Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Some Thoughts About the Pew Religion Study

So, by now, most of my readers have probably heard about the Pew 2014 study on religion.  I find it an interesting document, especially because religion seems to be politicized in this country, and I blog about politics and religion. As an atheist (or probably more precisely, "militant agnostic"), I find the sharp rise in the "unaffiliated" category to be comforting as a probable hedge against political forces thrusting a theocracy on us. (Think I'm paranoid? One SCOTUS member has voiced the opinion that while there can be no federal church, there is no reason states can't have official churches, And polls have shown a high percentage of people who would make Christianity the national religion. I'm a regular reader of Rightwingwatch.org. I take the threat of theocracy fairly seriously.)

I find the reactions of other people interesting, as well. Because marriage equality has been a big topic of conversation lately, I find it interesting that some anti-gay politicians, like presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and activists like Phyllis Schlafley, seem to believe that LGBT activism and especially the marriage equality movement are out to destroy the Christian church. And yet, nearly 50% of gays consider themselves to be Christian, and there is increasing acceptance of LGBT people in several Christian denominations.

I think the outright weirdest assertion on the subject of what is making all us nonaffiliated folks get unaffiliated is Bill O'Reilly's idea that it has something to do with rap culture. You know, in all of rap, I can think of one atheist rapper--Greydon Square, although he is pretty awesome. But conspicuous atheism isn't really, near as I can tell, a part of rap culture as a general rule. Despite their occasional flaws, I would credit the "New Atheists" with a good part in the "out-ness" of people of no faith. Although Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens and all them are not perfect and all are troublesome writers especially for social justice types--they did a lot to popularize and soften the public ideal regarding "nones". I think they helped voice arguments that people were already having with themselves, and helped make it more acceptable to have them out loud.

I also agree with Booman --the hardcore religionists are driving people away. I couldn't be on the side of any organization that contributed to human misery the way some churches seem to do.

4 comments:

mikey said...

I am not often a voice of optimism, but I think this trend is inevitable. Religious mythology requires endless generational coercive indoctrination in order to sustain itself. 'Believe or suffer eternal torment' is right up there with 'believers in other mythologies are apostates, and an abomination in the eyes of OUR lord' in the kind of violent dehumanization necessary to perpetuate such a ridiculous premise. And as fewer people believe, fewer children are indoctrinated, and an irreversible generational process is underway.

BTW, I think you're absolutely right about the 'New Atheists'. I had these feelings and opinions, but I never thought about articulating them until I read Harris' 'The End of Faith'. That was a revelation. I would just add Penn Jillette to your list. If you haven't read 'God, No' (I'm just reading it now), I promise you'll enjoy it...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I also agree with Booman --the hardcore religionists are driving people away. I couldn't be on the side of any organization that contributed to human misery the way some churches seem to do.

I think this is really the, uh, crux of the matter. My two high-school friends who tried to kill themselves (thankfully,both were unsuccessful) were gay. In the case of one of them, her parents threw her out of the house when she came out of the closet. Basically, she went from beloved daughter to outcast in one instant.

In a choice between religion and friends, I chose friends. When the church elected Ratzinger (the guy who orchestrated the child abuse coverup), I decided to stop being a lapsed Catholic and become a full-on apatheist.

Formerly Amherst said...

Hi Vixen, I can fully appreciate some people feeling more comfortable if it appears that religion is less predominant.

To me dogmatic intractability about religion, atheism, Democratic ideology or Republican ideology are all the same. I understand that there are many subjects open to discussion and sometimes conclusions can be reached.

But to me fundamentalism in religion, atheism, or political ideology are all cut from the same cloth. People stop worshiping God and start worshiping the state. They tear down the statues of Jesus and put up the pictures of Stalin. This quality of the human mind is a foible, and achieving a balance among these forces is more important than embracing one.

Naturally, all of this entirely begs the question of whether there is a divine ontological existence, and if so what is the relationship between humans and that possibility? Now that is an important question to answer. And the rest of these questions fall uselessly when compared with the real issue.

Vixen Strangely said...

They tear down the statues of Jesus and put up the pictures of Stalin. This quality of the human mind is a foible, and achieving a balance among these forces is more important than embracing one.

It's a true point--there are neocons today who started as "red diaper babies", for example. The ideas aren't so much the thing, as the sense of having a movement that creates a feeling of "correctness". It seems like the tendency to ideology is a little like addiction or any human frailty--you see alcoholics who reform, but are then never seen without a coffee cup in their hands, or the retired rake who turns to moralizing. Ideology is habit and ritual--and habits and rituals have a powerful effect on the mind.

One can always make a habit of skepticism and a ritual of asking questions...or at least, that's how I try to avoid kneejerking my way through this mortal coil. I worry sometimes that I will ask the same routine questions and find myself skeptical only of the same things--it's why I like blogging my thoughts out loud to check myself against other's thoughts.