Rep. John Becker (R-65) claims to be Ohio’s most conservative legislator. He also claims to be ‘Pro-Life,’ Pro-Gun, and ‘Limited Government’, yet a recent anti-abortion bill he introduced shows Becker to not only not be pro-life or for limited government but also shows he isn’t very bright about basic biology. He’s made Ohio government even more of a laughing stock in the country and it passed a so-called ‘heartbeat’ bill.Continue reading
Referring to grandiose claims made by American religious zealots as “fake news” feels a little redundant, but let’s do it anyway. Vice President Mike Pence recently made an extremely bold claim on Twitter about the current popularity of Christianity in the United States.
Here’s Pence in his own words, “The percentage of Americans who live out their religion on a weekly basis … has remained remarkably consistent over the decades. Religion in America isn’t receding … faith is gaining new life across America every day.”
The zealously religious Pence — who refers to his wife as “Mother” — tweeted the statement above, plus some others, after an apparent burst of confidence from his commencement address to the graduating class of a Michigan Christian college.
The thing is, absolutely none of this is true.
Every Generation Is Less Religious Than the Last
It might surprise the vice president, but it shouldn’t surprise you, that lots of people make a decent living studying how Americans spend their time — up to and including praying to higher powers. Suffice it to say, there is an amazing quantity of peer-reviewed research available that refutes every claim Pence made about Christianity’s status, popularity and general trajectory in the United States.
Just one study — although there have been many others — studied religious practices across Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. That is people born in America between 1946 and the 2010s. This study incorporated data relating to socioeconomic status, political affiliation, gender and race to draw even more decisive conclusions from across American society as a whole over these several decades.
The study’s authors summarized their findings saying, “Recent cohorts of American adolescents are less religiously oriented than their predecessors, although the majority are still involved with religion.”
Between 1976 and 2013, the number of students in the twelfth grade reporting that they “never” attended religious services fully doubled. Students attending college in the 2010s were twice as likely as their 1970s counterparts to report no church involvement whatsoever.
Millennials Widen the Gap
According to the study, this shift is more pronounced after millennial data is available. What this means is that while religious practitioners still enjoy their apparent majority in America, each new generational “cohort” has been less likely to practice religion than the previous generation. Among tenth and twelfth graders, almost all the drop-off in churchgoing happened in the years between 2000 and 2013.
Not only are young Americans less likely over time to practice religion, but this shift appears to be accelerating measurably.
God Isn’t Going Away — but Religion Probably Is
It’s unlikely that religion — or at least the idea of God — is totally going away anytime soon. We don’t have to like it, but as pattern-seeking animals, human beings are always going to look for shortcuts that provide answers to difficult questions. Religious doctrine is also a convenient way to package up the rules and expectations we wish to live by.
But it’s well-known by now that not all of Christianity’s — or Islam’s, or Judaism’s or democracy’s — “rules” and “expectations” aged well. We can bicker all we like about the Bible as a moral framework for the treatment of women, but the truth is many congregations in the U.S. are still wringing their hands about appointing female pastors.
And this brings us to what Mike Pence isn’t interested in talking about. He’d like to believe his brand of Christian fundamentalism is enduring the test of time, but the truth is this — Pence’s version of God was never going to survive democracy. No, the general concept of a “Christian God” isn’t going anywhere, but the church is most definitely trying to rebrand Him.
It’s very common these days to come across references to “Republican atheists,” “pro-life Democrats” and many other ideological chimeras. There is a very strong correlation between religion and politically-conservative thinking, but not an airtight one. Likewise, Democrats are folks who, by and large, want abortions to be safe and rare and legal — but some of them are okay with making abortions illegal and unsafe again.
The point is, there seems to a huge force at work, both within and outside of the Christian church, that’s forcing this religious majority of ours to reconsider its stance on basic social issues. Churches in America are more likely today than ever before to hang signs on their doors reading, “ALL are welcome” than they are to, for example, turn away would-be gay practitioners. You are also quite likely today to find some liberal-leaning voters get hot under the collar about federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
I’m not saying any of these groups is right. In fact, I think many of them are confused about a few key points. What I’m saying is that a lot of the labels we cling to — including “Christian,” “Republican” “Liberal” and even “Socialist” grew obsolete before our eyes.
In Christianity’s case, the transformation is a bit of a paradox. To remain relevant, Christianity is less openly hostile toward equal human rights. As a consequence of this shift away from its ideological foundations, Christianity as an institution makes itself less relevant with each passing year.
In other words, Christians and Godless Liberals are equally culpable for God’s excellent vanishing act.
Religion Doesn’t Equal Values
I think what we’re saying is that evangelicals are starting to figure out they don’t have the moral high ground on every single issue. So are Republicans and Liberals. So are oligarchs and Marxists. I’m not saying the truth is mutable, but I am saying that the most ideal version of human values isn’t within any one of our religions or institutions — instead, it’s going to borrow liberally from the best of the bunch.
The religious right is at it again. This time, Republicans in Tennessee passed a measure allowing for the construction of a monument to the unborn “victims of abortion.”
What they should be calling it is a monument to the systematic oppression of women by a society that is still run unduly in large part by religious fanatics.
Today we have a story from my hometown, Findlay, Ohio. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to the city of Findlay complaining about a mural in the municipal building that included a quote from the Holy Bible. Mayor Lydia Mihalik appeared on the ‘Fox and Friends’ show to double down on the church and state violation the mural is causing and to dare FFRF to sue.
A majority of Americans large enough to win any election celebrates Christmas primarily as a religious holiday. Similar polling revealed that two-thirds of Evangelical Americans believe Christian nativity scenes and other specifically Christian ephemera have a right to be displayed on government-owned property.
Numbers like these reveal that there definitely is a long-sought wall between Church and State in America — it just happens to have been built to keep out all of humanity’s several thousand gods except one.
On the campaign trail, Candidate Donald Trump was asked in front of a live audience, at the “Family Leadership Summit 2015” a question which self-identifying Christians are supposed to dwell on regularly: “Have you asked God for forgiveness?” Candidate Trump tried fruitlessly for entire minutes to assemble a coherent answer. He failed a second time when the interviewer repeated the question.
Candidate Trump also claimed on the campaign trail that the Christian Bible is his favorite book and brags to this day of being a devout and humble Presbyterian-brand® Christian.
Many Christian believers insist their religion provides blueprints and instructions for how to live lives worthy of God’s favor. Those of us on the outside are supposed to believe that Christianity owns the one-and-only moral high ground and that the Bible’s instructions help us become better versions of ourselves. God is supposed to be a tool by which we revisit our failures and endeavor to do better in the future.
Even Trump says so. But when confronted with that simple question — As a self-identifying Christian, have you asked your god for forgiveness lately? — he replied, “That’s a difficult question.”
Is it really that difficult, though? It can be answered with either a “yes” or a “no.” And if we are supposed to believe that Donald Trump is a practicing Presbyterian Christian, there’s only one correct answer he can give. The second half of Trump’s non-answer, and his alternative to specifically asking his God for forgiveness and/or guidance, is to “try to do better” when he “does wrong things.”
Where Do “Values” Come From, Anyway?
But the Christian God is also supposed to be a “personal god” — even most Christians say so. So what does a word like “wrong” or “sin” actually mean to a man like Trump, whose idea of an ideal and worthy god does not at all seem to resemble the version worshipped by our grandparents?
In other words, how are we supposed to construct a functioning political and world civilization upon such a flimsy and subjective ideological foundation? Donald Trump has spent time bragging in public about sexually assaulting women and yet is the chosen exemplar for the “Party of Family Values.” No religion or any other type of ideology can hope to achieve a worldwide unity of purpose when its values are practiced with such wild inconsistency. Christianity in America walks arm-in-arm with a latter-day gestapo, all while hollering that sitting in that pew for an hour every Sunday makes you a more perfect being.
It is almost certainly true that a majority of American Christians are not fanatical enough about their faith to resemble Nazis and fascists to the degree that the “Alt-Right” movement does. All of the polling quoted above which reveals Christianity’s dominance in America also reveals an ever-smaller number of people who self-identify as both “religious” and “spiritual.” Most folks these days display an interest in becoming a better person without the preposterous baggage of predetermination, virgin births, resurrections and other physical impossibilities and supernatural mumbo-jumbo.
However, it is also true that entire generations of Conservatives who both vote and attend Sunday worship services have not bothered themselves with constructing or contributing to a new kind of politics which does not require them to vote for Nazis, fascists and child molesters. They gather in their congregations every Sunday to wait for God’s Kingdom to arrive on Earth — but we’ve seen those staff members, and the rest of us want no part of that type of government.
More than 80 percent of American evangelicals voted for Donald Trump — a man who had already been on the record for years as a proudly entitled “pu**y grabber.” It’s not like there haven’t been warning signs that their faith had outlived its usefulness — or had plumb gone off the rails.
Yes — the God of American Christians is as personal a god as any. Belief in Him, consequently, frequently results in unselfconscious walking contradictions like Donald J. Trump. But the Christian God also owes its existence to myths far older than itself — stories designed to explain why certain mysterious processes happen the way they do, such as:
- Why does the sun appear to “rise” every morning?
- Why does childbirth hurt?
The answers, according to traditional religious dogma, are: Because a god lifts it into the sky each morning and because a god is still punishing us for original sin, respectively.
As you can see, “God” can only live in the gaps in our knowledge. And because we collectively have fewer and fewer of those gaps, we need smaller and smaller gods to satisfy that particular psychological urge. The rise of the so-called “Alt-Right” in America resembles the death throes of an ethos that has finally recognized its own pointlessness but doesn’t want to go quietly.
Meanwhile, those same folks — the folks who somehow believe Christians are a “persecuted people” in a country that prints the name of their god on our money and who ran to Trump’s side because he promised deliverance from the unwashed infidel hordes — appear to be perfectly comfortable with watching their “values” bastardized and weaponized in the name of hanging onto congressional seats.
That’s how paltry a magic trick religion has become in a world that is still marching, slowly and fitfully, toward democratization and secularization. It’s political weaponry. By failing to recognize this, Christians are actively contributing to the destruction of their own religion.
A Time for New Gods
To a certain degree, the survival of our race now depends on a significant portion of the American electorate discovering for the first time that some earthly evils are far more urgent than the ones described in the Bible — and they require us to assemble a collection of humanistic values that is free once and for all from traditional, religious and political ideologies as we understand them today.
With Halloween now in the rear-view mirror, we all know the world is about to jump on the Christmas bandwagon for the next two months. Never mind the fact that there’s a whole other national holiday in between the two (not that Thanksgiving doesn’t have its fundamental flaws as well, but that’s for another rant…).