I think it’s a major driver for the “whence this tolerance?” question.

    • Rieux
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      If it’s just that society is becoming more tolerant and leaving regressive religions behind, shouldn’t churches like the Unitarian Church be seeing boom times? Shouldn’t there be room opening up for a more tolerant, less fundamentalist religion?

      For whatever it’s worth, Adam Lee is a Unitarian Universalist. And a Gnu Atheist as well.

      My guess (as a former atheist UU, now just an atheist, myself) is basically along the lines of what Eamon Knight hypothesized above: say what you will about theologically conservative religious denominations, but they give children brought up in their churches a hell (ahem) of a reason to stay within the fold. But when “God” is conceptualized as little more than a word game involving “the ground of being” or something similarly empty, what’s the incentive to hang around for the sermon—or, on the other side of the coin, what’s the downside to leaving and finding your own things to do on Sundays?

      While I was a UU, there were constant internal worries about the reported fact that only 5% of children brought up UU end up as adult UUs. I have a hard time believing the rate is that low, but there’s certainly a very significant outflow.

      It just appears to me that liberal religion has little to no generation-to-generation staying power. Given the broader trend that Lee’s article identifies (not that he’s the first to do so), institutions like Unitarian Universalism may always be useful as generational halfway houses, but that isn’t a recipe for increased social relevance. A church composed of folks who are the children of orthodox believers and the parents of irreligious apatheists (if not atheists) isn’t particularly evil, but it’s not all going to have much impact on society, either.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        “While I was a UU, there were constant internal worries about the reported fact that only 5% of children brought up UU end up as adult UUs. I have a hard time believing the rate is that low, but there’s certainly a very significant outflow.”

        the real question is… should you be worried about it?

        what was your goal for being UU to begin with?

        what are the 95% who leave doing?

        Are the secular goals of those who leave inconsistent with the goals you had while with the UU?

        if not, then whatever the goal of the UU was, or is, is still being met, regardless of whether 95% leave it in the end as an organization.

        whatever goals the UU had that weren’t secular, those are the things that obviously don’t have any staying power.

        and that speaks volumes, right?

    • Rieux
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      Oh, uh, and I was going to add that no, these are not particularly boom times for Unitarian Universalism. The studies I’ve shown reveal that there are somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 members of UU congregations in the United States, and somewhere around 650,000 Americans identify themselves as Unitarian, UU, or some such term. To my knowledge, none of those numbers have changed significantly within the past few decades; if I remember correctly, there has been a small amount of growth, but it hasn’t kept pace with the growth in the broader American population.

    • Posted August 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      That’s a very good question, Jer. One possible answer I’d propose is that liberal religious denominations like the UUs put very little effort into proselytizing and recruiting new members. It may be that the secularizing wave which they could otherwise stand to benefit from is just passing them by.

  7. Jonny
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I’m not entirely convinced by this. The fact that moderates are thinning out doesn’t mean that the die-hards aren’t growing. See Eric Kaufmann’s ‘Shall The Religious Inherit The Earth?’. He brings the example of Ultra-Orthodox Jews who have both incredibly high fertility rates (some communities average 8 children per woman) and an extremely high retention rate (I think I saw a statistic somewhere that only 3% defect). The same presumably applies for many hard-core Christian movements. I suppose the question is whether these growth rates are sustainable.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      I’ve long suspected that with ultra-orthodox Jews (with, as a Jewish colleague explained to me once, their 13th century Polish attire), and analogously Muslims and the Amish, it’s the garb that substantially contributes to the high retention. When the only people who will talk to you as if you’re ordinary are those similarly attired, it helps to keep you from straying outside the tent.

      Note added in proof: one of those mass-suicide cults of some years back also went in for identical clothing.

      • llwddythlw
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        I have a cousin who has belonged to the Chabad movement for nearly 40 years. Based on what she’s told me, I think she and her family have stayed with the movement simply because they find their lives are enriched by it. I don’t think the clothing plays a role.

    • Mark Plus
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      These demographic arguments about the future of religion have trouble explaining how the religious have partially disinherited the world in the past 100 years. If you look at the pie chart of the world’s religions affiliations, nonbelief went from a sliver in 1900 to about a sixth of the pie now. We have more nonbelievers on the planet in 2011 than the entire, nearly 100 percent religious human population alive circa 1800.

      • Sajanas
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        Plus, its important to realize that the orthodox Jews and the Amish exist because of the sufferance of the larger population, to which they don’t contribute a whole lot. In Israel, the orthodox Jews are subsidized by the government to become rabbis, and exempt from military service. I don’t know

        • Sajanas
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

          To continue
          … about the Amish, but they do take up a fair amount of land with their farming, to the extent that they have problems finding something for all their many children to do, since their family lands don’t divide by 8 to 12 very well.
          If they weren’t given such deference, they might have to get jobs like the rest of us, rather than being able to just ignore the rest of society.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

            Well that’s land they own. I’m all in favor of people being able to ignore the rest of society, as long as they aren’t subsidized by the rest of society.

            • Sajanas
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

              Oh, and that’s true enough, my point is more that the Amish family life is dependent on there being land available for them to buy so that their big broods of children can all own their own land. I’m not sure what will happen to them when they run out of easily available farming land. I know they can do jobs outside the community as long as they don’t involve a lot of technology, but I think in the long run, their growth will drive them right up to the edges of the rest of society.

        • Mark Plus
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

          In other words, those ultra-Orthodox religious obsessives spend their lives on welfare. So much for the stereotype about Jewish entrepreneurialism and self-reliance.

          We can see what guaranteed subsistence does to people’s character after a couple of generations when we call it “welfare.” At least the sons in rentier families like the Bushes try to engage the world of business and make their own money, even when they don’t have to because of their flush incomes from inherited wealth; it gives them something better to do than dissipation.

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      I suspect the answer is different for every sect (disclaimer: haven’t read the recommended book, so I’m sort of talking out my nether orifice here). ISTM there is an important difference between eg. extreme isolationist groups like ultra-Orthodox Jews, and Christian fundagelicals. The latter are culturally engaged — they have to be, they want to evangelize, to influence or even take over the culture — and so cannot help getting influenced back, to some extent. It’s hard eg. to prevent their kids from having out gay friends, or atheist friends, or Muslim friends. And in that situation, the demonization pushed by your elders just doesn’t work: you can see these people don’t have horns and tails, you like them, they’re not that different than you are. So when you grow up you call bullshit on the bigotry, and the ideas that drive it, and maybe the whole religion. And then you’ve got the internet and TV and education and all the forces that present a wider world….

      • Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        It’s hard eg. to prevent their kids from having out gay friends, or atheist friends, or Muslim friends.

        They’ll try, though. There are still religious groups in a country as liberal as the Netherlands that don’t allow TV’s (although the stereotype has it that there’ll be a TV hidden somewhere in most houses). Their kids of course go to strict Christian schools. Their internet will be filtered by software released by religious organizations.

        However, despite that, it’s going to get increasingly more difficult to insulate their kids. Especially the internet is going to make this difficult, despite the filters.

        Personally, I think this sort of isolationism is a form of abuse. Parents may have a right to teach their children their values, but not the right to keep information generally considered to be important from their kids.

      • Mark Plus
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        It will become increasingly hard for christians in the U.S. to characterize the capital-A Atheist as a malevolent Other, when more and more unremarkable, law-abiding Americans come out as atheists. And christians can’t tell us to “go back to Russia” these days as well.

        By contrast, the christian obsessives who get on the national stage seem increasingly clownish. I grew up in Tulsa, and a lot of Tulsans found Oral Roberts an embarrassment with his widely reported visions of the 900 foot Jesus and his death threats from god if he didn’t raise enough money for his dubious projects. Harold Camping also met with widespread mockery, even though a Pew survey last year found that 41 percent of the American population expects Jesus to return by 2050. I think we may have reached some kind of inflection point in the culture war which will put christians in the U.S. on the defensive from now on.

  8. Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    If religion does stay, it will increasingly be in a less virulent form that doesn’t oppress women or gays, or intrude into the sexual lives of consenting adults.

    Not all religion will retreat into some form of benign spiritualism that is otherwise mostly humanistic in nature. Some religion will also retreat into fundamentalism, protected by a bastion of persecution complexes and isolation from the rest of society. The more secular society gets, the fanatical these groups will get.

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      Hey Deen I am always amazed that atheists decide to intrude into the lives of average people all the time. Athesits pass laws that prohibit parents from schooling their own children, they tell us what kind of light bulbs we can and cannot have. When they get total control of a state (like the former Soviet Union) they won’t even let you travel without consent. I am also amazed that the majority of atheists never criticize Islam (who really does oppress women and gays) nor do say or do anything about North Korea, which is an atheist country and the largest concentration camp in the world.

      • Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        Make stuff up much, Lance?

        • Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

          No, but I was generalizing; which is why I used the word “majority”.

      • daveau
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

        Athesits[sic]…tell us what kind of light bulbs we can and cannot have.

        Huh?

        • Claimthehighground
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

          Hey, Lance…check it out, dork. It was Michelle Bachmann and her ultra right idjits who went ape shit over the light bulb thing. Try to at least get some of your facts straight.

          • Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

            It is liberal democrat atheists who sold us on the stupid global warming hoax. Did RINO republicans like Bush and McCaine go along with the lie? Yes. That is why Pawlenty got zero traction. If Bachmann voted for it, shame on her too. But liberals control the agenda still and whiny cowardly republicans are always fearful to upset them. That is why the liberal agends continues to advance. The advance has slowed, but only because one man, Ronald Reagan, got rid of the “Fairness Doctrine” back in the 80’s. Which lead to Rush Limbaugh, talk radio, and the alternative media which is in it’s infancy.

            • Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

              Which lead to Rush Limbaugh, talk radio, and the alternative media which is in it’s infancy infantile.

              FTFY.

      • Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        I agree with daveau: Huh? Where did you get all that?

      • Mark Plus
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        >I am also amazed that the majority of atheists never criticize Islam

        The New Atheists have criticized Islam, both in print and in public speeches.

        >nor do say or do anything about North Korea

        Learn how to use Google before you write such easliy falsifiable claims:

        A Nation of Racist Dwarfs
        Kim Jong-il’s regime is even weirder and more despicable than you thought.
        By Christopher Hitchens

        http://www.slate.com/id/2243112/

        • Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

          The key word – “MAJORITY” – IS Hitchens a majority? I don’t think so. Kim Jong Il is an atheist (he sure isn’t a Christian, although I am sure liberals will say that he was in the history books). What are atheists doing about North Korea? What are you doing about Somalia? What liberals do is vote to send “other peoples money” to help instead of writing a check themselves. Why send $50.00 to help a starving child when you can get your tongue pierced?

      • Sajanas
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        Sam Harris’s End of Faith devoted quite a lot of space to Islam, as did Hitchens’s God Is Not Good. The thing is, the arguments against Christianity are almost all equally valid against Islam.

        And really, when is the last time an atheist has intruded into your own private life? I’d give you a comparison of the number of aggressive, placard touting Christians to the number of aggressive, placard touting atheist, but you can’t divide by zero.

      • Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        ###
        Lighthouse Church of Antioch & Lance Rengel, evangelism minister

        LCoA Statement of Faith

        Jesus Christ will, at some unknown time in the future, come again to earth and take up believers to heaven. All those who have been saved, living or dead, will receive new, glorified, and eternal bodies. Following the rapture of the church, the earth will be subjected to God’s wrath upon a rebellious world in a 7-year period known as the Great Tribulation, which will be followed by the return of Christ to Earth. He will reign on earth following the Great Tribulation for a period of 1000 years, which will end at the Great White Throne Judgment. The redeemed will enjoy the untold blessings of everlasting life with God, free from the burden and the influence of sin and evil. Satan, the demons, and the unredeemed, will be cast into the “Lake of Fire” and spend eternity in torment

        ###
        Lance’s site

        …I am a certified trainer in Evangelism Explosion (EE), and I have taught ”Way of the Master” by Ray Comfort as well. If you or your church needs evangelism materials such as gospel tracts, t-shirts, hand fans, etc… please contact me at…purchase some Angus coffee from our online store, or purchase a mug or a shirt. You can also use Art Newvo, Inc. for any and all of your imprinted apparel needs

        • Mark Plus
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

          >Satan, the demons, and the unredeemed, will be cast into the “Lake of Fire” and spend eternity in torment

          But that will show the earthly lives of the unredeemed will have had “meaning” after all. That doesn’t sound so bad.

      • Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        Lance Rengel Facebook page Interests:

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        Help Cure Cancer

        • Posted August 19, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink

          If not for the existence of all that background, I would be tempted to write off our new chew-toy as a Poe. I mean, Lance keeps pushing this liberals == atheists == mishmash of stereotypes of stuff he doesn’t like — it just never stops. He’s a self-caricature of wingnut fundidiocy.

      • MosesZD
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        Shopping cart pusher?

      • MosesZD
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        Oh, and sorry Lance, but Jesus got it wrong:

        Matthew 16:28: I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

        Seriously, when the so-called ‘Son of God’ tells his apostles that some of them will live to see his return and the establisment of God’s Kindom on earth…

        Well, I haven’t seen any 2,000+ year-old men running around. Have you?

        • Mark Plus
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

          I’ve wondered what happened to Lazarus after Jesus resurrected him. Either Lazarus died again, which makes his resurrection seem cruel and pointless; or else we would have to postulate that Lazarus in his deathless body walks the earth in 2011 like a character from Highlander.

          • Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

            I dunno — if I died tonight and someone brought me back (either through some hypothetical supernatural mechanism, or by heroic medical procedures, and I got to live another 30 years, I’m sure neither I nor my family would consider that cruel or pointless.

            As for the second: ever read A Canticle for Liebowitz?

            • Steersman
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

              Great book. Have always enjoyed re-reading – and quoting – the beginning of Part III (Fiat Voluntas Tua). “A race of impassioned after-dinner speechmakers” indeed …

            • Mark Plus
              Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

              We expect human medicine to have limits like that. The gospels say Jesus healed people “supernaturally,” not by giving them drugs or performing surgery on them. You’d think a “resurrection” from such a figure would stick.

              I’ve also wondered what it accomplished when Jesus healed someone from, say, leprosy, only to let the individual die from cancer a few years later.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        what you’ve really just shown us is how much religious belief causes one’s perspective to skew… wildly.

        you’re a poster boy for why we as a species should abandon the entire concept of religion.

        • Posted August 22, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

          If there is no God why would you even care what I think? Do you think that force should be used to prevent me from believing in God? Should the state take my children away from me by force to prevent me from teaching them about God? That is the thing that atheists, islamists, communists, buddhists, hindus, and yes even some “christian” denominations have in common: the justification of using force to stop those “Bible believers”. If atheists were true to their atheism (hedonism) they would eat, drink, and be merry until they become worm food and not have a need or desire to concern themselves with the beliefs of other people. Have a donut and go wilding. If there is no God it doesn’t matter.

          • Tulse
            Posted August 22, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

            If there is no God why would you even care what I think?

            Because many people of your faith insist on imposing their religious beliefs upon civil society. If you think that gay marriage is evil or that abortion is a sin or that evolution is a lie, well, it’s your right to believe such utter nonsense. But when the religious demand that laws be changed to force everyone to conform to those beliefs, you better believe that I care what the religious think.

            Do you think that force should be used to prevent me from believing in God?

            Of course not, but many of your co-religionists seem to think that legal force should be used to ensure that only behaviour comporting to their beliefs is permitted.

  9. llwddythlw
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I am considering also the rise of godlessness in parts of Europe. It appears to me that it stems from a combination of a rejection of belief in god as something that’s unwarranted and a certain amount of apathy.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      “something that’s unwarranted”

      Europeans seem not much less likely than Americans to believe in other “unwarranted” belief systems, such as homeopathy or psychic healing. I’m not sure they’re more rational than Americans, on average; they just don’t do the religion thing as much as we do.

      • TrineBM
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        Greg Esres: Very true! the old religions are being ignored, the new shiny or exotic ones get picked instead – with a lot of healing, massages, food-supplements, vitamins etc to help it down.

      • Maple
        Posted August 21, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        Remember that Europe lived under the severe oppression of religion for centuries. Europeans have the religious history that North Americans do not. They have matured, and, it is hoped, North Americans will too!

  10. Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    [subscribing]

  11. Greg Esres
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    “What all this means is that the rise of atheism as a political force is an effect,”

    How long before we can see this force? Right now, it seems that religious fundamentalists are at their most powerful position in 100 years, which might culminate in a Bachmann presidency.

  12. Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Atheism will not win the day. The Pendulumn may swing in it’s favor now. The riots in England have already had the effect of English society questioning it’s embrace of liberal policies and the results. Atheism leads to amorality. Athism is amoral. There isn’t a moral standard. You may claim there is, but you would be illogical. If there isn’t a God, then there isn’t a higher law. There are only laws imposed upon one another by whomever is in power. Might makes right.Before responding please make sure you know the difference between amoral and immoral.

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      If you’re going to proclaim atheism to be amoral, you must also proclaim religion to be immoral. It’s religion that gives us, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me,” after all. And the current pope shielding child rapists and leading a genocidal anti-public-health campaign against sub-Saharan Africa. And Fred Phelps, and Torquemada, and Hitler, and all the rest — all of whom are or were deeply religious, devoutly Christian, and whose philosophies of hatred are solidly founded in the Bible.

      In contrast, we see that peace and prosperity in modern societies is inversely proportional to the religiosity of the membership; the most peaceful and most prosperous are the least religious, and the most religious societies are the worst shitholes on the planet.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        The pope is not God, nor does he represent Christianity. He is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, not Christians. Fred Phelps – wacko. Christians did not endorse him. Torquemeda? sorry have to look that guy up. Hitler – by all accounts was an atheist, not a Christian. Which is why Dietrich Bonnhoffer opposed him from the beginning. Get your facts straight. Oh by the way, the most non-religious society on the planet is North Korea. Must be your kind of paradise.

        • Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

          Hitler – by all accounts was an atheist, not a Christian.

          Cites? Certainly not by *all* accounts. Or are you just making stuff up (again)?

          Torquemada is hardly an obscure figure. Your ignorance of him is indicative of your general level of knowledge.

          NK has a quasi-religion centered on Kim Jong Il. Atheist? In a technical sense, I suppose. It certainly represents atheism less than the Pope, Fred Phelps, et al, represent Christianity.

        • Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          Wow — I’m impressed! How did you manage to cram so much worng into such a short post?

          The current Pope has an active co-conspiritor in the ongoing child rape racket the church runs. His actions shielding Fr. Maciel from prosecution are more than damning enough — never mind all the rest of the shit he’s got his fingers in. He’ll tell you he represents Christianity, and Catholics are still the largest single denomination.

          That you’ve never even heard of Torquemada only demonstrates that you’ve never had even an introductory-level history class; you’re an uneducated, ignorant fool. But we already knew that; it’s just nice of you to admit it.

          That fact is again demonstrated with your ignorance of Hitler. I’d suggest you read Mein Kampf, but I’m afraid it’d only give you ideas. Rather, please take my word for it that it’s one of those “sophisticated” Christian theological screeds, indistinguishable from those of Martin Luther, that draws extensively on Christian dogma and offers extended, in-context Bible quotes to justify all sorts of horrors.

          And North Korea is the antithesis of a non-religious society; the “Dear Leader” is a god, complete with divine birth and all the rest.

          Seriously, just how did you manage to get so clueless?

          Cheers,

          b&

        • Mark Plus
          Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

          Seems you’ve overlooked the Castro brothers’ atheistic Cuba, such a horrible place that 2 million tourists go there every year:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourism_in_Cuba

    • Mark Plus
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      >If there isn’t a God, then there isn’t a higher law.

      David Hume might have had the Divine Command Theory in mind when he pointed out the problem of deriving ought from is. How do you get from the alleged fact of a god’s existence to the conclusion that we ought to do what it commands, apart from prudential considerations about its ability to zap us if we ignore it?

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      Before posting further, Lance, please make sure you know the difference between morality and blind obedience.

    • Steersman
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      If there isn’t a God, then there isn’t a higher law. …. Might makes right.

      That hardly seems a supportable argument or tenable position. Just because atheism – or humanism, its apparent cousin – doesn’t have reference to some putative absolutes mandated by a human-created god doesn’t mean that either are without moral standards or values – the greatest good for the greatest number, or basic individual human rights (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) for examples.

      Atheism and humanism seem to be a much more honest and workable stance than theism which – absent proof of the existence of any god – seems fascist at best. I get very uncomfortable when presented with categorical statements about absolutes which some insist have to be taken on faith, particularly as history is replete with examples of the odious consequences of such.

      • Posted August 22, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink

        How can atheism be more “workable” when the ethical standards are as many and vaious as the # of humans in existance? The atheist standard is “every person is their own god and decides for themselves what is right and wrong”. One person can believe that stealing is right, the other can say it is wrong, and both will be correct. Truth is relative for the athesit. I talk to many atheists and their favorite saying (other than “whatever”) is “that’s your truth not my truth”.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      If there isn’t a God, then there isn’t a higher law. There are only laws imposed upon one another by whomever is in power.

      And your god isn’t imposing its will on you via its absolute power? Are you saying you won’t be punished if you defy your god?

      • Posted August 22, 2011 at 6:21 am | Permalink

        Good Question Tulse. You seem to be the only person in this forum who has no need to use the ad homenim approach to validate your position. Thank you for not finding it necessary to call me names.To answer: If God is who he says He is (according to the Bible) then of course He has ALL power over ALL things, especially over us. The Bible describes mankind as God’s creation. We are clay, he is the potter. Should clay make judgements upon the artist? Should a tube of acrylic paint tell the painter what to put on the canvas? Should the trumpet tell the musician which notes to play? I have no problem with the idea of God imposing His will upon His creation. Who am I to judge God? All of my notions of morality, justice, ethics, etc… come from Him.

        Since the athesit by defintion is amoral, there isn’t any higher standard other than themselves (every man a god) in which to make a judgement. When one has no higher standard other than themselves they lack humility, and ultimately compassion, mercy, and love.

        • Posted August 22, 2011 at 6:31 am | Permalink

          First, by your logic, parents have the right to torture and murder their children. “I brought you into this world, and I can send you out of it.”

          But the real kicker is this last bit:

          When one has no higher standard other than themselves they lack humility, and ultimately compassion, mercy, and love.

          You claim to speak for the entity that created the universe based on nothing more than your personal interpretation of the deranged ravings of a tribe of Bronze age psychopathic goatherding warlords, and you accuse others of a lack of humility?

          You base “all of [your] notions of morality, justice, ethic, etc.” on a god that you claim personally destroyed the planet, personally committed countless unspeakable war crimes (vis the Plagues, etc.), and personally dictated a legal code almost too horrific for words (torturous executions for trivialities, forcing rape victims to marry their attackers, etc.), and you dare accuse others of lacking compassion, mercy, and love?

          You are evil, and it is my fervent hope that you are forcibly removed from society before your “compassion” compels you to act according to the dictates of your gods.

          b&

        • Tulse
          Posted August 22, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

          If God is who he says He is (according to the Bible) then of course He has ALL power over ALL things, especially over us.

          So your god is indeed imposing its law on you by sheer power.

          Should clay make judgements upon the artist? Should a tube of acrylic paint tell the painter what to put on the canvas? Should the trumpet tell the musician which notes to play?

          Should an adult do everything that his parents tell him or her to do?

          I have no problem with the idea of God imposing His will upon His creation. Who am I to judge God? All of my notions of morality, justice, ethics, etc… come from Him.

          So you have no way to assess whether your god is moral or not, since you seem to believe that, by definition, anything your god does is moral (including the genocides and rapes your god orders in the Old Testament). How do you know that your god isn’t in fact evil? As I understand it, it is your morality that is purely relative, that is, relative to whatever your god tells you. You have no independent moral compass or guide. If you god told you it was wiping out all of humanity except for your family, you’d apparently be fine with that. If your god told you to kill your own son, you’d happily obey. If your god told you to wipe out all the men, women and male children of an entire nation, and to keep the virgin girls for sex slaves, you’d think that was just peachy, since your god ordered it.

          Frankly, I find that unfathomable and reprehensible. You seem to think that because atheism doesn’t posit some ultimate dictator asserting by fiat what is right and wrong, there is therefor no way to come to moral decisions. But I think the opposite is true — if you are asserting that what one entity tells you must be true, and you accept that without thought, without reflection, without some independent means of assessing its morality, then you have abdicated the right to be called a moral agent.

          You say atheists lack humility, compassion, mercy, and love. Yet your “holy” scripture is filled with examples of your god demanding that his worshippers act without those qualities. What did the first-born children of Egypt do to deserve to die? What did the girls of Canaan do to deserve to be raped and forced into “marriages” with the men who murdered their fathers, mothers, and brothers? How is infinite, unending torture in the afterlife just, much less merciful, compassionate, and loving? Is there anything your child could do that would cause you to torture him or her literally forever? If not, what kind of sick monster is your god?

          By saying that your god solely defines morality, not only have you left “humility” behind, but you have abandoned any independent reason, any way to express your compassion, mercy, and love.

        • Posted August 22, 2011 at 7:10 am | Permalink

          You seem to be the only person in this forum who has no need to use the ad homenim approach to validate your position. Thank you for not finding it necessary to call me names.

          Right: you tell us we have no morals, that we would love it in North Korea, make up a load of rubbish about light bulbs liberals — and when you get a bit of blowback, whine about people getting ad hominem on you.

          You’re another data point for the thesis that, so far from being a force for morality, corrupts the moral sense and leaves only self-righteousness.

          • Posted August 22, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

            Typing FAIL. Should read:

            You’re another data point for the thesis that fundamentalism, so far from being a force for morality, corrupts the moral sense and leaves only self-righteousness.

          • Tulse
            Posted August 22, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

            And don’t forget the whole “deserve to be tortured for all eternity” part. No atheist that I know thinks the religious should be condemned to infinite pain for an infinite amount of time, and yet somehow we’re the immoral ones.

    • Posted August 16, 2011 at 2:12 am | Permalink

      The riots in England have already had the effect of English society questioning it’s embrace of liberal policies and the results.

      Actually, many are questioning the abandonment of liberal policies that has been going on since at least Thatcher. Besides, even in the UK, you can hardly claim that atheists are in control. Britain is still predominantly Christian, has a state church, and allows its bishops to have unelected seats in governments. Atheists are happy to see that the proportion of “no religion” people have risen to about 15%, but that hardly means that “The Pendulumn may swing in it’s favor now”.

      There are only laws imposed upon one another by whomever is in power.

      Wrong. There are also rules agreed upon between peers. Democracy is an attempt to do this on a national level, with checks and balances to prevent the powerful from always getting their way. But I guess you don’t believe in democracy either.

      • Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        You mean the bishops that endorse gay marriage and darwinian evolution? Hardly a biblical lot, but you guys like to muddy the waters by mixing in anything you want to with what the Bible actually teaches.

        Do I agree with democaracy. Absolutely. It is liberals who always use the courts to advance their agenda because the masses won’t approve it. Even liberal California voted NO to homosexual marriage, and so the liberals went crying to the courts.

        Also, democracy doesn’t wotk in a society that is amoral, because amoral people believe that lying, cheating, and stealing to advance their politcial agenda is totally justified, especially if the majority are conservatives. Look at the cry baby liberals in Wisconsin who trashed the capitol and whose liberal democrat politicians fled the state because they lost the vote. WAHHHH!

    • RR
      Posted August 16, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      If there isn’t a God, then there isn’t a higher law.

      Well let’s look at your higher law:

      illegal to own another person? – not in the Bible

      live and let live for other religions? – not in the Bible

      equal rights for women? – not in the Bible

      illegal to dismember or torture people for crimes? – not in the Bible

      illegal to have sex with underage children? – not in the Bible

      The laws we have in place today are, in general, BETTER than your so-called “higher law.” Now there is one good law in the Bible: don’t kill other people. Why do Christians kill other people?

      • Tulse
        Posted August 16, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        illegal to own another person? – not in the Bible

        live and let live for other religions? – not in the Bible

        equal rights for women? – not in the Bible

        illegal to dismember or torture people for crimes? – not in the Bible

        illegal to have sex with underage children? – not in the Bible

        Indeed, in all cases, the Bible isn’t just silent, but explicitly endorses slavery, death for unbelievers, misogyny, torture, and pedophilia.

      • Posted August 19, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        The better, more honest, question is why do people kill people? And you better read the Bible again, because all of those higher laws are from Christianity. While there is not a “Thou shalt not have sex with underage children” in the scriptures, it is explicit from the beginning that God’s plan was a man and a wife, equally yoked. God did not command people to enslave one another. People did that. And yes, the Bible does say it is wrong, otherwise John Brown and the Abolitionists would not have fought so hard to end it. William Wilberforce fought his entire life to end slavery because he was a Christian. Why not read his writings on why he fought so hard?

        The laws we have today mainly came from Christians or Jedeo/Christian influence. If they came from Islam you would be walking ten paces behind your husband looking out of your rectangle eye-slit dressed in black from head to toe.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      “Atheism will not win the day.”

      It already has.

      In fact, it “won” even before the Greek Pantheon was dispensed with.

      you just haven’t caught up yet.

  13. Schleierman
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), Western churches are becoming increasingly aware of the connection between their systemic anti-intellectualism and the large-scale abandonment of faith amongst young people, particularly amongst young people who leave the nest and go off to college. They are beginning to institute Christian apologetics courses in their buildings and are rejecting the conception of faith which says that faith is “an emotional leap in the dark that is not prompted in any way by reason.” You can thank people like William Lane Craig and the recently-mentioned Edward Feser for this. Also, there have lately emerged entire programs and departments at large Christian universities devoted to teaching students how to argue for the existence of God. Hundreds of bright young students are being trained like William Lane Craig. Many will probably become pastors or theologians, but many of them will be writing books and getting professorships in philosophy and the sciences. In contrast, I don’t know of any departments and programs that are devoted solely to the teaching of arguments against the existence of God – except philosophy of religion programs, which teach both sides. Again, thank the likes of William Lane Craig and Edward Feser. (Or heck, come to think of it, you can even thank Richard Dawkins.)

    So when you take into consideration all of the other powerful historical forces that are at work, I think it unwise to place a lot of personal, existential weight in the rise of godlessness. It might very well be just a passing fad, an odd, momentary blip in the large (and mostly religious) story of human history.

    In Europe, for instance, Islam is projected, by many, to take over Europe within the next 3-4 decades, simply by way of massive Muslim immigration rates and massive Muslim birthrates that far outstrip secular birthrates, and the total PC-spinelessness of any secular European government to actually admit this, let alone actually going about taking proactive measures against it.

    • Stephen P
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      You last paragraph is the sort of drivel that inspired Breivik. If you look at actual figures from, say, the Dutch bureau of statistics, you find that Muslims are turning secular faster than Christians. Monthly mosque attendance in the Netherlands is down from 47% to 35% in just ten years, while weekly attendance is down to 24%.

      • Sajanas
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        And I think that the Muslim birthrate for non immigrants isn’t that different from the European average.

        Besides, its not like the answer to Islam is moar Xtianity.

        • Posted August 16, 2011 at 2:49 am | Permalink

          Indeed, the official Dutch statistics show that the birthrate for immigrants in the Netherlands is dropping fast as well, and is approaching the same numbers for “native” dutch women (for you non-dutch speakers, listed as “autochtoon” in the table, while “allochtoon” means non-native – I think you can figure out the rest). Women with a Moroccan background have dropped from 3.2 children per woman to 2.5 in less than 10 years. Turkish women are even slightly below the “native” average of about 1.7 now.

          The idea that Muslims in Western Europe have “massive Muslim birthrates that far outstrip secular birthrates” is just one of those things that everyone repeats, but that simply isn’t true.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

      “In contrast, I don’t know of any departments and programs that are devoted solely to the teaching of arguments against the existence of God – except philosophy of religion programs, which teach both sides. Again, thank the likes of William Lane Craig and Edward Feser. (Or heck, come to think of it, you can even thank Richard Dawkins.)”

      thank Richard Dawkins….

      you mean, for starting a freaking entire FOUNDATION to fund secular studies?

      you have a rather bizarrely backwards view of things.

  14. HP
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    The elephant in the living room regarding the rise of atheism in America is 9/11. Or, more specifically, the perverted reaction by the American government and most American people to 9/11.

    Before 9/11, it was easy enough to live as a sort of nominally religious person (“I was raised Luthelic”) without giving religion or religious identity a second thought.

    When a bunch of crazy Muslims killed thousands of Americans in one day, the sane response would be “Religion is poison.” Instead, the govt and many Americans reacted by trying to out-crazy, out-kill, and out-religion the crazy Muslims. And people continue to die in the resulting Don’t-Call-It-a-Crusade.

    Why are we seeing a rise in vocal atheism at this particular moment in history? Because we now live in a society where it is a moral imperative to speak up.

    • Steersman
      Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      Quite right.

      If the already lengthy “rap-sheet” for fundamentalism – from 9/11 to Son of Sam to Jim Jones to Waco Texas to Creationism to the Discovery Institute – is not enough to convince us of the contention that fundamentalism is an abomination then I’m not sure anything can. Though one might try reading Karen Armstrong’s The Battle for God on the topic which should do it. But I recollect something that summarizes the issue better than I can:

      “Herzog spoke angrily of the religious fanatics. If the murder of such a man [Rabin], of a Prime Minister, does not set the very fibres of our national being atremble, if it does not shock us to our very foundations; if we have not vomited out the curse, and uprooted the cancer, and not done away with that group of insane zealots – that badge of dishonour for our people – we are, God forbid, in danger of seeing this nightmare recur. …. The fires of destruction are burning at the edge of the camp. If we do not together, hasten to extinguish them, they will destroy our entire house.” [Israel: a history, Sir Martin Gilbert; p599].

      • truthspeaker
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        Rather than uproot the cancer, they embraced it and gave it further power.

        • Steersman
          Posted August 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

          Reminds me of the Andromeda Strain … must drink more Sterno (aka skepticism)…

  15. Bernard J. Ortcutt
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    The person whose cat was killed was Vashti McCollum, who brought the lawsuit that finally ended religion instruction in public schools in the US. McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vashti_McCollum

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCollum_v._Board_of_Education

    A Peabody-award winning documentary about Vashti McCollum called “The Lord is Not of Trial Here Today” aired on PBS

  16. Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    [subscribing]

  17. Gayle Stone
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Good for Adam Lee and Daylight Atheism! It’s right on time to thwart the effort of Kaufmann and Perry to try to prove their lie that this country was founded on christain principles.

  18. Duncan
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    “The number of secular student groups is growing rapidly (I’ve documented this previously).”

    This, I do find to be a very odd phenomenon. Why? Because I remember an occasion when I was asked, as one of the main officers of the atheist society of a prominent university, what it was we actually did and why anyone would want to be involved. This kinda stumped me for a moment, as by and large our membership was self-motivating (we didn’t know why they wanted to come along, they just did) and what we did was put on talks in which prominent academics, public thinkers, politicians and the like would give talks either pro- or anti- religion. I’d never really asked myself the question why someone would want to spend their time in this way; it just turned out that I did, so did other people at my university and so (apparently) do a growing number of people attending the groups mentioned above.

    Anyone know why? I mean… I don’t like the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics, continental philosophy, political conservatism or fashion but I’ve never run societies which sole (emphasise SOLE) aim was to oppose these things.

    I get what the religious get out of religious groups: a base for proselytizing, epistemic reinforcement of conclusions to which they are emotionally attached, social support mechanisms to replace traditional social arrangements they have sometime voluntarily ostracized themselves from. But… what do we get out of it? Why are 1/5 of the podcasts I subscribe to themed around the disavowal of a particular thing I don’t believe in?

    • Posted August 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s the title to one of Richard’s recent BBC programmes.

      Proponents of the Many Worlds Hypothesis don’t mutilate their daughters’ genitalia. I’ve never heard of continental philosophy inspiring people to commit suicide attacks. Political conservatism only attempts to replace scientific education with Bronze Age superstition to the extent that it’s been infested by the religious. And, Lady Gaga notwithstanding, fashion is not a driving force in the obstruction of vital reproductive health services.

      And, despite what Ye Olde Statistician would have you believe, the Catholic Church’s obstruction of justice in child rape cases and its activities actually promoting the mass rape of children by its official representatives really is unprecedented.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Achrachno
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

        Ben: ” the Catholic Church’s obstruction of justice in child rape cases and its activities actually promoting the mass rape of children by its official representatives really is unprecedented.”

        Unprecedented? I think not. I think it’s been done before and that they have a history with this themselves. They just finally got well and truly caught

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      “But… what do we get out of it? ”

      three things:

      affirmation.

      We get a sense of positive reinforcement that our ideas have validity. This is an important thing to any human being.

      community.

      We can openly share our thoughts with like minded individuals that won’t think us evil or insane. Again, an important thing to any human being.

      scholarship.

      We get the chance to continually refine our ideas in the light of how others see and express their own. Sometimes, we agree on concepts, but can learn much from how someone else expresses them in words.

      there is more, but isn’t that MORE than enough already?

  19. Matt Penfold
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    There is something that has been puzzling me for a while.

    If we are too believe some people then we atheists (gnu or otherwise) are woefully ignorant of “sophisticated theology”.

    So why is it that whenever a believer turns up they seem to be even more ignorant of sophisticated theology that we are supposed to be ? Why do all these millions of exponents of sophisticated theology either never comment on forums, atheist or religious, or if they do comment why do they turn into foaming at the mouth style believers when they do so ?

    • Posted August 16, 2011 at 3:18 am | Permalink

      Many believers act as if believing in God is the default position, and that therefore the burden of proof is on you if you dissent. So basically, it’s a tactic to reverse the burden of proof. Atheists are given the burden to refute all theology ever written, and need to prove there is no God beyond the shadow of a doubt before they’re allowed to not believe in God. Believers, on the other hand, only need gut feelings or faith to believe in God.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      “If we are too believe some people then we atheists (gnu or otherwise) are woefully ignorant of “sophisticated theology”.”

      think about it:

      In the end, this is nothing more than the rationalization people make that since they “believe” they must be right. Their arguments cannot be wrong; they then must simply be just too complex for those who disagree to really understand.

      it’s really just a rationalization of theologians who take themselves seriously.

  20. raven
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Lance the Kook: “Atheism will not win the day.”

    Oh really? History says Yahweh, the xian god will join Zeus, Thor, Marduk, Mithras, and Isis on the scrapheap of history.

    Already, Yahweh is looking pretty weak and abstract. He’s gone from genociding all but 8 people once when mildly annoyed to hiding out behind the Big Bang and hoping a guy in a wheelchair named Stephen Hawkings doesn’t find him.

    BTW, Lance, if your god was real, you wouldn’t have to lie a lot. Compact flourescent lightbulbs are an atheist plot? C’mon, everybody knows it was the Trilateral Commission

    • Mark Plus
      Posted August 17, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

      Many christians want to hasten the end times because they know that their religion races against extinction in the wider context of history. Think of it this way: A new religion, call it Religion X, starts 8,000 years from now and becomes socially dominant 2,000 years later. To the people living 10,000 years from now, Religion X will look as old as christianity does to us. But will anyone living 100 centuries from now even know about christianity, apart from a handful of scholars who study ancient religions? From their perspective, christianity would have originated 12,000 years in their past, comparable to the end of the last ice age from our perspective.

  21. raven
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Lance the Kook: “Atheism will not win the day.”

    The retention rate of the Southern Baptist’s young people is 30%. This is from two different polls including one that is fundie xian, Barna.

    Their own projections show them being cut in half in a few decades. Already they are losing members every year.

    That whimper you hear in the background is one of the more evil and looney fundie xian cults dying.

  22. raven
    Posted August 16, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t worry about some of the weirder religious groups such as the Amish and Ultra-orthodox Jews outbreeding everyone else.

    These periods of rapid growth tend to be short and self limiting.

    The Mormons and Catholics showed the same pattern. And then it hit a wall. They used to have huge families and now it is approaching the national average.

    Despite orders from the patriarchy to the baby factories, to reproduce dammit, the Mormons aren’t growing faster than the national average. Retention rates of converts are around zero and it is estimated that half of all Mormons are inactive, apathetic, apostate, or ex.

  23. Simon
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    “…At some point, the Catholic Church is going to wake up, for if it doesn’t liberalize it will dwindle to total irrelevance. Yet it seems blind and deaf to what’s happening”.

    And the problem is?? The sooner the better.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

      “And the problem is?? The sooner the better.”

      good point.

      the only worry is what city will burn while they fiddle.

  24. Posted August 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    Having spent time in both fundamentalist and liberal churches, I would say that the latter have no strong ideological motive to proselytize, and no focused “gospel” to present. Where the fundies are saying “Come to Jesus; escape Hell and go to Heaven”, the liberal message is more like “Come do some volunteer work, and listen to incomprehensible sermons that talk vaguely about something-or-other”. Their very nature prevents the liberals from doing much recruiting from the public at large (though they do pick up a moderate number of refugees from fundamentalism, like me for a few years).

    • Mark Plus
      Posted August 17, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      I don’t quite see the horror of hell in the overall christian world view. Christians seem to fear the “meaningless” of atheism and Epicurean oblivion a lot more, so wouldn’t going to hell at least show that your earthly life had “meaning”?

      • Posted August 22, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

        Eamon, I wish these forums had a FB “like” button becuase I agree with what you said. Very astute. Liberal churches die because they have no message. What’s the point?

        Mark, the Christian does not fear oblivion or meaninglessness. I grew up an agnostic. I just lived life working, eating, sleeping, reading, etc… I did not become a Christian until I was over 30, and it had nothing to do with fear of death or even thinking about the afterlife. For some it is, but not me.

  25. Posted August 28, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    One reason atheism is on the rise is because more and more theologians are abandoning the strategy of Paul, promote brotherly love and the use of faith as your tool to decide. They are now trying to prove Christianity with Reason, which will be there undoing.

    They are bringing an argument they cannot possibly win into the fore of everyone’s thoughts.


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