The decline of Christianity, Thank God!
Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it wll fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines.
- Bertrand Russell
Just when I was getting disappointed in the state of affairs in America - I still run into ignorant people who think that prayer is no longer allowed in public schools, that pro-choice people are pro-abortion, and that just posting the 10 Commandments will make things better. But, the results of recent polls show that the number of people who believe in delusional Jesus fairy tales and the occult are decreasing while the number of people who follow no religion are increasing.
Its not too surprising - we now know why thunder happens, we no longer need to ascribe it to a God. The more we learn how things happen, the less we have to rely on delusional beliefs of mythical Gods in heaven, less on a make-believe medieval mentality of supernatural force. America is on the move towards a culture based more on reason, compassion, and realistic intelligent solutions. We have progressed from multiple Gods (God of thunder, God of war, etc.) to just a few. The next logical step is to question the need for even those few. Religion is digging itself into a grave with its own backwardness, corruption and ideas of untouchability.
Religions and their numbers of followers
The charts above are statistics for the USA, below is worldwide, based on 2000 census data.
19.6% 1,226,000,000 Islam
17.4% 1,085,000,000 Catholicism
15.3% 954,000,000 Protestantism
15.2% 925,000,000 No religion
13.4% 828,000,000 Hinduism
6.4% 390,000,000 Chinese folk religions
5.9% 364,000,000 Buddhism
3.8% 232,000,000 Tribal religions
1.7% 103,000,000 New religions
0.4% 23,800,000 Sikhism
0.2% 14,500,000 Judaism
If you choose to believe, please accept that it is because belief provides comfort, social connections, feelings of self-satisfaction, acceptance, and connections to family and childhood; not because there is a literary character that allows innocent babies to die but will help you cope with your pampered life. You come up with all the excuses (God works in mysterious. We don't understand. We're not meant to understand) but in the back of your mind you know that it's all a fantasy it's all make-believe but you're afraid to admit that because you find comfort in that and you don't want to let go.
Religion will soon be branded as just fairy tales with characters and stories from books. And that is okay.
• Religion in developed countries is on its way out, because it is so absurd, irrational, and detrimental to human progress. Worship of Gods and religion will be relegated to the fringe. There will be followers, but religion won’t be mainstream.
• I look forward to the day the cross sits discarded beside the swastika as just another reminder of the dangers of blind faith. - Craig Smith
• The Jesus tale seems to be nothing more than oral legend passed down among generations of storytellers. Someday, mankind will continue to evolve and mature and relegate the Jesus and other Biblical tales to the same pile of stories where Zeus, Thor, and Hercules reside in their status as mere myth.
• There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, (and) science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark. - Stephen Hawking
• Science gives you a standard to work against. Science, after all, is simply a logical, rational and careful examination of the facts that nature presents to us. Religion is a very damaging philosophy - because it's such a retreat from reality. - James Randi
• Atheism is unstoppable. Reason and logic are pushing it along. With force. No amount of myth or fairy tale can block the momentum. The struggle is over. Let the believers have their comforting delusions.
• Religion no longer has a place, it is on its way to becoming a philosophy out on the fringes of mature society. Out there with the other cultural fairy tales (the unicorn, Santa Claus, Paul Bunyan). God is and will continue to be not much more than a superpower cartoon character. The forces shoving religion to the side are rationality, inclusion, connection, and community.
• In Iceland, the young people are almost unanimous in their belief that religion is just myths and fairy tales.
• Christianity is more prevalent in the USA than in much of Europe. Europeans have been progressing and evolving for much longer than Americans. As Europeans flooded the USA, it was often the lower classes and less educated who sought a better life here. Those people brought their Catholicism and Protestantism with them. Now, the USA is being flooded by immigrants from Latin America - again the lower classes and the less educated.
In Swedish classrooms, religion is often associated with an obsolete time when people just didn't know better - as if religion used to serve a purpose but there is no need for it in the modern world. 'Religious faith is portrayed as incompatible with being a modern, rational, and independently thinking human being, according to Karin Kittelmann Flensner, who wrote a doctoral thesis. The reasons that churches lose ground in developed countries can be summarized in market terms. First, with better science, and with government safety nets, and smaller families, there is less fear and uncertainty in people's daily lives and hence less of a market for religion.
Logic, reason, and compassion will overcome the superstition, myths, and delusion of religion.
Its just a matter of time before the mainstream belief is agnosticism and atheism, not religion.
Some factors affecting the decrease of belief in the supernatural
World-wide economic instability is causing a shift toward financial concerns versus social issues. Voters will not likely shift back to religious and social issues; their pocketbooks will prevail.
Many Christians are a social political bloc that really has not much to do with being Christlike.
Diversity of religions in America - can they each be correct? Are they each chosen by God? Splinter sects are still forming even today.
Many people go to church, not for spiritual reasons, but for social and community reasons. The motivation to attend church is split 50-50 between religious and social reasons. That is, fully half of American churchgoers go to church services simply to network, see-and-be-seen or take part in social activities.
Witnessing the death and destruction of Acts of God - tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes. Seeing so many innocent children and adults die horrible deaths, at God's hands.
Frustration over prayers not helping. "Our thoughts and prayers are with . . " just doesn't help much and it is becoming more apparent.
Wars and conflicts based on worshiping different Gods and adhering to different (but, ours is correct) holy books.
The primary American Abrahamic (Jewish, Christian and Islam) religions, which are programmed to uphold medieval philosophy and dedicated to their ancient pageantry, are extremely vulnerable to a dramatic shift downward in membership and attendance because of cybertechnology.
Technological devices will provide, for many people, a better alternative for social and community purposes than attending church. Many Americans will choose the internet over church pews.
Religion fails to meet contemporary needs of society
Religion, based on 2,000-year old concepts, was developed when there were a mere 230 million people on the earth, today there are seven billion people. We have soared into outer space (and have not encountered even a hint of the existence of a heaven up there), cured diseases, and made numerous advancements in medicine; while the church is trapped in Medieval tradition and ideology.
The corruption within the church
The extent of pedophilia in the catholic church is now legendary. An attorney who represents 250 victims of sexual abuse by priests, reports that 3,000 pedophile clergy have been removed from the priesthood in the past six years, about six percent of all the priests in this country. There
are many more unreported cases and the actual percentage of pedophiles within the clergy is likely 10 to 12 percent. The sexual escapades of Ted Haggard (and other fundamentalist ministers) with male prostitutes and others have made a mockery of the sexual standards of the church. The fiscal shenanigans of Tammy Faye Bakker and her husband, Jim Bakker, hurt evangelicals even after Bakker allegedly paid his debt to society by doing time in prison. It’s a clash between the stringent morality of the church and its inability to enforce that imposed morality even on its representatives.
According to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Hurricane Katrina and the Asian Tsunami were due to god’s displeasure with homosexuality in the US, Robertson stated that the Haiti earthquake was due to the Haitian pact with the devil. And while these idiotic statements turned off lots of people, it’s tragic to realize that there are many ignorant fundamentalists who believed them.
Religion is not the problem. It is just a mythical belief system. The problem is people with low self-esteem who are insecure with their intelligence. They seek comfort, familiarity, acceptance, approval, and validation by belonging to a societally accepted system.
The truth about 'secular' America
As America has become more secular in recent decades, "most indicators of moral and social health have gotten better, not worse."
Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune, January 12, 2012
Religious conservatives insist that feminists, liberals, and gay marriage have undermined traditional morality, and that only a return to our Christian roots will cure what ails us. American culture is sick, and secularism is the cause of our disease.
But all evidence suggests that this view is not only backward - it's wrong.
America has become more secular in recent decades; "most indicators of moral and social health have gotten better, not worse." Crime has plummeted. Teen pregnancy is down by 39 percent. Divorce rates are dropping. Abortion rates among adolescents are half what they used to be.
Which states continue to have the biggest social problems? The Bible Belt states, not the supposedly sin-ridden blue states. Mississippi has the nation's highest rate of church attendance, and also the highest murder rate. Liberal Vermont's murder rate, on the other hand, is 25 percent of the national average. Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, has the nation's lowest divorce rate. So please, spare us "the moral decline fairy tales." Secular America is doing just fine.
A large audience for religion
Fundamental religious extremists apparently feel threatened. They sense their world may be unrealistic and may have cracks in its armor. They attack civic seals, crosses on the highway, gay marriage, 10 commandments in the courtroom, pornography, defense of marriage, library books, Internet access, etc. because they want to impose their belief system on others. They are right, all others are wrong. Its a desperate last-ditch attempt at legitimacy. They don't understand spirituality (a relatively new word - ancient religions didn't use the word). They're scared, full of fear, paranoid. They are not working from a secure centered base. Its the beginning of the end. They will accelerate their own self-destruction. As someone said - if fundamentalists take over government, both will fail.
There are lots of weak people making stupid decisions - emotion over intellect - there's a place and time for each, but many don't figure out when/where that is. Buying into brainwashing (reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, religion) doesn't solve any problems, it just adds to the problems. Too many sheep that are not thinking for themselves - sheeple (sheep people). What an insult to God to not use one's brain.
The evidence and statistics are all there - scandal, sex, murdering children, 'serving God' - but people don't want to see it. Accepting the truth might jeopardize their identity, comfort and sense of belonging. The current trends are alarming - people willing to hate, oppress, and kill for their faith. If more people were healthy skeptics and questioned their beliefs, there would be fewer people who are sheep, who play it safe - who are not thinkers.
Religion preys on the the intellectually immature or the inwardly insecure. The more intelligent one is, the less likely he/she will worship mythical supreme superpowers. Childish fairies, Easter bunny, Santa Claus, the Messiah, Allah, Jehovah, God, and Jesus will solve our problems. Then we grow up and see the fairies, Easter bunny, and Santa Claus as myths; but not the others. There is no more evidence of Jesus as a savior than Santa Claus. The intellectually immature make up most of the planet's population - a large pool of candidates for religious beliefs.
Wisdom from Thomas
Humans have had many superstitions. What we now know as a comet or meteor was once held to be a "sign" from God. Lightning was mysterious, illnesses were curses, and earthquakes were warnings. As "enlightened" as we believe ourselves to be, we continue to hold on to many "religious" superstitions. Our problem is that we are relying on text written: 1) by people who lived millennia ago, who had no choice but to relegate everything they couldn't immediately rationalize to "God's Will"; and 2) in languages that were mostly or completely dead, which were then translated by others who were only semi-literate. Do you really want to trust your immortal soul to a bunch of guys who hid under a rock every time there was a solar eclipse? Fortunately for the devout, Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a higher power. However, it's not really a question of does God exists; it's a question of faith. Faith is very powerful and can have a positive influence, especially during times of emotional distress. Or, it can be used to control and manipulate people.
We are all agnostics
The existence of God is unknowable - one cannot know that God exists. One can only believe that he exists. There are many good folk tales to believe in. Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham are but a few. If one chooses to base a personal value system on folk tales, that is their choice. Hopefully, some of those people are questioning their sense of worth, esteem, security, and weaknesses to determine why they are believing in folk tales and not a more logical realistic based set of values. Most who believe in fairy tales do so because they have been raised to do so, conditioned to do so, brainwashed to do so. Its what they have been told to believe. That familiarity provides a sense of comfort that many seek today. Maybe not healthy (to believe in folk tales as adults) but very comfortable.
Many people confuse what they know with what they believe.
What will it take?
According to Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason - the 2005 tsunami, sweeping innocent multitudes from the beaches of 12 countries, failed to raise global doubts about God's existence. One wonders just how vast a catastrophe would have to be to shake the world's faith. The tsunami did not do it. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes don't do it. The World Trade Center attacks did not do it. The Holocaust did not do it.
• Will it take more violence? Religion is as much a source of violence today as it was at any time in the past. The recent conflicts in Palestine (Jews v Muslims), the Balkans (Orthodox Serbians v Catholic Croatians; Orthodox Serbians v Bosnian and Albanian Muslims), Northern Ireland (Protestants v Catholics), Kashmir (Muslims v Hindus), Sudan (Muslims v Christians and animists), Nigeria (Muslims v Christians)and Iran and Iraq (Shia v Sunni) - these are just a few of the places where religion has been the explicit cause of millions of deaths in the past decade.
Religious violence still plagues our world because our religions are intrinsically hostile to one another. If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in the way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dispensed with the dogma of faith.
• Will it take more time to evolve? Humankind has already moved from multiple Gods to one or three. God of War, God of the Harvest - wherever we need help with getting something, we created a God for it.
• Will it take more failed prayer? Most soldiers who have died in Iraq have had people praying for their safe return. Most airline crashes had people on board praying for their safe journey. Nothing fails with such high percentage as prayer. Of course, since God has a plan for us, our prayers probably don't really matter, anyway.
Just what will it take for reasonable people to see the error and danger of believing in and trusting mythological characters from books?
• Contradictions in the Holy Bible?
• Tales of an unjust, vengeful, murdering God?
• Violence in the name of God, Jesus, or the Holy Ghost
• Priest pedophilia
• Child abuse, mothers killing children
• Intolerance, hatred by 'loving' religious people
• Corrupt church leaders
• Evolving - moving from multiple Gods to three to one to none
• Contributions/learning from science, understanding rainbows, a baby's birth
• Failure of prayer
• God-made disasters: tsunamis, volcanoes, floods
• Man-made disasters: Murrah bombing, WTC towers, wars
Advantages of not believing in God
By Penn Jillette, the taller, louder half of the illusionists Penn and Teller, November 2005
I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy - you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. Anyone with a love for truth has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write emails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy. But, this belief thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."
Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day. Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.
Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up." But its insulting to say, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.
Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future. Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.
How society could respond to less Christianity
Repurpose the churches and schools into:
• Bookstore coffee house (above in Europe)
• Schools - public and private
• Arts centers - theater, museum, gallery, offices
• Community centers could provide some of the same benefits
• A physical meeting place with classrooms, auditorium, reception space, kitchen.
• Songs in a songbook. All you need is love and many others.
• Sunday programs with teaching, singing, fellowship, and discussion topics of love, helping, caring
• Outreach missions
Links to other religious essays
The absurdity of religion, believing that myths are real
The value of prayer
The Bible: some questions to ask believers
Stickers to place in hotel Bibles
Quotes: Words of Wisdom about religion
Islam for the novice
Jim's spiritual journey