May 11, 2011

The Contented Atheist: On Religion in America

Any atheist that lived through the Bush years knows that those were dark, dark times. To be honest, anyone with half a brain knows that period wasn't exactly a high point in American history. For a while there "Christian Conservatives" ruled the world and even normally pragmatic atheists thought it was the end of the world (or at least planned to move to Canada). The religious rhetoric has been toned down considerably since then, but sometimes when I'm walking alone at night I think that a gang of christian conservatives is going to abduct me in an unmarked van, take me to Gitmo, tape my eyelids and condition me to vomit anytime someone says "evolution".

Whenever I start hearing a bunch of stuff on the news that makes me think we're all f***** I look to the people around me and I get a little bit more faith in the human race (figuratively, not literally, we all know there wouldn't be much actual f***** going on with those prudes in charge). For a laugh, one night some friends and I actually counted the number of people we know that regularly go to church and compared it to the number of people we know that wear cubic zirconium laced Jesus pieces. In the final tally, the 'Ye's had it.

It was a silly, half drunk experiment but it alludes to something interesting. There is a hardcore group of Americans that are ultra-religious and very scary, we'll call them Evangelicals. However, there are a ton of people that wear religion like jewelry instead of as a guiding force in their life. For example did you know that 70% of Americans that believe in God, believe that there are many paths to eternal life? More than two thirds of religious Americans don't believe that there is only one true religion! When I saw that number it really surprised me. It makes me think that while 78% of Americans are Christians, most aren't as fervent and intolerant as we are led to believe.

Another interesting stat? 16.1% of Americans are not affiliated with any religion which strangely makes "unaffiliated" the fastest growing religion in America. Looking at stats from the Pew Forum study on Religion & Public Life (click here) opened up my eyes to how much gray area there is when it comes to religion in America. It isn't "us" v. "them". It's "us" v. "them", with about 50% "meh" in between.

For previous entries in The Contented Atheist series click here.
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  1. Unaffiliated for the win! I have to say, I am not religious whatsoever but I do think there may be a god. I'm not cut off to that idea. I just don't think anyone can KNOW or say that they KNOW.

  2. I AM GOD and it would be silly to not believe in myself.

    As an atheist however It still is a dark time here in Arizona! If you ever feel nostalgic for the Bush years, come drive by my neck of the woods my friend. It'll scare the shit out of you!!

  3. I believe in God, but maintain that the phenomenon known by religious persons as God is simply a natural force that our science can't explain yet. Tell that to a conservative, though, and they act like I said I want to skin and eat a baby.

  4. I'm not an atheist... and I did move to Canada during the Bush years... and yeah, most Christians aren't as shit faced scary as the ones that appear on the 700 club, but you know... they do yell the loudest, so that's all I hear.

    Canada is nice. I no longer see that crazy guy who stands on state street in front of Macy's (Marshal Fields) telling me I'm going to hell. Sometimes I miss going up to him and trying to grab his ass so he jumps off his soap box. But whatever.

  5. You think you've got it bad, you should try living here under Scottish presbyterianism. Holy shit!!

  6. Individuals are reasonable when left to their own devices.

    For the most part.

    The people who scare me are those people who PURPORT to be strict Christians when asked but actually aren't - and feel guilty as hell about it.

    Because they are the ones who assume that the Christians who are more serious about their faith ought to be deferred to on important matters. So then the hardcore crazies have undue influence over EVERYTHING just by virtue of claiming they're more hardcore than thou...

    When it comes to religion, I don't believe nor disbelieve anything. This means I pose very little threat to anyone...

  7. I think individuals are reasonable as long as they don't get swept into the mob. I think that what religion has is it's ability to give you a group, and most people want social acceptance.

    But, that's the small optimist in me talking. I'm an Atheist, and walk away from all superstition. The bush era was dark indeed.

  8. I feel like it's harder to be open about your faith, because then people think you're gonna force them in a van and duct tape their eyes closed.


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