Opinion

The Great Debate

The religion of an increasingly godless America

By Amanda Marcotte
November 24, 2011

By Amanda Marcotte
The views expressed are her own.

Listening to the national discourse, one could be forgiven for imagining that America is becoming an ever more religious place. The amount of God talk in the public square has dramatically increased in a generation. Prior to the 70s, the concept of “the religious right” had barely existed, but now it’s a powerful lobbying force with multiple groups from Focus on the Family to Concerned Women for America, all sitting on more money than most liberal special interest groups could ever hope to accumulate. Republicans, especially, claw over each other to demonstrate fealty to a very narrow, fundamentalist view of Christianity that forbids gay rights, reproductive rights, and requires you to believe that evolution never happened. A generation ago, most people outside of evangelical Christian circles had never heard of things like “megachurches” or “the Rapture”, but now even people living in the most secularist urban enclaves are familiar with these concepts, if still less than approving. Americans seem not just more religious, but more drawn to reactionary religion than ever before.

That is, until you start to dig into the actual facts. If you poll actual Americans, you’ll find that the trend is not towards more religiosity, but towards less. Much less, in fact. Recent research from the Pew Research Center on politics and generational differences shows that interest in religion is actually declining from one generation to the next, and not only that, but interest in mixing religion and politics is on the decline. When asked which factors are the key to America’s success, fewer than half of Millennials say they believe that religious faith and values are important. They are the first generation to respond in such a way, as a majority of all older generations cite religion as an important factor. Even the generation known for cynicism, Generation X, has 64% of respondents citing religion as an important factor in our nation’s success, a full 18 points over the Millennial generation. Despite myths that people become more religious or more conservative as they age, previous Pew research shows that Xers and Boomers held roughly the same opinions on religion in their youth as they do now.

The research also found that more than one in four Millennials have no religious affiliation at all, the largest of any generation, though only by a small margin, as one in five Gen Xers is also irreligious. The percentage of unaffiliated Americans has grown gradually over the generations, but with the Millennials, we’re seeing a new trend emerge. There is now a large group of Americans who have a faith, but separate it from public life, keeping it in the private sphere.

So how to square away declining rates of belief with the perception that America is a land where the Bible is thumped regularly in the public square? What we’re seeing with the heightened emphasis on religion in politics is the death throes of the old order. After all, in the past, where it was assumed that a vast majority of Americans were not only religious, but Christian, those who wanted Christianity to dominate didn’t feel they had anything to prove. It’s only when they started to feel their power threatened did they become defensive, and in doing so, became much louder.

Right wing Christians would be the first to tell you that they feel that the dominance of traditional Christian values is under threat in this country. If you have any doubt about this, look at the long list of people they consider the enemies, internal and external, to their view of how America should be: atheists, Muslims, feminists, liberals, uncloseted gays and evolutionary biologists, amongst others. They aren’t wrong to believe these groups are growing both in numbers and in influence, as the polling data suggests that they are. The increasing volume and militancy from the religious right is to be expected in light of these changes. Sarah Posner, a senior editor at Religion Dispatches magazine, says the religious right has grown specifically in response to massive social changes. Opposing these changes was “exactly their point,” she told me, and conservative Christians believe that when they see these more secularist worldviews on the rise, they have a duty “to redouble one’s efforts”. She added that, in the eyes of evangelical leaders, “evangelicals had insulated themselves too much from secular society, and that they had a God-given duty to have an impact on the culture, on politics, on the media, and so forth.”

Most importantly, the religious right sees the Millennials as a special threat requiring most of their attention. Abstinence-only education, the attempted defunding of Planned Parenthood, creationism in the schools, and the growth of the home-schooling movement are all aimed at the youth of America. In some cases, as with TLC’s Duggar family, the religious right is going so far as to step up baby-making, hoping to create enough religious youth to curtail the power of the growing cohort of secular youth.

Of course, that it’s predictable doesn’t make it right. That Americans are becoming more fond of the separation of church and state is a good thing. After all, our Founding Fathers set out to create a society that had such a separation, and they believed, rightly, that religion and politics shouldn’t mix. (“In God We Trust” was only added to our currency during the Civil War era.) That desire has never fully played out in American politics, and there’s every reason to believe it won’t truly play out in our lifetimes. But at current rates of growing interest in the separation of church and state, the religious right will have an increasingly hard time being viewed as more than a vocal minority by the rest of the country.

We should welcome such a change. The more that religion can be pushed off into the realm of private practice and out of the public square, the better for public discourse, as we can dispense with the God talk and move on to reality-based discussions about what we want and how we can get it. The Millennials have the right idea when it comes to dismissing the belief that religion somehow improves politics. Now we just have to wait for the religious right to finish with their temper tantrum over this, and then we can move on to the future.

Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks to attendees during a prayer service at the First Baptist Church in Killeen, Texas November 8, 2009. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Comments
54 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

The research here is good, but the conclusion is grim. Aside from disliking the colloquial “God Talk,” the notion that faith can be isolated or compartmentalized in the name of politics is ridiculous. Faith should inform our politics. The problem is much of the Right Wing (not all) does NOT take their platform from the teachings of Christ, but rather from their own interpretations of Scripture.

Amanda, nobody is thumping the Bible. That is precisely the problem. We are not thumping the Bible when we pound our bigoted chests. (Sick stuff.) Jesus gets the blame for so many things, but His mercies endure forever. Somehow, people forget this. He covers our doubt and bitterness though, and even our disgust over religiosity that drives us away from the Mercy seat of Love.

Two years ago, someone left this comment on my blog: “Why is life so full of disappointment, pain and suffering? Why must I bear this cross? What possible good can come from this? You feel so far away. Are you there, God?”

Here is my answer: http://www.jenx67.com/2009/06/cross-i-be ar.html

Posted by jenx67 | Report as abusive
 

To the previous commentor:
I am not in the SLIGHTEST interested in ANY candidate who proclaims “faith” in any imaginary being, be it “god” or the FSM.
“Faith” in WHAT, expressed, how, and by whom, pray tell, should inform our politics and discourse?
We medicate and isolate and keep from harming themselves people who proclaim in their everyday lives that they talk to and do the bidding of “god,” or “satan,” or Mickey Mouse.
Why would electing them to public office be a good idea?
Anyone who professes faith in ANY phantasm seems to me to be, on the face of it, DIS-qualified to lead the Country.

Posted by Dr.Woody | Report as abusive
 

If your faith is a comfort to you jenx67, then you would do well to leave it out of politics. Those who do not share your belief-system are not obliged to accept it as a basis for morals, ethics or anything else.

To me your faith is a bunch of fairy tales and shoddy thinking – stuff that was forced on me as a child but which I outgrew as soon as I started thinking for myself.

But if your fairy tales are a comfort to you, well, I don’t want to see you suffer.

So I suggest you refrain from proclaiming that the Bible is an antidote to bigotry, because anybody who reads the Bible, especially the Old Testament, can make a very good case that actually the Bible is a how-to guide for bigotry – Jehovah was constantly telling his people how much better they were than those worshipers of other gods.

And one side effect of that: Jehovah did not object to slavery, as long as his people were the slave-owners. Instead of prohibiting slavery Jehovah offered advice on how best to handle slaves: how you could beat them, when you could rape them, etc.

There is a reason that the slave owners in the American South justified slavery by pointing to the Bible – as much as you want to believe that the Right Wing is misinterpreting Scripture, in fact it was the Abolitionists who were wrong to say that slavery was against the Biblical god’s will.

And as far as who Jesus really was – well even many non-believers have this idea he was a cool peace-loving guy, but in fact the historical evidence indicates he was just one of many military messiahs bent on driving the Romans out of Judea.

http://www.mcclernan.com/jesustrouble.as p

Although ironically it’s thanks to the Roman empire that Jesus-worship became as successful as it did. There’s a reason why the Pope lives in Rome.

So to sum up – you don’t shove your religion down non-believers’ throats via politics and we won’t bite it off and spit it back in your face.

Posted by nancymc | Report as abusive
 

I would like to remind The public reading Amanda’s article and the commentators to the article that in our government, the separation of church and state was instituted to prevent the official meddling of one church organization in the affairs of governing of our country. It was instituted to avoid what was going on in Europe in those days when one church organization namely Papacy was meddling in the affairs of the European states.
That form of “meddling” was causing the state to enforce Papacy’s dictates.

That separation between the State and Religion is NOT implying that the State is dictating that the individual persons in serving the government, either employed or elected, must have no faith or any religious affiliations. Such persons are free to have faith in anyone or anything they desire.

Having written the above two paragraphs I must add that I would rather elect to a government office a person who practices Jesus’s reiteration of the OT command, “Love your God with all your being and Love your neighbor as your self” then the one who practices selfishness in all of it’s myriad forms. Jesus also said you shell know them by their fruits. So, when someone wants to be elected to an office lets examine the fruits of their previous labors without regard to what faith they proffers.

It is OK to hear what the politician says he/she personally believes, but their past actions will reveal, under the magnifying glass of the press, what they REALLY believe from the fruits they have grown.

Posted by Nevio | Report as abusive
 

The blog has several false facts and premises. But first it is important to begin at the blogs end to see its intent. “The more that religion can be pushed off into the realm of private practice and out of the public square, the better for public discourse, as we can dispense with the God talk and move on to reality-based discussions about what we want and how we can get it.” Here is the goal, to get “what we want.” Who is we and what do we want? While not stated, it must be in opposition to things God would want, for He needs to be pushed aside. Is what “we” want more important than what the others (with religious faith) want?

Also in this statement, lies one of the false premises. The premise that religion leads to bad public discourse. What is the proof of that? Behind that is of course, the bloggers belief that religion is not “reality-based.” Again, proof of that? These are 2 premises that must be questioned. Are they true or do they serve to ridicule and marginalize those who hold to a faith?

The false notion that a generation ago people did not know what a megachurch was nor about the rapture is minor, but it shows the author’s either lack of knowledge or intentional misleading. Mega church terminology did not exist a generation ago, being first used in print in 1978. The idea that the rapture was not widely known is patently false.

More importantly is the twisting of the Founding Fathers. The often repeated Big Lie is this: “After all, our Founding Fathers set out to create a society that had such a separation, and they believed, rightly, that religion and politics shouldn’t mix.” Even a cursory look at their writings will show they never had this intention. (They were a mixed group of faiths, but this intention was not theirs.) This is the great false premise of the blog.

Their intention coming from a history of state churches in Europe, particularly England, and in colonies prior to the Revolution was that the government was not to establish any state church nor favor one over the other. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” is not the same as religion and politics shouldn’t mix. In fact, Baptists, stemming from both their persecution experiences in the colonies and their doctrine of the true church, were one of the major forces that politically pushed for this notion that eventually came into the Bill of Rights. So, it was religion that birthed this freedom. If we follow the desire of the blogger, such an event could not have happened. The premise is one that stifles debate and attempts to marginalize those who express their faith.

The idea that politics should not be influenced by religion is an impossibility. Every person has a set of faith beliefs that they act upon, even those who call themselves atheists, for it is a belief that God does not exist. Each person interacts with the world based on these faith beliefs. To attempt to remove religious faith discussion from politics is to stifle good debate and hinder open dialog.

Posted by leehu | Report as abusive
 

Do you really want to inject your religion into politics and have non-believers have a “good debate” about your beliefs?, leehu?

I seriously doubt you will be happy with the results. Not if you are a typical religionist who has a fit if anybody expresses doubts (not to mention hysterical laughter) about stories of virgin births, or food taboos or cannibalistic rituals or ghosts.

The last thing that any religionist wants is an “open dialog” about their beliefs.

Posted by nancymc | Report as abusive
 

re: Dr.Woody’s comment,

Agree with you in essence but let’s keep it real.

Everybody believes in something, by your standards the halls of Congress and the White House would be empty and election day would be as significant as, for example, October 18th (my birthday).

The important thing is electing people who can govern rationally and logically and who can fully accept and live with the fact that they are creating legislation that will effect both people of thousands of different faiths and those with no religious leanings at all.

Refer back to Ms. Marcotte’s brilliant description of the politicians who we need to keep out of office: politicians who “demonstrate fealty to a very narrow, fundamentalist view of Christianity that forbids gay rights, reproductive rights, and requires you to believe that evolution never happened.”

I fully agree!

Posted by harveyg | Report as abusive
 

Hi Amanda,
So many today talking “democracy” haven’t heard of Socrates/Plato, yet the “founding fathers” had, and specifically excluded the word, calling the US a republic.
Just as the contribution of William Penn’s “Bible thumping” to our basic “rights” we claim as Americans is largely ignored, the text of the Bible, along with the histories of those that would ponder it, is likewise(not just in public schools).
Foxes book of Martyrs gives that historical account of Church/State relationships that the founding fathers wished to avoid, I can’t believe so many people today haven’t even heard of it.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22400/224 00-h/22400-h.htm

It’s easy to learn if one pays but a little attention, it’s staying ignorant that takes the most persistence.

Posted by Theophile | Report as abusive
 

There is no such thing as separation of church and state, this is a fallacy promoted by the left based upon some Supreme Court interpretations that are unfounded in our constitution.

Like it or not Obama, Amanda & Nevio, we are now, and we were founded as a Christian Nation. You have a right not to believe or participate in religion, or practice any religion you choose. That is what our constitution says, nothing more nothing less. It does not mean that religious groups or candidates are to be removed or are a negative influence in politics.

Perhaps, Amanda, you eschew religion for personal reasons, and we can probably guess why.

Posted by Mike_Truman | Report as abusive
 

I fear Ronald Reagan’s prediction has come true… If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under. ~ Ronald Reagan

Posted by Mike_Truman | Report as abusive
 

Jesus is but a legend concocted by the Roman church. God is myth. The Bible is nothing but Jewish fantasies. Sorry.

Posted by urownexperience | Report as abusive
 

Absolutely! It is high time the average American joined the rest of the developed world in acceptance of empirical reality rather than the hearsay of superstitious mythologies.

Those of us who have the good fortune to live in more secular societies can only shake our heads in sorrow at (of laugh at the ridiculousness of) citizens of such a technologically advanced nation engaging in such demonstrably futile rituals such as prayer.

The one and only empirical argument for the existence of any kind of “creator” or “intelligent design” is that of the apparent “fine tuning” of our universe.

While observations, particularly in the field of chemistry and biology increasingly support the phenomenon of “fine tuning” and its associated directionality, it can be shown that, at the expense of some anthropocentric conceits, design arguments are still not valid.

The very broad evolutionary model which justifies tis negation is outlined {very informally) in “The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?”
It is a free download in e-book formats from the “Unusual Perspectives” website

Posted by PeterKinnon | Report as abusive
 

There is no god. Love is what matters. Eventually people are getting smarter and realizing this. Time will tell and the truth will indeed set us free.

Posted by coreyholly | Report as abusive
 

Hey leehu, you ask for proof that religion is not “reality-based”. I would argue that the onus is on the religious to defend their beliefs with evidence if they wish to use them to justify political action. Carl Sagan once said “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. Christians claim to believe that a virgin can conceive a child, a man can rise from the dead after 3 days, snakes can talk and the power of god can part the sea for the faithful. No miracle on a par with those cited in the Bible has been credibly reported in the modern era. I strongly defend the right of religious people to believe whatever they want to believe. I won’t call them out on their beliefs if they will stop trying to influence public policy based upon these beliefs. Sound public policies are based upon sound evidence. Religion is based upon faith. There is a place for both, but they don’t mix well (IMHO).

Posted by SoyIsMurder | Report as abusive
 

@leehu,

You state: “To attempt to remove religious faith discussion from politics is to stifle good debate and hinder open dialog.” You are entitled to your opinion, but to advance it as fact is disingenuous. I happen to “believe” quite the opposite, i.e.: “To attempt to insinuate religious faith discussion into politics is to divert our attention from our collective and individual responsibilities in and for the here and now.”

History attributes to the Christian religion and it’s purported adherents the Crusades, the creation of the Church of England, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, giving blankets infected with smallpox to American Indians to reduce their numbers, forcing Galileo to recant his discoveries, etc. etc. The Taliban blew up sacred Buddhist statues in Afghanistan. Accounts of human and animal sacrifice in both christian and pagan religions are many and graphic. If we separate belief from the person, religion has produced few, if any specific changes to the “world in which we live” that are positive. It was Daniel J. Boorstin who said: “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.”

The great majority of religions are consistent in redirecting man’s priorities from the world in which he lives. The countless hours and $ man wastes in the vain hope he may someday enjoy endless existence in a mythical paradise of infinite perfection and wisdom is not unlike the sign outside a local seafood restaurant: Eat here free tomorrow”. But as tomorrow becomes today, no free food. Our educated seem no less gullible.

Magicians today do the same when they focus our attention to the hand that is NOT deceiving us. An infinite future without want or death is the ultimate prize to offer all whose mortal lives are dull, short and without promise. Thus distracted, all burdens and failures in life sting less. Both leaders and followers are thus relieved of an otherwise implicit obligation to learn to work together here on this earth to make life better overall.

This is why, after thousands of years, man STILL hasn’t figured out how to “play well with others”. AA (and many others) are fond of the saying: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

It is time modern man accept the challenge of changing our prehistoric instincts and nature for the better. They are not compatible with our long-term survival. We have the means, if not yet the will, to begin the process of defining and building our own even better future and “eternity” starting now. We need to do what we can, where we are, with what we have to such end.

In time perhaps the anger, jealousy and unpredictability in descriptions of the God of Abraham can be transcended by mere mortals if we but set such a course and devote appropriate efforts over time.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

I am so, so tired of this. Religion, that is. It would have been more than bad enough if I had not been traumatized in childhood by the horrors of a Catholic upbringing

But no; as an adult, although I have grown intelligent enough to cast off the man-made terror of a psychotic invisible prime mover in the sky, I still have to now witness Christians trying to dictate who I associate with behind my own closed doors; my reproductive rights; what medical procedures will be accessible to me; even what billboards will be displayed in my neighborhood!

And of course, we cannot forget religious nuts who murder people constantly because not everyone has had the same wool pulled over their eyes. The religious minions who don’t become terrorists? They are enablers; by demanding special rights for their own unprovable, ridiculous doctrines, they simultaneously shield the fundamentalist nuts who go on killing sprees.

One day, those of us who know that faith is not a virtue will not have to live in fear of those who are deluded. That day can’t come soon enough.

Posted by oenophile | Report as abusive
 

I always find it comical that whenever a religious nut doesn’t agree with another religious nut, it is because the later isn’t following the true teachings of Jesus. It’s always the same song and dance. “Oh, they aren’t TRUE christians, like I AM.” It is plain stupidity at its finest. Religion has no place in politics and we should continue to strive to keep the two separated.

Posted by Justobserving | Report as abusive
 

Apparently the previous writer is not familiar with biblical archaeology and the fact that many excavations have confirmed the authenticity of exactly what the old testament says, and that pieces were found precisely in the places in which the old testament said they were. These are scientific facts, and you can view the evidence yourself in Jerusalem. All of this has been confirmed by the greatest archaeological scholars.

Posted by Edward13 | Report as abusive
 

Some excellent points in this article. I think there is truth to the suggestion that the high volume of religious rhetoric in America today is the actually the result of a shrinking demographic becoming more vocal as it fights to retain a priviliged status to which it feels entitled.

I’d like to further suggest that the this shrinking of support for more evangelical and politically aggressive religion (and increase in appreciation for Jefferson’s “wall of separation”) is itself a reaction against nearly three decades of ever expanding over-reach by the American “religious right.” These forces reached the height of their political influence under George W. Bush, and their unconpromising and unnuanced pursuit of a hard-line socially conservative agenda during those years has proven shortsighted. They made a lot of gains in the short term but I suspect they overestimated the public’s sympathy for a simple black and white view of morality, and alienated a lot of young people in the process.

Posted by BanJoIvie | Report as abusive
 

Mixing religion with politics is an especially a bad idea. Most leaders who claim to be religious be are far from it and have only succeeded by hijacking the religious movement to gain power. And once they do, they follow their own narrow agenda chasing down petty issues that have no consequence to the public at larger. From starting failed wars to outright corruption. This not only turns off the general public but portrays religion and religious people and institutions in a bad light.

This is continuously displayed with the so called Moral majority, where their leadership is constantly attempting to roll back cultural progress or trends in society at large. Things like supporting corporatism at the expense of individuals in an attempt to tap political funding, supporting pollution etc. Sure the religious organizations gain short term power and status but at the expense of long term decline as you have just mentioned

Being Anti-science in this time of scientific discovery and a science driven economy does nothing to endear their cause with the general public.

Posted by Dyota | Report as abusive
 

I hope jenx67′s beliefs work to that poster’s benefit, but I am pleased to see that the other posters regarding this subject share my point of view.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive
 

“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.” This goes for both sides of this debate. Support your opinions, but do not be so arrogant that to think that you are right without question.

Posted by th3mus1cman | Report as abusive
 

I found this article a breath of fresh air in an otherwise murky atmosphere. America has become the laughingstock of the world because we have let the crazies in the religious right drive our public discourse and policies. What is the biggest issue facing our nation right now? The economy. But what has the conservative majority done since their takeover of the House of Representatives in Nov. 2010? Passed legislation making “In God We Trust” our national motto… so much for E Pluribus Unum. Conservative law makers across the country have stepped up their war on gay marriage and rights, women’s health and reproduction, unions, the poor, and have attempted to disenfranchise large groups of the population — the same groups who oddly enough voted for Obama. These same lawmakers steadfastly refuse to consider any legislation curtailing CO2 emissions because global warming is a myth and scientists are stupid. (The underlying message? God will fix it.) Under Bush’s regime, stem cell research was banned and bioscientists’ hands were tied by only being allowed to use a few existing cell lines. The result? Other countries without such insane notions have leaped ahead of us. Other countries are doing wonderful scientific research now because their govts. are not spending funds on useless wars and making laws forbidding inquiry into certain fields. Unless, of course, they have a military application.

It used to be that conservatives were by and large intelligent, rational people — or so their public behavior would indicate. Not any more. Now they are driven by their rabid Xtian base to the point where they cannot even *consider* an alternate point of view. I think the author is correct and that these are the death throes of a cult which is best left behind. For our sakes and for our future, I hope so.

Posted by CrazyOwlLady | Report as abusive
 

Amanda Marcotte = Left Wing = Anti-religion

And for hundreds of years (when America was a better place) the basic tenets of religion animated those in the WH now suddenly it is a no no as if the mostly left wing has suddenly (pardon the pun) seen the light and mixing politics with religion (as a moral basis) is suddenly verboten.

What unadulterated puerile nonsense. What I discussed over coffee late at night as a student.

Signed

An Atheist

(that believes religion provide a moral good that nothing else seems to)

Posted by eleno | Report as abusive
 

A truly religious person has no need to declare his or her beliefs.

A man or woman’s actions and words to all other beings are the true indicator of their religious beliefs.

On another thought,once in my life I observed an imbalance in time and for perhaps 10 seconds was given a glance into another time and dimension.

As my husband and I drove up to an intersection we stopped in amazement as what appeared to be a burning wagon wheel passed in front of us and then disappeared.

Being a lawyer and mathematician, I sought to explain the occurence by logic but I could not.

This glimpse into a fourth dimension, that of time, has changed my understanding of life and religion.

Posted by Tresaime | Report as abusive
 

It is all a matter of perspective and point of view.

America today is dominated by religiously self-proclaimed “God’s chosen people”, the “people of God” and the “Good”. What they all have in common is a sense of having been selected by some divine being to do battle with “evil”. “Evil” is defined essentially as different from them. These are the people claiming to be “religious” today.

Our country in earlier times, yes better times, was led by vaguely Deist people with a religion called “Unitarian”, a reference to a single God rather than a religious Trinity. Four of the first six Presidents were Unitarians, to the extent that it is an organized mode of thought rather than a “religion”. One was non-religious (Jefferson) and one was Episcopalian. None were Baptists of any stripe, not Methodists, nor Presbyterians, nor Mormons, nor Catholics nor Jews, which are the “religious right”. Our country was not founded by the groups claiming to have founded it.

Today, the most virulent religion in the country is Feminism. It is the State religion of the USA and questioning it brings all sorts of Government supported and sponsored sanctions. Normally it is not considered as part of the “religious right” though that opinion is rather old fashioned and based on the religious politics of half a century ago. Like other evangelical, aggressive religions, it spreads the word to the “unwashed” and denies its religious nature. As with other evangelical religions, it preaches “Truth” and denies any other affiliation.

Essentially, if you believe as if you had personal knowledge from some sort of Truth, whether spoken from a Burning Bush or not, you are on the “religious right”. But you are most definitely not an inheritor of the Founding Fathers of the USA. Their questioning would be treated as “heresy” by the entire “religious right”. And they would be horrified by the people claiming to be their political descendents.

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive
 

i think mary was pretty hot.

Posted by Shukla | Report as abusive
 

“What we’re seeing with the heightened emphasis on religion in politics is the death throes of the old order.”

This explains why Christians have decided to attack science education. They’re terrified their children will realize they’re superstitious idiots and so they are doing everything possible to prevent their children (and everyone else’s children) from learning anything about science, especially evolutionary biology.

http://darwinkilledgod.blogspot.com/

Posted by se3eeerrrr | Report as abusive
 

Religion has caused more wars in the history of mankind than any other issue, even famine. I am not religious and have never killed or harmed anyone — I believe — except flies, mosquitos, and spiders.

Morality comes from within, not dictates.

Posted by w.burton | Report as abusive
 

The problem is not religion, but the absolute intolerance that the right has for any other beliefs. There are many hundreds, and thousands with very strong beliefs who are ignored or marginalized, because they don’t believe the “right” way. At the rate they are going, the ‘right’ is going to self-destruct because of their inability to look at, let alone accept the views of others. I grew up with the religious right, but believe they are not able to accept, care about, or envision good outside themselves, though they are often filled with hate. I believe there are a million shades of gray, and cannot accept their view of absolutes.

Posted by JazzyC | Report as abusive
 

@Tresaime,

It is wonderful that you and your husband got to glimpse something totally without logical explanation together. I’m sure the experience has brought the two of you even closer, and that what each of you make of it is appropriate for you.

Words are important. Was it truly your “understanding (as in a statutory or mathematical basis or “proof”) of life and religion” that was changed? Perhaps the experience merely expanded your concept of the “possible” without much in the way of specifics?

In religious terms, it would seem to be a “miracle”; not unlike the bush that burns but is not consumed. In secular terms, still “amazing”. You did not share with us any perceived “meaning”, “message” or “purpose”.

I have come to respect those who honestly admit “I don’t know”. Everyone’s life is an incomplete puzzle with missing pieces. Not all are comfortable with that.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

As a response to jenx67: always and forever secular humanism, science, and modernity will inform religion and not the other way around. Any of the ethics and morals you attribute to Jesus have been in the human family for countless generations before he was born. Religion has nothing of substance to offer our political discourse and more often then not it muddies the waters and clouds necessary critical thinking.

Posted by docfreddy | Report as abusive
 

The word “faith” here is used as a foundational world and life view of reality. With this definition, everyone has “faith”. The question isn’t faith or not, it’s which faith?

Some people have a more coherent world and life view and other people’s foundational views are full of inconsistencies. Some adapt a system like “Christianity” as their world and life view, some are eclectic. Far from excluding the discussion of faith in the public realm, we should encourage the exploration of the presuppositions which are essential to understanding where a person’s political views come from.

Let’ stop saying that we can’t talk about faith in public. In fact it is impossible not to.

Short article on “The Law of Influence and Christian Public Engagement” here: http://wp.me/p1lW18-bn

Posted by TLubinus | Report as abusive
 

Who are any of us to argue another person’s belief system? Would you stomp on the American flag – the symbol of a nation of individuals who came to this country to be free.

And what is freedom? We cannot see it or touch it – much like an individual’s faith it is defined by each person(s) differently.

Yet everyone who is blogging here must BELIEVE in freedom – lest there would be fear of reprisal from government for openly airing our views on a matter so controversial.

Posted by QueenD | Report as abusive
 

Oh my goodness. You made my eyes pop.
I couldn’t believe reading this last paragraph.

The right is becoming more vocal because
their God-given rights to be free Christians are under
assault. It is wrong in a free society, where
separation of church and state should exist to
(say) force a Christian preacher to marry same
sex couples even though it is against the very
foundation of that Christian preacher’s beliefs, and if they refuse, they would see civil punishment.
It is wrong for (say) Joe-average-Christian-taxpayer
to be billled taxes by a government who will only use
it to kill unborn babies and create euthanistic
panels—thereby forcing these Christians to be party
to horrendous sin according to their beliefs.

The freedom to (say) do these things sinful things is possible for currently
anyone, if they so choose. The religious right
doesn’t want that freedom to evaporate, even though
they don’t agree with it.

The freedom to (say) not do these things should also
be possible for anyone, if they so choose. The religious
right wishes to maintain options for decent, God-believing living, hoping that others will see how horrible it is to not live as God wishes.

(This is what freedom is. And freedom comes from
GOD! This is not something that man made up. )

To slam freedom, as you have done in this article,
is showing your true intelligence. Oh my goodness,
how disappointing to read such stuff, and to think
that you may even be proud of your work. OM goodness.
What a shame. Pity your soul. oh, so sad. What a slope you’d have America on if you had your way!

I’m just agast.

Posted by limapie | Report as abusive
 

@limapie,

Guess you missed that part about “thou shalt NOT judge..”

“It is wrong for (say) Joe-average-Christian-taxpayer
to be billled (sic) taxes by a government who will only use
it to kill unborn babies and create euthanistic (sic)
panels…”. Please.

If this is ONLY use of taxes, whence come funds to pay for defense, disability, unemployment, foreign air, etc. etc.?

Those of us who don’t believe as you do want real science taught to young Americans. We see teenagers pregnant through ignorance without choice when their parents and their schools don’t explain contraception.

We don’t want them sentenced by society’s narrow-mindedness to an isolated existence as an “example”. Better that their minds be still free and expanding with further education and work experience in the “real world”.

“Our” taxes also pay for textbooks that raise the myth of creation to challenge the reality of evolution. Oh, my, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

And yes, if one accepts a position as a pharmacist, their personal beliefs should not insinuate between their doctor’s prescription of a “morning after” pill and a customer there to fill their prescription. One should not go into the field of urology if they have a problem performing vasectomies, etc. That is inappropriately intrusive on decisions of conscience exclusively reserved to each and every free individual.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

I consider this article to be extremely biased against the supposed right of a person to practice whatever religion he or she prefers, or none at all.

The problem with this country is actually a LACK of religious belief, as that meaning applies in terms of a “COHERENT CULTURE”.

The reason the US has drifted so far off track is that — like it or not — religion and culture go hand in hand. Right now we recognize ALL religious faiths as “politically correct,” but honor none except greed.

I believe the “Founding Fathers” meant to set up a society without an official state religion to protect this country from the known evils of a state-sanctioned religion, and in that sense it is good, but they also assumed in doing so that the culture they were creating had mostly the same set of ideals and would always be thus.

Unfortunately, that is not how it has turned out in reality. As the country has grown it has also grown apart, so much so that now we share little in common.

The whole basis of your argument — that it is religion which is the problem is grossly mistaken.

The problem is a rapidly growing lack of “cultural coherence”.

To throw out religion entirely and attempt to eradicate it from society at this point is a is trading the perceived evils of religion for an even worse evil, and that is a country with no moral guidance at all. Religion in its role as the cultural “glue” that helps to hold us together is what we need more of, not less.

If we move away from religion entirely as you argue, at that point we will become a nation of “the survival of the fittest”. Look around you and you will see that we are not far from that point right now.

Yes, religious tolerance is an “ideal,” and up to a point it is the preferred goal, but when NO religion is tolerated, the culture has completely lost its essential coherence, with the result that everyone does as he damn well pleases, knowing that there is no “downside” to anything they do.

And I am speaking especially of the recent conduct of Wall Street and our Government (i.e. especially in its lawmaking capacity in particular, which is being altered with no sense of honesty or morality to its own people).

THAT is what a nation without religion brings to a culture — the loss of its sense of honesty and morality in dealing with its people, which results in the failure of its legal system by elimination of laws to protect society from the natural proclivities of man.

Right now the US has “lost its balance” and will fall unless it recovers its sense of morality — call it religion or not — which is what we lack and will not survive without it.

With that in mind, I question your conclusion that “We should welcome such a change. The more that religion can be pushed off into the realm of private practice and out of the public square, the better for public discourse, as we can dispense with the God talk and move on to reality-based discussions about what we want and how we can get it. The Millennials have the right idea when it comes to dismissing the belief that religion somehow improves politics. Now we just have to wait for the religious right to finish with their temper tantrum over this, and then we can move on to the future.”

You’re dead wrong in this “analysis”. What you are advocating is not a future I think most of us in this country would want to see. You need a “reality check” on your obviously misguided thinking.

Posted by Gordon2352 | Report as abusive
 

What the whole world needs is to grow out of religion, yes, i am saying that everyone should be an atheist, not because of a totalitarian dictat, unlike the christians and muslims, who feel an imperative to spread their poison worldwide, but because it is the only safe viewpoint, and the only viewpoint that cannot be disproved by objective, not subjective, means.All religions fail on objective testing,and fall back on anecdote and the holy book of whichever and all holy books are self contradictory.
Religion is devisive,destructive, and has held mankind back for long enough.No atheist has gone on a god inspired killing spree, driven by the voices, and there are no atheist suicide bombers, ie atheists are more likely to be sane.Before anyone points out columbine, that was two atheist kids in the middle of bible thumping teritory,if they lived in a more balanced comunity, that tragedy may never of happened.
The literal belief in the bible can only be attributed to a serious lack of objective education, and its replacement by indoctrination.What America desperatly needs is a wholy legislated national sylabus, which is wholy secular,and enforced, and the children of religious fanatics removing to a place of safety.Telling a child they will burn forever in hell is child abuse, plain and simple.Believing a woman was shaped from a spare rib is rediculous and demeaning.
The moderate tolerance of extremes of religion is a dusgusting apathy in the name of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech has limits, and those limits are when it impinges on the wellbeing of others,you do not have the freedom to incite hatred,be racist,sectarian or homophobic,the christian right are all of these things,and believe their biblical savagery trumps your secular constitution.For sanitys sake, stop voting nutters into power.

Posted by Johnnyordinary | Report as abusive
 

@Gordon2352,

You and I think differ in perspective, experience and expectation. Please indulge me to explore this a bit. I am comfortable with a common desire for “Cultural coherence”, but I doubt religion ever guided our society to the degree you claim.

A judge comes to mind that belongs to the same church as my wife and to many “service organizations”. I have personal knowledge of numerous and repeated violations of his oath of office over a period of years. I have personal knowledge of the oaths of those “service organizations” which he similarly ignores by his actions and inactions. He exemplifies to me the difference between a government of laws and a government of men.

It is not showing up at church every Sunday that creates and sustains “cultural coherence”. It is our individual choices in how we live each day by example. It is not the “sizzle” that is important, but the steak.

There are two ways to believe. One is the cowering of the cave man with the flash of lightning and the boom of thunder. He will do anything and say anything to not be afraid. This is no different than classic descriptions of “sinners cowering before an angry God”. These act or do not act merely to avoid punishment. Whether physical slaves or mental slaves, neither has “freedom of choice”.

Free men choose a course of action via conscious thought and their individual sense of “right” and “wrong”. A normal child “knows” it is wrong to pull the wings off of a butterfly, whether or not they are yet “religious”.

One may swear fealty to a deity, or a concept, or a leader, or some combination of these; but this choice should be for reasons that “make sense” to us. I further dare as a mere mortal to make a crucial distinction.

I do not ask but demand, as a matter of intellectual integrity, any deity, concept or leader be “worthy”. I believe there must be accountability in absolute reciprocal measure to authority.

Any of “absolute authority” cannot, by any means or excuse, escape “absolute responsibility”. That’s a high bar, indeed, but it is the “price” of my support. It is not a “one-time” standard, but one to be met every successive day.

Someone that professes belief because they fear that human existence ends with death and does so “just in case” there is an eternity is a poor convert and the weakest example to follow. Those who make up in volume and enthusiasm what they lack in genuine knowledge and understanding tend to be easily lead peer-pressure bullies, again weak examples to follow.

Accordingly it has been my experience that those of strong faith, genuine integrity and a quick mind are few and far between. Certainly too few in society to have “cultural” effect. There are also those who believe “what goes around, comes around” – Kharma, that possess, genuine integrity and a quick mind. These make “good” day to day life choices on an intuitive ethical basis…what they perceive as “right”. Such people are equally feared by the unscrupulous AND the religious, so they are always in the minority. They, too, are good citizens.

These are the people I would have as friends and follow. I would know that in time of crisis they do not have to go read what to do or discuss what to do, but they would know in their heart what is appropriate to the situation and act without hesitation. In a time of crisis, such can be the margin of success or failure. Such people are not deficient or “misguided”.

Morality, with or without religion, is as genuine and tangible in effect. Personal “core” values, or ethics, with or without religion, are as genuine and tangible in effect. No one can do as they “…damn well…” please” if in doing so they violate the social contract as defined by modern law, and the police and the courts exist to enforce same in THIS existence.

When you argue so adamantly and dogmatically against the thoughts expressed in this article, you weaken the credibility of your own beliefs before others. No one with a closed mind ever won a genuine debate.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

I have some simple questions for Christians. Based solely on the Bible account, and excluding vast amounts of scientific data, please address the following:

1) If all humans are descended from Adam and Eve, then the second generation of humans by mathematical necessity had to commit incest. Where did Cain’s wife come from?

2) Once again, according to Noah’s Ark, only eight persons were on the ark including Noah, his wife, their 3 sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and the sons’ 3 wives. According to the Bible, all humans are descended from these eight people. How is this possible without incest?

3) Does God tempt man or not?

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.” (GEN 22:1)

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” (JAS 1:13)

4) Do you answer a fool, or not?

PRO 26:4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

PRO 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

5) Should you let others see your good deeds, or not?

Matt 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (NIV)

Matt 6:3-4 “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (NIV)

6)Is God Merciful or Not?

“I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy.” (JER 13:14) “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling.”

“The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” (JAS 5:11)
“For his mercy endureth forever.” (1CH 16:34)
“The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.” (PSA 145:9)
“God is love.” (1JO 4:16)

7) When can we expect the Second Coming? Seems like it’s a bit late…

MAT 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

MAR 13:30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

LUK 21:32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.

8) Should we kill, or not?

Exodus 20:13 “Thou shalt not kill.”
Leviticus 24:17 “And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.”

vs.

Exodus 32:27 “Thus sayeth the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, . . . and slay every man his brother, . . . companion, . . . neighbor.”

I Samuel 6:19 ” . . . and the people lamented because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.”

I Samuel 15:2,3,7,8 “Thus saith the Lord . . . Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. . . . And Saul smote the Amalekites . . . and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.”

Numbers 15:36 “And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.”

Hosea 13:16 “they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with children shall be ripped up.”

9) Is it ok to own slaves?

Leviticus 25:45-46 “Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, . . . and they shall be your possession . . . they shall be your bondmen forever.”

Genesis 9:25 “And he [Noah] said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.”

Exodus 21:2,7 “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. . . . And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the manservants do.”

Joel 3:8 “And I will sell your sons and your daughters into the hand of the children of Judah, and they shall sell them to the Sabeans, to a people far off: for the Lord hath spoken it.”

Luke 12:47,48 [Jesus speaking] “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.”

Colossians 3:22 “Servants, obey in all things your masters.”

vs.

Isaiah 58:6 “Undo the heavy burdens . . . let the oppressed go free, . . . break every yoke.”

Matthew 23:10 “Neither be ye called Masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.”

10) Are we punished for our Parent’s sins, or not?

Exodus 20:5 “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” (Repeated in Deuteronomy 5:9)

Exodus 34:6-7 ” . . . The Lord God, merciful and gracious, . . . that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”

I Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, . . .”

vs.

Ezekiel 18:20 “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father.”

Deuteronomy 24:16 “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”

11) Final Bonus Question (There’s about 1,000 more if anyone is still interested). Does God like us to give him human sacrifices?

Deuteronomy 12:31 “Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.”

vs.

Genesis 22:2 “And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”

Exodus 22:29 “For thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors; the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.”

Judges 11:30-39 “And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hand, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon . . . and the Lord delivered them into his hands. . . . And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: . . . And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed.”

II Samuel 21:8-14 “But the king [David] took the two sons of Rizpah . . . and the five sons of Michal . . . and he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the Lord: and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest . . . And after that God was intreated for the land.”

Posted by BajaArizona | Report as abusive
 

A brief defense of the morality of atheism and/or agnosticism:

Some claim that only through religion is it possible to live a good and moral life. That without the threat of eternal punishment, people will rape, kill, plunder and dance to song like folks in the Old Testament.

However, if you grasp that this life is all there is, that our difficult existence is all we have and all we’re ever going to have, then suddenly the sanctity of life becomes far more significant. If you kill someone who might go to Heaven, then you can just tell yourself that you did them a favor. But if you kill someone knowing that you have forever obliterated them, then you can never forgive yourself. Likewise, all living things become sacred. Every moment of life becomes crucial. It isn’t enough to simply not kill, but in every aspect of your life you must firstly avoid harm, and secondly try to help whenever possible. Atheism doesn’t deprive life of meaning, it imbues life with vastly more importance.

Granted, there must be a minimum threshold of awareness in an individual for this conception of the preciousness of life to take root. Perhaps people who fundamentally lack empathy do need to be convinced of the consequences of an afterlife to adopt the strictures of an artificial morality. Yet that is hardly a positive recommendation for religion.

Lest anyone thing I hate religion, I don’t. I have known and loved and respected many religious people. Yet what I loved about them was never a product of their particular religion, but the qualities they possessed intrinsically. They would likely have been worthy of love and respect no matter their religion.

This is NOT to suggest that all religions are relative. I do not subscribe to moral relativity. Not all cultures are the same, and not all religions are equal in their harm/harmlessness. For all their complexity, we have brains that gravitate towards simplistic narratives. The world is impossibly complex, and it can be a dizzying task to understand the best path through life. And this is the raison de etre for religion. Once upon a time, religions were a necessary technology for humans to act in concert with one another and ensure survival.

In my opinion, the modern understanding provides us with a solid basis for morality which does not rely on myths. Thus religion is obsolete. As time goes by, if civilization can survive the fury of the jilted religionists, humanity will outgrow the crutch of belief.

Peace be with us all.

Posted by BajaArizona | Report as abusive
 

Wow! Such a myriad of great ideas and topics to debate. Here’s one for the non-believers of Christianity: The odds that no supreme being created this world in all of its awe and splendor are the same for an F-5 tornado blasting its way across a junkyard and assembling Buckingham Palace on the other side. The Bible can be trusted. The God of Abraham is real and hasin’t “gone out of (man’s) style.” He sits on His Throne in Heaven as you read this. When a contrite heart is finally opened and explored, one can see God’s rainbow. Don’t let man’s politics and proclivity toward his (own) brand of science keep you from your salvation through Jesus Christ. Life is short. Ensure that your name is added to the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Posted by Tahlie | Report as abusive
 

Goodness without God is Goodness for Goodness Sake.
‘My Goodness for Goodness Sake’ Where have I heard that before!? My Freewill is mine. It exists with or without a God. My choices are mine. W/WO God. I choose to value myself as I would value others. At my ending, I will know all, Be it nothing or everything. ‘I am an Atheist, I only pray that I’m Wrong.” It is only Within, My United State of neurons and synapses, where my Peace begins. PEACE BE WITHIN US ALL. No one finds it outside of self, without having a place for it inside ONES SELF.

Posted by dumbfish | Report as abusive
 

I don’t want to hear sermons from a candidate. I want to hear practical solutions to the problems a religious-right candidate imposed on the country — poverty, inequality of opportunity, job loss, rising food prices, etc. etc. etc. I am tired of the ranting, raving, God invoking rhetoric of the evangelical contingent. I am a theologian myself and one of the things I most appreciate is that God is best invoked as Jesus suggested — quietly in one’s own home or in church/synagogue/mosque.

Posted by mbote123 | Report as abusive
 

It is quite surprising how many people who have disagreed with Amanda’s post have added fuel to the stereotype of the Religious Right as unintelligent, misinformed and ignorant.

Several writers insisted that Amanda was suggesting that all religious belief be outlawed rather than that religious beliefs not be permitted to blatantly mixed with politics, as is the case in the U.S. of today.

There is a very large difference between demanding that personal, partisan and non-universal religious views NOT be imposed the general public through government and the judiciary and suggesting that people should retain whatever religious ideas that they like, provided that they do not impose them on those who believe them to be immoral, irresponsible, stupid, false, unnecessary or just plain harmful. Indoctrinated people are not in any mental condition to make judgements about this.

One writer made the astounding statement that all the best archeologists have proved that some of the things written in the Bible are historically correct. The argument was then extended to “prove” that everything else written in the Bible was equally true and correct. This is like arguing that because Batman comics refer to New York, which can be shown to be a real place, therefore everything else in the comic is factual. Worse, the writer fails to acknowledge that mainstream archeology has, over the last 50 years, discovered that a great deal of what is written as “history” in the biblical record is either grossly unsupported or proved to be indisputably false by archeological findings and contemporary histories. The general consensus of reputable scholars is that that further back in history one goes, the more unreliable the biblical accounts of what happened. Creation did not happen as written in Genesis (or the earlier Babylonian religious mythology from which is was “borrowed”. The Flood did not happen as written in the bible. The walls of Jericho fell down long before Joshua got anywhere near them. The Exodus never happened. Jesus could not have been born in Bethlehem in Judah as there was no such town in existence at the time. There was a Bethlehem in Galilee, but it would not have fitted the Old Testament messianic “prophecy” that New Testament writers insisted applied to Jesus. And so on and on. The writer is clearly very ignorant of modern archeology which is committed to accuracy and intellectual integrity. No doubt he has restricted himself to material that deliberately fails to provide a balanced view of archeological findings and deliberately avoids mentioning anything that challenges its religious agenda. This is a know failing of the first few decades of religiously funded archeology in the Levant: material
that did not “prove” the Bible to be “true” was ignored, dismissed or destroyed.

Posted by rosita123 | Report as abusive
 

Overdue.

Sorry to pull rank in terms of age; but, I figured this crap out when I was 13 years old. That was 60 years ago.

Mail me a penny postcard when Congress catches up.

Posted by Eideard | Report as abusive
 

I think what we are now (finally) seeing is an end to traditional organized religion (i.e., religion based upon precepts that are dictated by religious leaders), and the takeover of the religiously organized (i.e., people whose own personal conscience dictate their religious beliefs).

Posted by RickCarter | Report as abusive
 

Ms Marcotte says, “After all, our Founding Fathers set out to create a society that had such a separation [of church and state], and they believed, rightly, that religion and politics shouldn’t mix.”

She is wrong. It is true that our founding fathers wanted to separate the church and the state organizationally, so that the Federal government would not single out a denomination for Federal endorsement, as England had the Church of England. However, it is not at all true that the founders thought that religious beliefs should play no part in government. Even Thomas Jefferson, a Deist and not at all a Christian even though he respected Jesus as a moral teacher, said that our rights derive from God our Creator. There are many quotes that I could cite to show that, while there was to be no religious test to hold office, that the founders knew that religious convictions were necessary for good government and a civil society.

When I took geometry in my long ago high school years, we were told that all the formulae, the derivations, and so on of geometry rested upon assumed and unprovable axioms. The same is true of science: we assume that the way things worked yesterday is how they will work today and will work tomorrow. We cannot, however, prove that all processes, the gravitational and magnetic fields, and so will not change at the drop of a hat. We assume constancy, or else science itself would be impossible.

In the same way, all moral choices depend upon assumptions. Christians believe that all human beings have value because we are all created in the image of God and God has told us in the Bible that we are to respect and value that image.

If one does not believe in a Creator, upon what does one base the value of human life and human beings? Those who believe in strict evolution have no real basis for valuing human beings, for if evolution is true, we are nothing but the products of matter plus time plus chance – we are, in other words, nothing but cosmic accidents. Of what value is an accidental arrangement of molecules that is somehow self-replicating? There is no real value. I may like to think of myself as valuable, because I enjoy living – but that does not prove in itself that I have any inherent worth that demands respect from others.

Because I am an evangelical Christian, I will vote my values, for I am convinced that Christianity has the clearest grasp of what is true and good. Christians, of course, are far from perfect, and some of us are dreadfully flawed and mistaken in a variety of ways and ideas.

Secularists will vote their values as well – even though many of those values they have taken from Christian teachings, while denying the assumptions on which those teachings are based. Give secularists a few generations, and they will recognize the underlying philosophical basis on which they operate. One of the French existentialists said, “The only serious question is, “Why not suicide?’”

Secularism is a dry tree, which will produce no fruit. The more they exclude religious convictions from the public square, the sooner they will become cynical and depressed – and despotic.

Posted by Hakkatan | Report as abusive
 

Ms Marcotte shared HER opinion. For her it’s RIGHT. She has the same right to an opinion as you do, and you need not agree. The “he said, she said” as to the founding fathers is not at issue to this article. Neither are the speculations of your high school teachers. Anyone with sight must know that change is rapid and everywhere.

The values and priorities of people in biblical times was utterly different by the beginning of the twentieth century. Christian preachers had figured out that if they didn’t change the “sinners cowering before an angry God” message to one of a benevolent and loving God they would have no “flock”. That change was, relatively speaking, “at the drop of a hat” after thousands of years the “old” way.

Science is an emerging puzzle, as yet incomplete. As a new piece is found, it may fit in or knock out something we were using as a “place holder”. Each new fact contributes to what we know…and may even point us toward a new and interlocking puzzle. It has proven more consistent over time than most societies or religions.

You must have notices that some believers are more pious and some are less pious. Man’s exercise of free will (moral or immoral choices?) arises out of personal values unique to each of us. Some people are of strong character and some of weak character. The way biblical or theological “assumptions” are LIVED differs widely which is why there is no “one size fits all.

When you speak of “a Creator” you know what YOU mean. You can only speak, however, for yourself. You see only from your unique perspective of education, experience and expectations. Ask ten “believer” passers by to describe their God or Jesus and you’ll get ten different answers. You claim a uniformity and continuity that is, at best, a mirage without substance.

What if our world were like the wondrous view a high school student studying a slide with a drop of water on it has through a microscope? If the life on that slide were aware of the huge eye looking down, before such obvious superiority and omnipotence it might well bow down and pray to this wondrous being. Yet when the bell rings, the slide is cleaned and put back in the box; and nothing remains of what once was. No communication. No mutual awareness. Ships that pass in the night.

Right and wrong are the foundations of any “social contract” between we cosmic accidents. Do you really see value in watching our beautiful big blue marble “progress” at ever-increasing speed towards becoming a big brown marble? I believe I shall pass this way but once. I would leave this world a better place by my chosen path.

The eagle, the sparrow, the butterfly and even the snake “enjoy living”, but know not someday they will die. Is there not supreme irony in man’s conceit…that he may be somehow exempted from such end if he but does certain things?

But is is disingenuous to ignore that major Christian holidays essentially hijacked earlier and well established pagan celebrations and festivities and many “values” of right and wrong have their origins in secular prehistory.
Why not suicide? Because I see myself as a unique self-determining being and not a mere “tool” in some cosmic destiny beyond my comprehension. I choose my course in life, choose to be happy and choose to associate with others who know and prefer contentment to dissatisfaction.

There are many who profess to be Christian (or insert other religion here) that are unhappy, “cynical and depressed”, and at their wit’s end emotionally. The void within them in their pews is unseen or unspoken and week after week they leave without solace. Religious despots rule some fundamentalist sects (cults?) with an iron hand.

The journey to individual understanding, happiness, contentment, satisfaction and fulfillment is long and unmarked, because it is unique for each of us. If we but open our eyes, the path is there before us. There are no short cuts.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive
 

In time of a subconscious awareness (it is in the air) of an upcoming climax people seek for strength in a supernatural being, i.e. one that is not subject to circumstances as we are. Subconsciously we cannot erase the implanted consciousness of knowing, that there are consequences to all what we think, say, and do. For individuals this reflexes in our actions commonly desiring to flock together for strength and support. The people of America are well aware of the coming calamities if they continue their course, not knowing how to change. To change, we need to become acquainted with the laws set to keep the whole of the universe in order. These can be found only in a religion. However, concerning our social development, i.e. economy, we need to adhere to the “Laws of Economics”. http://theworldmonetaryordertocome.blogs pot.com/2010/11/introduction.html

Posted by carlvzdj | Report as abusive
 

Ms. Marcotte confuses seperation of church and state with trying to make religion a purely private matter.

Seperation of church and state, at least in the United States, is based on three consitutional provisions and the principles behind them: no religious test for publice office (including no requirement of religion or nonreligion to hold office), no establishment of religion (including no government favoritism of religion over nonreligion or of nonreligion over religion), and no law restricting the free exercise of religion.

Trying to make religious values and speech a strictly private matter, totally out of politics, runs counter to those principles and to principles of free speech. It’s also impossible anywhere in the world, regardless of any laws. Every religion seeks to influence the actions of its members in ways that it considers to be moral. Every major religion bases morality on the call to treat others as we want to be treated. None of them say “except when you participate in politics.”

Ms. Marcotte’s hostility to religion appears to be based on the actions of some of the followers of the Christian right who want to use the government’s power to impose their intolerant values on everyone. In listing the religious right’s perceived enemies, she should have added mainline and progressive Christians and people of other faiths who work for social justice, who some of the conservatives call “apostates” or worse. Instead, she lumps us all together and concludes we should all keep our mouths shut. Sorry, Amanda — not a prayer.

Posted by Greg.deGiere | Report as abusive
 

Questions for the religious:

Your choice of religion is on average overwhelmingly determined by what deity your parents and community worships. Do you really believe that others who were born into religions not your own are eternally damned for just for being respectful and obedient toward their families?

All those children of God with the misfortune of choosing heretic parents will suffer for all time because they didn’t reject their whole society and embrace a religion which they may never have even heard of?

Do you actually believe that YOUR religion is the ONE TRUE religion? To get a feel for the odds of your luck to be born into the correct religion, allow me to show you a list of the most popular current religions:

Christianity: 2.1 billion
Islam: 1.5 billion
Hinduism: 900 million
Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
Buddhism: 376 million
primal-indigenous: 300 million
African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
Sikhism: 23 million
Juche: 19 million
Spiritism: 15 million
Judaism: 14 million
Baha’i: 7 million
Jainism: 4.2 million
Shinto: 4 million
Cao Dai: 4 million
Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
Tenrikyo: 2 million
Neo-Paganism: 1 million
Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
Scientology: 500 thousand

I ask this of my fellow humans who are forcing themselves to believe the unbelievable in order to maintain their ties to their family, society, and history. When you are able to understand why you do not subscribe to any (or all!) of the religions on this list, not to even mention the dead religions like Zeus and The Shakers, then you will understand why I do not subscribe to YOUR religion.

Meanwhile, Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist = 1.1 billion. It takes courage to make sense of the universe on your own terms. Lack of courage is a poor rationale for belief in demonstrably false doctrines, however.

I’m not interested in depriving a spiritual cripple of the crutch they need to make their way in the world. That would be nearly as cruel as depriving an actual cripple of his actual crutch. But when religious people are constantly thrusting these silly beliefs (and before you get offended, look at that list and tell me you don’t see lots of silly beliefs) into our lives in myriad damaging ways, a little pushback is certainly called for.

Posted by BajaArizona | Report as abusive
 

Go away atheists! Keep your godless religion private! Stop shoving the Atheist religion down our throats!

Posted by jefffranklin | Report as abusive
 

To BajaArizona,

Because Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father or God except through me.”

Posted by hnrast | Report as abusive
 

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