Out with the old, In with the new

About 60 percent of Nones are young Americans who no longer wish to abide by the ideals of their parents and grandparents when it comes to religious conviction.

It’s not hard to imagine. After all, how many times have we heard a daughter say to her mother, “you don’t understand me!” Or a mother say, “that’s not how we did it when I was a child.” It’s the continuing struggle between the generations, and in the case of the Nones the struggle centers around religious practice.

Some Nones simply bulk at the stuffy judgmental attitude they see in traditional churches. Others want a spiritual connection but aren’t willing to live by all the rules laid out in the Bible. And still more simply reject God altogether, clinging to atheism and the rule of reason before spirit.

Here is an exert from the Pilot Catholic’s article on the Nones’ effect on United States society:

The study’s authors, sociology professors, Michael Hout of New York University and Claude S. Fischer of the University of California-Berkeley, said their research suggests that older Americans are dying off, they are being replaced in the population by younger Americans who are not as religious.

Much of the other 40 percent, they added, can be traced to the rise of the “religious right” and its political stands on social issues, leading many Americans to say, according to Fischer, “If that’s what religion means, count me out.”

Therefore, according to Fischer, and Pew, religion is fading away, but a new spirituality, or no spiritually, is quickly monopolizing the younger generations. It makes one wonder if traditional religion will soon fade into a relic of the past. Stick around for my next post to see how this may not be as plausible as it seems.

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God out of schools, God out of gov’t, God out of good…

Out! Out! Out! But where should He go? Take Him to your churches, to your places of worship, to your homes. But get him out of our sight!

Ok, that might be a little dramatic for some secularists, but definitely not for all of them. But, more common in today’s world, a different view of atheism is surfacing. It’s not the angry and bitter secular scientist, it is the kind, caring and good person who says God is not necessary for goodness to thrive. We see this throughout government, schools, companies and so much more. The new secular movement is bent on finding a way to get by without God.

For example, the Examiner.com recently published an opinion piece by Chelsea Hoffman with the bold title, “Atheist Win.” Hoffman is enthusiastic about the secular movement’s recent win over an Ohio middle school – forcing it to remove a portrait of Jesus hanging in its halls. The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the ACLU initiated the lawsuit, saying the portrait was unconstitutional.

Hoffman’s article articulates secular pride in their accomplishment:

This is federally illegally and fundamentally unacceptable. It’s not only a win for atheism that they didn’t back down, but for America and the liberty of all who are citizens of it. Imagine had this been some other religious imagery such as a Wiccan pentacle or some imagery relative to Islam. The Christian majority would likely be up in arms about it!

The portrait was placed in the school in 1947 when a group of students arranged for it to be acquired by the school.In January of this year the school’s president vowed never to take down the portrait, to which he got overwhelming support from the school and students. But he and the rest of the school were only able to hold out for so long and on April 3rd they took down the portrait.

But God is being taken out of more than just schools. A German shoe company has embraced the name of atheists as their company motto. They have accepted the stance of no religion, while attempting to prove they can be just as morally good as the Christian shoe companies of the world. Inscribed on the bottom of the shoe is the bold statement, “Ich Bin Atheist” (I am an atheist). They are determined to show that businesses and people can be good without God.

The company is very enthusiastic about their new shoes:

Whether you’re an atheist looking to tickle the world with a foot-first declaration of godlessness, or someone who’s just keen on the aesthetics and craftsmanship of our shoes, we really do hope you’ll enjoy them.

And who can forget the age old argument of religion/Christianity in government. Secularists say government can be good without God dictating what they should believe:

[O]rganised religion has a historical monopoly on ‘good’ and continues to be proud of its ‘do-gooding’, in preach and practice, despite the strong likelihood that it has done far more harm than good in it’s long, yarn-spinning history.

We find this sad. Not only because organised religion survives, scandal after scandal, unscathed, but because the atheists we know are amongst the kindest, most caring people we’ve met, each capable of being moral and good without god stories to show them how.We want to challenge the lowest-common-denominator view of atheism, to demonstrate that you don’t need god to be good.

Conversely, Christians, like the late Chuck Colson, say government cannot hold to true goodness without God’s direction:

In the city of man, there is no moral consensus, and without a moral consensus there can be no law. Chairman Mao expressed the alternative well: in his view, morality begins at the muzzle of a gun.

There has never been a case in history in which a society has been able to survive for long without a strong moral code. And there has never been a time when a moral code has not been informed by religious truth. Recovering our moral code – our religious truth – is the only way our society can survive. The heaping ash remains at Auschwitz, the killing fields of Southeast Asia, and the frozen wastes of the gulag remind us that the city of man is not enough; we must also seek the city of God.

Where does good come from? Each side has a different answer for this question – which then dictates how they view “good.”  And what is even more frustrating is that each side has some dirt to dig up on the other side, allowing them to give credence to their point of view.

Secular leaders throughout much of history have committed crimes of unspeakable magnitude, but then again, so have religious leaders who hide behind a twisted view of the Bible. We can say they were not really Christians, but not many atheists will accept that interpretation. So where does this leave us? Are we forever at an impasse – never finding a way to cross the gulf between our mountain tops of belief?

I hope not. If that is true than my blog is completely pointless. We must try and find common ground. We must try to understand what the paths are like on other mountains. But (and it’s an important “but”) there are some things we will just not agree on. And this is one of them.

Good defined by society is called progressive ethics and is a very dangerous path to fall into. When I think of a scary place to live, it is in a society that dictates what is good and bad based on its mood at the time. In an imperfect world how can we expect man to make perfect laws? Therefore, our ethics must come from something higher than ourselves, and the only person I am willing to trust with that is God.

Marriage and religion: does the whole “unevenly yoked” thing really matter?

Mike Bixby and Maria Peyer at their home in Longview, Wash. They have been married for two and half years but have known each other since 1981. Peyer is a church-attending Lutheran, and Bixby is an atheist. (Via NPR)

Married couples who have different religious beliefs. How do they make it work?

NPR recently started a series entitled, Losing Your Religion. It tracks the rising number of nones throughout the United States and seeks to understand why it is they are straying from religion, or more specifically, organized religion.

Here is an interesting episode which pricks the pincushion on both sides of the none advancement.  This segment looks at a couple, Maria Peyer and Mike Bixby, who married a few years ago. However Maria is a devout Lutheran and Mike is an avid atheist. But they still seem to be able to make a good marriage work.

NPR’s episode shows how they are doing it: http://www.npr.org/2013/01/17/168954402/making-marriage-work-when-only-one-spouse-believes-in-god  

Here is a helpful exert from the episode’s transcript:

“Maria’s faith plays a role in making her the person that I love, and I’m good with that. I think we’re both the people who we are because of her faith, because of my lack of faith, and I don’t want to change that,” Bixby says.

In the past, people in relationships like this often would make a change — whichever person had the stronger conviction would set the terms. But these days, people are redrawing the lines.

“These families are doing something different, and they’re making their own choices,” says Erika Seamon, who teaches religion at Georgetown University and studies interfaith relationships. She sees couples find common ground on love, ethics and even spirituality while maintaining very different religious identities.

What do you think? Should Maria and Mike learn to live in their situation? Or should they continue to debate each other’s deep-seeded worldviews?

The Bible makes it clear that two people of differing beliefs should not marry. Therefore, the argument could be made from a Christian standpoint that Mike and Maria should never have gotten married in the first place. But they did get married. Now Maria must constantly accept that her husband may one day die and go to Hell, and as a loving wife she can’t stand to see this happen.

However, even with their differences the couples seems to be doing fine. Therefore, we come to the atheist side of the argument, which states that if a couple can find happiness and love through their differences then it shouldn’t matter what they believe. All that matters is right now – eternity is an illusion.

Both are very passionate about their beliefs, and both have a lot to back up their perspective. So how do we respond to a couple is this unique situation – battling between living for now and living for eternity.

Mommies who don’t believe in God

Via the CNN Belief Blog

If mommies don’t believe in God the odds of them teaching their children to believe in God are slim. This seems logical, but as a recent essay by one of these mothers proves, it is more complicated than we think.

Deborah Mitchell decided when her children were young that she would not raise them to believe in an “imaginary God.” She would instead teach them to be moral and ethical because it makes them feel good about themselves, not because “God is watching.” She compared believe in God to belief in Santa, saying that she is unwilling to teach her two teenage boys what she does not believe herself.

After feeling secluded from her small community in Texas Mitchel decided to begin writing about her non-belief and how it has affected her parental style. She submitted a post, “Why I Raise My Children Without God,” to the CNN Belief Blog that hit home with many other parents throughout the United States.

In the post she wrote:

We are creating the next generation of kids, and there is a wave of young agnostics, atheists, free thinkers and humanists rising up through the ranks who will, hopefully, lower our nation’s religious fever.

She goes on to list a variety of reasons for her disbelief, including accusations that if there is a God, he is illogical, he is unfair, he is a bad parent, he is absent, he does not protect the innocent and the list goes on and on.

Mitchell asks the age old question all human beings will ask at least once: “Why does God let bad things happen?”

In an attempt to answer this question Ryan Barnett, an occupational lawyer and Methodist, wrote a respectful counter to her argument. His post, “Why I Raise My Children With God,” appeared a day later in the CNN Belief Blog. It detailed the necessity of God and the peace that comes with believing in Him. However, he also emphasized that nowhere does God say this life will be “a bed or roses.” (In fact God warns that hard times will come and they will be fierce)

Barnett tries to show the mysterious nature of God in his post:

One experiences God. You can tell me about what love is or feels like – but it defies an acid test. This is the mystery of faith. Our level of understanding is constantly changing. The fact that we did not understand basic concepts in physics years ago does not mean those laws were not present before our understanding.

Barnett brings up some good points and counters each of Mitchell’s accusations against God (although she may not be satisfied with many of them), but when it comes down to it can we really expect a woman to teach her children something she does not believe in. Something she believes to be a dangerous lie that will corrupt them?

“When we raise kids without God, we harm them,” Barnett said toward the end of his post. But no matter how much truth there is to this statement Mitchell does not believe she is harming her children. She believes she is protecting them from an unfair, narcissistic and absent God. Therefore, does the problem lie with her teaching habits, or does it lie in her perspective of God?

Read to this section of Mitchell’s  argument and honestly tell me you wouldn’t do the same thing if about something you don’t believe:

For over a year, I lied to [my three year old son] and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven. Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories that I didn’t believe either… And so I thought it was only right to be honest with my children.

Should we ask her to profess what she does not believe? Or should we address the bigger issue – we live in a secular country with secular values and perspectives. This means as time goes by more mommies will recant what they were taught as children and they will love their children so much that they will not feed them the same lie their parents fed them. Mitchell sees belief in God as a lie and she does not want to pass on the lie to her children.

How do we respond to an argument like Mitchell’s? Do we tell her to forget her personal beliefs and just teach her kids what the rest of her community thinks is best for them? Or do we address the deeper issue of a limited and tainted perspective of God?

Side note: It is important to keep track of what the American public is reading and responding to – Mitchell’s post on the CNN Belief Blog has currently received 755,339 views, 64,758 recommends on Facebook, 7,681 shares and 9,339 comments.  Barnett’s post a day later has currently received 145,781 views, 1,215 recommends on Facebook, 376 shares, and 983 comments.

Nones losing speed

Via CNN Belief Blog

It seems the nones’ new found voice in society is not as prominent as we once thought.  While it is true the nones have taken up a much larger chunk of modern society, this past year’s increase fails to reflect that statement.

A recent Gallup Survey shows the nones may not dominate as much of society as previously reported:

The percentage of American adults who have no explicit religious identification averaged 17.8% in 2012, up from 14.6% in 2008 — but only slightly higher than the 17.5% in 2011. The 2011 to 2012 uptick in religious “nones” is the smallest such year-to-year increase over the past five years of Gallup Daily tracking of religion in America.

What does this mean about American society? I’ll refer you to one of my previous posts from a couple months ago. There are many theories drifting around, but as the past year has shown us, American culture is hard to define or categorize.  Those who thought the Romney/Ryan ticket was a slam dunk saw this in real time last November. And churches who reacted with astonishment upon hearing of the rapid influx of anti-churchgoers will also agree that society is hard to predict.

But varies groups will also react to and explain cultural surprises in different ways. The Christians see this downturn in nones as proof that Americans still have a desire to cling to God, however, nones will turn our attention to the fact that while their progression is slowing it is still progressing.

Ponder this quote from Greg Epstein, humanist chaplain at Harvard University:

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter whether one of these surveys – even a big one like Gallup – shows the number leveling off a bit this past year. First of all, the numbers for young Americans are still dramatically higher, and secondly, it is beyond dispute now that the “nones” are one of the largest demographic groups in the United States, and we’re going to stay that way for a long, long time.

It is important that we keep track of the fluctuations throughout the secular and religious culture in America. Only then will we understand what values we can expect to see from society.

This quote from the Gallup Study sums it up well:

The rise in “nones” partly reflects changes in the general pattern of expression of religion in American society today — particularly including trends towards more “unbranded,” casual, informal religion. And, although this “rise of the nones” has increased dramatically over recent decades, the rate of increase slowed last year, suggesting the possibility that there may be a leveling off in this measure in the years ahead.

Bill O’Reilly: ‘secularism erodes traditional power’

Oh Bill…

Remember my previous post, Secular Values = American Values?, well here is Bill O’Reilly’s take on the issue. However, O’Reilly, being a political man, uses the terms “traditional America” and “secular progressives.”

Watch this video and you will do one of the following: laugh, nod enthusiastically, howl in outrage, or simply turn it off cause you can’t watch anymore.

If you just want to hear a 2012 election analysis than by all means listen to the first 2 minutes. But don’t stop there! Please listen further! It really gets good around 2.20 minutes.

Now, I’m no expert, but I feel as though Obama’s C on the Secular Coalition of America’s scorecard does not make him the Secular Progressives’ “poster child,” All it really does is make him better than Romney.  There’s my small issue with that comment.

Anyways, some great stuff in this video!

Secular values = American values?

Via Washington Post online

American values are changing. Or that’s what the secular groups are saying, and they might be right.

On Nov. 6, voters throughout America showed what they truly wanted, and to the chagrin of conservatives, they wanted gay marriage, abortion, marijuana, big government, and Obama. After the increase of the nones, is this another sign that the United States in moving steadily toward secular values? And if it is, should we be okay with this?

Greta Christina, an atheist blogger, seems to think this is the case, and she’s pretty happy about it:

“The political values that are most common among atheists — support for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, support for birth control and abortion, support for evidence-based drug policy, opposition to religion being intertwined with government, opposition to laws about sex being based on religion, opposition to laws in general being based on religion — are, increasingly, American values.”

We can look at this one of two ways: 1) America is sinking into the depths of sin and destruction and must, now more than ever, be shown the light. 2) America is finally coming out of the oppressive nature of a government influenced by religious intolerance, but  there is still much work to do.

The nones seem to be leaning in the direction of “still much work to do” and they are demanding to be heard by the government. As one of the biggest groups in America the nones played a major part in the 2012 elections. But for many, even though they may have voted for Obama, the religious leaning of the president is still too much for comfort. After all, he did only receive a C in the Secular Coalition of America’s scorecard. But he still marked better than Romney’s F. Obama is pro-gay marriage and pro-abortion, so naturally he is the better candidate for most nones.

Lauren Anderson Youngblood, communications manager with the Secular Coalition, said the Obama administration needed to start taking the nones more seriously.

“The numbers don’t lie. They are an indicator of our untapped potential and politicians who want our vote need to focus on making decisions as lawmakers with reason and science, not theology. They need to tone down the religious rhetoric and when they do mention religious groups, mention us too, because we too are constituents and Americans and we deserve inclusion in our government.”

Will politicians now become more liberal to appease the growing secular population in America? After all, if you believe in progressive ethics (as Christian seems to) that change as the culture and population change, than this would be a necessary, and right, mindset for politicians to have. What was unheard of and viewed as wrong, both in the Bible and in society, has now become much more widely accepted. Therefore, the values of the culture are slowly changing and the “progressive” morals are evolving with it.

So Christina’s point in her blog post is that American values are changing for the better. She would say we are climbing out of the intolerant dogma of religion, and accepting the new ethics that society is in the process of deciding upon. This seems like a dangerous path to walk down. If society decides, as a whole, that something is right, is it right? The acceptance of that particular value must not be the end of the conversation. Were the Aztecs right when the majority of their population decided it was necessary to sacrifice their citizens to the gods?  Was America right when we decided it was okay to treat African Americans as slaves?

Via UPI.com

Carl Coon, a progressive humanist, is adamant that progressive ethics is the way society must work. He claims that as society advances we gain the ability to make better decisions. In essence, we are becoming smarter so we no longer need to cling to the traditions of “old religions.”

There is a ferment here, but it is not aimless. There is a direction. A global society driven by exploding technological capabilities is seeking new consensuses about a whole new galaxy of problems.

So our values do change, and they are supposed to change – or so all these people keep saying.  And the election just showed all Americans what most of them were already thinking. “This election was, to a great extent, a referendum on secular values versus the values of the theocratic religious right — and secular values won,” Christina said.

But wait! I can think of at least 48 percent of Americans who would be dismayed at this prediction. If secular values equal American values then where does that leave the 48 percent, and maybe more, who oppose Obama, gay marriage and abortion? In other words, 48 percent still oppose secular values – their values haven’t changed. Many of them probably still believe in the “old-fashioned theism” and “old religions” Coon opposes.  Secularists would say this just means America still has far to go, but the reality may be that we have already gone too far.

Perhaps the view of the religious right can be summed up with this comment by Richard Land of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

“Clearly, we face a new moral landscape in America, and huge challenge to those of us who care passionately about these issues. We face a worldview challenge that is far greater than any political challenge, as we must learn how to winsomely convince Americans to share our moral convictions about marriage, sex, the sanctity of life, and a range of moral issues. This will not be easy. It is, however, an urgent call to action.”