Christianity

Fewer Christians in the United States: Fourth Great Awakening Over

Just as I predicted seven years ago

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EmptyPews
connorgwin

A new poll by Pew Research finds that the number of Americans who declare that they are not affiliated with any religion has been increasing dramatically in recent years. This trend toward increased unbelief among Americans is just what I predicted in my 2008 article, "The New Age of Reason: Is the Fourth Great Awakening Finally Coming to a Close?" In the article I explained:

American society periodically weathers decades-long storms of moral renovation set off by thunderclaps of Christian evangelism. Old spiritual and moral doctrines get reinterpreted in a new light, producing far-ranging, and not always welcome, political change. Scholars commonly refer to these tumultuous periods as "Great Awakenings."

I argued that the Fourth Great Awakening had started up in the 1970s with the politicization and rise of the religious right. I then suggested that that wave of religious fervor was cresting and that we could look forward to a new era of greater tolerance. I was right.

As the New York Times reports today:

Seventy-one percent of American adults were Christian in 2014, the lowest estimate from any sizable survey to date, and a decline of 5 million adults and 8 percentage points since a similar Pew survey in 2007.

The Christian share of the population has been declining for decades, but the pace rivals or even exceeds that of the country's most significant demographic trends, like the growing Hispanic population. It is not confined to the coasts, the cities, the young or the other liberal and more secular groups where one might expect it, either. …

Over all, the religiously unaffiliated number 56 million and represent 23 percent of adults, up from 36 million and 16 percent in 2007, Pew estimates. Nearly half of the growth was from atheists and agnostics, whose tallies nearly doubled to 7 percent of adults. The remainder of the unaffiliated, those who describe themselves as having "no particular religion," were less likely to say that religion was an important part of their lives than eight years ago.

The ranks of the unaffiliated have been bolstered by former Christians. Nearly a quarter of people who were raised as Christian have left the group, and ex-Christians now represent 19 percent of adults.

As evidence that the Fourth Awakening was receding, I cited data indicating that Americans were rapidly becoming more tolerant of gays and lesbians, were increasingly against the Drug War, and much less hostile toward pornography, among other trends. All of which have become stronger since my article.

I concluded:

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.

Hooray for the end of the Fourth Great Awakening!

Disclosure: I have been an out-atheist since I was a young teenager.

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  1. Militant atheism is, itself, a faith. Discuss.

      1. It is totally a faith. Militant atheists by their actions show they have a stronger belief than God than most of the theists. They know there is a God, they just don’t like him. So they kick him out of the universe but constantly try and put him back in in disguise as “reason” or “morality” or “the greater good”.

        If you actually believed there wasn’t a God, you would envy people who believed there was. Instead, militant atheists spend their entire life trying to convince people there is not a God, as if them believing that makes any difference or waking people from their happy delusion is somehow good for them.

        1. On the rag today John?

        2. Militant atheists

          Wouldn’t these be anti-theists? Didn’t Hitchens call himself that?

          1. I mean the freedom from religion types. It is one thing to claim not to believe. It is quite another to dedicate your life to ensuring no one else does. Why would you do that? Do people do bad things in the name of religion? Sure. But people do bad things for all kinds of reasons. Convincing them to give up religion won’t get them to stop doing bad things. It will just change the justifications they use. So why not try to get people to not do bad things regardless of the reason? Why obsess over religion? Moreover, why try and get people to give up their happy and conforting delusions to confront the horrible and cold abyss? It is not like it is going ot make any difference in the long run.

            Think of it this way; if you and I figured out tomorrow that the sun was going to explode the 1st of June and destroy everyone and everything on earth and there was no way to escape it or do anything to stop it, what would you do? Would you spend the next month terrorizing people with the knowledge of their impending doom or not say anything and leave them to their lives? I can’t see why you would not just leave them to their lives. Well, the atheist is in the same position. He knows all of this is nothing. Other people live happy lives believing otherwise. Why spend your life tying to wake them from their slumber?

            1. Why would you do that?

              First generation atheists. They were brought up in a religion that emphasizes the importance of evangelism.

              1. So what? If they rejected the religion, wouldn’t that make them less likely to be evangelical?

                They are evangelical about it because they don’t believe what they say. If they did, they would envy the religious not hate them and want to change them.

                1. Nah. They just had it hammered into their heads that when you learn something profound about the world you’re duty bound to tell everybody about it. Every single militant atheist I’ve ever met was raised religious/had to make a decision to break from religion. Don’t worry, their kids won’t be nearly as annoying.

                2. Why would any athiest envy someone who is deluded? That makes no sense

                  1. Tru dat. Or envy someone who willingly submits to slavery—he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake….santa, I know, but santa is just a metaphor for god. Creepy and wrong; nothing a self-respecting person would welcome or envy.

            2. Why would you do that?

              Because you think there is inherent value in truth and inherent danger in false belief.

              1. Because you think there is inherent value in truth and inherent danger in false belief.

                1) This is not far from a religious statement — “the truth shall set you free” is hardly something that has been established universally as a good thing in any sort of empirical or philosophical sense. Believing the statement to be true is certainly not evidence for its veracity.

                2) What “truth”? What “false belief”? Is any level of understanding past the crudely naturalistic understandings and philosophies acquired during the 19th and 20th centuries ipso facto “false belief”? Can you disprove the existence of Platonic forms, for instance? Which verified “truth” is the atheist ostensibly propagating, in the first place? Please be specific in describing this truth; atheists do so enjoy answering this question with pointless rhetoric about “invisible sky fairies” and so forth.

                1. “the truth shall set you free” is hardly something that has been established universally as a good thing in any sort of empirical or philosophical sense.

                  Truth, whatever it may be, is something that is universally good. A person who believes that it’s untrue that he needs to eat, will die. If you yourself didn’t feel that truth was valuable as a moral good in and of itself, you wouldn’t be having a debate and trying to convince people of things with your arguments. You cannot deny the validity of seeking truth without denying the premise of the argument you are making to begin with.

                  1. If you yourself didn’t feel that truth was valuable as a moral good in and of itself, you wouldn’t be having a debate and trying to convince people of things with your arguments

                    Perhaps I merely think that it’s entertaining or to my personal benefit to pursue truth. That says nothing of any universal value to truth-telling or truth-pursuit — in particular, for abstract questions of this level. My preferences are immaterial to the conversation.

                    More importantly, I am suggesting that it is your belief system (not mine) which disallows for truth as an inherent virtue. Like a Vandal who builds on the ruins of cities he has himself destroyed, you’re borrowing religious ideology regarding the virtue of truth — in this case, from a religion which the anti-theist is actively seeking the destruction of. If Christianity’s to be ended, then it’s worth answering why its virtues should be preserved — and if this is your answer as it relates to truth, I humbly suggest that it is lacking.

                    1. What Trouser said. You absolutely are correct. I can’t understand why otherwise intelligent people cannot understand this.

                    2. Truth in and of itself has no value. Kant was wrong about Truth but right about Beauty and Goodness. Value must have someone to hold it and create it.

                      Also there can be degrees of Good and degrees of Beauty. Not so with Truth.

                2. I’m not making any claims about what reality actually is, an I’m also not saying the truth will set you free. But if you are making your moral decisions based on faulty premises, your conclusions could be wrong.

              2. Because you think there is inherent value in truth and inherent danger in false belief.

                Bongo Niki. And what makes you think there is an inherent truth or that you can even figure out what it is? More importantly, even if you can, why do you think the highest good is telling everyone the truth? Since when is “ending false belief” some kind of greater mission? It is only a mission because you decided it is. And the “truth” as you see it is only the truth because you decided it was the truth.

                This is why atheists are so funny. They spend their lives pursuing made up bullshit like “the truth” and “reason” or “ending false belief” while without a hint of self awareness calling every theist superstitious. You just have to laugh at it.

                1. And what makes you think there is an inherent truth or that you can even figure out what it is? More importantly, even if you can, why do you think the highest good is telling everyone the truth? Since when is “ending false belief” some kind of greater mission? It is only a mission because you decided it is. And the “truth” as you see it is only the truth because you decided it was the truth.

                  First, see my response above. Second…yeah, it’s a greater mission if you think it’s important and you like it. And if you think something is important and you like it, you do it. That doesn’t make it religious.

                  I really like running. Sometimes I tell other people they should try it out. I only do that because I think it’s fun. I know it isn’t inherently fun. But I tell people it’s a cool thing to do anyway because I like it. Doesn’t make it my religion.

                  1. Sure it does Nikki. It is your way of getting meaning out of life. It is how you figure out what is the right and wrong thing to do. And it is based on arbitrary assumptions you have made based on what works best for you.

                    That sure looks like a religion to me.

                    1. What a mind-bogglingly stupid thing to say. Anything you enjoy doing is a religion. I think you may have just topped yourself on the retardometer, John.

                    2. Sparky, that makes perfect sense. You are just too mendacious to admit it. But just call me some names and maybe you can get it out of your mind. God forbid you engage in any self reflection or consider that maybe you are not a rational as you think you are. Whatever you do, don’t do that.

                    3. Go fuck yourself. You have proven quite admirably that you don’t deserve anyone trying to engage you on this matter. Your mind is closed, boarded over, sunk in cement, then buried a mile deep in dirt. You believe you know what everyone else thinks. You have decided that everyone is religious because you have defined religion to be something that it is impossible to not engage in. You deserve nothing more than to be called a fucking retard and left to stew in your myopia.

                    4. Go fuck yourself too Sparky., You can believe whatever you want. But you are either lying to yourself or just stupid if you think your moral assumptions and the things you consider good and right are anything but shit you decided to make that. That is it.

                      You are not better or worse than anyone else. Take you smug delusions that you have found some higher truth that the dumb theists can’t figure out and have fun with them. Understand, however, you are just self identifying as a delusional idiot. Your beliefs are every bit as faith base as theirs. They are just self aware enough to understand it.

                    5. My moral assumptions absolutely are just shit I decided to make up. They also apply only to me and I have no desire of any kind to force them onto anyone else. It’s not my problem if you’re so weak-minded that you need to settle into some kind of collective beliefs just so you feel secure in your being.

                    6. Yeah Sparky, you are real strong minded. A regular Nitschean Super Man you are.

                    7. Your terrible spelling is one of the greatest comedies of our time.

                      I am not a Nietzschean ubermensch, but I see it as something worth striving for.

                    8. Okay, so then anything you enjoy and tell other people about because they might enjoy it too is a religion by that definition. Seems a little loose.

                    9. Niki,

                      If that thing is what gives you your value system and what you view as the highest good in life, then yes, it is a religion. There is nothing that says silly or even every day things can’t be a religion. If your world view is that the highest good is aerobic fitness and all things are viewed and valued so far as they contribute to that good, that is your religion.

                    10. If that thing is what gives you your value system and what you view as the highest good in life, then yes, it is a religion. There is nothing that says silly or even every day things can’t be a religion. If your world view is that the highest good is aerobic fitness and all things are viewed and valued so far as they contribute to that good, that is your religion.

                      This is actually pretty profound. Jesus said of those who lived in the world and did not know him were actually serving satan. Jesus said repeatedly that whatever you served was your master — with particular emphasis on serving money. look at some of these billionaires. They sure seem to love money and venerate it as more than most religious people I know.

                    11. In my Jesuit high school, Religion was defined as having two components; Dogma and Ritual. Otherwise it may be a philosophy, but not religion.

            3. It is quite another to dedicate your life to ensuring no one else does. Why would you do that?

              Because Christian’s don’t have a monopoly on spreading what they believe to be truth and moral goods. Why do you teach your kid a bunch of superstitious non-sense about magical got herders? Obviously because you believe that garbage to be true and morally good.

              Christian shit stinks like regular shit, John.

              1. Free society,

                Why do you care? Where do you get this idea it is your duty to convince others of the truth? You get it from yourself. You just made it up and like doing it. That is of course fine. But when you pretend your made up shit is somehow different or better than anyone else’ why also claiming there is no God and only the material world, you look ridiculous. You are free to do that of course. Just understand, it is really funny and stupid.

            4. Misery loves company. Often it’s as simple as that.

              That and they honestly have convinced themselves that they are helping people to “see the light”. In that regard many atheists are quite religiously motivated. They know “The Truth”, and it’s up to them to convert everyone else whether they want to or not. Sound familiar?

              1. I aim to spread truth about anything and everything I’ve given good thought about it’s veracity. I believe libertarianism to be good and true and I see a value in converting people to our cause. But by the standard your promoting, libertarianism is a religion, an irrational set of assumed propositions supported by sheer faith and no evidence. Which needless to say, wouldn’t be an accurate rendering of libertarianism.

                1. But by the standard your promoting, libertarianism is a religion, an irrational set of assumed propositions supported by sheer faith and no evidence.

                  Damn straight it is. Is there evidence it works well? Sure there is. But that evidence is only convincing if you assume that the results are actually good things. It all comes down to faith eventually.

                2. I aim to spread truth about anything and everything I’ve given good thought about it’s veracity

                  You must be a blast at parties…

                  Evangelizing about libertarianism is not nearly the same thing as evangelizing about the existence or non-existence of God.

                  Libertarianism has a lot of at least empirical evidence to support it. Although to some extent there is an element of faith there because a perfect, 100% free market has never existed as long as government has existed. All governments intervene to some extent into the free market. What we can show empirically is that the trend line tends to show less government intervention = greater prosperity and/or greater individual freedom = greater prosperity.

                  When it comes to the question of whether God exists or not, neither you nor anyone else knows “The Truth” because the question is unanswerable one way or the other, so trying to spread your version of The Truth to others who don’t agree is fucking retarded. And that applies to atheists and believers alike.

            5. ” if you and I figured out tomorrow that the sun was going to explode the 1st of June and destroy everyone and everything on earth and there was no way to escape it or do anything to stop it, what would you do?”

              Hmmm…I would alert the Church and urge an emergency campaign urging people to repent – basically an accelerated version of the duties Christians already have.

              1. ” if you and I figured out tomorrow that the sun was going to explode the 1st of June and destroy everyone and everything on earth and there was no way to escape it or do anything to stop it, what would you do?”

                Orgies and heroin. Heroin and orgies.

            6. As an atheist, I must disagree with most of your assessment. I am the definition of what you refer to as “the freedom from religion types”. But I, in no way, shape, or form, want to discourage persons from their closely held beliefs. If I did, I could not call myself libertarian. Everyone has the right to their beliefs. I personally believe, despite many of atrocities committed in the name of religion, that the world is a better place because of it.

              But, I don’t rail against Bigfoot believers because they are not fighting to erect statues of Bigfoot on city hall lawns. I don’t rail against UFO believers because they are going to door-to-door trying to convince others to believe. Bigfoot and UFO believers do not try to pass laws that forces all citizens to live by their beliefs. But these ARE things that God-fearing persons do, therefore rail against them I must.

              I obviously cannot speak for all atheists, but please do not assume that because I do not share your belief that I want to eradicate your belief.

              1. Good for you Billy. There is really no reason for you to care or be bothered by any of those things.

              2. I am the definition of what you refer to as “the freedom from religion types”. But I, in no way, shape, or form, want to discourage persons from their closely held beliefs.

                Then I don’t think you fit the definition John had in mind for “freedom from religion types”. For an example of the type John was referring to, see Tony, below. He would outlaw all religious beliefs if he were King for a day.

                I don’t rail against Bigfoot believers because they are not fighting to erect statues of Bigfoot on city hall lawns. I don’t rail against UFO believers because they are going to door-to-door trying to convince others to believe. Bigfoot and UFO believers do not try to pass laws that forces all citizens to live by their beliefs. But these ARE things that God-fearing persons do, therefore rail against them I must.

                By all means, rail away, those things would be clearly unconstitutional according to the establishment clause of the 1st ammendment.

              3. Billy nailed it on the head really. Its the “christian” belief that pushes laws to allow them to continue practicing their bigotry in the open. ie religious freedom laws like Indiana etc.

              4. “But I, in no way, shape, or form, want to discourage persons from their closely held beliefs.”

                Then you cannot be a freedom from religion type as that logically requires preventing people from expressing their religious beliefs in your presence.

            7. Religion poisons everything and there is objective evidence in this world that the less religious people are, the better they are to one another. The only potential problem with “evangelical” atheism is if it doesn’t work. But something apparently is working, and that’s a good thing. Religion is belief in nonsense. That can only be good for people by sheer accident.

              1. Demarcate religion.

                there is objective evidence in this world that the less religious people are, the better they are to one another.

                I have objective evidence that shows otherwise. Those who claim Christianity and have evidence of practicing it are the most moral. Those who claim no religion are the next most moral. Those who claim Christianity and have no evidence of practicing it are the least moral.

                That is no surprise to me, though you will likely argue the data til you’re blue in the face.

              2. Not to highjack this message too much, but I had to quit our discussion yesterday as I actually have to work.

                So here’s my favorite response to your line of reasoning:

                “Four questions for Tony:

                Is it ethical/moral for me to put a gun to your head and take your stuff?

                Is it ethical/moral for me to hire someone to put a gun to your head and take your stuff?

                Is it ethical/moral for me and my friends to hire someone to put a gun to your head and take your stuff?

                Is it ethical/moral for me and my friends to elect ourselves into the majority and hire someone to put a gun to your head and take your stuff?”

                1. No on all counts. That’s why you have to pay taxes. You don’t get to use civilization that all the rest of us paid for, for free.

                  1. Hey Tony.

                    Knock Knock.

                  2. So,

                    1, yes
                    2, yes
                    3, yes
                    and 4, no?

                    You don’t get to use civilization that all the rest of us paid for, for free.

                    I don’t want what you call “civilization”. I want my civilization.

                    Back to the original question, lets do a thought experiment. Let’s assume you live in a rural area (in a county government or outside any government, it doesn’t affect the story). Let’s assume that there are those who covet your property. Now, let’s assume that they decide the best way to take your stuff is to incorporate into a town (vote themselves into a majority and hire someone to put a gun to your head and take your stuff). Let’s assume they call for an election and the majority decides to incorporate into a town that includes your property in its borders.

                    Are they now morally/ethically correct in taking your stuff or not? Because you’d have to say yes…

                    Democracy is a false “god”. It only works if the good people in every region outnumber and counter the so called “legitimate” uses of aggressive force done by evil people.

                    1. I don’t want what you call “civilization”. I want my civilization.

                      So do I, but I have to share the planet with 7 billion people and various other species. You can’t seriously think this is any more than complete self-absorption and fantasy? We’re talking about fantasy correct?

                      In your example am I allowed to take part in the deliberations? Which tribe of natives did I have to slaughter before I was able to declare that plot of land “mine”?

                    2. So do I, but I have to share the planet with 7 billion people and various other species.

                      There is more than 1 civilization. Try again.

                      You can’t seriously think this is any more than complete self-absorption and fantasy?

                      You want my stuff and you claim I am self-absorbed. You project so well…

                      In your example am I allowed to take part in the deliberations?

                      Deliberations, sure, why not. Aggressions, no!

                      Which tribe of natives did I have to slaughter before I was able to declare that plot of land “mine”?

                      Non Sequitur.

              3. there is objective evidence in this world that the less religious people are, the better they are to one another.

                Horseshit. The biggest murderers in history, Communists, were avowed Atheists and explicitly (and violently) rejected religion.

                If you are just looking for “objective” body counts, Religions are pikers compared to the least religious of all.

                1. Try again slick

              4. “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute Me so?”

                “Who art Thou Lord?”

        3. The people you describe certainly exist, but there are other motivations behind “militant atheism”. For example, people who believe that religion is actively harmful in most or all cases and that they should fight it for the greater good.

          If you actually believed there wasn’t a God, you would envy people who believed there was.

          I don’t know about envy. I can see how faith might be comforting and reassuring. But the rational, materialistic view of things has its advantages too.

          I think you are projecting your prejudices onto the obnoxious atheists in a very similar way to how they project theirs onto religionists.

          1. . But the rational, materialistic view of things has its advantages too.

            Like what? If you want to pretend reason is the highest good, sure. But there is nothing to say everyone has to pretend that or that those who pretend other things are the highest good do not get their own and equal advantages.

            1. No, nobody has to do anything. I was responding to your assertion that people who don’t believe in God must envy those who do.

              If people can be happy believing some particular thing, then good for them. I want them to be happy. But there are many ways to get there.

              I have no belief about whether or not rational materialism is the highest good. It happens to be my preferred way of looking at the universe. But I really believe that if you are happy, you are living a good life and I have no particular interest in changing your beliefs as long as you aren’t using them to justify harming other people. I like discussing these things and if I change someone’s mind, so be it. If I don’t, that’s OK too.

              1. Hey all U Fart-Smeller? Ooops, I mean Smart-Feller? Athiests? Here are some thoughts fer U to stew on!
                One God, many gods, or one Government Almighty? Or many Governments Almighty, all fighting each other? Gurus or gorillas, guerrillas, revolutionaries, revolutions, evolution, creationism? SOOOO many choices! What are we to believe in, anyway? Some people have become atheists? People who think that God doesn’t believe in himself (that He needs self-esteem therapy), and since God doesn’t believe in Himself, we shouldn’t, either? Well, WHO in the Hell is gonna GIVE HIM self-esteem therapy, anyways?!?! TELL me THAT, willya?!?!?

                So anyway, I’ve been having these on-going arguments with my atheist friends, and they told me, “See, Madeline Murray O’Hair, SHE is the ONLY one who REALLY quite properly, understood EXACTLY how God does NOT believe in Himself, and only SHE in Her Devine (Anti-Devine?) Perfect Understanding, was fit to be “Ruptured” through the space-time vortex portal, straight to the Athiest Heaven that She deserved, and all the rest of us? Even the less-than-perfect atheists? Are “Left Behind” after the “Great Rupture”. And since Madeline Murray’s body was never found, I had to accept their argument, She was the PERFECT atheist, and only SHE, in Her Perfect Disbelief, had been Ruptured? Her and Her alone? to be continued?

                1. ?BUT THEN THEY FOUND HER DEAD BODY!!! The arguments of my atheist friends were utterly crushed! I had just BARELY started to think that maybe they were correct! Now, I just dunno WHAT in blazes to think any more!!! What do y’all say, especially you atheists?

            2. You don’t have to worry about Hell, for one.

              1. So what? You don’t get to look forward to anything but nothingness either. I fail to see how nothingness and the knowledge that you, your life and everything in it is going to disappear into nothingness at some point is any less disturbing than hell. In fact, it is more disturbing. You at least have a chance to avoid hell. There is no escape from that.

                1. “I fail to see how nothingness and the knowledge that you, your life and everything in it is going to disappear into nothingness at some point is any less disturbing than hell. In fact, it is more disturbing. ”

                  I disagree. People tend to think of not existing as sitting around being aware that you don’t exist. I doubt that it’s like that. I think eternity of actual suffering would be worse.

                  But in any case, you said “no advantages.” I was just being snarky, really.

                  1. Fair enough Square. If you prefer nothingness to hell, believing in nothingness has its advantages.

                2. This is your problem. Because you find the idea that there is nothing after you die terrifying, then everyone else must to. And if someone says “life is short so I’ll make the most of it” you start spouting off about how religious they are. You have every right to believe the idiocy that you believe. You have every right to walk around with a smug smile at all the dumb atheists. But if you start telling me that I have to conduct myself in a way you see fit, I’ll tell you to fuck off.

                  Now fuck off.

                  1. Sparky,

                    Not everyone is as stupid and delusional as you. Some of us are born with IQs above 90. This makes the issue of the abyss just as disturbing as hell. Since you are a fucking moron it is not surprising that you missed the fact that existential anxiety is kind of a big part of the human condition.

                    And no one is telling you how to conduct yourself. You can do what you like. Why do you think anyone is? It is almost like you are that way and are projecting or something.

                    Be as stupid as you like Sparky. I wouldn’t dream of stopping you if for no other reason than the entertainment value of it.

                    1. I find it humorous that you include yourself in the group of people with an IQ above 90. And anyone who cries at the thought of there being nothing after death is a moron. Existential anxiety is for the people who have such low self-esteem they can barely get out of bed in the morning.

                    2. Yeah Sparky, only stupid people suffer from existential anxiety. That is why so many novels, philosophical tracts and great works of art have been dedicated to the issue. I mean only morons write great novels or create great works of art.

                      Seriously, son, you make it too easy sometimes.

                    3. I never understood what is supposed to be so horrifying about the abyss. I’ve confronted the abyss and I say “meh”. If there is nothing there is nothing. So what? When I die there won’t be any me anymore, so I don’t have to worry about it. Whenever I start to have anxiety about death, I just remind myself that I won’t be there to notice.

                    4. ^^^^ Exactly. Remember what it was like for the millennia before you were born?

                      Me neither.

                    5. “Whenever I start to have anxiety about death, I just remind myself that I won’t be there to notice.”

                      ^ This. I actually suspect the concepts of “heaven” and “hell” are fundamentally related to your stance toward the Abyss as you confront it. There is much in Aquinas to support this view. He would call the Abyss “God” (extrapolating from his “God has no positive qualities” line of argument), and point to the damned as those too attached to individual existence to be able to confront the Abyss without it being a literally hellish experience.

                    6. Perhaps for people who find the abyss horrifying the problem is a crisis of faith. What if the afterlife I am accustomed to believing in isn’t real.
                      For someone who never had faith in the first place, that isn’t going to be a problem. The abyss is only scary when you think there is supposed to be something there.

                    7. “The abyss is only scary when you think there is supposed to be something there.”

                      Well put.

                    8. Thank you, Zeb.

      2. Unless atheism is defined as “religion”, it isn’t protected by the 1st amendment.

        Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

        So, yes, it’s a “faith” by that definition.

        Man, the atheists in school did not know how to answer that one. I usually got blank looks.

        1. Non-religion is protected by the first amendment because no law can be made to force you to accept an established religion.

          1. That doesn’t mean you’re free to “practice” your atheism. Only “religion” is protected. Just because they can’t force you to accept a religion, doesn’t mean they can’t stop you from “practicing” your atheism.

            Put a little more clearly. They can’t force you to do “A” but could prevent you from doing “B”. You could do neither. If you got a group in a public area and celebrated your atheism, they could stop you. They couldn’t make you get in a group to celebrate what you call “religion”.

            1. If you got a group in a public area and celebrated your atheism, they could stop you

              The first amendment addresses issues other than religion, you know.

              1. True, but not the first sentence. Atheism is either a religion or isn’t protected by the first sentence of the 1st amendment.

                Of course, all other peaceful activity is supposedly protected by the rest of the amendment, but that isn’t useful to our religion discussion, now is it?

            2. I don’t see how “practicing atheism” means anything at all. How do you practice lack of belief in something? How could any law that also is in accord with the other parts of the 1st amendment inhibit atheism? Freedom of speech and freedom to assemble pretty well prevents any attempt to hinder any atheistic activities.

              1. You are right that the rest of the amendment would protect it, but it also protects everything else nonviolent, and that’s not useful to the discussion.

                How could any law that also is in accord with the other parts of the 1st amendment inhibit atheism?

                Tell that to the Supreme court… Do you really want them to stop treating atheism as a religion?

                1. How have the free exercise of establishment clauses ever been applied to protect “atheist practices”?
                  It seems to me that the only real application for the free exercise clause is for special exemptions religions can get from generally applicable laws, e.g. allowing wine to be given to minors for communion or not having to provide birth control to employees. The vast majority of religious (and other) practice is protected just fine by freedom of assembly and speech/press. Even without free exercise it would still be unconstitutional to forbid religious services or churches.

                  1. Even without free exercise it would still be unconstitutional to forbid religious services or churches.

                    Yes, that’s true. But the 9th amendment should also cover everything not specifically given to the Feds but it doesn’t. The more protection, the better.

            3. Except all speech is protected by 1A, Ace.

              And I don’t practice atheism, since that would be pointless. Unless you count not going to church as practice.

              1. And messaging on Reason.com…

                Is your belief only protected by the free speech and assembly clauses or by more than that?

                1. If the government suppressed or punished atheists, they would, prima facie, be imposing a religion on them. If you are not allowed to believe nothing, then you are being forced to believe something.

                  1. They can “punish” you for practicing without forcing you to accept a religion. If it isn’t protected as a religion, then they can prohibit your free “exercise” of it, not necessarily forcing you to accept something.

                    Also, I note that you have begun the demarcation of religion by implying that you must “believe” in it. But you “believe” atheism is correct…

                    1. Give me an example of how government could possibly prohibit your free exercise of atheism given freedom of speech and assembly. I honestly cannot imagine what that would entail.

                    2. Neither could I, but the Supreme Court surely could. That’s their job, right? 😉

                      Seriously, if it were my system of belief, I would want as much of the Bill of Rights protecting it as possible…

                      Then again, most of this discussion is meaningless until we come up with the positive answer to the “demarcate religion” question. Unless we can define it, we cannot know what it protects.

                    3. But atheism isn’t a system of belief. It is a single belief about one simple fact. To someone who never believed in god, it’s no different from lack of belief in the Easter bunny. Are people who don’t believe in the Easter Bunny a religion too?

                    4. It is a single belief about one simple fact.

                      Christianity is a single belief about one simple fact.

                      Are people who don’t believe in the Easter Bunny a religion too?

                      Possibly. No-one dares try to demarcate religion, so I’m not going to presume I know one way or the other.

                    5. Christianity is a single belief about one simple fact.

                      No, it really isn’t. I suppose you would say it is something along the lines of “Jesus Christ is the son of God and he died to redeem the sins of humanity and was resurrected”. But that still rests on a whole lot of other assumptions and beliefs. Simple disbelief in divine beings doesn’t require any other particular beliefs about the nature of the universe. Atheism isn’t scientific materialism or rationalism or whatever. An atheist could believe in a flat earth on the back of a tortoise or solipsism or any other number of other things. It just isn’t a belief system.

                    6. Actually, Christianity is just one belief. That belief implies lots of stuff…

                      Either way, it doesn’t matter, as you’ve already admitted that atheism has one belief and is a “belief system” (if that term means anything at all). that belief implies lots of stuff…

                    7. How does one practice atheism? Are there ceremonies or a liturgy I’ve neglected to learn about? I shouldn’t be surprised I’ve missed something crucial in simply not thinking about a god.

                    8. Much the same stuff that “practicing Christianity” does. Speaking, meeting, preaching, convincing, etc. One can also be an “indifferent” Christian or atheist and do none of the above.

                2. Beliefs don’t require any protection. No one can read your mind.

                  Your argument is really weird, ace. What exactly do you think constitutes “practicing atheism”?

                  1. Beliefs don’t require any protection. No one can read your mind.

                    Hate crimes legislation requires it.

                    What exactly do you think constitutes “practicing atheism”?

                    Much the same stuff that “practicing Christianity” does. Speaking, meeting, preaching, convincing, etc. One can also be an “indifferent” Christian or atheist and do none of the above.

                    1. Hate crime laws don’t criminalize of punish beliefs, only actions.

                      You are a very silly person. And you clearly have no conception of what atheism actually is if you think that any of those things constitute practicing atheism.

                    2. Hate crime laws don’t criminalize of punish beliefs, only actions.

                      Read any “hate crime” text and you will be surprised. Beliefs matter. It’s a Federal case dependent on motivation…

                      And you clearly have no conception of what atheism actually is if you think that any of those things constitute practicing atheism.

                      Your own words condemn you. You are right now practicing your religion as I am practicing mine.

            4. Just because they can’t force you to accept a religion, doesn’t mean they can’t stop you from “practicing” your atheism.

              Oh noes. This is really going to cut into donations during weekly atheist service.

              You don’t seem to be terribly smart.

              1. You don’t seem to be terribly smart.

                You have not looked deeply into the heart of a truly evil man or you wouldn’t be so flippant with the protections of your rights. Mr. Penaltax agrees.

                1. You want ironclad assurances that the gubmint won’t leave your balls swinging in the breeze?

                  Good luck with that.

                  1. Oh, believe me, I know. The best assurance of Liberty is a lot of very large weapons and many willing/able humans to use them.

                2. Even if considering atheism a religion is a good practical measure to protect your rights, that doesn’t make it true.

                  1. No, but no-one has given me any reason to think otherwise.

                    1. Oh, I think you have been given plenty of reasons. You just continue to argue for an absurd position for some reason.

                    2. Demarcate religion. I have given you all so many opportunities and no-one bites the bullet and does it.

                      Until you do, I will hold that the definition of “religion” is that which you believe above all else.

        2. Um…why do you think atheism needs to be “protected” by a government that can’t legally establish a religion?

          1. Perhaps poor wording on my part. If Atheism isn’t a religion, then the 1st amendment doesn’t stop them from preventing you from exercising it.

            We both know they ignore the amendments as they please, but it is telling that if atheism isn’t a religion, then the 1st amendment doesn’t stop the government from preventing your exercise of it.

            1. What? If there is any sensible meaning to “practicing atheism”, then it is talking about it or maybe having some sort of meeting of like-minded people. Which is also protected by the 1st.

              1. But so is everything else (non-violent). So your argument is that atheism is protected, but only the second sentence of the amendment protects it? Do you really want the courts to see it that way?

                1. What would be the harm of courts not considering atheism a religion? I honestly have no idea what you are suggesting.

                  1. What would be the harm of the courts not considering full autos a “militia” arm? What would be the harm of the courts not considering short-barreled shotguns a militia arm? What would be the harm of the courts not considering black people (or Japanese descendants) citizens? What would be the harm of the courts not considering the 9th amendment? Etc.

                    The more amendments you get protecting you, the better. It means they have to torture the logic of their edicts more. Technically, all amendments are unnecessary as the Constitution was a limitation on government, not carte blanche…

                  2. Then there is nothing objectionable with starting public school classes with an ecumenical prayer.

                    1. Or with a “prayer” to anyone or anything else… Like the “prayer” of the Pledge of Allegiance..

            2. How exactly does one exercise atheism? That’s a nonsense idea.

              1. Much the same as any other religion. By either doing stuff concerning it (speaking, writing, assembling, believing) or by not.

                Do people who never go to Church or pray or read the Bible practice a religion? I can’t really say no…

                1. By either doing stuff concerning it (speaking, writing, assembling, believing) or by not.

                  Gosh, if there was only some language in the BoR that covered speaking, writing and assembly.

                  1. Again, do you want that to be your only protection from the Supreme court?

                    Is atheism more protected than (say) enjoying tractors? Apparently the Founders put in a specific sentence just to ensure a protection of “religion”; did they mean to ignore atheism in that protection?

                    1. Again, do you want that to be your only protection from the Supreme court?

                      I don’t want any protection from SCoTUS; I’m an anarchist as well.

                      Is atheism more protected than (say) enjoying tractors?

                      That depends on the tractor.

                      This is a seriously stupid conversation. Even though I’m an anarchist, I live in the US, so I have to hang my hat on the protections provided by the Constitution.

                      If speech protections are good enough for the Nazis and their beliefs, they’re good enough for me and my non-belief in your deity.

                      Apparently the Founders put in a specific sentence just to ensure a protection of “religion”; did they mean to ignore atheism in that protection?

                      Establishment Clause.

                      The Constitution also doesn’t say that the police can’t force feed me spaghetti and meatballs until my stomach explodes. SCoTUS better get on that.

                    2. Then why are we arguing what the 1st amendment says? I haz teh confuzed.

                      If speech protections are good enough for the Nazis and their beliefs, they’re good enough for me and my non-belief in your deity.

                      Unless you want to say that the draft is wrong… When it becomes unpopular, it’s OK to persecute (according to the Court).

                      Establishment Clause

                      Not forcing religion on you isn’t the same thing as preventing the practice of something that isn’t a religion (like enjoying tractors).

                      The Constitution also doesn’t say that the police can’t force feed me spaghetti and meatballs until my stomach explodes. SCoTUS better get on that.

                      Obamacare decision. The argument was the “can government make us eat broccoli if it’s determined to be good for you?” and the answer was “yes”. So, yes, they think they could.

                      If you want a document to protect your rights, then the more it protects you, the better.

                    3. If you want a document to protect your rights, then the more it protects you, the better.

                      I don’t.

                      I want everyone who wants to control me to fuck off.

                    4. Your argument here is bizarre, ace. None of the constitution stuff has any bearing on whether atheism is properly considered a religion or not.

                    5. The Founders considered it a “religion” or didn’t protect it with the first sentence of the 1st amendment.

                      You are right in saying that the Founders’ opinions have no bearing on whether or not it actually is, but everyone has failed to demarcate “religion” for me, so I thought I’d show that others had (probably) considered it a religion.

        3. Except the attacks on “religion” through the courts by atheists are largely on establishment clause grounds, not free exercise clause grounds.

          1. Which is why I would then ask you to demarcate what “religion” is, then. See my comment a few posts below.

    1. This is, like, so wrong, I don’t even know where to begin. Wow. You should probably look at the definition of atheism. It’s in opposition to religion and is all about a lack of faith, idiot.

      At least that’s the response I usually get when I pose the same question.

      1. And that’s the response you get right before they try to convert you.

        1. Heh, true, it is an odd tactic that some atheists use: insult and condescend the person you’re trying to convince. “Militant” Christians don’t really do that, in my experience.

          But I’m already converted. And asking that question, combined with my political beliefs, makes me an apostate. After all, I simply believe in this fairy tale called the free market instead of a deity (whereas a belief in central planning is totally rational and evidence-based; order arising from chaos can only apply to natural phenomenon).

      2. Yeah because people always mean what they say. They never project or rationalize their real intentions through words or anything. Nope. Atheism says “rationalism” therefore no militant atheist could be acting on faith.

        1. “faith” is a word with more than one meaning, and you know it John.

          “I have faith the sun will come up tomorrow” has nothing to do with religion.

          Militant atheists who have an antagonistic relationship with religious people are not practicing an alternate form of religion.

          1. Of course they are. Instead of pretending there is a God, they pretend there is meaning and some higher truth. What Christians call God and Muslims call Allah, people like Bailey call “reason” and “natural rights” and whatever other made up belief or set of values they have that gives their life purpose and meaning. I don’t begrudge them that. No one could live otherwise without going nuts. I just laugh when they claim they are not basing their lives on faith.

            1. I actually like you John. But on this matter, you are a fucking idiot. This is the same argument that creationists make — “science is just another type of religion”. You are bastardizing the English language.

              1. But he’s our fucking idiot!

              2. But on this matter, you are a fucking idiot.

                Yep. He’s like a progressive on this issue. Progressives only understand force, so they cannot comprehend the concept of liberty. John only understands faith, so he cannot comprehend the concept of atheism.

              3. I like you too Kinneth. I am not an idiot. You just haven’t thought deeply enough about these things. We are talking about values and meaning here. What makes you think science is some greater good? It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. If some primitive tribe in the Amazon lives a happy and fulfilled life with no knowledge or care for science, are they wrong? Have they lived a worse life than you or I? I don’t think so. If the pursuit of scientific knowledge is your thing, more power to you. But you have no claim to superiority over the head hunter in New Guinna. You are both living by whatever values you find gives you the most fulfillment. There is no way to say in any definitive way which set is better than the other.

                I am not making an argument for theism here. I am just telling you what the world looks like without a God against which to measure the value of things against.

                1. I’m a Christian, John. But I think you’re completely wrong on this. God is a completely unnecessary yardstick against which to measure “the value of things”.

                  1. Cn,

                    God is the only yardstick. Without God, we have no first assumptions. We can’t even say that existence is better than non existence. Without a higher power upon which to measure ourselves and to give us our first assumptions, we cannot reason or know anything with certainty.

                2. What makes you think science is some greater good?

                  I don’t. It’s just a tool for explaining the real world.

                  I am just telling you what the world looks like without a God against which to measure the value of things against.

                  I don’t need god to stand in awe of the Grand Canyon. I don’t need god to decide it’s good to help other people. I don’t need god to decide it’s bad to brutalize other people. I don’t need god to decide what things have value and what things don’t.

                  1. I don’t need god to stand in awe of the Grand Canyon. I don’t need god to decide it’s good to help other people. I don’t need god to decide it’s bad to brutalize other people. I don’t need god to decide what things have value and what things don’t.

                    John does. That’s the sad part. Without religious faith he would have no morality at all.

                    That’s why I’m not so sure that this is something to celebrate. If more people like John didn’t have faith, they would most certainly be cops or criminals.

                    1. Without religious faith he would have no morality at all.

                      No, I would have whatever morality I decided to have. I would do exactly what you do, adopt whatever moral code I found most appealing and worked for me. The only difference would be that I would be self aware enough to understand that my code, whatever it is, is just something I adopted because I liked it instead of being like you and running around pretending I had access to some special higher truth.

                  2. You don’t need any of that Kinneth. You just need to be able to lie to yourself and pretend any of it matters. Whatever lies you want to tell yourself to get through life is your business. But understand, they are lies.

                  3. I don’t. It’s just a tool for explaining the real world.

                    And you really are completely unaware of all of the assumptions behind that sentence. Amazing.

                3. If some primitive tribe in the Amazon lives a happy and fulfilled life with no knowledge or care for science, are they wrong? Have they lived a worse life than you or I?

                  If they are basing their morality on something that’s not real, and making moral decisions on a daily basis for reasons that are also not real, it seems like there’s at least a decent chance they’re going to make some mistakes and, yes, end up being bad, immoral people.

                  1. If they are basing their morality on something that’s not real, and making moral decisions on a daily basis for reasons that are also not real,

                    You are really disappointing me here Niki. If it makes them happy and it works for them, what the hell difference does it make if it is “not real”, assuming there is any such thing. Who says you even know what real is? They think it is real. Even if it is not, so what? Is a miserable life lived in the “real” better than a happy and fulfilled one lived in the “unreal”? I don’t see why. The only way it isn’t is if the bullshit you tell yourself is “the purpose of life is to live in the real”. Okay., if it works for you have fun. But don’t kid yourself and think you are any better or worse than the guy in the Amazon. You are just different.

                    1. It’s like you only focused on the part where I said “not real” and missed the part where I said fantasies might make you do something IMMORAL.

                      I believe I am the only real human in the world, and therefore it is okay for me to kill anyone else. What’s the problem, I’m happy, and you don’t know what’s real.

                    2. Niki,

                      Who is to say even you are real? All you can say is “there is thinking going on”. You can’t say you or anything is responsible for it or controlling it.

              4. Demarcate “religion”. Do it now.

                Also, another thing that I bring up that makes all the atheists look at me with a blank stare.

                Is “Jedi” a religion? If just one person believes in it (actually believes in it), then it is, or it isn’t protected by the 1st amendment. But, the 1st doesn’t give the government the authority to proclaim what was and wasn’t a religion (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”); and in fact precludes it from doing so (“or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”).

                Now, does that mean you can’t show Star Wars in the schools? Apparently not.

                Now, what if one, just one, person actually believes in Darwin as a religion? Crap… What about Euclid? Or Einstein?

                So demarcate “religion”. Please. For all of us,

                1. Ace,

                  A religion is whatever you want to use to justify your existence and give your life meaning. Can Jedi be a religion? If living by those tenants and doing whatever it is Jedi’s do is what you use to give your life meaning and stand in for the greater good? Damn straight it is a religion. How is it not?

                  1. John,

                    Exactly. Just don’t tell the atheists, the agnostics, the schools, or the government that. Especially those who worship the government…

                  2. That definition of religion is so broad as to be almost entirely useless.

                    And I don’t see any reason why my existence has to be justified or have any essential meaning anyway. Why should existence have meaning? Seems like an unreasonable thing to expect from the universe. Meaning is something humans invented.

                    1. It is not useless at all Zeb. A religion is simply whatever a person sees as the higher good and moral order of the world. The rest is just trappings. Every religion is at its heart an explanation of what is the good and what is the meaningful life. That is it.

                    2. A religion is simply whatever a person sees as the higher good and moral order of the world.

                      You are neglecting the possibility that people might not believe that there is a higher good or absolute moral order in the world. And might believe that meaning is just something people impose on the world.

                      Every religion is at its heart an explanation of what is the good and what is the meaningful life.

                      But it doesn’t follow from that that every explanation of what is good and meaningful in life is a religion.

                    3. You are neglecting the possibility that people might not believe that there is a higher good or absolute moral order in the world.

                      No I am not Zeb. I am saying if they don’t do that, they have a religion, whether they admit to it or not.

                    4. OK. In that case, why do you think that atheists think that there is any absolute morality or meaning? Morality and meaning are both human inventions based on broad notions of human nature and are meaningless outside of the context of human relationships.

                2. Religion is philosophy with dogma and ritual. There.

                  And philosophy is composed of four branches. (I’m cribbing from Ayn Rand)

                  Metaphysics = Nature of Reality
                  Epistemology= How do I know this?
                  Ethics= So how do I go about living my life?
                  Social philosophy = How do we construct a society?

                  All of these are interrelated, and proceed from top to bottom, although Epistemology overlaps Metaphysics in the order.

              5. I think it’s fair to say that some atheists merely swap out traditionally religious concepts for ‘secular’ concepts that seem to be just as mystical. But that doesn’t mean we all do it, or that any invocation of reason or natural rights is guilty of it.

                And I do think some atheists ought to be more humble. Sure, there is a substantive difference between a religious belief and general beliefs grounded in physical observation or testing, but they are still beliefs…

                1. I agree with you MJ. What you are saying is pretty much what I am saying just put in less incendiary terms. Something about this topic makes me be a bit of a bomb thrower. Most atheists never run into a theist who will make a proper argument and thus smugly assume that they are the only rational people on earth. It is always fun to debase them of that assumption. It does not, however, win you many friends among atheists.

              6. No Kinnath,

                The belief in scientific truth as the highest good is a faith based assumption. You can worship science just like you can worship the government or God.

            2. Your defining a lack of faith as faith is like Tony defining liberty as coercion.

              1. Your defining a lack of faith as faith is like Tony defining liberty as coercion.

                To be fair I think John means militant atheist. Those people who rent billboards to poke the faithful in the eye. Other (most?) atheist just don’t care about religion and leave people alone. Like most Christians leave people alone, but you notice the evangelicals that get in everyone’s face, including other Christians. I would consider militant atheist a “faith”, and normal atheism a lack of faith.

                1. To be fair I think John means militant atheist.

                  Your fairness is undeserved. He describes all atheists this way.

                  1. To be fair I think John means militant atheist.

                    Your fairness is undeserved. He describes all atheists this way.

                    Upon further reading I believe you are correct.

                  2. sarc, that is not fair as, on the whole, John does not do that.

                    Most of the time, John takes care to differentiate between garden variety atheists and militant ones.

                    To be sure, John tends to type with celerity and this often leads to jokes and questions about spelling and tense and sometimes meaning (John, not making fun, just telling it like it is).

                    In a way, I envy John’s insouciance regarding grammar and spelling.

                    1. Most of the time, John takes care to differentiate between garden variety atheists and militant ones.

                      No, actually. He does not. When pressed he sometimes acknowledges the difference between atheists and anti-religionists, but most of the time he lumps them together.

                      On the subject of atheism he is an ass.

                2. Even among the militant, it isn’t necessarily a faith. They might just be assholes who think everyone’s business is their own.

            3. No one could live otherwise without going nuts.

              I don’t believe in any god.

              I don’t believe in any after life.

              I don’t believe in any spiritual aspect of this universe.

              I am plenty sane and quite comfortable in my life.

              I also wish equally that loud-mouth atheists and loud-mouth believers would just shut the fuck up.

              1. But Kinneth you believe that your life has meaning and that there are greater goods and values that you should pursue. If you didn’t believe in those things, you really would be a nihilist and would go nuts.

                The point is, without a God, that meaning and those things that you view as good are just shit you made up or shit someone told you that you found appealing. You are living your life pretending that those things really are better and good and meaningful instead of the shit you made up to be happy that they are. And that is living your life based on faith.

                1. The point is, without a God, that meaning and those things that you view as good are just shit you made up

                  Yup. What’s the problem with that.

                  And that is living your life based on faith.

                  At this point, you are applying the shit that you made up inside your head to what you think is going on inside my head.

                  1. Nothing Kinneth. There is no problem. Just don’t look down on people who make up other shit they call God. It is all faith based.

                    1. From my point of view, there is no god so your belief is false. And I am perfectly comfortable with you believing what ever you want to believe.

                      From your point of view, there must be a god so my denial of god is me lying to myself.

                      In the end, it just doesn’t matter unless you want to posit that laws can only exist because moral behavior depends on god.

                    2. From my point of view, there is a God and your belief is false. More importantly, if I didn’t believe in God, I wouldn’t consider your values false but I would consider any claim you made to their truth to be utterly irrational. Without God, your values are whatever bullshit you tell yourself to get through the day and nothing more.

                    3. Have a nice afternoon John.

                    4. John and kinnath, how about that Wells report?

              2. I suspect that many people adopt their own faith and morality out of fear. They can’t understand why anyone would behave well toward their fellow humans without fear of divine punishment.

                1. I suspect that many people adopt their own faith and morality out of fear. They can’t understand why anyone would behave well toward their fellow humans without fear of divine punishment.

                  That describes John to a T.

                2. Not true Citizen Nothing. People don’t victimize other people because doing so doesn’t make them happy. You can’t help how something makes you feel. Just because you feel an instinctual revulsion at murdering someone or lying, doesn’t mean those things or wrong. It just means you don’t want to do them. In the same way, you don’t need the threat of punishment not to do them. You don’t do them anyway.

                  I totally understand why people would do nice or even heroic and noble things without the thought of some eternal reward. They do them because doing so makes them happy. If you get joy from helping people, why wouldn’t you? At the same time, if you get joy from jerking off or banging hookers or running con scheme, do that too. It is all the same in the end.

                  1. Just as Tony cannot comprehend the concept of limited government based upon principle, and insists that libertarians want to limit government based upon what they like or dislike, John cannot comprehend a system of morality based upon principle, and insists that without faith is must be based upon what a person likes or feels.

                    1. Sarcasmic,

                      Are you really so dense that you don’t understand there is nothing about your principles, whatever they are, that means other people necessarily must believe in them too? You have your principles. Good for you. Other people have different ones. You just like yours. There is nothing about them that are any better or worse than any other principles. They are just what you like. That is it.

                    2. There is nothing about them that are any better or worse than any other principles. They are just what you like. That is it.

                      My principles are based upon rationality. Your faith is based upon irrationality.

                    3. And what makes you think rationality is better than irrationality? Who told you rationality was the ultimate measure of things? And even if it was, how do you know your rationality is the complete and best form of rationality?

                      When you say “based on rationality” you are really saying “based on my feelings” Sorry, but that is what you are doing here.

                    4. When you say “based on rationality” you are really saying “based on my feelings” Sorry, but that is what you are doing here.

                      No, John, that’s not what I’m doing. Apparently you have no concept of rationality either.

                    5. Sarcasmic, you do realize rational syllogisms require assumptions to work. They don’t just float on air.

                    6. My assumptions are based upon observing how society functions, and what works for keeping it civil. That’s not faith. Quite the opposite. Basing beliefs on what you can observe and to a certain extent prove is the opposite of faith. Just as trust in science is not faith, since by definition science is something that can be proven. Faith by definition is believing in something you cannot see, touch or prove. It’s all based upon trust. With very few exceptions (like my wife for example) I am pretty much incapable of trust, and by extension faith.

                3. Why is it rational to behave well if you are better off behaving poorly? Isn’t it true all all humans act in their own self-interest? If true, then the only reason people act good is because they think they will be better off for it. But then you get the truly evil people who come to the other conclusion.

                  Why shouldn’t they be evil if it makes them better off?

                  1. ace,

                    People obtain pleasure and happiness in different ways. What is better off to you may be appalling to me or someone else. Some people like the fulfillment of hard work and a safe, orderly existence. Other people think such a life is hell on earth or for suckers and crave risk and gain pleasure from stealing or harming people. It is all just a question of what works for you. Neither person is right or wrong or any better than the other.

                    1. John,

                      Exactly right, except that last sentence. Doing evil to others is wrong and it is worse than doing good to them. But the atheist can’t tell me why.

                    2. Ace,

                      To say something is “evil” you have to know what is good. And who are you to say what is good? Why isn’t the guy who runs the con game living a good life? Because he harms other people? Who says harming other people makes your life bad? Where did that come from other than you like it that way. And indeed, we all harm people all of the time. Is the harm I do somehow better because ” I didn’t mean to” or I had some rationalization for doing it better than the harm the con man does? I don’t see why. We both do what gets us through life.

                      Now sure, we need to have rules to have a civilization because most people prefer it that way. But that just makes what he does risky. It doesn’t make it wrong. In fact it may make it better since the risk of getting caught may be part of the attraction for him.

                    3. John,

                      They know, and you and I know, that it is evil, they just can’t explain why.

                      To the libertarian atheist who rails against the evils of government, I ask “why shouldn’t evil men do it if they can get away with it?”

                      Stalin and Mao didn’t suffer for their evils, so who cares if you’re supposed to respect NAP? Kill millions if it suits you!

                    4. Of course they know it is evil ace. And I suspect they at heart know why, they just won’t admit it to even themselves.

            4. Instead of pretending there is a God, they pretend there is meaning and some higher truth.

              Plenty of anti-theists are nihilists.

              1. Very few Nikki. I give you credit. You are about the closest thing to a real nihilist I have ever met. I don’t think you quite believe as good of a game as you talk. But only you know that so I will never know. That said, you are very rare in that you actually understand the consequences of a Godless universe.

                1. You might be surprised (wrt me). But yeah.

    2. Militant atheists are merely assholes. That is not the same is believing in the unprovable.

      1. Militant anything are assholes.

      2. Believing the unprovable statement “God exits” and believing the unprovable statement “God does not exist” are both acts of faith.

        1. unprovable statement “God does not exist”

          A god which has measurable impact on the real world would be provable. A god which has no measurable impact on the world would be unprovable and totally irrelevant.

          both acts of faith.

          Bullshit.

          1. A god which has measurable impact on the real world would be provable

            Such a quaint view of a universe. In principle that may be true (depending on your definition of “proof”) — in practice, it sure as fuck ain’t the case depending on what impacts a god-being is having or has had on the world in the past.

            Are you really unfamiliar, as a libertarian, with the problem of knowledge as it relates to humans? Are you so unfamiliar, as a man interested in philosophy, with the horrible beating positivism has taken in the past century, and the ascendance of critical realism and other alternatives in philosophical circles?

            The above statement is so childishly simplistic as to be inadmissible in a world where we simply do not have the requisite level to properly evaluate the claim.

            1. Philosophy — masturbation without the happy ending.

              1. Then why are you even here? What interest can this discussion possibly hold for you?

        2. s: I am an atheist the same way that I am an a-unicornist. Show me either one and I will change my mind. Not believing in either gods or unicorns is not an act of faith – it’s a demand for empirical evidence.

          1. Fair enough. I believe that unicorns have a kind of existence, too, in that there is such a thing as “not-unicorn,” such that there is, in a sense, such a thing as “yes-unicorn.”

            Existence is a tricky concept, especially when discussing the “Author of Existence.” I suppose I am merely suggesting that to say “I have not personally seen empirical evidence of an Author of Existence therefore I know there to be no Author of Existence” is an act of faith. I do not feel confident making that assertion.

            Is it the same sort of act of faith involved in believing a mean old man sitting on a cloud is judging all of our behavior? No.

          2. ” Not believing in either gods or unicorns is not an act of faith – it’s a demand for empirical evidence.”

            As much empirical evidence of, say, black holes? Which you surely believe exist as an act of faith in those who claim they actually comprehend the mathematical calculations necessary to prove such, even though you do not have such comprehension.

            1. There is plenty of empirical evidence of black holes other then mere mathematics.

              But to your larger point, having an opinion, even a strong one about a particular scientific theory for which there is a great deal – or even a small amount – of evidence, is not the same as believing in god much less any particular god. You might, MIGHT have a case if you could show that such a person still clung to a particular theory even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence.

              1. “if you could show that such a person still clung to a particular theory even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence

                The lack of overwhelming contrary evidence for God’s existence is what makes atheism a faith.

        3. Believing the unprovable statement “God exits” and believing the unprovable statement “God does not exist” are both acts of faith.

          What’s it called when you realize you can’t find the answer and stop worrying about it?

          1. Ockham’s razor.

          2. Giving zero fucks?

            Which is pretty much where I am at this point. I just wish the militant theists and the militant anti-theists would just go get a room and hate fuck already, and leave the rest of us alone.

            1. Hate fuck? Aweeeee yeeeaaaahhhh, boi!

          3. Agnostic in the way it was introduced by T. H. Huxley or its stricter philosophical sense and not in the wishy-washy “I just don’t know” sense.

            1. That’s what I meant by Ockham’s Razor, but I overindulge in my medieval philosophy references. Short version: “provably un-provable, so to be held in a state of intellectual non-determination” or a “non-faith-faith.”

              There’s a great fourteenth-century tract called “The Cloud of Unknowing” that lays this out nicely (and not in Latin).

              1. I’d agree with that. I don’t reject the idea that a deity could exist, but I’d need evidence first. Functionally it’s no different from an atheist, but I think the emphasis is a little different.

                I made an LDS missionary cry once by defining myself as a devout agnostic. It was the high point of my week.

                1. I made an LDS missionary cry once by defining myself as a devout agnostic. It was the high point of my week.

                  You should have also told him about your sexual preferences. That probably would have made him vomit at the same time. Or “cromit”.

                  1. Part of the crying was related to me not knowing that God loves me for just who I am, which probably would’ve been a good time to start a discussion on what the LDS folks believe about homosexuality, but I didn’t really want to prolong the encounter. Normally I enjoy talking to Mormons. As soon as I tell them my childhood friend’s father was a two-term stake president in my area they stop trying to convert me and are just really nice people to chat with for a few minutes before they move on. This missionary was more …tenacious.

    3. How are you defining “Militant atheism”? My agreeing/discussing (with) this hinges on the definition.

    4. Militant atheism is, itself, a faith. Discuss.

      Not exactly. What I think happens is that a non-religious belief can inhabit a similar mental and emotional space. Thus atheists (or progressives, etc.) will often think and behave like religious believers.

    5. Atheists make definite epistemological claims about the universe which are, for all intensive porpoises, unfalsifiable. It’s one thing to make a personal decision about the inexistence of God, as I do, and to oppose having that or any belief questioned under the color of law. It’s another thing altogether to posture intellectually and morally as a lot of atheists tend to do on an unanswered and unanswerable subject. That’s obnoxious and antiscientific.

      1. Is it anti-scientific to state categorically that Santa Claus doesn’t exist?

        1. Yes, though it may be true, it isn’t within the realm of science.

          You should have picked a better example.

    6. I would not call it a faith Fist, however the militant types are just exhibiting the same type of tribal behavior as their theistic counterparts.

  2. Hooray! Because atheist have never violated anyone’s rights.

    1. FoE & DLotC:

      Feeling defensive? Let’s just stipulate: Belief in a deity nor unbelief does not prevent some people from violating other people’s rights.

      Great Awakenings involve the politicization of religious belief and that means that believers try to impose their views of morality on other people (for their own good, of course).

      1. In the Name of Science!

        1. An annoying trait of new atheists is that they reason: “my opinions are no longer guided by religion, therefore they must be guided by science, and are therefore indisputable.” This leads otherwise reasonable people to claim that “science” is on their side on many political issues where actual scientific debate exists.

          1. “This leads otherwise reasonable people to claim that “science” is on their side on many political issues where actual scientific debate exists.”

            Example?

      2. You think atheist/ secular progs don’t try to force their morality on others?

        1. Does it matter, if religious people do the same?

      3. Feeling defensive?

        My paranoia is caused by everyone being out to get me.

        I will stipulate that values voters and the Christian right are almost as bad for limited government as the central planning left. Almost.

        1. It’s crazy. As much as I dislike conservatives’ beliefs, if I spend 5 minutes seeing what the central planning left are up to, I realize that the Conservatives aren’t so bad. Much better when it comes to State’s rights, anyway. (far from perfect though)

          1. And this is why libertarians will always remain marginalized – the red-headed step child of the republican party.

      4. Great Awakenings involve the politicization of religious belief

        False.

        That is an aftershock of Great Awakenings, and not necessarily required. Although it does seem to be a likely result.

        The Great Awakenings themselves are not at all about politics. Its just that new converts cant seem to keep their faith out of their politics (which is fine as long as it isnt rights violating, but it usually is).

      5. Great Awakenings involve the politicization of religious belief and that means that believers try to impose their views of morality on other people (for their own good, of course).

        Then I guess the first Great Awakening, which didn’t involve politicization of religious belief (except to the extent that its opponents used the state authority to suppress revivals) wasn’t really a great awakening.

      6. Great Awakenings involve the politicization of religious belief and that means that believers try to impose their views of morality on other people (for their own good, of course).

        Which is always evil.

        How dare those religious zealots of the 19th century impose their view of the illegitimacy of slavery on the rest of the country. And by force of arms.

        1. VGZ and others:

          If you’d read my article, you’d find that the Progressives you disdain (as do I) derive historically and intellectually straight from the Third Great Awakenings’ Social Gospel movement.

        2. How dare those religious zealots of the 19th century impose their view of the illegitimacy of slavery on the rest of the country. And by force of arms.

          I came here to say this. I am an atheist. The belief that a secular society will be one that promotes liberty is without evidence. Indeed, the decrease in the worship of God directly correlates with an increase in the worship of the State.

          I can decide not to worship at the Church of Jesus. I am not given that Liberty when it comes to the Church of the State.

          Hooray for a country more like, Soviet Russia? China?

          1. “the decrease in the worship of God directly correlates with an increase in the worship of the State”

            Yes, but the cause-effect relationship (I believe) goes in the other direction. This is why in the Byzantine Empire, people trusted the Roman Pope more than the Orthodox Patriarch – the Pope (at that time) was un-beholden, politically speaking.

            1. Either way, the promise of rule by reason alone didn’t work out terribly well for revolutionary France or the innumerable crackpot Marxists and proto-Marxists over the centuries.

              1. True – as to a government “Reason,” “God’s Will,” and the “the Will of the People” are simply useful sets of syllables.

          2. I agree that atheism doesn’t guarantee better government, but I’d remind you that the slave holders were also devoutly religious. Atheism wasn’t much involved in slavery either way.

      7. “Great Awakenings involve the politicization of religious belief and that means that believers try to impose their views of morality on other people (for their own good, of course).”

        Have your read David Goldfield’s *America Aflame*? He blames northern Protestant evangelicals, with their religion-based opposition to slavery, for helping provoke the Civil War.

        What do you think about that?

        1. Oops, VG Zaytsev beat me to it.

          1. But it doesn’t look like Ron Bailey’s post of 12:05PM addresses this issue directly.

      8. “Great Awakenings involve the politicization of religious belief and that means that believers try to impose their views of morality on other people (for their own good, of course).”

        Therefore providers of wedding services being forced to serve same sex weddings.

        Perhaps we are in an anti-religion Great Awakening, but the easy equivalence of atheist with tolerance of other people’s moral choices is laughable.

  3. And yet, despite stories like this, it is nearly impossible for a non-Christian to be elected to national office.

    1. Not for long. The race barrier has been broken, the gender barrier has a good chance of being broken in the next election, so it’s just a matter of time before the religious barrier to the White House falls too. I just hope, that unlike with race and gender, when we do finally put a non-christian in the White House, it won’t just be for novelty’s sake.

      1. Didnt the religious barrier get broken by Thomas Jefferson?

        1. I’m going with “yes”.

        2. Presidents weren’t popularly elected then.

          1. The election of 1804 used the same electoral college system we use today (1800 was different, of course, hence the change).

            1. Power of the incumbency. Nonetheless, Jefferson always presented himself in public as a conventional Christian.

              1. ^ This. The gap between Jefferson’s public and private comments on religion is *massive*.

            2. Random thought. Washington was hailed as a modern Cincinnatus after stepping down from the presidency, and perhaps he was, but could you imagine the temptation to stay on (for him and his successors) if the post had the power and prestige it possesses now?

      2. Gallup hates Atheists.

        Mormons and Jews are better.

    2. The current president would suggest otherwise.

      1. He claims to be Christian and spent decades in attendance of a Jew-hating minister. So Ima go with “Christian.”

        1. Nixon claimed to be a Quaker, but I dont believe that either.

          1. I can believe it. There are different flavors of Quakers- this is outside of my experience (having been raised as a non-Christian), but my wife is the other flavor and tells me that the branch from which Nixon originated is basically indistinguishable from conventional Protestantism.

            1. Yes, not only do you have fundamentalist Quakers and post-Christian Quakers, but you have pacifist Quakers and soldier-Quakers. Etc.

          2. That Obama has to claim to be a Christian to be elected is evidence of anti-atheist bigotry in of itself.

            1. True, and ditto for Jefferson (though he may have honestly been a Deist).

              1. I think he was. There may be (probably is) anti-atheist bigotry but I dont think Jefferson or Obama shows anything of the sort, as I dont think either’s true beliefs are atheist.

            2. Or is it anti-Moslem bigotry?

              1. It could be, robc. But then there was that poll where Americans admitted to trusting convicted rapists more than atheists.

                And besides, if Obama was a Muslim but professed to being a Christian, he’d be an apostate, something far worse in the eyes of most Muslims than an atheist.

                1. I, personally, dont think he is Moslem either.

                  I dont know what his beliefs are, so who knows what the anti- he is protecting against.

            3. Look at the churches the man attended. Christianity may have been a vehicle but he’s worshiped at the alter of civic secularism most of his life.

    3. I’d vote for an Aqua Buddhist.

  4. “Just as I predicted seven years ago.”

    Ron, have you been channeling the spirit of Daniel Patrick Moynihan?

  5. Can we now not draw pictures of The Prophet Jesus Christ since that would be punching down?

  6. 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.

    Yeah Ron, that is why the government was so much bigger and its control over our lives so much greater in the past than it is today. Right Ron? Seriously, what could possibly make you think that people becoming areligious will cause them to give up the desire to control other people’s lives?

    The biggest forces against freedom over the last hundred years has been the three headed monster of fascism, communism and progressiveism. All of those are secular or outright atheist movements. Moreover, two of the three, communism and progressiveism, come wrapped in the garb of science and reason.

    I for the life of me cannot understand how anyone could think that people expressing a “commitment to reason” whatever that is necessarily or even probably means that they will embrace freedom. That is frankly delusional. If anything, the repudiation of the supernatural and embrace of crude materialism is likely to lead to the opposite. Take all that away and it gets very hard to affirm the sanctity of the individual and not look at people as nothing but means to be used for the greater good. Unless you believe the individual is the ultimate end and only an end and never a means, you can’t justify freedom.

    1. “Yeah Ron, that is why the government was so much bigger and its control over our lives so much greater in the past than it is today. Right Ron? Seriously, what could possibly make you think that people becoming areligious will cause them to give up the desire to control other people’s lives?”

      Your second part is right, in that losing religion could just be replaced with a different desire for control, i.e. socialism or progressivism. I do think that religion is a major driving factor between a desire for control though. Most of the authoritarianism in American history has come with a religious bent, including prohibition and government censorship. Anthony Comstock was hardly throwing people in jail for sending porn in the mail because he was an atheist.

      There’s also the slight issue of historical theocracies and all of the various religious theocracies currently in existence. That not only includes Islamic theocracies, it also includes places like Uganda making homosexuality a capital offense based on Christianity.

      1. The first part was sarcastic Irish. Religion is at most a rationalization for what people want to do anyway.

      2. There were also a whole lot of secular progressives pushing prohibition and censorship because they thought they could engineer a better world.

        1. Absolutely. More importantly, they were and are convinced they are ushering in that better world based on reason and scientific inquiry and certainty. Yet, Ron just knows that people will embrace freedom rather than Utopianism if they just give up God and embrace reason. Really?

        2. The progressive movement has retained many of the mores of 19th century Christians and merely replaced Jesus with the people as their deity.

      3. I do think that religion is a major driving factor between a desire for control though.

        I think this is exactly backwards. And it is a key reason Mr Bailey’s rose colored view of a world absent religion rings so hollow.

        People desire to control others, and will use whatever convenient method to impose their will on others. At the end of a Great Awakening, you have a massive group of people whose religious beliefs make religion an attractive vehicle for gaining control.

        Throughout history people seeking control have used Religious but also Secular and even Anti-Theist beliefs to push their agenda.

        What great scourges did the “4th Great Awakening” unleash upon this world or in the United States? How do those compare to the scourges of Communism- a self described Atheist phillosophy- operating in the same time frames? How about Environmentalism and the appeal to Science in order to basically micro-manage our every decision? How about Progressive wars on Poverty, Illiteracy, Crime, etc?

        The greatest thing about the Renaissance was not that people started abolishing religion as a belief system (ex Luther was a religious man, after all) but rather a rejection of Religion as a point of control. No Scientific renaissance is evident in the future, which means the abolishment of Religion won’t bring any relief from statists.

        1. Well said.

  7. This is good news, and it gets even better. We have actually made a small gain in our numbers! Ah the age of tolerance. Well, unless you are a white religious christian. Joel Gehrke writes in the NeoCon Review:

    Religious institutions could be at risk of losing their tax-exempt status due to their beliefs about marriage if the Supreme Court holds that gay couples have a constitutional right to wed, President Obama’s attorney acknowledged to the Supreme Court today.

    “It’s certainly going to be an issue,” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli replied when Justice Samuel Alito asked if schools that support the traditional definition of marriage would have to be treated like schools that once opposed interracial marriage. “I don’t deny that.”

    http://www.nationalreview.com/…..-rules-gay

    But who cares about those losers? What matters are that the Good People are being tolerated now.

    1. Treating churches ( or synagogues or mosques) like any other business is intolerant?

      1. A synagogue is not a business.

        1. Ok, how about “any other entity which collects dues from its members, has paid employees and owns property”

    2. Churches should lose their tax exempt status since it’s absurd that mega churches with millionaire pastors get treated as if they’re not the big businesses they are. Churches shouldn’t have special privileges not provided to the rest of us should we decide to start non-religious businesses.

      1. Kind of an apples to oranges comparison, don’t you think? If you want to start a non profit corporation(a valid comparison) there’s nothing stopping you. No, if you take away church’s tax exempt status, you would also probably have to take it away from synagogues and I won’t tolerate that.

        No, much better to selectively persecute the ethnic enemy, just as we already do now with those opposed to interracial marriage.(Lots of synagogues oppose interracial marriage when the races being talked about are Jewish and non-Jewish, but that shit doesn’t apply to us.)

      2. That doesn’t go far enough Irish.

        No entity should be given tax exempt status, period. It’s a recipe for corruption.

        Social organizations should be allowed to deduct all of their expenses and then be taxed on the retained earnings, the same as any other entity.

        1. Single Land Tax.

          Exclude **NO ONE**.

          And I mean none. The Fed gov would have to pay the state and local portions on land they own.

          State land would still have to pay the Fed and local. And etc.

          And churches would pay all 3.

          1. Single Land Tax.

            Exclude **NO ONE**.

            And I mean none. The Fed gov would have to pay the state and local portions on land they own.

            State land would still have to pay the Fed and local. And etc.

            And churches would pay all 3.

            I agree.

          2. This sounds flippant, but I honestly wonder about this… Is living in a lighthouse on a minimal plot a way to reduce your land use tax burden?

            1. Sure.

              Not sure how a lighthouse changes anything, as a land tax doesnt care about structures at all. Same tax whether empty or with a skyscraper.

              Although a functional skyscraper probably means the per sq ft value of the land is higher.

              IIRC, the land in Manhattan is worth more than the land in Iowa.

              1. The lighthouse is for the square footage. It seems that under a single land tax, up and not out would be the way to go.

          3. A Georgist style land tax made some sense when most people made their living off of the land. Nowadays, not so much. But I agree with your larger point: everyone pays, no one gets a special break.

      3. Churches should lose their tax exempt status since it’s absurd that mega churches with millionaire pastors get treated as if they’re not the big businesses they are.

        I take it you want to apply this rule to big businesses such as the American Red Cross (whose president gets base compensation of $562,364 and other compensation of $35,597), Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (whose CEO gets $2,574,085), and the Metropolitan Opera (whose general manager gets $1.395 million), not just to those non-profits that call themselves churches?

        1. No exceptions.

        2. How about this? A requirement for a church being tax-exempt is that all of the employee’s total compensation be posted on the church door?

          1. dammit – “each employee’s”

      4. So taxes are government theft except wrt churches?

        We should be applauding churches for managing to keep their coffers clear of the taxmans fingers instead of progressively demanding they be stolen from as well.

  8. Christianity has been around for 2000 years. The entire human race has for the most part been believers in some sort of religion for a lot longer than that. Yet, Ron just knows this time people are going to turn away and join the church of rationalism and nihilism without the abyss for sure this time. This time it is different.

    Good luck with that.

    1. Which of course he never said since what he actually said was that the Fourth Great Awakening was coming to an end IN AMERICA not that atheism was going to be forever ascendant on a global scale. There could always be a Fifth Great Awakening in 40 years, which Bailey never rules out.

      Your entire argument is based on vitriolically attacking points Bailey never even attempted to make.

    2. Religion has been used to fill in the gaps in Human knowledge about life, the universe and everything. As those gaps get smaller and smaller, there is going to be less and less appeal to religion. And this is a one-way road, so past performance is not an indicator of future results.

      1. Meh, look at all of the superstitious nonsense that various non christians believe.

      2. Religion is, in a certain way of looking at it, adherence to outmoded (and poorly understood) science. People centuries from now people will religiously hold onto beliefs that we now consider scientific long after they have been disproven.

  9. J: You write: the individual is the ultimate end and only an end and never a means, you can’t justify freedom.

    That’s exactly what I believe. See among other things, Hayek’s Individualism: True and False.

    1. Sure you believe that Ron. And good for you. Your problem is you think that everyone else will believe the same thing if they only embrace reason. And that is frankly, nuts. I am sorry but I don’t know any other way to put it. There is nothing that necessarily makes that true. it all depends on what your assumptions and values are. If someone believes it really is possible to create a better world, they will absolutely reject that. Why on earth should we let people making stupid and destructive choices stand in the way of the greater good?

      I find that logic appalling. But that is only because I reject the idea that any good could be achieved that would justify the rejection of the individual. That I will freely admit is an assumption and not a conclusion mandated by reason.

    2. That is the categorical justification for freedom. There are also a utilitarian justifications, made by Ludwig von Mises (economics) and libertarian social scientists such as Charles Murray (“In Pursuit of Happiness…”). I find these various justifications persuasive.

      You might note that Hayek, a self described agnostic, argued that the Judeo-Christian prominent in Western societies was very important to the ascendancy of relative freedom in Western Europe and the early Unites States (see his discussion in “The Fatal Conceit”).

  10. As evidence that the Fourth Awakening was receding, I cited data indicating that Americans were rapidly becoming more tolerant of gays and lesbians, were increasingly against the Drug War, and much less hostile toward pornography, among other trends.

    A libertarian just made the same mistake almost all non-libertarians make, that is, “if it’s wrong, it must be illegal”. That’s just plain wrong.

    In order, “tolerance” is (at this point) a meaningless term. No-one is killing them and no-one should. Just because doing “A” is wrong doesn’t imply that all who do “A” should be persecuted.

    The Drug war is evil, and therefore a red herring. Doing “A” is sometimes wrong, but doing “A” shouldn’t be illegal.

    As for pornography, doing “A” is almost always wrong, but doing “A” shouldn’t be illegal.

    As a Christian, I’m usually glad when fewer people claim to be Christian. Many of those who do so don’t actually believe, they were just raised by people who called themselves “Christian”. They are usually the worst behaved out of all groups, and I bid them farewell. There are plenty of stats that show that those who actually participate at all in Christianity are the most moral, those who don’t believe at all are the next best, and those who call themselves “Christian” but have no evidence to show it are the worst. This simply separates the “chaff from the wheat”.

    And if I’m wrong, it’s no skin off your nose.

    1. I agree, and I’ll add that most of the blame for empty pews should be put on Christian leaders. When the government started taking over their role in society(charity, moral guidance etc.) Most of them did nothing to stop it or cheered. Too many have been exposed as hypocrites yet still tolerated. And to be completely honest, most of the preachers I meet or see on tv are either brain-less or ball-less.

      1. Or just plain evil. “Wolves in sheep’s clothing”…

        1. Yes, blame the Xtian leaders… Also blame SOME of the followers… Obviously not all of them!
          “Study: Christianity in U.S. faces decline ‘across the board'”. I have a well-justified hypothesis to explain this. I have seen far too many church-going, professing Christians who can’t even be bothered to follow the Golden Rule. For example, there’s office politics at work. Many large corporations today use the “forced distribution” method of dishing out their performance reviews (like at HP). Church-goers are too often among those who figure out that, under this system, they have to make you look bad enough to get a “D”, so that they can get a “B” (and keep that bell-curve distribution looking nice and tidy, bell-shaped). Yes, this goes all the way up to and including, taking credit for the work of others! If this is what it means to be a church-going Christian, then who wants to be a church-going Christian?
          If anyone wants to gain or preserve more adherents to their system of belief, whatever it might be, I would advise them to check carefully, which baskets they are putting their eggs into. Proselytizing doesn’t work at all, if it is accompanied by unethical behavior. Well, it might get more wolves into your flock, but nnot more sheep!

          1. http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/attend.html
            Why Believers should not attend Church

            A good read!!!

            1. Why Believers should not attend Church

              Wrong, of course (if you care, I’ll show why).

              In fact, the determining factor as to whether or not a Christian behaved more morally than the general population (or less moral in the converse case) was regular Church attendance. Not that it magically makes you a better Christian, it’s an effect that correlates with another effect.

              1. Hi Ace,

                Thanks for responding! I would actually be curious to know what you mean by “…an effect that correlates with another effect.”

                1. Oh, going to Church regularly isn’t a cause of moral behavior. The cause is faith in Christ’s saving work leading to good works/obedience. God told us not to give up meeting together. Therefore, meeting together is an effect of faith in God, causing obedience. Moral behavior is also an effect of faith. So one would expect that these 2 would correlate.

          2. I have a well-justified hypothesis to explain this. I have seen far too many church-going, professing Christians who can’t even be bothered to follow the Golden Rule.

            Amen.

            If this is what it means to be a church-going Christian, then who wants to be a church-going Christian?

            I don’t disagree.

            Proselytizing doesn’t work at all, if it is accompanied by unethical behavior.

            Close enough to true. Some unethical people are expected. “Christians” are self-reported with all the usual problems associated with self-reporting.

    2. a: As I have explained elsewhere tolerance properly understood is being able to abide by, i.e. not resort to violence, speech or other behaviors of which you disapprove.

      Tolerance DOES NOT mean approving or applauding behaviors or speech!

      1. “I then suggested that that wave of religious fervor was cresting and that we could look forward to a new era of greater tolerance.”

        Does this greater tolerance include forcing a devoutly Christian bakery owner to bake a cake for a gay wedding?

        How about banning unpopular speech and ideas on college campuses? More tolerant?

        Forcing people out of their jobs for unpopular views or donations to unpopular political causes? More tolerant?

        Seems like the secular crowd isn’t so tolerant after all.

    3. a: Perhaps I misunderstand your point – but I certainly do not believe that any of the activities listed above should be illegal and the good news is that more of my fellow citizens are coming to agree with me and other libertarians.

      1. A more careful reading of the Scripture, Old and New Testament, showed me that the true purpose of government (if there is one) is protecting NAP.

        The quick version? Read the last verse in the book of Judges and 1 Samuel 8. Though the ancient Hebrews did evil, that’s the best government God could give them. God knew you can’t make a moral man through force.

        1. Just as “render unto Caesar……” means that government is evil.

  11. I’m not so sure that this is something to celebrate. There are good aspects to religion, specifically a moral foundation and a concept of right and wrong. We can quibble of details like the definition of marriage, but for the most part religious morality is not a bad thing.
    So without religion, where do people get their moral foundation? Certainly not the law, since most laws are blatantly immoral.
    I was raised Christian, but I never had any faith. I just went through the motions. My moral foundation comes from a few guiding principles, like self-ownership and the NAP, but that doesn’t work for everyone.
    So where are people to get their morality if not from religion?

    1. That religious people do some extremely horrible things means that the inculcation of morality via religion is at best spotty, and, occasionally, out right counterproductive to the ends you propose.

      1. For the most part, religion teaches people to be good to each other. It teaches people not to murder or steal. Basic right and wrong shit. If people never have that moral foundation, they’ll only base their decisions on if they think they’ll get caught or not. That’s not morality.

        As for the horrible things done in the name of religion, most of them go against the very morality that religion teaches.

        1. I agree with your second part, but I don’t see how making more people who profess to having beliefs that they don’t actually hold gets us closer to a more moral populace.

          If religion is supposed to be a vaccine against immorality, if seems to have a very poor track record.

          And besides, I don’t have a god to hold me accountable if I murder or steal. Why haven’t I murdered someone? What have I stolen?

          1. “I don’t see how making more people who profess to having beliefs that they don’t actually hold gets us closer to a more moral populace”

            This is a huge thing, in my opinion. A big part of my thesis in graduate school concerned finding the moment when religion/spirituality changed from being about experiencing a connection with a “higher power” to being about believing in fairy stories despite scientific evidence against them.

            The answer, by the way, is “’round about the 13th century.”

            1. I think the problem is more about people who honestly examine their beliefs vs. those that do not (and are even instructed not to.)

              Give me an honestly committed Christian over a kneejerk anti-theist any day.

              1. “Give me an honestly committed Christian over a kneejerk anti-theist any day.”

                Agreed.

      2. Or, those fuckers would be even worse without the religious morality.

        1. Or they wouldn’t have thought that what they do in this life could be forgiven–or lauded–in the next.

    2. Ultimately, they get it from their upbringing and their community. Something is right or wrong because that’s what mama or teacher said, and because it makes some sort of sense and generally works. It’s not inconceivable that people could be brought up by a secular code of morals, one that is grounded in self-interest and a kind of contractarian logic for those who ask why. I’d say that the golden rule alone does most of the moral work we need, and there’s a reason something like it has been developed across cultures.

      But can such a moral code/community survive conflicts? Can it ‘outcompete’ other belief systems? I hope so, but the pessimistic side of me thinks it could break down and people will run back to mystical BS. Maybe we are still just a few steps out of the jungle.

      1. It’s not inconceivable that people could be brought up by a secular code of morals, one that is grounded in self-interest and a kind of contractarian logic for those who ask why.

        I’ve found that there are a lot of people out there who can’t think rationally or logically. And unfortunately you can’t fix stupid. For those people religion seems to be a good fit for a moral foundation.

        1. Right, for those people, “Because it is,” is enough. They’ll (hopefully) go along with whatever they were raised to do. The rationality and logic is for those who want to know why they should respect their neighbor’s body and property.

  12. Look at the big picture: Classical liberalism was highly regarded by the intellectuals during an era when the christian church was still politically and culturally dominant. Ever since culture and politics became secularized, progressivism and marxism has become been the most dominant position among the intellectuals.

    1. That is because as Aristotle put it, if man is the highest creature in the universe, politics is the highest good in life. The enlightenment was fabulous right up until people took it to its rational conclusions. Then it became the French Revolution and all of the horrors of communism and fascism that sprang from it.

    2. In fairness, many intellectuals also embraced existentialism. Some even realized its incompatibility with Marxism and progressivism. But they got fired eventually.

    3. Pfft, no. It was highly regarded by some intellectuals in some places*. And what made culture and politics become secularized? As liberalism is a secular politics, its ascension (as Marxism was being developed) may be part of the cause.

      *I guess the Anglican church is now simply “the christian church”?

  13. Is it too late to get the popcorn?

  14. Why does Ronald Bailey keep bringing up religion?

    1. Probably because it’s a widespread belief which he disagrees with and finds some value in debunking.

    2. This is much, much better than the stupid global warming bullcrap.

      Organized religion is very real, as is the impact it has on all of us. Manmade global warming is Santa Claus: a fairy tale for fools and children.

    3. Just to be clear, I was making a joke.

  15. Alot of people, including christians, tend to equate religion with belief in God. That’s problematic because eastern religions such as buddhism is agnostic about God’s existence. I don’t see religion disappearing but rather changing. The state is the religion upon which many are eager to endow with omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience and omnibenevolence.

    1. That is an excellent point.

      1. Yes, both of us have often made that point. Yeah, the way I express it might be different than the way you do, but…

        1. We agree on a lot of things, just no the Civil War. 😉

          1. May Nathan Bedford Forest bless your heart!

            1. I like Forrest. He was the greatest military genius of the war.

    2. “The state is the religion upon which many are eager to endow with omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience and omnibenevolence.”

      Many? You must travel in interesting circles. Have you never heard of Gaia? It’s a kind of pantheistic concept that has sprung up in the West over recent years. I’m not sure whether or not belief in Gaia constitutes a religion or not because there is no supernatural world beyond, only this material world we experience. All religions I’m familiar with, Buddhist, Christian and the rest, are about mediating between this world and the supernatural.

      The state is just a set of institutions that govern our lives. It has nothing to do with mediating between this world and the supernatural.

      1. I haven’t seen anything in Buddhism about a ‘super natural’ world. Buddhism seems to involve achieving non-negative mental states such as nirvanna, in a nutshell. And breaking the cycle of reincarnation (which does not involve the supernatural either).

        Religion is also be a set of institutions that govern our lives. Religions often involves a set of ethical values, ceremonies and symbols, myths and one sided historical narratives. Same is true for the state. Many would regard the North Korean regime as religious in nature, even though there is no ‘super natural’ world promoted.

        1. You have a soul and it migrates from life to life. That looks pretty super natural to me. It just doesn’t have a personal God. And indeed, it is hardly clear that Christianity, if properly interpreted does either.

          1. It depends on the definition of super natural. A soul is not material but is it super natural?

          2. “And indeed, it is hardly clear that Christianity, if properly interpreted does either”

            I think the same can be said of the Jewish religion. If I’m not mistaken, atheism is a valid position for Jews to take, and I’ve heard that Israel has more atheists, per capita, than any other nation.

            I heard about one Israeli thinker who notes that it’s possible to convert to Judaism, but it’s impossible for an outsider to become a Secular Jew. To be a Secular Jew, like Woody Allen for example, one has to be born Jewish. It’s impossible to become one otherwise.

        2. “I haven’t seen anything in Buddhism about a ‘super natural’ world.”

          If you study Buddhism a little more you are bound to come across ‘hungry ghosts’ – super natural beings that inhabit some transcendent realm.

          “Religions often involves a set of ethical values, ceremonies and symbols, myths and one sided historical narratives”

          No argument there. But you say ‘often.’ There are examples of religions that don’t have originary myths, holy texts, codified morality etc. What all religions have in common is a set of rituals and practices that allow us to contact this super natural world. The Gaian religion, if you want to call it that, may be exceptional, as I pointed out earlier.

          “Many would regard the North Korean regime as religious in nature,”

          I think the word you are looking for is ‘dogma,’ and North Korea follows a dogma called Scientific Socialism, and perhaps Juche. The regime has appropriated a lot of religious baggage, to be sure, but the regime doesn’t, as far as I know, claim to mediate between this world and the next.

          1. There is no universally agreed definition of religion by sociologists. Requiring the supernatural is too narrow and western-centric. Emile Durkheim proposes: ” religion is the cohesive force that unites the members of a society in the worship of sacred symbols”. Mind you, equating the state as religion is my own take, I’ll admit that.
            Good discussion here about the controversy behind defining religion:
            http://aura.abdn.ac.uk/bitstre…..format.pdf

  16. Je n’ai pas besoin de cette hypothese.

  17. Gaiaism and Sicialism are religions too. Convince me there hasn’t been a simple substitution.

    1. I like Sicily too, but not that much.

    2. “Gaiaism and Sicialism are religions too.”

      According to what definition? The one I am familiar with, religion is a set a practices that allows one to contact the world beyond, doesn’t seem to include Gaia. Perhaps you know more about Gaia than I do. I’m certainly no expert.

  18. The problem with most militant atheists today is that they’re not truly militant atheists; they’re simply militant anti-Christians, which isn’t quite the same thing.

    To be sure, there are a few principled exceptions like Bill Maher and Sam Harris, but they’re by far the exception rather than the rule.

    1. “but they’re by far the exception rather than the rule”

      Can you give an example of a ‘militant atheist’ who is not actually a militant atheist, but merely a militant anti-Christian?

  19. Not to pick on Ron for his stunning disclosure, but the tendency of atheists (both progressive and libertarian) to identi-brag as such within a few minutes of meeting someone is the single funniest bit of social signalling I’ve witnessed as an adult.

    You could wear payot down to your knees and drive around in a car with a giant foam dreidel on top and be subtler.

    1. “the single funniest bit of social signaling I’ve witnessed as an adult”

      Actually, labeling the Wells report as garbage and / or proclaiming “they’re just jealous of our success and our Super Bowls” might give the “identi-brag” atheists a run for the money.

      1. Yeah, the Patriots are innocent. That is why they fired those equipment managers. You know out of a sense of fairness or something not because they were caught red handed cheating or anything.

    2. Yes it is. I find the whole thing comical.

    3. Never witnessed that and I tend to hang around atheists exclusively. In the elevator in my building and when interacting with the general peasantry, however, I am frequently greeted with “Have a blessed day” and more elaborate variations on that theme.

      1. It’s better when it comes from a friend, so let me be the one to tell you that if you’ve never seen an atheist engage in this behavior, you’re likely doing it yourself.

        1. And evangelicals have always made a show of testifying to you, but they’re not particularly funny.

        2. What? Do I go up to complete strangers and say “Hi, I don’t believe in gods!” Does anyone do that? I think you’re making these people up in your head. Or you live somewhere populated by obnoxious people. Where I live the “identi-bragging” and “signaling” is by far more the habit of the Christians.

          1. I can’t imagine why someone who has trolled a libertarian chat forum for years in a desperate attempt to prove himself a brave academic voice of reason against economics and moral conduct wouldn’t understand why signalling would be unconscious.

            1. Okay I admit to wearing one of those Darwin fish t-shirts back in middle school.

  20. You are not an atheist. Atheists don’t care what other people think. You cheer the decline of religious faith, which makes you an anti-theist.

  21. Atheists suck when they do all the exact same things that religionists do and pat themselves on the back for. Faith, devotion, and evangelism are all bad things when atheists do it. Right John?

  22. If this is the result of atheists becoming smarter and more compelling alternative, this may be a good thing. It would result in a smarter atheism, and a smarter Christianity to try to meet the challenge of this better atheism.

    It seems to me, however, that what is in fact happening is what has already happened in Europe: abysmal ignorance and apathy for religion, philosophy, and most other things of importance is producing a vacuum filled by an atheism which is popular because it is *fashionable* and reputable, rather than because people have been swayed by its correctness or validity in describing reality. If this is the case, then Christianity and atheism both become duller and weaker. Atheism+ and feel-good Joel Osteen Christianity, rather than being isolated trends, are the harbingers of the future — and I don’t see how those are good things for the serious Christian or the serious atheist.

    1. Fashionable is probably the right word. Atheism just seems to be what all the cool kids are doing right now. The real problem is the fact that anyone has to care what beliefs anyone else engages in.

      Being an atheist doesn’t make me anti-Christian. I would hope that Christians could forgo being anti-atheist.

  23. Looks like the gist of everything going on here is you either support Cartesian dumbfuckery or you’re a nihilist. Nice false dichotomy.

  24. The politicization and rise of the religious right is exactly the reason that more people now say they are unaffiliated. A growing majority of people are tired of the constant battles between the far left and far right over issues like abortion and same sex marriage. Both claim they want the government to stay out of our lives, yet both are the first to turn to government when they seek to impose their beliefs on everyone. The other main issue is the hypocrisy of the religious right who claim to love all yet have such deep seated hatred for select groups. They see any view different from their own as an attempt “to destroy the country”. Recently, PCSUA ( Presbyterian Church) decided to give the local pastors the choice of forming same sex marriages if they desire. The reaction from other “Christians” was astounding. As a Presbyterian, I found myself and my Church the target of very pointed and very person hate filled attacks. When those seen as representing Christianity act with such arrogance and self righteousness, why would anyone want to claim to be associated with them?

    1. But it’s mainline churches like the Presbyterians who are losing members the fastest. What do you make of that?

    2. Christians have always preached against homosexuality. It just wasn’t a “political” issue until recently. Same with abortion and promiscuity. None of the beliefs have changed.

    3. It’s not just the religious right. I’m sure you’ve encountered the substantial progressive Christian left that is every bit as irritating, but with that odious bien pensant sheen of intellectualism that they have to add to everything they do. At least the right-wing fundies are obvious about being hicks.

      There’s nothing more obnoxious than people who make a show of scrambling for the moral high ground every chance they get, whether it’s Ayn Rand or Carrie Nation.

      1. Or their AGW belief.

  25. Oh man. I’m sorry I was busy and missed this.

    *reads thread*

    Wait…

  26. A new poll by Pew Research finds that the number of Americans who declare that they are not affiliated with any religion has been increasing

    “Pew Research”, eh? You can’t fool *me*, Ron — That’s from The Onion.

  27. Two hours since the article went up, and there are already 269 posts.

    I guess there are some strong thoughts on the subject (still).

  28. Hooray for the end of the Fourth Great Awakening!Disclosure: I have been an out-atheist since I was a young teenager.

    Really? I never would have guesses. Don’t count out Christ’s church just yet. We’ve survived for 2000 years. I suspect we’ll survive, despite your jubilation.

    1. Less than 1% of the total time humans have existed. All those poor souls rotting in hell for failing to know Jesus millenia before he was born. 🙁

      1. C-

        Take your time in formulating a thesis before your next post. You can do better.

        1. Or 95 theses.

      2. Tony,

        Christians should be thanking you for providing the constant reminder that yes, there are people who really should go to hell.

        1. People who tolerate such a maximally psychopathic notion as hell don’t get to lecture anyone about morality.

          1. “Hell” is best defined as “where God isn’t”. If you choose to reject him, he is a gentleman and will allow you your free choice. It’s not his fault that “where God isn’t” is so terrible…

            1. It’s not his fault that “where God isn’t” is so terrible…

              In most Protestant traditions, hell is the place created by God for the punishment of the devil and fallen angels.

              … so since he created it, yeah, his fault.

              1. Most Protestant traditions are incomplete. The reason hell is so bad is that God isn’t there.

                Once removed from the bringer of life and all good things, only death and bad things remain.

                If you refuse life, you get death. If you refuse God’s good things, you get the bad. It’s your choice.

                1. Paging Epicurus.

                  1. Paging the Pentateuch.

        2. “Christians should be thanking you for providing the constant reminder that yes, there are people who really should go to hell.”

          Uh, John, by orthodox Christian doctrine, we *all* should go to hell, but God chose to give us a break. If we accept it.

        3. “…should go to hell”

          Just curious, are you Catholic?

      3. Perfect example of what I said above.

        Anyone living 100 years ago wouldn’t be stupid enough to admit this comment into the public debate, knowing that it would have demonstrated such an incredible ignorance of basic doctrine of the religion in question as to discredit the person who said it.

        If atheism is appealing to the Tonys of the world and growing as a result, then that is a demerit for atheism and a detriment to the world — as Christianity will also be tempted to win the Tonys to its cause and change accordingly. If this is the case, atheism and Christianity become dumber, meaner, and poorer for it.

        1. The evidence plays out the logic of your statement, sadly enough.

        2. That is a great point. It never occurs to Ron that atheism may be on the rise because of its increasing appeal to stupid people. There always will be Tonys in the world. The question is how best to limit the damage they do. I am not sure atheism is the best way to do that.

        3. There’s a single basic doctrine of Christianity? I’d beg to differ, but I just don’t care. Being an expert on a religion is for niche historians. Otherwise it’s just one among countless false histories and uselessly rudimentary ethical systems.

          1. There’s a single basic doctrine of Christianity?

            “Ignorance”

            I’d beg to differ, but I just don’t care.

            “apathy”

            Being an expert on a religion is for niche historians

            “for religion, philosophy, and most other things of importance”

            Otherwise it’s just one among countless false histories and uselessly rudimentary ethical systems

            “is producing a vacuum filled by an atheism which is popular because it is *fashionable*”

            Witness the modern atheist, and weep.

            1. That is what is so sad really. The arguments marshaled by even the alleged “smart” atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens are more pathetic than anything. There have been any number of great thinkers over history who have taken apart both the idea of God and Christianity in particular. I guess because no one reads anymore, those arguments have been completely forgotten. That anyone could think someone like Dawkins is a smart atheist shows how far our civilization has fallen.

              And he is one of the better ones. Most of them are idiots like Tony.

            2. If atheism is fashionable it’s because people are thankfully becoming educated enough to cross at least this basic threshold of reason. The arguments are painfully simple. The only reason anyone needs to bother is because religion has such a parasitic hold on so many brains.

              1. If atheism is fashionable it’s because it’s been left safely untried, after so many blood-soaked years of implementing True Atheism.

                Society as a whole looked Nietzsche and his challenge to create a morality absent Christian slave-morality… and blinked. Now they are doing a victory lap pretending that they did it anyways, without actually having anything but a lazy and nonsensical version of Christian morality to hold them over.

                And I, as a Christian, am supposed to be impressed by all that?

                The sole reason a Christian (or really, anyone who is sincerely religious — Muslim, Buddhist, whoever) would be persuaded by that track record is because he is utterly ignorant of his own creed and its history of thought, not because atheism has made such great contributions to western thought in the past 50 years.

                1. It’s not a creed. It’s the absence of a believe in deities.

                  1. It’s a belief in the absence of deities.

                    1. Which is a barely perceptible semantic distinction. It doesn’t matter to me whether I am technically agnostic (as with leprechauns) or whether I actively disbelieve (as with leprechauns). Because I’m pretty confident that even if I were to be stricken down by a deity for my heresy, I couldn’t possibly know which deity it would be, so why bother trying to please it?

                    2. Because I’m pretty confident that even if I were to be stricken down by a deity for my heresy, I couldn’t possibly know which deity it would be, so why bother trying to please it?

                      Unless it tells you who it is. You keep thinking you are the man and the “god” is the ant. It would be the other way around.

                      It doesn’t matter to me whether I am technically agnostic (as with leprechauns) or whether I actively disbelieve (as with leprechauns).

                      In the long run, no it doesn’t. But atheism is belief there are no deities.

          2. There’s a single basic doctrine of Christianity?

            John 3:16, Romans 3:23-24, Romans 5:8.

            Pick one.

            1. Forget it, although you can’t, you are so commissioned.

              However, Tony stumbles on Romans I:21-32. It consumes him, yet he doesn’t understand that it brings him the closest to God. Tony epitomizes the reason one should teach 80% Law, 20% Grace.

        4. Anyone living 100 years ago wouldn’t be stupid enough to admit this comment into the public debate, knowing that it would have demonstrated such an incredible ignorance of basic doctrine of the religion in question as to discredit the person who said it.

          Which church are you talking about? Catholicism has the concept of the virtuous pagan, but there’s plenty of disagreement about who does and doesn’t receive salvation among protestants. John Calvin for example believed EXACTLY what Tony just said. We were raised believing that at Judgement God would decide who would and wouldn’t have believed in Jesus had they been given the opportunity, but I’ve certainly heard other preachers with less charitable beliefs.

          1. The point being that each mainline denomination would have some response to render comments of the form “Haha Christians don’t think things through” astonishingly ignorant. For example, Calvinism (easily the worst form of Christianity, but that’s besides the point) states that Israel is the pre-Christ parallel for how God deals with people through Christ — that just as Israel was selected among the nations and Noah from the people he was surrounded by, so too with Christians by God’s good grace.

            Now I completely disagree with this answer, but it does completely address commentary of the form “Haha Christians are stupid for not thinking about what happened to people before Jesus”, since even a cursory amount of study will reveal that this is in fact addressed in Christianity’s foundational texts as well as distinctly in the various denominations as one of their first points of inquiry. In point of fact there is a superabundance of Christian material on this subject, not a paucity of such. It is essentially along the same lines as “Haha libertarians are stupid for not realizing that things other than government are bad” — it reveals an ignorance that is easily remedied and that will have an actual libertarian rolling their eyes at this poor attempt at snark.

            1. ^ This. On my first reading of St. Augustine I was quite stunned to find that virtually all of the smug “Christians are stupid” arguments that come out of modern atheists are offered essentially verbatim from smug third-century Neo-Platonist pagans.

              And I am decidedly NOT an Augustinian – I just agree that comments like those Tony is making say more about HIS ignorance than about the ignorance of any particular Christians.

              1. People tend to forget a) Christianity was and is amazingly weird and gives many answers which are not necessarily pat or straightforward to these types of questions (Christians in particular are surprised by this for whatever reason), and that b) they beat out a large number of other viewpoints in the Mediterranean, many of which resembled modern-day atheism in some ways (Stoics, Epicureans, and Neo-Platonists come to mind).

                Those facts started my inquires into Christianity, after having been a staunch atheist for so long — not that one needs to reach my conclusions after such an inquiry, but one should at least attempt such an inquiry if one wishes to say that they have adequately addressed Christianity’s challenge in a serious way, IMO.

            2. “Haha Christians are stupid for not thinking about what happened to people before Jesus”

              You’re interpolating that as his point. I interpreted it as being about the callousness of Christian theology. I don’t disagree with any of your above points, but if Tony grew up around Calvinists (I agree they’re the worst form Christianity has taken) or his primary exposure was to less gracious forms of Christianity that wouldn’t be an embarrassingly ignorant statement to make. It’s not unusual for someone to take what they learned from the church they grew up in and believe it’s a normal or standard belief, and it is fairly niche for people to quibble over inter-denominational doctrinal differences.

              1. There is truth to this as well. I was raised in an atheist family, and like IT came to study theology out of legitimate curiosity.

                I’ve also known a lot of people raised in families with really demented and hateful understandings of Christian teachings, and they equate *that* with Christianity, and rightfully reject it. I suspect Tony is more akin to one of these.

                1. I suspect that wacky Christians and child-buggering priests have created more atheists than Hitchens, Dawkins and Ron Bailey put together.

                  1. As prophesied.

                    Can you study the Bible and tell me when this wasn’t so?

            3. I’m well aware that Christian scholars for centuries have been trying rationalize their beliefs and figure out how these beliefs handle the problematic consequences the beliefs themselves entail. Theology was actually a large part of my undergraduate philosophy study. It’s not that there aren’t learned and complex writings on this subject, it’s that the subject is grumpkins and snarks. I could write a definitive theological treatise of Battlestar Galactica, but it would remain a fact that angles and cylons don’t exist and that the mythos does not fit into a modern scientific understanding of the universe.

                1. If Tony (or anyone else for that matter) were ignorant of Christian doctrine concerning pre-Christ salvation, it wouldn’t be Tony’s or atheism’s fault.

                  You guys are responsible for getting your act together and figuring out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. When you figure that out, get back to us.

                  1. “If Tony (or anyone else for that matter) were ignorant of Christian doctrine concerning pre-Christ salvation, it wouldn’t be Tony’s or atheism’s fault.”

                    It is if they are making pronouncements about that doctrine at the same time that they are demonstrating a truly epic level of ignorance on the subject. This is the same problem I have with Dawkins. Saying “a cloud can’t support weight” and offering it as proof that God doesn’t exists doesn’t prove anything other than the ignorance of the speaker regarding the topic spoken of.

                    Proper response: “I don’t know anything about Christianity or any other religion, and don’t really care to, because it does not interest me.”

              1. “I’m well aware that Christian scholars for centuries have been trying rationalize their beliefs and figure out how these beliefs handle the problematic consequences the beliefs themselves entail.”

                Not unlike Marxists.

  29. We’ve become more tolerant in a few ways and less in many others. Does any libertarian consider speech policies on most college campuses tolerant?

    Mr. Bailey takes a great deal for granted in assuming that secularists are any more tolerant than their religious counterparts. In any human society, people who assume power and influence will assert their will on everyone else. Some animals will always be “more equal than others”.

    1. How tolerant are we of someone who thinks there are real differences between the races? How tolerant are we of someone who thinks women should stay home and raise children? How tolerant are we of someone who thinks casual sex is harmful?

      We are incredibly intolerant today. We just are intolerant about different things. Ron doesn’t notice because he can’t see past the available porn and state sanctioned homosexuality to see what is going on.

    2. Being just past the half century mark I can assure you we are less tolerant than at any time since at least the early 1970s.

  30. “This chalk is purple.” Priest holding a white piece of chalk in 11th grade religious studies class at catholic school. I wasn’t really paying attention, so I’m not sure where he was going with it, but I do remember that exact sentence.

    1. “It would be ridiculous to say…THIS CHALK IS PURPLE! It would take a total retard to say THIS CHALK IS PURPLE!”

  31. I’m not going to read through this steaming shit pile.

    I will say if you want a lot less government you should also want a whole lot more religious people.

    1. As long as they aren’t Catholics or Muslims or Unitarians or any of the many other Protestant denominations who want to legislate their own vision of social justice or morality.

      What we really need is for everyone to be a lot more like me, I guess.

  32. A few points:

    1. It’s ridiculous to claim every philosophy is a religion or that everyone who tries to persuade people is religious. Religions, at a minimum, explain where the world came from, how people should act, and what happens after death. Atheism does not take a position on any of those issues.

    2. Morality need not come from religion. Many kinds of social animals cooperate without it.

    3. Putting value on truth is not a religious attitude; it is a practical one. It’s hard to stay alive if you live as though truth doesn’t matter.

    4. There is not much correlation between how religious a country is and how free it is. Japan is mostly secular and mostly free. The US is mostly religious and mostly free. Iran is mostly religious and mostly unfree. Cuba is mostly unreligious and mostly unfree.

    5. To paraphrase Mencken, whatever good has come from religion has come at the cost of a lot of damage to honest thinking.

    1. Religions, at a minimum, explain where the world came from, how people should act, and what happens after death.

      Religions are tricky to define, and per your minimums the world was essentially areligious in, say, 8th century BC since precious few religions attempted to describe what happened after death (Judaism for example has been noted for a lack of concern for such in many respects). For that matter, outside the narrow issues related to temple or priestly piety very few Indo-European religions tried to tell people “how to act” in any sort of comprehensive or consistent way. Explanations of existence and origins might be a good organizing principle for what consists of religion, but of course materialistic atheism takes explicit positions on these issues (you are the result of deterministic processes of the universe).

      Putting value on truth is not a religious attitude; it is a practical one

      The practicality of ascertaining the truth value of every statement in your life which can evaluate to a T/F is essentially nil. The exercise of placing values on certain local truths may be useful, but this cannot be ascertained for all values a priori. You are making the same mistake as Kant in his categorical imperative.

      whatever good has come from religion has come at the cost of a lot of damage to honest thinking

      If you’re reading the wrong books, sure — just as with secular thought.

  33. I seem to be having issues with both the “preview” and “submit” functions. Sorry if I my comment repeats.

  34. I would be cautious about interpreting the results of this poll–specifically, exactly what does “not affiliated with any religion” mean? Is “a religion” the same as “a church”?

    The only Creationist I ever got to know well does not attend a church. She reads her Bible at home, seems to take much of it literally, and believes that God created the world and its living things as a special supernatural act. She does not accept evolution.

    She does not attend any church because she believes that “they are all man-made institutions and they are all corrupt.” I believe she is a “Biblical Christian.” I never heard her use that term, but I discovered it later and it appears to describe her type of belief.

    I wonder: How she would be categorized by this poll? How would she identify herself to a poll-taker? I would like to see the exact wording of the poll questions. Based on the linked summary of the poll, it looks like she could identify as “other Christian” but this churchless fundamentalist Biblical literalist could also describe herself as “unaffiliated.” It would depend on whether she thought the poll was asking about her church or her beliefs.

  35. Continued …

    Within a population, religious affiliations go through a constant churn. Mainstream churches tend to become more lax and less demanding, often in an attempt to appeal to more people. However, many of the more fervent believers come to find these churches too “empty” (or “corrupt”) to be appealing. Some drift churchless. Some, after a time, become attracted to more vigorous and demanding churches that are more in opposition to what those churches see as the corrupt establishment mainstream. (Note that the poll indicates that evangelical Protestant Christian churches are on the increase.)

    In addition, atheism shows little staying power. A few years ago, another survey (I think it was another Pew one, but don’t have time to look it up) showed that, of the “religious segments” identified, nonbelievers (along with Jews) had the greatest tendency to lose membership to other faiths.

    Many of the “unaffiliated” of today, or their children, may well become the radical Christians/Muslims/Others of tomorrow.

    Continued …

  36. ‘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.” ‘

    Unfortunately, atheism and even anti-theism are not even close to guarantees against minding other people’s business.

    1. Anti-theism is a guarantee of minding other people’s business, it inherently cares about what other people are doing.

  37. Continued …

    I previously talked a bit about the religious situation and “churn” in the US and Europe here: https://reason.com/blog/2009/03…..nt_1229114

    Declines in affiliation with specific churches is not a new thing nor a simple trend. Voltaire, looking about him, once commented that he thought religions would die out in about 50 years. He was mistaken.

    I don’t think poll-takers, in general, understand what is going on here. As I result, I suspect they may not be asking all the right questions, nor correctly interpreting all the results.

    END

    1. I would suggest that secularism and religiosity correspond to a spectrum of wealth to poverty. Wealthy societies (by which I mean societies in which individuals are relatively wealthy compared to individuals in other societies) are going to have more formal education (the more educated you are, the less religious). It is possible for there to be “churn,” but it would require secular developed countries to suffer a cataclysm that destroys our institutions and makes us look more like Afghanistan.

      Again, it’s not necessarily the wealth of the country as a whole that matters, but distribution. This is partly why Saudi Arabia is highly religious and why the US is pretty religious (but relatively secular still). There are other factors: some poor countries are very nonreligious, but they have a history of religious suppression under communism.

      1. Hi Tony,

        I’m sorry we all beat you up so bad around here? Including me, once in a while? But I do actually respect your often-thought-provoking commentary.

        But? Your comment? “(the more educated you are, the less religious).” I have to speak to that, excuse me? If you ever have time to kill, and some brain cells to stimulate, stop by the used or re-cycled book store, I bet you can snarf up a book or two for $1.53 each, if not less? Check out a has-been, old dead white guy now, a been-around-the-block shrink who tried all sorts of belief systems, and came back to (mush-minded) Xtianity. M. Scott Peck, early 80s into the 90s writer. “The Road Less Travelled” was his first break-through book, but “The People of the Lie, the Hope for Healing Human Evil” was a coup-de-gra? And profoundly disturbing to me! I have all the respect in the world for rationalists, agnostics, and atheists? Having been an agnostic for quite a few years myself? But M. Scott Peck put my flat on my ass for a while! A highly educated and certified and licensed, blah-de-blah, SHRINK, fer Chrissakes, he DARED to disturb my rationalistic brain? And I do respect the hell out of rationalism? With thoughts and writings along the lines of subscribing (him as a shrink) to supernatural evil, and (in rare cases even) possession.

        (Continued)

        (continued)

        1. Whoa, I says to myself, hold on there! But read him for yourself, PLEASE, if you ever get the chance. Modern times here, belief in “God” may be sneered upon, but belief in the Evil One?!?!? Come now, you must be a TOTAL Hill-Billy!

          Yet, look around yourself? Matter and anti-matter, negative and positive charges, left-hand chirality v/s right-hand chirality among the biological amino acids, and on and on and on? EVERYWHERE we look, in this vast universe, we see symmetry. Ya want a GOD out there,and you are not ready to deal with a SATAN? After ***ALL*** the endless human evil we can see throughout human history? Reality check time, dudes and dudettes!

          Summary? Try reading M.Scott Peck. He as a shrink says he lead (non-judgmentally facilitated the thinking of) non-believers who changed into believers, and vice versa. God blesses them all, He/She/It blesses them all. Just so long as you LOVE, that is ALL thast God wants! Whatever works for you, whatever helps you to LOVE, that’s what it’s all about?

  38. Well The Christian Institutions by and large are now fiefdoms rather than places of local charity and relief.

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  40. I find it humorous that you include yourself in the group of people with an IQ above 90. And anyone who cries at the thought of there being nothing after death is a moron. Existential anxiety is for the people who have such low self-esteem they can barely get out of bed in the morning.

    1. You are an idiot of the highest order. If you think nothingness is so great, I guess that is why you don’t fear death. right?

      You people are morons who have never faced death or had a deep thought in your lives.

  41. More people are realizing that religion is based on nothing more than superstition and ignorance of nature. Where is the evidence that any supernatural deity exists? The “sacred” texts, such as the bible and koran, only show that there is a belief in a deity.

    Today, with the internet, people have more access to information than ever before, including information questioning the foundations of religion. Just like the printing press helped fuel the Renaissance and Reformation that broke the Catholic Church’s cultural stranglehold in Europe, the internet is shaking up all religions. Hopefully, this will catch on soon too in the Islamic world, if it hasn’t already.

    I was raised a Lutheran (no fire-and-brimstone sermons, I’ll admit) but became an atheist after getting exposed to science and finding out it made a lot more sense than the bible.

    A small sign in the decline of the number of Christians is apparent with the Lutheran church I attended when I was growing up. It used to have 2 services on Sunday but switched to 1 Sunday service due to declining attendance. (Looks like having more than one service was a dis-service. Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun.)

  42. The absurd premise of the article is that Christians (or religious people) are the sole promoters of legislated morality in the United States. Atheists are no less dogmatic in their moral convictions, and no less willing to force those convictions onto others — they just have different sacred cows.

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