Americans (Still) Rejecting Religious Status Quo

Saying ‘no’ to your parents’ religion, or to all religion as currently defined, does not necessarily mean saying ‘no’ to … Continued

Saying ‘no’ to your parents’ religion, or to all religion as currently defined, does not necessarily mean saying ‘no’ to faith and/or to God. And woe to those who make that assumption, no matter how many statistics they use to prove their point. Statistics, a teacher of mine at the University of Chicago used to say, are used most often the way a drunk uses a lamppost, more for support than for illumination.

Nowhere is that more true than when demographers, sociologists and statisticians use simple, rigid categories to describe something as complex and nuanced as spiritual identity. That’s why we should beware sweeping conclusions like the ones in headlines which suggest that faith is vanishing in America. Are they kidding?

If the new American Religious Identity Survey study tells us anything at all, it is that the categories by which people measure and define their own faith are shifting, but that is hardly something new. The personalized, even idiosyncratic nature of faith in our culture has been a growing trend for a very long time.

We may look back to 24 years to Robert Bellah’s Habits of the Heart, which studied individualism and commitment in American life, or the emergence of the radically democratic American Pentecostalism which grew from a Los Angeles stable 100 years before that, or even the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock.

The bottom line is that we have always been a culture that rejected the spiritual status quo. But we have not ever been, and are not now, a culture that rejects faith. We just want in on our own terms — that is the American spiritual tradition. The American Religious Identity Survey actually confirms that. For people invested in status quo categories, whether out of academic or theological necessity, that may be upsetting, but it need not be for the rest of us.

The results of the American Religious Identity Survey suggest that we live in a time of incredible spiritual ferment, one in which personal freedom and individual dignity are celebrated more than ever. The last time I checked, those were pretty good values to celebrate. The survey also raises important questions about the state of faith in our nation, and failing to ask them would be as mistaken as the ‘death of religion’ conclusion to which others have jumped.

In light of this survey, we need to ask ourselves three basic questions. First, how do people, whatever faith they follow (including no faith at all) maintain their sense of obligation to the welfare of others when personal freedom defines their identity? Without that kind of commitment, forget religion, the whole world is in trouble. How do we assure that a celebration of personal freedom is not simply cover for a culture of narcissism and selfishness?

Second, how do those of us who still feel deeply rooted in a particular tradition take advantage of this moment not to make converts, or to beef up our numbers, but to serve all people (most of whom will never sit in our pews or pay our dues) who might benefit from some of the wisdom contained within the traditions we follow? How do we use this moment in American life to become increasingly sensitive to the difference between religion as we happen to understand it and faith/belief/spiritual connection which, if they are really real, must be bigger than our particular doctrine or tradition?

Finally, are those of us who still claim attachment to a religious community or institution going to ask ourselves the tough questions raised by this survey about the credibility which religion has lost in recent decades? With violence in the name of religion on the rise, extremists becoming increasingly powerful in every segment of religious life, and the ever-more polarizing language used by ideologues ranging from absolutist atheists to radical religionists, this is not someone else’s problem. If the use of traditional religious labels is on the decline, those who remain comfortable with those labels must ask ourselves what we have done to “degrade our own brand” and even more importantly, what we must do to fix it.

About

Brad Hirschfield An acclaimed author, lecturer, rabbi, and commentator on religion, society and pop culture, Brad Hirschfield offers a unique perspective on the American spiritual landscape and political and social trends to audiences nationwide.
  • Paganplace

    No, that is not what anyone is saying. :)All eyes here have seen what you cut and paste enough times, CCNL. Trust me.

  • marcedward1

    Think you’re whistling past the graveyard sir. Leaving organized religion in droves is the same thing as leaving religion, if not as good as rejecting superstition totally. People are running from the controlling aspect of religion, which is mostly what organized religion is about – mind control – claiming to have power over the almighty without evidence. One imagines that to ‘religious leaders’ that must be troubling – might actually have to get a job instead of bilking people.

  • Paganplace

    Oh, well, Marc, know this, being sincere clergy is pretty much a never-off-the-clock job. What are they working *at,* is the question.

  • marcedward1

    Hey Pagan

  • CCNL

    Paganplace,It is great that you are learning. Reiteration is such a great teaching tool. And based on the latest statistics, the message about the mumbo-jumbo of religions to include paganism is reaching the pews and forests.

  • usapdx

    When the PRINTING PRESS came, people where awoke.Today with the COMPUTER, we know more and quickly. In the USA, most beleieve in GOD and always will but they will see through CONTROL of the membership of any given religion that does CONTROL. It is time for religions in the USA be honest with it’s members and own up to any guilt.GOD’s people must be given truth of GOD.

  • Paganplace

    I think the statistics, well, mean what they mean. Certainly they give the lie to certain other ways religion’s been presented, during the Bush administration, at least, and has been used to substantiate claims for a conservative element to power over the rest. (Frankly, just before then, there was a lot of comment about the growth of the ‘Spiritual Not Religious’ category, …then, mysteriously, the media shifted to stressing the interpretation ‘Almost everyone here believes in ‘God.” ) “First, how do people, whatever faith they follow (including no faith at all) maintain their sense of obligation to the welfare of others when personal freedom defines their identity? Without that kind of commitment, forget religion, the whole world is in trouble. How do we assure that a celebration of personal freedom is not simply cover for a culture of narcissism and selfishness?”This is actually not so hard as some religious organizations make it out to be. If you’re responsible to yourself, be that in pleasing Gods or ‘enlightened self-interest’ or whatever, then you’d better be responsible to someone worth being responsible to. Much of the decline in certain religious denominations does seem to correlate with these institutions having in fact, aligned themselves with control for control’s sake, exclusion of others, and mean-spirited blaming of minorities ‘while Rome burns.’

  • Paganplace

    I mean, seriously, CCNL, maybe you think ‘repetition is a good teaching tool,’ but if you pull something out your behind and repeat it to yourself, regardless of the fact you’re clearly *wrong* in your thesis, (ie, the assertion Paganism’s been diminishing cause of what you say, when in fact the survey you quote says otherwise.) Well, I see nothing ‘liberated’ about your thought process at *all.*

  • Chaotician

    Equating a search for meaning in one’s life (Personal Spiritual actions) with Faith (a blind or “Gut” acceptance of someone else’s dogma) are hardly the same and certainly reflect at best a rejection of the messianic traditions of the Abrahamic cults. One can assume as we move away from the recurring craziness of the millennium passing; these cults will subsume into the background of community social gatherings. The Christian Coalition founders will die and their followers will drift into new confidence schemes. Israel will lose some crucial battle and once again we will have a new diasporas of the survivors with an accompanying despair and decrease in the Jewish cult. Even the Muslim cultures will retreat as the basis for their wealth diminishes, their societies deal with modern realties, and cultural diversity fragments their religious comity.

  • congratulations

    one day, it stopped, at teenage years, it stopped, as far as i see. then i learned again to nourish and cheer up,i learned to keep up with daily life again, as it is in Polar Express Pine Tree Gift Bell of the Young MAn.

  • congratulations

    so genetics, that is the language as you watch the movies. so we need full threads, connected, covalent or either way.

  • congratulations

    we need each and every person connected. Butterfly Effect and the Wind? that is another phrase, but i really talk about energy, light and love amongst people.

  • Paganplace

    I think, actually, there’s a sign of progress where a lot of people are rejecting the notion that ‘Faith’ is actually as billed by certain institutions: namely, as the same thing as ‘Believing really hard in an authority.’

  • faithfulservant3

    A few days ago the Post made a big deal out of the new Trinity College survey. I wonder what effect the baby boom “echo” is having here? It should come as no surprise that many young people begin to question their parents’ values. With at least 76% indentifying themselves as “Christians” it’s hard to really conclude that faith in the US is somehow eroding significantly.

  • Counterww

    colinnicholas-Tell me , oh wise one, How are you going to stop us evil religionists from telling the truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ to our kids? I’d love to know your irrational answer….You said that science got us to the moon. Well, God put the universe in motion, my friend, and science explains how this materiality works in it many complex ways. What people do with their choices on this earth(and loving others and God are the two most important commandments) can be blamed on their own self-delusion, lust, hatred, and lack of compassion for fellow human kind. Just because they use religion as their method does not mean that God does not exist.Yes, Deep down I know the truth. Jesus is real. He died for you and me. And he lives , he lives indeed.DEEP DOWN you know there is a creator,but you deny that truth.

  • Paganplace

    “DEEP DOWN you know there is a creator,but you deny that truth. “Maybe, deep down, you know that any such being wouldn’t be as blind and petty as some institutions demand, while in effect advocating for bad economic, military, social, and environmental policies. Of course, in my religion, we have certain ceremonies relating to bringing the Moon to *us,* and that’s without even having a hard time about Kepler. :)

  • edbyronadams

    Why would you take up a faith and then decide either the original prophet or his subsequent interpreters were dunderheads? Wouldn’t that be the end of faith?Cafeteria catholocism (in the generic sense) is a sign of excessive pride or sloth.

  • edbyronadams

    Why would you accept a faith and then come to think that the prophet or his subsequent interpreters were dunderheads? Wouldn’t that be the end of faith?Cafeteria catholicism(in the generic sense) is either full of pride or sloth.

  • Paganplace

    ” edbyronadams “Why would you take up a faith and then decide either the original prophet or his subsequent interpreters were dunderheads? Wouldn’t that be the end of faith?”I thought *your* faith was about the ultimate God becoming human… Miss the dunderhead bit, and you just haven’t taken the tour. :)

  • ThomasBaum

    One day all will know that God Is.One day all will be thankful that God Is a Being of Pure Love.One day all will be thankful that God came up with His Plan.God’s Plan will come to Fruition, the Plan that He has had since before Creation and which is unfolding before our very eyes.satan, besides being a liar and a thief, is a loser, a sore loser.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • dragondancer1814

    CCNL, a lot of us Wiccans and Pagans grew up with Christianity, and we never fit in with it. Having seen how so many of its followers take that our-religion-is-right-and-everybody-else’s-is-wrong mentality, the last thing we’d ever do is even THINK about proselytizing/evangelizing to anybody! At the very least, it’s extremely rude, and at worst, it’s the religious equivalent to practicing medicine on someone without their consent! We’re not trying to take over at all-we just want the freedom to practice our religion and be open about it, the same as everybody else, without any backlash from anyone! Freedom of religion means ANY religion, remember?

  • Paganplace

    Btw, Dragon, this *is* a troll we’re talking to, I just bounce off him rhetorically a lot. :) And, MM! :)

  • dragondancer1814

    MM Paganplace! I’m aware of the trollery, but I couldn’t resist! And if I don’t post anything on here between now and next week, Happy Ostara to you!

  • Paganplace

    Oh, Goddess, DD, it can’t fail to be, at this point, can it? Do not miss this Spring. It’s not to be missed. :)

  • mokey2

    MMA Paganplace, Dragon! Ostara’s always been one of my favorite holidays. Not much can beat the chocolate. MMMMM… can’t wait!

  • edbyronadams

    Paganplace wrote:”I thought *your* faith was about the ultimate God becoming human.”I’m not a Christian. Guess again. My faith is about every human achieving their highest potential and changing their karma.

  • Chagasman

    We may be living in a time of religous ferment, but it is not one where personal freedom and individual dignity are celebrated more than ever. On all sides we are bombarded by the evangelical Christians, the fanatical Catholics, and the jihadist Moslem, all of whom want to take away personal freedom by outlawing a person’s reproductive right to choose, by threatening excommunication for asserting their right to choose, by attempt after attempt to plaster their faith all over the public infrastructure, by loud and obnoxious public prayer, by their constant demands on government for treatment above and beyond that afforded them by the Constitution, by their sheer incapacity to deal with the modern world. All of them would like to take us back to some idealized religious nirvana that never existed. Religion! Pah! Religion makes me sick. There isn’t an organized religion out there that isn’t a danger to our democracy and our freedom. They are all insults to human dignity.Religion must die so that mankind can live. Bill Maher is right. Religions that hunger for jihad and Armageddeon will destroy the human race.

  • congratulations

    so CCNL, are my messages high-sing or low-sing? so can you high-sing your religion? oh my God, teacher? thank You!

  • congratulations

    bellah. is bellah the group of beautiful people? elders? people with bells, with respect to suffix “-iah”?

  • irae

    God is, most likely, working as intended. Her marketing and PR departments, though, have been corrupted and need a major overhaul.

  • elife1975

    So what Mr. Hirschfield is saying is that those who had chosen non belief during this study are merely being dishonest with themselves, because it’s absurd to believe that someone would not hold any belief whatsoever in a god(s)? Using that logic, I guess I would have to assume, as a non believer, that all those who claim to be christian are also mistaken, since to me there is obviously no god. They’re really non believers, but each and every one of them must have been confused and made their mark in error.

  • motorfriend

    God denied yesterday that he is a member of the Republican Party and disavowed the multitude of “spokesmen” who have claimed that they are delivering messages directly from him.As to his “autobiography” known as the Holy Bible, God compared the collection of stories to the discredited Howard Hughes biography. However, he did confirm that he has sent representatives to Earth on numerous occasions in hopes of guiding humans away from their self-destructive patterns.Although many of the accounts of the activities of Jesus of Nazareth are fictitious, God said Jesus did indeed carry a message of a deeper reality free of illusion. “For that, they tortured and executed him,” God said. “It was not terribly surprising, but it was disappointing.”Other messengers have included Gautama (Buddha) and Zoroaster, both of whom tried to teach humans the value of love and empathy. “Humans seem to require a lot of supernatural events and powers in order to believe in some higher reality,” God said, “while dismissing the incredible reality right before their eyes as commonplace. Life, it seems, is wasted on the living.”

  • sophie2

    I think your first question is critically important. I don’t think individual liberty or individualism and the common good need to be antithetical, but somehow since the age of Reagan they have become so. And somehow the rise of fundamentalist religion has actually diminished the pursuit of the common good in our society, by vilifying the other. In Idaho, where I live, the legislature just voted against allowing the local utility to provide relief to homeowners who cannot afford their heating bills. The majority, no doubt comprised of mormons and fundamentalists, stated that they did not want to risk the fact that funds could go to people who were unworthy because they had made bad financial choices. I have been pondering that rationale for days now. That, and the recent shootings by young disaffected men in the US and Germany, really makes me think we are in a horrible place where the sense of common humanity has been lost.

  • CCNL

    That is sure a relief!! We thought sure WalMart was going to start selling Wiccan spells and voodoo dolls next week in place of Easter bunnies and chocolate Easter eggs!!!

  • joshlct

    Of course spirituality still holds a role in America. Tons of people didn’t vote for Barack Obama because they thought he was from some other religion that they found unfamilar and therefore scary. In fact, only the believers of Judeo-Christian dogma have any kind of shot at a political carreer in this country. You have a better shot if you’re gay… and we know how much America loves its gay-bashin’.Whew. Ok, point is, all should seek spirituality in a way that is individually satisfying, nobody should be pressured into mass spirituality for no other reason than conformity to the societal norms, and for God’s sake, please don’t judge other people for beliefs, as this makes you a horrible person. An atheist who accepts the beliefs of devout Christians is godlier than a Christian on the lookout for converts.

  • sux123

    I would assume that those that said they have “no religion” means that they do not have faith or believe in God, bu the survey is a bit vague. I believe the numbers of non-believers is far higher than reported because of teh stigma in this country of not professing a belief in a God or Gods. This is changig though, so I would expect the numbers to go steadily up – not only because current non-believers will counted, but also because science has been providing answers to riddles and religion has been trying to surpress them and people are wiseing up to that fact.My Son wanted to be a cup scout – I had to hide my atheism so he can join. Persecution and intolerance keeps non-believers from saying so.

  • Paganplace

    “CCNL “Paganplace, It is great that you are learning. Reiteration is such a great teaching tool.”It’s teaching everyone to ignore you. ” And based on the latest statistics, the message about the mumbo-jumbo of religions to include paganism is reaching the pews and forests.”I’ve got a better learning tool: it’s called:Paying attention. If you try that, you’ll see that Pagan religions are still increasing in reported numbers, …but then you’d have to go and be on-topic. …Or, if you’re so ‘liberated,’ actually reexamine the same *opinions* you hold as radical Christian religionists.

  • colinnicholas

    Mr Hirschfield;Many are leaving religion because it makes no sense any more. It made sense to our forebears because they didn’t know any better. Stop indoctrinating our children NOW! There is no Santa, and no gods.Deep down you know it’s the TRUTH. Embrace the truth. It really does set us free – free from ancient absurd dogma.

  • CCNL

    Religions in the United States, 1990 2001 2004 Hmmm, with the pagan population being only 0.1% of the total USA populace, we should really care???

  • edbyronadams

    How can you have a religious organization without hierarchy? Once you have a hierarchy who gets to interpret the texts upon which your religion is based? There is a great inherent struggle between democratization of spirituality and keeping strains of doctrine true to the foundation of the organization. There is no fundamental problem with DIY sacred text interpretation except hubris, the idea that any person is superior to the long line of thinkers that have interpreted the texts before you come to them.It also leads to a lazy spirituality in which interpretations that do not fit with desires are easily ignored.

  • legendarypunk

    Am I the only one who found it slightly humorous that the argument of “Don’t trust statistics!” was defended with…a survey?

  • paulc2

    The number of Athiests may well be increasing, even doubling, but 1.6M out of ~300M americans is a very small percentage. Athiests as a group are vocal far beyond their numbers. This is especially true in “On Faith”. We believers are left to wonder why the athiests care about Faith so much…

  • dragondancer1814

    MM Mokey2! BTW, Ostara’s also my younger daughter’s birthday, so that gives me and my family even more reasons to enjoy it! It’s one of my favorite Sabbats too….

  • mokey2

    MM Dragon! Have you been here before? That’s got to be cool.. having a birthday as just another excuse for lots of candy. :)Happy Ostara (and birthday) to you and yours!

  • Counterww

    Colin-You’ve hit one the wonders of the definition of “truth”. If all you can ascertain as “truth” is the factual proved empirical truth that science can put forth, I pity you.There is truth that can’t be proven. That MOST humans know to be true in their hearts and souls but YOU can’t fathom, due to your cold heart.Warm it up , dude! Pilate asked “what is truth” to Jesus’ explanation of how he is a King, but not of this world. Uncomfortable truth? You gotta be kidding…I just follow two rules as much as possible- Love God with all my heart soul and mind, and love my neighbor as myself. It is not always easy, and I am not perfect, but to my mind it is better than the atheistic mindset that has bitterness wrapped around it . The more uncomfortable truth to me is see how much God loves his creation and how people like you and others can’t or won’t take the scales off their eyes to see that

  • coloradodog

    Palin neocons, FOX NEWS, Limberger and their drooling, lobotomized lemmings the Dobsonites have ruined the “Christian” brand. Mention that you are an American Christian and the first thing that comes to mind to many is an intolerant homophobe who cares more about money and unborn life than born life.I watch my back and my wallet when someone tells me, unsolicited, how “Christian” they are.

  • aredant

    As expected, I have read several opinions from the self appointed representatives of the faithful claiming that the study doesn’t mean what it says – that the face of faith is “changing” and people are not giving up on it. I suppose that sounds comforting to a believer, but the study says, among other things, this: “The number of outright Atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900 thousand to 1.6 million.” How in dogs name can you claim that this is just a “change” in spirituality? To be blunt, Atheists in general are not interested being spiritual in the least. I have been an active Atheist for 18 years and I have never seen this many people show up at conventions, speeches and speak out as such. In fact, recently I attended a speech by best selling author and Atheist Richard Dawkins for which 4000 people showed up! I’m telling you, the study is what it is – not what you want it to be. But then, isn’t that what faith is really about?

  • colinnicholas

    Counterww :you say;”Tell me , oh wise one, How are you going to stop us evil religionists from telling the truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ to our kids? I’d love to know your irrational answer.”I don’t believe truth really interests you. You seem to prefer a comforting fantasy to an uncomfortable truth. If truth mattered to you – you’d dig a little deeper and check evidence to ascertain that what you think jibes (in some way) with reality.Religion long ago hijacked the word “truth” to encourage believers to believe nonsense is sense, and fantasy – fact.Primitive man in his fear and confusion invented gods because he knew no better.

  • mokey2

    CCNL makes me laugh.If you buy chocolate bunnies or at Walmart, you are de facto honoring the Germanic fertility goddess Eostre. Surely someone as ‘liberated’ as you claim to be would be aware of this, no?

  • dragondancer1814

    MM Mokey2! Yes, I’ve been here before, but because of taking care of the household chores, working the vegetable garden, raising kids, and fighting fires, my visits here are infrequent (and will be even more so once planting season starts!). I agree, what better way to celebrate the season of birth and renewal than with a birthday? Sabbats coinciding with family dates seem to be a thing with us…my dad was a Midsummer baby, my husband and I were married on Beltane, and my grandfather crossed over on Litha almost nine years ago. And of course, our younger daughter’s birthday being on Ostara! No excuse for forgetting any of those dates in our house.It’s not just the candy the kids look forward to…my older daughter’s favorite parts are the egg hunt in the yard and seeing what kind of flower seed packets were left in her Ostara basket for her to plant in her own flower patch in the backyard. The feast is also fun too….May Ostara be the start of a bountiful growing season for us all. May our fields be fruitful, our thoughts and ideas many and varied, and our lives full of blessings of all sorts!

  • CCNL

    Billions of humans have walked the face of Earth but only one has ever seen god. Strange, very strange is this Thomas “the Moses of the NT” Baum!!!!

  • jedrothwell1

    I wrote:”If you were to take an anonymous Internet poll of churchgoers and ask how many actually believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and God answers prayers, I expect you would find that a lot of them do not.”My point is that polls about religion always skew in favor or religion, but in recent years this bias has been reduced. The reason is simple: most people approve of religion. There is no penalty for saying you believe when you do not, whereas some people are punished when they admit they are atheists.No sincerely religious person would have reason to pretend he is an atheist, whereas some atheists pretend they believe in order to “fit in.”People who sincerely believe in God are never ashamed to admit that. On the contrary, many of them delight in telling people, and even brag about it, whereas some atheists feel conflicted and ashamed.On another subject, I commend Hirschfield for his honestly felt angst about the failings of religion, and his fear that believers may “degrade our own brand.” But I think he should lighten up and not worry. Rational people do not hold one religion at fault for the failures of another. And as I said, most of the fluctuation in the polling data are caused by fads and fashion and the fact that atheists are not persecuted as much as they used to be. I doubt there has been any significant change in the numbers of believers.I do have one suggestion for Hirschfield, regarding this concern:”How do we assure that a celebration of personal freedom is not simply cover for a culture of narcissism and selfishness?”I don’t see much connection between the celebration of personal freedom and selfishness. I wouldn’t worry about this. Hirschfield should worry instead about people who celebrate religion and use it as a cover for a culture of narcissism and selfishness, such as people who apparently think that God is a vending machine that will bring them wealth in return for prayer, and that poor people deserve to be poor.

  • jedrothwell1

    You wrote:”Finally, are those of us who still claim attachment to a religious community or institution going to ask ourselves the tough questions raised by this survey about the credibility which religion has lost in recent decades?”Religion has not lost credibility. It just happens to be unpopular at the moment. There are several reasons:The right-wing religious factions overplayed their hand and triggered a backlash.Throughout American history, many people have treated religion as a fad or fashion accessory, and they consider Sunday services a social event. There are periodic “great revivals” followed by decades or generations in which people pay less attention to religion. I recall reading a recent interview with a 20-something woman who said she was “all into Jesus” as a teenager but she is sick of religion now.A lot of people singing hymns in church and praising the Lord don’t really mean it, and never did. They may be more inclined to say what they really feel to an anonymous pollster than to family members. Religion tends to attract hypocrites, or to make people into hypocrites. If you were to take an anonymous Internet poll of churchgoers and ask how many actually believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and God answers prayers, I expect you would find that a lot of them do not. You would also find that a lot of them cheat on their spouses and don’t think twice about it. Plenty of atheists cheat too, but they don’t spend an hour a week hearing that you are not supposed to, so they are not such hypocrites. I have noticed that some outwardly religious people let down their guard when they find out you don’t care what they believe. In casual conversations with strangers I have sometimes said: “I don’t go to church — I don’t believe in that stuff.” Men, in particular, sometimes respond, “Who does? But the wife makes me go and it’s good for the kids.”The polling numbers may also reflect that fact that many atheists have “come out” in recent years. You might say this is a good time to be an atheist. Atheist are less despised than they used to be, so they are not as afraid to declare themselves. They are mad at the Bush administration for its faith-based initiatives, fed up with right-wingers and people who fly airplanes into buildings. Scientist, who tend to be atheists, are sick and tired of creationist nonsense. There have been best-selling books that confirm their beliefs (or lack thereof). Even the president put in a good word for them during the inauguration.Religion will probably not decline in the U.S. as much as it did in Europe because of WWII. Depressions and wars usually reduce belief in religion, and we may be seeing some of that in the U.S.

  • ThomasBaum

    COUNTERWWYou wrote, “As far as we know there are no gods. No Apollo no Zeus, no Rama, no Allah and no christian SkyGod.”You should have written, “As far as I know…”, because you cannot speak for others and definitely not for me considering that I have met God.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    On my last post, I posted it to COUNTERWW by mistake, I meant to post it to COLINNICHOLAS, sorry about that.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    JEDROTHWELL1Whether people believe that God is Real or believe that God is not real has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not God is Real.I have met God, I happen to know that God is Real.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • colinnicholas

    To Paulc2;You write;Atheists think faith is foolish,Paul. We see no reason to believe that gods are real.But to answer your question…”why atheists care so much about faith” is because it scares the beejeesus out of us.Regards CN

  • norriehoyt

    In his Dictionary published in 1911, the American writer Ambrose Bierce hit the nail on the head when it comes to faith:”FAITH: Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.”Faith is therefore easily dispensed with. Nobody needs “Faith”, and why would anyone want it?

  • jedrothwell1

    Paganplace wrote:“Science is a method and a *tool,* a way for we subjective creatures to know things about the physical world that can be known in that way, no more, no less.”Exactly right. And insofar as religion makes any claim about the physical world — any claim at all — it can be tested by scientific means. For example, some religions claim that prayer tends to improve the prognosis of disease. This claim can be tested, and it has been tested carefully, by people who are biased in favor of religion. It is not true. Some religions claim they enhance justice, improve morality, or bring people wealth and happiness. These claims all pertain to the physical world, and they can also be tested, albeit not as easily as the cure for disease claim. People have looked very carefully for evidence that religion makes individuals or societies more moral, or that it makes people wealthy, but they have found none. Things like happiness are harder to measure with present-day science (and might always remain difficult), so the evidence is unclear, but doubtful.Claims about what religion might accomplish in the afterlife cannot be tested by science because at present there is not evidence that the afterlife exists, and no way to detect what happens to people in it. I doubt the afterlife exists but at present that issue is unanswerable by scientific means.Claims that religion causes miracles such as bringing rotting corpses back to life or causing virgin female humans to have male babies are utterly impossible. This is easy to prove by scientific means.Conventional religion may be true in some limited sense, but in nearly every sense that it is claimed to be true, and that relate to ordinary life and experience, it is demonstrably false.

  • Freestinker

    God(s)ess(es) are nothing more than beliefs. They exist completely inside the believers head. Are they real? Yes, because beliefs are always real to the believer(s). Always. To promote gods to anything more than the believers’ belief, requires independently verifiable evidence. Lacking any empirical evidence, this is where all gods, every single one throughout the entire span of human history, cease to exist (at least so far).Until then, gods are just beliefs and nothing more.

  • jedrothwell1

    counterww wrote: “It is not always easy, and I am not perfect, but to my mind it is better than the atheistic mindset that has bitterness wrapped around it . “To which gladerunner responded: Bitterness? Where are you getting your info about the mindset of atheists? I assure you it is mistaken at least among all the atheists that I know. Perhaps you are referring to the atheists that spend time on forums such as these. Some of them may appear bitter as they are typically involved in a debate.”Some may be, but not me. I am just taking a break from a tedious job I was supposed to finish last Friday. This is like spending time at the watercooler discussing sports or a movie. I suspect that people such as counterww “read in” anger. They imagine they are seeing bitterness or passion where none exists. People who are strongly attached to a world view sometimes assume that those who disagree with them feel as strongly about the negative view. An ardent Democrat might assume that Republicans love McCain as much as he loves Obama. People assume that other groups and societies are either exactly like their own, or a mirror image with everything reversed. A person who loves God might imagine that atheists hate God, but actually most of them are indifferent, and have no objection to religion. In my case, I quibble with the logic of it. But I see no harm in most forms of religion. People have all kinds of incorrect and irrational beliefs and for the most part they cause no harm.

  • ThomasBaum

    JEDROTHWELL1 You wrote, “As I explained, I believe it is possible for me to know that, by objective means. You do not agree, but you should not claim that these means do not exist. Just say you don’t trust my methods: don’t deny that I have methods.”I am flat out telling you that you are wrong in saying that you “know” I have not met God.You also wrote, “Your claim about what will happen “some day” doesn’t count. Anyone can predict anything.”Not only is this only your opinion but it is wrong.Then you wrote, “Yes, it is, and as Franklin put it, experience is dear teacher but a fool will learn at no other. However, in this case, you have not experienced anything. An illusion, dream or false memory is not an experience. You have confused your imagination with reality.”Franklin is not God, you are not God and I am not God.You say experience is a teacher and then you say I have not had an experience, actually it was more than one experience.You seem to think that you know a lot about me and as far as I know we have never met, how is that?Then you wrote, “There may be, but the physical world and all events that occur in it are governed by the laws of physics, and they preclude the existence of God — or they render God powerless and unable to change any event, answer any prayer, or meet with you. If any of these things could happen we could detect the event by objective means (with instruments). People have tried hard to do this for centuries, but they have always failed.”God is not the “puny” being that you and ,sad to say, some of those that know His Name think that He Is.Actually, one does not need “instruments” but an open heart. Man will never come up with an “instrument” to find God but God has already put within man the means to “find” Him.Don’t worry, when you eventually meet God, you will find out that God is not the vindictive, vile, putrid being that some that know His Name think that He Is.The statement: God Is Love, is quite literal, as I have said, Love is not an attribute of God but is His Very Being.God’s Plan which is unfolding before our very eyes is for ALL to be with Him in His Kingdom.As I have said: God wins, satan loses, a tie is unacceptable.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • jedrothwell1

    I wrote:”People assume that other groups and societies are either exactly like their own, or a mirror image with everything reversed.”To give an amusing example, take an elderly old-fashioned country Japanese woman I met decades ago. She was a Buddhist and a vegetarian, a leftover from a time when people in Japan were embarrassed (or horrified) at the thought of eating meat. People used to cover up the family shrine at dinner so their ancestors would not see what they were eating. Anyway, this woman was surprised to find that I eat vegetables. She said, “I thought you westerners ate only meat.”

  • ivri5768

    Rabbi,You ought to spend some time reading the postings on this blog. They present one of the best arguments I have yet to see on behalf of the Faithless. It is a negative argument, I admit. The Faithless and the Faithful come out nearly even when it comes to morality, with the Faithless very slightly ahead.Bottom line: Whatever gets you through the night. Just don’t bomb, verbally abuse, or otherwise molest the rest of us in the name of your Imaginary Friends.

  • ThomasBaum

    CCNLYou wrote, “Billions of humans have walked the face of Earth but only one has ever seen god. Strange, very strange is this Thomas “the Moses of the NT” Baum!!!!”I did not say that I saw God, I said that I met God.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    JEDROTHWELL1I wrote, “”I have met God, I happen to know that God is Real.”"You replied, “I am sure you are sincerely believe that, but I happen to know you are wrong.”There is no way that you can “know” that I am wrong and one day you will know that I am not wrong.You also wrote, “Experience and the human imagination cannot be trusted.”I happen to believe that we learn from our experiences, as a matter of fact, I would say that experience is quite a teacher.Then you wrote, “The only way to determine what is physically true is to apply objective tests with instruments — tests that can be repeated by anyone.”There is more than just the physical.Then you wrote, “Such tests reveal that all of assertions about miracles, prayer and the tangible existence of God are mistaken. They are wishful thinking and illusion.”This is merely your opinion.You also wrote, “Spiritual beliefs and things like love or aesthetics are another matter, and cannot be tested with instruments.”As you wrote and as I said above there is more than just the physical and considering that God is a Being of Pure Love, you have stated above that the Reality of God can not be tested with instruments.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Freestinker

    God(s)ess(es) exist whenever and wherever people believe they do. That’s how they operate. Belief is all that is required as proof of their existence.

  • ThomasBaum

    JEDROTHWELL1You wrote, “such as people who apparently think that God is a vending machine that will bring them wealth in return for prayer, and that poor people deserve to be poor.”As I have said many times before, there are some that know God’s Name and that seems to be the extent of what they know about God.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    IVRI5768As I have said: God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof and it is important what one does and why one does it and what one knows.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Paganplace

    “People often believe they have experienced things they have not. That includes perfect sane people. Illusions, false impressions and false memories are as common as sneezes. Well, one obvious and generally-observable, if oft-ignored fact about *humans,* both by authoritarian religion and the ‘God-like’ presumption of an ‘objective and over-riding point of view’ implicit in much strident atheism, is that the human *experience* is one of being very subjective creatures. Both certain atheism and certain authoritarian religion both have a tendency to overstep, in terms of trying to reduce human experience to either a divinely-ordained ‘real’ order or a scientifically-measurable *limitation.*Science is a method and a *tool,* a way for we subjective creatures to know things about the physical world that can be known in that way, no more, no less. In my life and experience and practice, I’ve met many people who have ‘met God,’ ‘met Gods,’ ‘met Emptiness,’ ‘met hard reality that there’s nothing more by the standpoint of some omniscient observer that does not exist.’ I’ve certainly met more than would normally be counted my share of Deities, myself. There’s a real tendency for people to have these experiences, particularly when induced in certain contexts, to ‘see’ what we bring to them, …and to presume the power of these experiences makes whatever interpretation of them may move us… ‘Objectively Real.’It’s where these waters get muddied that issues of faith and experience can become about religion and belief and science and pseudo science. I still see atheists, though they give lip service to including all Gods under their disbelief, actually speak otherwise: with presumptions that all notions of ‘Gods’ are the same, and perhaps that fewer is better or some such. All in fear of ‘the unknown’ Of being ‘wrong.’ ‘Science does not remove the terror of the Gods’ and all. I don’t have ‘terror of the Gods,’ Nor of ‘science.’ There are a couple of kinds of detectives.. Those who love a mystery, and those that hate one. One thing I’ve learned is, there’s no need for me to fear the unknown, fear believing the wrong picture of Gods or souls or whatnot. Eventually, one may learn to welcome the idea of surprises. I, for one, have enough of what I call faith that there’s no terror there. No need to dumb down any science, nor hide from beliefs. What we as a society believe about belief, that’s the way out of these *endless* circular debates between monotheists and atheists and different brands of religion.

  • colinnicholas

    JedRothwell.Hi. I feel your pain.Enjoyed your brave attempts to speak truth and reason I could only suggest Mr Baum give the bible a rest “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.”God; The Failed Hypothesis” by Victor Stenger.”Varieties of Scientific Experience” by Carl Sagan.And wasn’t it Carl Sagan who said that

  • ThomasBaum

    JEDROTHWELL1You wrote, “By the way, I believe others have said this. It is not original with you.”I never said it was, what I said is that I am a messenger of God.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

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