Mother Jones Agrees: The Fourth Great Awakening is Dead

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In reason's April issue I declared in my article –"The New Age of Reason"– that the period of evangelical moral and political bullying, known as the Fourth Great Awakening, that we've suffered through for the past 30 years is coming to a end.

http://www.long-sunday.net/long_sunday/images/pat_robertson_20050330.jpg

As I pointed out:

Perhaps the best evidence that the evangelical phase of the Fourth Great Awakening is winding down is that large numbers of young Americans are falling away from organized religion, just as the country did in the period between the first two awakenings. In the 1970s, the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found that between 5 percent and 7 percent of the public declared they were not religiously affiliated. By 2006 that figure had risen to 17 percent. The trend is especially apparent among younger Americans: In 2006 nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Americans in their 20s and almost as many (19 percent) of those in their 30s said they were nonaffiliated.

The Barna Group finds that only 60 percent of 16-to-29-year-olds identify themselves as Christians. By contrast, 77 percent of Americans over age 60 call themselves Christian. That is "a momentous shift," the firm's president told the Ventura County Star. "Each generation is becoming increasingly secular."

Now Mother Jones notes that baptisms are dropping among Southern Baptists. In addition, Mother Jones cites figures compiled by Christine Wicker in her new book, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation, that indicate that Evangelicals have been fibbing about their numbers

With more digging, Wicker came across a 2007 sbc report that found only 5.4 million adults attended services regularly enough to be considered church members. Further complicating matters, many of those who regularly filled the pews weren't official members, and, most significantly, 1 in 8 wasn't saved or born again. Factoring all this in, Wicker calculated that there are fewer than 4 million devoted Southern Baptists. Her math seems to be backed up by collection-plate totals: If the church truly has 16 million members, then they contributed a miserly $3.50 each to a nationwide fundraising campaign last year.

And it's not just the Southern Baptists who appear to be playing number games. The National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group that does not include the sbc, claimed 30 million members on its website. When Wicker contacted the association for comment, the figure changed to 4.5 million. No one there could—or would—explain the sudden 85 percent drop in believers. (However, the group's website currently describes its lobbying arm as the voice of "30 million Americans united under a common banner.")

As I concluded in April:

In 1908 Clarence Darrow told the Personal Liberty League, "The world is suffering more today from the good people who want to mind other men's business than it is from the bad people who are willing to let everybody look after their own individual affairs." That has been true for a long time now, but we may finally be heading toward a better world—one where Americans are increasingly willing to live and let live.

All I can say is, "Hallelujah!"  

NEXT: An Emergency Cooling System for the Planet

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  1. RAmen!

    It’s been an ongoing nightmare for most of my life. Maybe now we can start to see some REASON (drink?) applied instead of moronic, in spite of all evidence faith.

  2. That has been true for a long time now, but we may finally be heading toward a better world-one where Americans are increasingly willing to live and let live.

    Can Mother Jones please pass this memo on to the Democratic party?

  3. “Now Mother Jones notes that baptisms are dropping among Southern Baptists. ‘

    What the hell is wrong with you Bailey? Mother Jones has no credability and you are quoting them? Why?
    Combine this with your belief in “global warming”(no rise in temp. in last 10 years)
    it looks like you need to get your head checked.

  4. It would be unseemly for me to gloat.

    So I won’t.

    Not much anyway.

  5. As long as the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t want to mind my business, either.

  6. You don’t have to believe in Baby Jesus to have a “religion”. The creed the folks over at Mother Jones believe in is every bit as apeshit crazy as the stuff the Evangelicals treat as gospel. And the kicker is they’re even more authoritarian in their desire to push their views down “non-believers” throats. Our religious beliefs are changing, sure, but they aren’t any less pervasive or dangerous than they were before.

  7. All: I would hope that it would be pretty self-evident that citing Mother Jones with regard to the plight of evangelicals (which I had documented earlier) does not constitute in any way an endorsement of the “religious” beliefs held by Mother Jones contributors.

  8. Man, I know that having one’s head impaled with a Jesus(c) Crucifix (“Empowered by Lightning of Zeus, requisitioned and re-purposed by he-who-must-not-be-named for greater uses!”) would be painful, but I could have done without the visual aid. 🙂

    Incidentally, when was the Third Great Awakening?

  9. Paul: Now, now. I was thinking more about MJ’s devotion to the “religion” of collectivism.

  10. Elemenope: The 3rd Great Awakening was the Social Gospel movement whose political manifestation was Progressivism. May I suggest reading my article for more info?

  11. Elemenope: BTW, the visual aid is Pat Robertson being bonked with an electrified crucifix.

  12. Ron: They’re one in the same.

  13. The fact is that someone who believes in Jesus is much more likely to deny Global Warming, and vice-versa.

  14. Andrew Greeley wrote an article somewhere saying evangelical growth and mainline decline was more a matter of the religious right not accepting birth control for a generation later than the religious left (i.e. they had more babies up to now, but that has stopped).

  15. FatDrunkandStupid-

    You are absolutely spot on. As was Darrow. Notwithstanding the contentions of others who post on this blog, this is a free society, perhaps in name only, but, nonetheless conceived, for the most part, by men who understood that tyranny was anarchy.

  16. Icl:

    That’s where you’d be wrong.

    Global Warming is tailor made for evangelical thinking. I was surprised it took this long for them to get on board:

    http://pewforum.org/news/display.php?NewsID=10821
    http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/religion/stories/050908feaglobal.380f464.html
    None of this is to say that rank and file evangelicals are on board. But give them time.

    I see it this way. It’s like corporations that initially fight government regulation, then withdraw their complaints, only to eventually embrace and actively pursue it. They just need time to figure out how to weave the global-warming-as-apocalypse into their own message.

  17. Caption that picture of Pat Robertson:

    “JESUS IS WATCHING YOU POOP.”

  18. J sub D-

    Go ahead. You have the right to gloat.

  19. Screw Mother Jones, I’d rather live in a country ruled by Jerry Falwell that Pol Pot.

  20. Us southern baptists have gotten real lazy and complacent.
    The last stats I saw on baptism worked out to one new baptism per 70+ churchmembers per year. We aren’t exactly draggin em in

  21. Us southern baptists have gotten real lazy and complacent.

    Brotherben, I’ve heard that from more than one reputable source.

  22. The fact is that someone who believes in Jesus is much more likely to deny Global Warming, and vice-versa.

    There is credible evidence for Global Warming.

  23. Only problem with baptists is they don’t hold them under the water long enough. About 5-10 minutes should do the trick.

  24. “The fact is that someone who believes in Jesus is much more likely to deny Global Warming and vice versa.”

    Amen Brother!! If a person doesn’t believe in one religion, they will probably believe in another.

  25. Andrew Greeley wrote an article somewhere saying evangelical growth and mainline decline was more a matter of the religious right not accepting birth control for a generation later than the religious left (i.e. they had more babies up to now, but that has stopped).

    That was my first thought. Think Occam’s Razor, people. Less babies=less baptisms. Now if they’d only allow people to have sex standing up, THEN you’d see baptism rates through the roof!

  26. I suppose it’s great that instead of the vast majority clinging to one particular batshit insane idea we now have a plenitude of batshit insane ideas to believe in. Somehow that knowledge isn’t providing me with any greater comfort in dealing with my feloow humans. If anything it’s making it worse. Now rather than having one stock set of retorts to the prevailing batshit insane idea I have to do more work to debunk the vast array of shit people believe.

    http://nowscape.com/atheism/dead_gods.htm

  27. I’m pretty sure I am still counted on the membership rolls of my parents’ (Baptist) church, even though I haven’t lived in the same state in 9 years and haven’t been to (any) church regularly in over 12. And self-identify as an atheist.

    Anyway, I still get mail from them.

  28. “The fact is that someone who believes in Jesus is much more likely to deny Global Warming, and vice-versa.”

    I disagree. My skepticism about all things leads me to deny Global Warming until it is truly all figured out if it is real and if it makes a difference what we do. It’s fathomable that it could happen, and it’s fathomable that it may not be happening.

    The clarify further, it is clear that humanity has begun extracting materials from the earth and changing them. We mine, refine, smelt, and otherwise change the chemical make-up of the world much more than was seemingly ever done in history. From there, if those chemicals being released drift up to the upper-atmosphere and change the way our earth usually absorbs and reflects heat and light, it is feasable that we caused this phenomenon. Still, I know too little about it to decide concretely either way.

    Oh, and it’s only slightly amusing how much agnostics like me are abused for not deciding either way. I believe that even Einstein, in all of his wisdom, said that the more he learns, the more he realizes how little he understands about our world, our universe, and our existence.

    < /rant >

  29. The 3rd Great Awakening was the Social Gospel movement whose political manifestation was Progressivism. May I suggest reading my article for more info?

    Thanks. I must’ve skimmed over that part. After all, I was just smote with the image of Pat Robertson smote by the image of holy non-existent Jeezus.

  30. Oh, and it’s only slightly amusing how much agnostics like me are abused for not deciding either way.

    As I’ve said before (on this blog no less), Agnostics ain’t got no reason to live.

  31. Jesus does tell his followers to go out and evangelize. But he also tells them to care for the poor, infirm, imprisoned, etc. He doesn’t tell them to start political movements to lobby for laws to control the behaviors of others.

  32. Incidentally, when was the Third Great Awakening?

    Martin Luther.

  33. The fact is that someone who believes in Jesus is much more likely to deny Global Warming, and vice-versa.

    There is credible evidence for Global Warming.

    So say the Shepard.

  34. “He doesn’t tell them to start political movements to lobby for laws to control the behaviors of others.”

    What about Defence of Marriage Act, trying to criminalize abortion, “dry” counties, sensorship. Tell me if I forgot anything.

  35. “So say the Shepard.”

    Nope, so say the vast majority of climatologists and other scientists working in the field. If you’ve got information on a change in consensus, please share it with the group. If you are a scientist working in the field, please publish.

  36. Icl:What about Defence of Marriage Act, trying to criminalize abortion, “dry” counties, sensorship. Tell me if I forgot anything.

    Well, you pretty clearly forgot to include anything Jesus actually, you know, commented on. I’ve always been bemused by the ability of my fellow believers to assume that Jesus had strong opinions about whatever it was they felt was important. Especially the Temperance types.

  37. What about Defence of Marriage Act, trying to criminalize abortion, “dry” counties, sensorship. Tell me if I forgot anything.

    Jesus told his followers to preach for defense of marriage and create “dry” counties? [C]ensorship?

  38. “As I’ve said before (on this blog no less), Agnostics ain’t got no reason to live.”

    I don’t get it… I enjoy learning as much as I can about this existence, but ultimately it seems fairly clear that there are very few things that we know for sure. And even then, how can we be absolutely sure that we aren’t missing the bigger picture. So, why don’t agnostics have a reason to live? Just because they claim that they know nothing for sure?

  39. Jammer, if more Christians were as sensible as you are, this would be a much better world.

  40. 85 percent of believers disappeared? It’s the Rapture!!

  41. lcl, you’re very kind, but I’d go so far as to say that if more *people in general* were like me, this would be a much better world.

    Not especially humble, maybe, but better.

  42. I’ve always been bemused by the ability of my fellow believers to assume that Jesus had strong opinions about whatever it was they felt was important. Especially the Temperance types.

    SOP in these situations of a Jesus-Lacuna ™ is to refer back to something vaguely or tangentially related to the topic at hand in the Old Testament, and then fudge through the idea that since it’s all the same God anyway, clearly Jesus hates [X, Y, Z behaviors that he said not a peep about].

    I don’t get it… I enjoy learning as much as I can about this existence, but ultimately it seems fairly clear that there are very few things that we know for sure. And even then, how can we be absolutely sure that we aren’t missing the bigger picture. So, why don’t agnostics have a reason to live? Just because they claim that they know nothing for sure?

    Now, while I might be *slightly* kidding about the “no reason to live” part, it’s not by much. To be crystal clear, there are two different types of agnostics, only one of which draws my outright contempt (and judging by your quote, you’re the other kind :).

    Those are the ones who are Agnostic because they simply couldn’t be bothered thinking about the question. If you’re sleepwalking through life (as these folks in a very real sense are), then they in a somewhat literal sense have “no reason to live”; no eschatological or moral or even practical arrow that points to an objective value of life or how it ought to be lived.

    But even the second type doesn’t get out of the woods so easy. The “W. K. Clifford on a bender” type, otherwise known as Strong Agnostics, don’t pick an option not because they aren’t interested, but rather because of some version of “it’s too hard!“, i.e. “…it seems fairly clear that there are very few things that we know for sure. And even then, how can we be absolutely sure that we aren’t missing the bigger picture.”

    I have a certain amount of respect for epistemological humility, but this sort of Agnosticism takes it too far. Ultimately, my view of religious faith is extremely Kierkegaardian, insofar as to say that there is great (perhaps overwhelming) existential import to the decision to leap in one direction or another on a question of faith, and that leap informs pretty much your entire life and being. To refuse to leap is to refuse to make oneself…an act of bad faith.

    Now, of course all this is my not-so-humble opinion, and Agnostics who feel comfortable being Agnostics need not answer to me or anyone else. But if you’re curious where some of the less knee-jerk snark towards Agnosticism comes from, that should give you a good start.

  43. Jammer,

    I was referring to your interpretation of Christianity. You might be a good person in general, but I don’t know you that well.
    🙂

  44. Too bad we couldn’t have an auto-da-fe of secular progressives before the awakening dozes off.

  45. andythebrit,

    It can’t be the rapture. I’m just as much a hypocrite as the next person who was raised deep woods baptist and I’m still here.

  46. For the first year or two of being a libertarian, the only libertarians I knew were Christians. I was introduced to the ideas at a small Christian university where we had a great diversity of thought and more tolerance for political dissent than in public universities. The school was run by one of the founding denominations of the NAE (mentioned in the blog post).

    It is a mistake for agnostic and atheistic libertarians to connect their political tolerance to intolerance toward religious people–as though being religious necessitates a spirit of intolerance and control-freakishness. I see it quite the opposite. If I wasn’t a Christian, I would probably not be a libertarian.

    Even if many young people aren’t religiously affiliated and previously larger denominations are seeing lower participation levels, it doesn’t mean that people are rejecting their faith–organized religion is different from personal faith and personal faith is different from political intolerance (using the state to force one’s lifesyle on others).

    If libertarians want to make the case for tolerance, it must be made in such a way that tolerates religious differences, even if it means tolerating those who are religiously conservative. The new militancy among atheists is silencing the voices of reason among Christians themselves.

    Who will they listen to? The Mockery of Sam Harris or to a fellow Evangelical who tells them that Jesus taught tolerance and choice?

  47. Here’s the Greeley article:

    http://www.abpnews.com/617.article

    CHICAGO (ABP) — The decline of mainline church membership over the last century had more to do with sex than theology, according to research by a trio of sociologists.

    The popular notion that conservative churches are growing because mainline churches are too liberal is being challenged by new research that suggests a simpler cause — the use of birth control — explains most of the mainline decline.

    Differences in fertility rates account for 70 percent of the decline of mainline Protestant church membership from 1900 to 1975 and the simultaneous rise in conservative church membership, the sociologists said. …

  48. The popular notion that conservative churches are growing because mainline churches are too liberal is being challenged by new research that suggests a simpler cause — the use of birth control — explains most of the mainline decline.

    IIRC from my college days, when I was studying the politics of Israel there was a concern amongst secular pols that sectarian influence in government was being strengthened because Haredim breed at a faster rate than the more liberal branches of Judaism, mostly due to eschewing birth control.

    Any olim around with a comment?

  49. “I was introduced to the ideas at a small Christian university where we had a great diversity of thought and more tolerance for political dissent than in public universities.”

    I call bullshit. The NAE universities nearly all have “faith statements” they make their faculty sign. They vigorously restrict lifestyles they disapporve of among the students. They pull either from specific denominations or at best among the same general faith. I doubt seriously they have more political diversity as an empirical matter or an ideal.

  50. You don’t need much of a nose for news to notice a serious TREND when baptisims decline amongst BAPTISTS!
    An even bigger group in the South, when I was growing up there, was the Church of Christ. Has anybody got a feel for their numbers? They are more independent than Baptists and therefore harder to track.

    Maybe baptisms lost some of their luster when they moved to clean, clear water on a stage versus down by the riverside. With the clean, clear water and white robe, it’s easier to discern the hard nipples of virgins being born again. They might object to that. How would I know?

  51. Scott
    I’ve heard this too, that conservative churches are no better at recruiting or keeping the faithful, they just have more kids. And so even if they retain the same % of their kids as mainline churches they will seem to be growing.

  52. More evidence of the end of the “Fourth Great Awakening”:

    The number of people in the No Religion/Atheist/Agnostic category jumped from 8.4% in 1990 to 15.0% by 2001. Nearly doubling in only 10 years is pretty amazing.

    Being from Oregon, I also found this interesting: The lowest percentage of “Christian adherents” in the U.S. is Oregon’s 30.1% (see no. 69 in the cited document). I’m not surprised it is low in Oregon, of course, but I didn’t know it was the absolute lowest in the country – tough I suppose it would have been on my short-list of guesses.

  53. I also think that the much talked about “suppression of political dissent” at public universities is much overblown. I imagine there is an often none-too subtle effect in hiring as most professors I had were indeed fairly liberal. But I saw conservative students speak out in classes all the time and for the vast majority of those times the class and the prof listened politely and engaged in no negative activity towards them. There were tons of conservative college groups that were large in membership and quite active on the public campuses I went too (in fact the College Republicans and Campus Crusade for Christ were easily the most visible groups at every public college (3) I went to).

  54. Of course, the fact that there have been three “awakenings” that have petered out in the past, only to be followed by another “awakening”, should give pause to godless gloating.

  55. I also think that the much talked about “suppression of political dissent” at public universities is much overblown. I imagine there is an often none-too subtle effect in hiring as most professors I had were indeed fairly liberal. But I saw conservative students speak out in classes all the time and for the vast majority of those times the class and the prof listened politely and engaged in no negative activity towards them. There were tons of conservative college groups that were large in membership and quite active on the public campuses I went too (in fact the College Republicans and Campus Crusade for Christ were easily the most visible groups at every public college (3) I went to).

    This was also my experience, though the College Republicans went into a tailspin decline after they pulled a lot of downright hateful stunts (that pissed off a lot of conservative kids who more than anything else were embarrassed to be ideologically associated with that lot), but has since recovered by all reports.

    Professors, unfailingly, were eager to talk with conservative students and hear from us in class (in the words of one professor I had, “sycophants are fucking boring”). Then again I was in the Political Science dept. for the most part. Argument and differences of political opinion were expected and encouraged.

    There was one incident of a student who was a Conservative Christian who objected very loudly about being taught by an openly gay professor. He said his beliefs were belittled and he was put upon for his faith. The kid got an A in the class. Perhaps many of the cases of liberal/conservative “bias” and hysteria are simply kids who have never before in their lives had to defend their beliefs and were disquieted by the experience.

  56. What about Defence of Marriage Act, trying to criminalize abortion, “dry” counties, sensorship. Tell me if I forgot anything.

    With the partial exception of abortion(*), I would definitely count those under laws controlling the behaviors of others.

    (*) See Libertarians For Life for a libertarian view on abortion. It was founded by an atheist. While I have no interest in imprisoning desperate women, neither do I want the state to sanction the killing of innocent human beings.

  57. LMNOP,

    I still don’t understand your hostility to the idea that somebody would assert that they don’t know something.

    It seems to me that you are against the idea entirely of an Agnostic, particularly with respect to a beliefs of “God”. What is so wrong with that? When there’s billions of people on one side of a fence yelling, “HE EXISTS AND YOU CAN’T PROVE THAT HE DOESN’T!” and millions more yelling, “HE DOESN’T EXIST AND YOU CAN’T PROVE THAT HE DOES!”, I really don’t understand why it’s not a good idea to admit that we all truly don’t know. Scientifically, we can’t prove a negative, unless we are “God”. And the believers can’t prove that he does exist. They only give reasons why/how he may. I will say that I am extremely confident that he doesn’t exist, but because of the simple purity of my (hopefully scientific) method, I choose not to attempt to state that I know for sure that there is no “God”.

    I certainly don’t “sleep through life” as you describe it. That makes no sense. In fact, I was born and “raised” Catholic. It was only recently (as in the last three years, since I was about 20) that I began to see the holes in religion, faith, and “God” himself. My reason for living is love. I do things that make me happy, while not detracting from other’s happiness. I even do things to make others happy. It seems to be a very consistent way to live. I live to enjoy my life. That’s far from not having a purpose.

    Pertaining to your other classification of an agnostic, I prefer to think of it in terms of how much we learn over time. Before Einsteinian physics, we took Newtonian physics as gospel truth. And it did work for us–to a point. Newtonian physics is still almost right for most little things, but it falls apart as soon as an object begins moving. We didn’t even know this until Einstein starting working these things out.

    Also, hindsight is almost always 20/20. Wouldn’t it be best to conjecture about the outcome, and then see what the result is? I’m not afraid of “jumping” on a belief, but I see no reason to take it as “gospel truth” until it is observed and made sense of.

    So, now, what is your hostility towards my idea of “not knowing”? Just coming from the religious debate… people have argued for and against the existence of a “God” for millenniums, or longer. If either side really knew, don’t you think the debate would be over?

  58. Ah, yes. The “bullying” of those who have sought (unsuccessfully, so far) to prevent millions of people from murdering their own children for convenience’s sake (which we euphamistically call “abortion.)

    Sometimes it makes me wish there were a god and an afterlife, so that those libertarians who so smirkingly ignore and defend this evil could get what they so richly deserve….

  59. there is great (perhaps overwhelming) existential import to the decision to leap in one direction or another on a question of faith, and that leap informs pretty much your entire life and being. To refuse to leap is to refuse to make oneself…an act of bad faith.

    So you are saying that the decision is so important that it requires a definative answer even if that answer is unsubstantiated? I prefer to acknowledge my ignorance which no amount of decisiveness can banish.

    I assure you this does not deprive me of a reason to live. Does God exist? Not as far as I’m concerned. The lazy way out is decide once and for all despite uncertainty.

  60. Scott & Mr Nice Guy,

    RTFA:

    The trio also studied other factors that could have influenced the real-life shift in memberships. For instance, they looked at how many people switched from mainline to conservative churches during the period, and vice versa.

    During most of the last century, more people moved from mainline to conservative churches than in the other direction. Conservatives were much more successful at retaining their church members, even when they married mainliners.

    “The declining propensity of conservatives to convert to the mainline accounts for the 30 percent of mainline decline that fertility rates cannot account for,” they concluded.

  61. Only a Libertarian would think that the social philosophy of collectivism, as nave as it is, is in anyway as batshit crazy as ignoring basic science, and believing that a ghost exists in the sky.

    You could apply the same logic to the naive, and unprecedented philosophy of Libertarianism.

  62. As I’ve said before (on this blog no less), Agnostics ain’t got no reason to live.

    How is this not true of atheists even more so? I mean, sure, an atheist can fabricate some reason to live, but so can an agnostic, right?

  63. “I don’t get it… I enjoy learning as much as I can about this existence, but ultimately it seems fairly clear that there are very few things that we know for sure. And even then, how can we be absolutely sure that we aren’t missing the bigger picture. So, why don’t agnostics have a reason to live? Just because they claim that they know nothing for sure?”

    Which is why Agnosticism, in this sense, merely constitutes another level of faith.

    It’s okay to have that faith, but it’s also okay to shit or get off the pot about the subject.

    It shouldn’t be that difficult to come to a belief about the validity of the subject when given the available information. In, fact, any notion of faith can be seen as a truly arrogant human outlook. It suggests that human beings may be animals who aren’t governed by the same inconsequential life process that is witnessed in life span of even the smallest organisms.

  64. Chris Potter,
    Nobody needs a reason to do anything; exist or nonexist. Inertia is a prime mover.
    But, philosophically speaking, believers only have a reason to die.

  65. David E. Gallaher,

    I’ve said here before, that a purely rational being could do nothing but lay down and starve to death. Anything beyond that requires some type of nonrational motivation.

    Now, an atheist or agnostic might deride a believer as basing their life on “faith”, but truthfully basing one’s life on faith is no less rational than basing it on some secular ideology or the raw hedonism that remains when all else has been rejected.

  66. It shouldn’t be that difficult to come to a belief about the validity of the subject when given the available information. In, fact, any notion of faith can be seen as a truly arrogant human outlook. It suggests that human beings may be animals who aren’t governed by the same inconsequential life process that is witnessed in life span of even the smallest organisms.

    Which is why I made the “W. K. Clifford on a bender” quip. Sure, for most matters it is possible and probably preferable to have evidence before reaching conclusions, but for many inquiries (such as those dealing with religious faith) such evidence isn’t at all forthcoming.

    Absent any evidence, W. K. Clifford argued that it is in fact *unethical* to take a stand one way or another on any issue. Most of the rest of the history of the Philosophy of Religion has been people (IMO rightfully) piling on to this utterly paralyzing epistemological stance. William James in particular eviscerated this view by pointing out simply that many of the things we form beliefs about sans evidence are *fucking important* to us to have an opinion about, such as whether other people are actually people (and not zombies or robots made up to be people), that the laws of nature are fairly consistent over time, that the universe has existed for longer than five minutes, etc..

    In fact, there are tons of beliefs we hold without sufficient evidence that we *must* hold in order to simply function day to day. We all hold these beliefs without much controversy or second thought, until and unless *actual evidence* is presented that is anomalous or inexplicable given the beliefs held.

    I’ve said here before, that a purely rational being could do nothing but lay down and starve to death. Anything beyond that requires some type of nonrational motivation.

    So very true. But I must ask, have people gotten their wires soooo crossed that Atheism automatically is equivalent to “slave to Reason” and Theism is automatically equivalent to “slave to irrationality”?

    That’s the whole point of a leap of faith; one can leap *either way*, but regardless it is an irrational, or perhaps more properly an extrarational, action.

  67. I’m just worried that if Mr. Bailey feels the need to write yet another story on this topic he’ll quote himself quoting himself.

    In any case, if the fourth is really over, can a fifth be far behind?

  68. Elemenope:

    As I’ve said before (on this blog no less), Agnostics ain’t got no reason to live.

    And as I’ve said before (on this blog no less), Randy Newman can go fuck himself.

  69. In any case, if the fourth is really over, can a fifth be far behind?

    Yes, if by “a fifth” you 750ml of booze for a period of celebration.

  70. you ^mean 750ml

    Sorry I’ve already begun.

  71. “In any case, if the fourth is really over, can a fifth be far behind?”

    It’d be interesting if the fifth were non-Christian.

    Buddhist wouldn’t be too bad, although through sheer numbers chances are there’d be instances of religious leaders not living up to expectations, and ensuing scandals.

    A Great Scientological Awakening would be Very Bad Indeed.

  72. As far as my agnosticism goes, I’d have to admit that it’s pretty close to atheism. As far as Christians, Muslims, Jews, worshippers of the ancient Norse or Egyptian gods and so on go, I am completely an atheist. I guess I’d be open to having one of these things revealed to me in some sort of supernatural revelation, but these beliefs seem so patently ridiculous that I can barely even imagine such a thing happening in a way that wouldn’t be at least as likely to have been faked as real.

    The only version of theism that I’m even sort of agnostic on is the vaguest version of Deism. Even on that, my view of god pretty much turns out to be: if it exists, so what? Why does it have to have anything to do with me? My life should be my doing, not the doing of some ancient engineer-type whatsit. Belief in god (or even sometimes a belief that there is no god) often seems to me to be a way of trying to get yourself out of something.

    I read a Marcel Duchamp quote about belief in God that I’d always admired. I can’t find it so this is a paraphrase, but it went something like:

    People are always talking about the question of whether or not God exists. I don’t find it very interesting. My answer to the question of the existence of God is neither yes, no, nor I don’t know.

    Maybe someone with superior googling powers to mine can find it.

  73. Unfortunately, the younger generation has only replaced Jesus with Mother Earth.

    At least Jesus made us pay for our sins after death. Environmentalism will create hell for us in this life on earth.

  74. sensorship

    That’s what the black helicopter faction of the party fears…

  75. A Great Scientological Awakening would be Very Bad Indeed.

    I don’t know, an URKOBOLD AWAKENING might be even worse…

  76. People are always talking about the question of whether or not God exists. I don’t find it very interesting. My answer to the question of the existence of God is neither yes, no, nor I don’t know.

    Or as that’s known in short: Buddhism.

  77. I didn’t find the Marcel Duchamp quote, but I rather like this one:

    The Bible, properly read, is the most potent force for atheism yet invented.
    Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992)

  78. mch: It could be the Buddhist-type “there is no answer” thing, but that wasn’t how I read it.

    I read it as Duchamp saying that his answer was “I don’t care.”

  79. Environmentalism will create hell for us in this life on earth.

    Or as that’s known in short: Buddhism.

    So, a Christian and a Buddhist are sitting down for lunch. The Christian, after looking pensive, leans over to the Buddhist and says:

    “You know, I like you and all, but I really wish you would convert because otherwise, you’ll be going to Hell.”

    The Buddhist turns and smiles, and says:

    “You don’t get it. This is Hell.”

  80. Unfortunately, the younger generation has only replaced Jesus with Mother Earth.

    it makes alot more sense, when you think about it…they actually compliment each other if you think about it further…

    At least Jesus made us pay for our sins after death. Environmentalism will create hell for us in this life on earth.

    what hell is that? the hell where laws can try to regulate how much toxic poison big industry can pump into the air, water, & ground? boo-fuckin hoo, i’ll take that over the hell of a completely deforested, carcinogenic planet…

  81. So, a Christian and a Buddhist are sitting down for lunch. The Christian, after looking pensive, leans over to the Buddhist and says:

    “You know, I like you and all, but I really wish you would convert because otherwise, you’ll be going to Hell.”

    The Buddhist turns and smiles, and says:

    “You don’t get it. This is Hell.”

    That’s actually pretty good. I’ve never heard that one before.

  82. Funny thing about being a Christian: I would not choose to be anything else, but it also strikes me that I’m better off the fewer Christians there are. I’m one of those ones that doesn’t want to be messed with and finds some other Christians’ moral impositions fettering.

  83. That’s actually pretty good. I’ve never heard that one before.

    Sadly, I can’t take credit. A friend of mine related it to me a few years back; apparently, as an actual conversation he witnessed, as opposed to a cute joke/anecdote.

  84. I don’t find the end of religious awakening a bad or good thing. You can be wrong and still good, after all. I like Ron Bailey, of course, but “suffered through” is a bit strong.

    That little photo of Pat Robertson being hit by the crucifix is an odd editorial, too. Note he’s being hit by a Catholic cross. He’s a Protestant, and they don’t mount a suffering Jesus on their crosses. He has risen, to them. So some could take this as an attack on Protestantism or Catholicism – not Christianity. I’m picking nits, I know. Just that we should take dogma somewhat seriously if we’re to counter it.

  85. Only a Libertarian would think that the social philosophy of collectivism, as nave as it is, is in anyway as batshit crazy as ignoring basic science, and believing that a ghost exists in the sky.

    Oh, I dunno. There mountains of corpses/empirical evidence that a believer in collectivism has to disregard.

    You could apply the same logic to the naive, and unprecedented philosophy of Libertarianism.

    The philosophy of Libertarianism is hardly “unprecedented” (whatever that means). Most of us would be satisfied with a return to Constitutional republic created by the Founders.

  86. Elemenope:

    I’d say there’s at least one other flavor of agnosticism. I firmly believe that if there’s some higher power, that it’s of a form that’s incomprehensible to us, and that it has no concern for us, as much as we’d like it to have some. It’s not so much that my agnosticism is me saying, “Huh. Dunno.” It’s me saying, “There’s no way I can know.” So I just don’t choose my religion (of which I do have a belief) to define me, and instead turn to philosophy to provide meaning to my life.

  87. He’s a Protestant, and they don’t mount a suffering Jesus on their crosses. He has risen, to them.

    Er, Anglicans and Episcopalians do use crucifixes. And, seeing as how Protestants do look at paintings and pictures of other people who died long ago, the “he is risen” justification is paper-thin. It’s more due to the fact that early Protestants wanted to strip as much ritual out of Christianity as possible, and there was so much Catholic ritual surrounding crucifixes that their removal was necessary. As time went on, it became more of an aesthetic thing; to someone who’s not used to it, it would seem pretty gruesome to decorate with a bloody corpse attached to a torture implement.

  88. Elemenope: Actually, I’d suggest you read the wiki article on agnosticism, particularly the intro:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnosticism

    Agnosticism … is the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims – particularly metaphysical claims regarding theology, afterlife or the existence of God, gods, deities, or even ultimate reality – is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently unknowable.

    Demographic research services normally list agnostics in the same category as atheists and non-religious people, using ‘agnostic’ in the newer sense of ‘noncommittal’. However, this can be misleading given the existence of agnostic theists, who identify themselves as both agnostics in the original sense and followers of a particular religion.

  89. You referring to this religion:

    The new religion that will bring you to your knees. Courtesy of the burnout hippies at Mother Jones who’d as soon string you up in yonder oak as allow you to pack a pistola or drive an SUV.

    Come here Ms Jones, gimme a big hug.

  90. …we’ve suffered through for the past 30 years is coming to a end.

    The only suffering we’ve put up with is those doggedly persistent got dam Jehovah Witnesses beating on the door on Sunday morning when the good folks amongst us ought to be in church.

  91. Thanks for quoting from my new book. Someone mentioned dropping birthrates as a factor in the decline of the evangelical nation. They are a factor among many others undermining evangelical faith, inside and outside the church.

    But evangelicals are great at responding. They’ve launched an anti-birth control campaign. It is now against God’s will for women to use birth control. They should leave it up to God to decide whether they ought to have more children.

  92. They’ve launched an anti-birth control campaign.

    Really? I live in a very hardcore Baptist town, and this is the first I’ve heard of it (outside of the well-known opposition to giving rubbers to high school kids, of course).

  93. Only in the good ol’ USA would Global Warming be called a “religion.” Evangelism may be going out of style, but lunatic fringe beliefs are still alive and well. A Libertarian’s rage at thermodynamics and basic chemistry is just as stubborn as an evangelical Christian’s hatred of biology. Anti-Global Warming is the new Creationism.

  94. “The philosophy of Libertarianism is hardly “unprecedented” (whatever that means). Most of us would be satisfied with a return to Constitutional republic created by the Founders.”

    You don’t know what the term “unprecedented” means?” Hey, as long as you know what the term “taxation” means, right?

    Anyway, sure you would love to turn back to a time before the industrial revolution where gripes were settled through duals, the environment was worse than it is now, and people argued over the what particular ratio constitutes a human being.

    Unfortunately, the progression of time is a bit more complex than that. The reason that paleo-Libertarianism is attractive to people is for the same reason that any religion is attractive to people. It provides a one size fits all handbook to life that is intentionally ignorant of of the more arduous complexities of life.

    When I see Libertarians speak like this, I am soon reminded as to how similar they seem when compared to Communists.

    The don’t care what evidence there is to support their extremist theories, they just believe that it is the way it should be, regardless of the outcome.

    And like Communists, when public support for their masturbatory politcal philosophy fails to garner wide support, they start pandering to the “revolutionaries.”

    You know, like Dr. Paul

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