A couple of interesting tidbits on the topic of Godlessness.
- The number of Americans who claim no religion, or no preference, when asked what religion they affiliate with, rose from 8.2% in 1990, to 14.2% in 2001, to 15% today.
- Northern New England is the least religious section of the country, with Vermont claiming 34% non-religious.
- The number of Christians in the country is down from 86.2% in 1990 to 76% today. 90% of this loss is from the mainline Protestant churches
- Based on stated beliefs, rather than religious affiliation, 12% are atheistic or agnostic, and another 12% are deistic (i.e. no personal god), which for all practical purposes, is the same as atheism.
Indisputably, non-belief, or at least non-affiliation, is the fastest growing sector of the country. Almost a quarter of the country doesn’t believe in the god of the Bible. The conclusion of the report:
The rise of the Nones has been one of the most important trends on the American religious scene since 1990. The overall rate of growth of those expressing no religious preference slowed after 2001 but the numbers offering a specific self-identification as Agnostic or Atheist rose markedly from over a million in 1990 to about 2 million in 2001 to about 3.6 million today. The historic reluctance of Americans to self-identify in this manner or use these terms seems to have diminished…
While I’m happy that freethinkers are starting to be taken seriously, I think we still need to educate the public as to exactly what we are. I can envision a theist reading this article and arriving at the conclusion that it’s just another example of declining morality in America. If they believe that atheists are worse than the worse, or, as it was pointed out in the article, that 48% of Americans would rather have their son or daughter marry a Muslim, Jew or African American than an atheist (not that there’s anything wrong with Muslims, Jews or blacks), then they will have a problem appreciating that a Godless society is a good thing.
America needs to understand that a godless American is not an amoral American. We don‘t kill kittens, eat babies or worship Satan. We don‘t think raping and pillaging are ideal forms of Saturday night entertainment. We don‘t believe that life is meaningless.
We do think that the world is better off without a misplaced reliance on a non-existent being. We do believe that life has meaning in the very act of living. We do value well thought out, reason-based policies to guide us through life, not appeals to a supernatural world because of our fear of what will happen if we don’t. We do especially think we are better off, for the most part, if our decision making is supported by empirical, repeatable evidence, not hunches. Most especially, we are motivated by the knowledge that this life is all we have, that we won’t get a second chance, and that we need to get it right when it matters the most – now.
Meanwhile, Newsweek recently noted that Christians are distancing themselves from the moniker Christian. They are now taking to calling themselves Followers of Jesus. Apparently, the term, Christian, is beginning to take on some unwanted weight.
“Follower of Jesus” has at least two advantages over “Christian” or “evangelical,” its boosters say. First, it doesn’t carry baggage. You can wear it abroad, in Islamic countries, or at home with your Jewish or Buddhist friends, without causing offense. Second, it distances the bearer from the culture wars that have made American politics so divisive.
And here I thought Christian meant Follower of Christ.
Maybe attitudes in the country are slowly changing. It’s nice to finally see a little insecurity crop up in such a monolithic institution. When the godless begin to gain clout, and the term Christian starts to have pejorative connotations, we must be on the right track.