Showing posts with label Secular. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Secular. Show all posts

March 27, 2012

In Congress Only One Openly Atheist } It’s Time To Come Out Of The Closet For Secular People Also


Reason Rally in Washington, DC, 2012
Religionists and atheists debate at the Reason Rally on the National Mall, 24 March 2012 in Washington, DC. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Despite the growing number of Americans who identify their religion as "none", our politics are still dominated by supercharged religious talk. But this past weekend, in a sort of coming out party, atheists and other non-believers gathered on the National Mall last Saturday for the first-ever Reason Rally. It was their way of saying, "We're here! We're queer! Get used to it!"
The Reason Rally was modeled, in part, on gay rights activism that urged people to personalize someone they'd always thought of as an "other". That strategy – recognizing your cousin, your neighbor, your classmate, your sibling isn't straight – has fueled greater acceptance of gays and lesbians, and advances in civil rights. Everyone knows an atheist, the Reason Rally reasoning goes, and knowing an atheist goes a long way to accepting atheism.
While the analogy is imperfect (LGBT people face far more daily overt discrimination and deprivation of rights than do atheists), secularism remains the third rail of politics, and atheists still face hostility from some religious believers. Religious right activists say atheists and secularists discriminate against them – witness the supposed "war on religion" – but on the flip side, witness the antagonism toward Jessica Ahlquist, the Rhode Island student who successfully sued to have a prayer banner removed from the wall of her high school's auditorium. At the Reason Rally, Ahlquist was introduced as the "Joan of Arc of secularism" and presented with a check for college tuition, collected from supporters by the American Humanist Association.
As secularists are fond of pointing out, there is only one open non-believer in Congress (California Democrat Pete Stark) and politicians of both political parties are allergic to acknowledging the role of secularism in a democracy. On the Republican side, secularism is vilified as un-American, and is the target of conspiratorial propaganda claiming that anti-religious forces aim to subvert God and country. The Republicans, to be sure, have cornered the market on faith-based pandering, coupled with antagonism toward church-state separation.
But the Democrats, anxious to curry favor with voters who are religious but offended by rightwing demagoguery, have largely avoided appeals to secularism as a campaign strategy.
President Obama has laudably recognized non-believers as part of America's religious landscape, and is the first president to host secularist activists for an historic White House meeting. Several House Democrats, faced with charges that the administration's contraception coverage requirement is "anti-religion", have fought back with arguments against intertwining Catholic doctrine with healthcare policy. But by and large, appeals to faith remain the order of the day.
Across town from the Reason Rally this weekend, Democratic activists received training on how to engage in faith-based outreach in campaigns. Sponsored by the Young Democrats of America, the session featured the Democratic party's faith outreach director, the Rev Derrick Harkins, and political strategists who seek contracts with campaigns to give them advice on how to attract religious voters. The "Faith and Values Leadership Summit" was designed to "demonstrate that people of faith have a home in the Democratic party". Young Democrats, YDA tells us, "are spreading the message that Democrats are the party that best represents religious values."
For a secularist, though, the answer to the religious right's injection of religion into politics, policymaking, and legislation, is not to inject a different kind of religion. The standard for secular politics, and a secular government, should not be to permit a kind of religion that happens to line up better with one's political stance to shape policy. The standard should be not letting any particular religious view dictate government policy.
At the Reason Rally, attendees were encouraged not only to "come out" in their communities, but to run for office and make their mark on our political culture. As a movement, the secularists have hurdles to overcome; some of their most prominent spokespeople, such as the British biologist Richard Dawkins, reject religious belief as wholly irrational, loopy, and crazy. But religious believers are important allies in forging coalitions to support a secular government, and alienating them isn't helpful.
Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America, notedbefore the rally that he'd like to see a movement modeled on some of the successes of the Christian Coalition:
"Though I disagreed with everything they stood for, they had a terrific model: put aside minor theological differences, work together on important political issues, and grab media attention."
The religious right has given the secular-humanist-atheist community a huge opening: by placing conservative religious doctrine front and center in the healthcare debate, they have raised serious constitutional questions about what religious freedom and church-state separation mean. Many of the organizations and activists who are part of a coalition of church-state separation advocates have long done stellar work in raising awareness of encroachment of religion in politics and policy-making. Being able to keep the pressure on church-state separation issues during a campaign season will be the test of the movement's political muscle. It might make Rick Santorum throw up, but that's kind of the point.

March 3, 2012

A Growing Body Shows Seculars Are More Moral and Decent Than Believers


 By Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman

With most Poles now against religious 






Long after blacks and Jews have made great strides, and even as homosexuals gain respect, acceptance and new rights, there is still a group that lots of Americans just don’t like much: atheists. Those who don’t believe in God are widely considered to be immoral, wicked and angry. They can’t join the Boy Scouts. Atheist soldiers are rated potentially deficient when they do not score as sufficiently “spiritual” in military psychological evaluations. Surveys find that most Americans refuse or are reluctant to marry or vote for nontheists; in other words, nonbelievers are one minority still commonly denied in practical terms the right to assume office despite the constitutional ban on religious tests.
Rarely denounced by the mainstream, this stunning anti-atheist discrimination is egged on by Christian conservatives who stridently — and uncivilly — declare that the lack of godly faith is detrimental to society, rendering nonbelievers intrinsically suspect and second-class citizens.
Is this knee-jerk dislike of atheists warranted? Not even close.
A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.
Consider that at the societal level, murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States, which also has a much greater portion of its population in prison. Even within this country, those states with the highest levels of church attendance, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, have significantly higher murder rates than far less religious states such as Vermont and Oregon.
As individuals, atheists tend to score high on measures of intelligence, especially verbal ability and scientific literacy. They tend to raise their children to solve problems rationally, to make up their own minds when it comes to existential questions and to obey the golden rule. They are more likely to practice safe sex than the strongly religious are, and are less likely to be nationalistic or ethnocentric. They value freedom of thought.
While many studies show that secular Americans don’t fare as well as the religious when it comes to certain indicators of mental health or subjective well-being, new scholarship is showing that the relationships among atheism, theism, and mental health and well-being are complex. After all, Denmark, which is among the least religious countries in the history of the world, consistently rates as the happiest of nations. And studies of apostates — people who were religious but later rejected their religion — report feeling happier, better and liberated in their post-religious lives.
Nontheism isn’t all balloons and ice cream. Some studies suggest that suicide rates are higher among the non-religious. But surveys indicating that religious Americans are better off can be misleading because they include among the non-religious fence-sitters who are as likely to believe in God, whereas atheists who are more convinced are doing about as well as devout believers. On numerous respected measures of societal success — rates of poverty, teenage pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, drug use and crime, as well as economics — high levels of secularity are consistently correlated with positive outcomes in first-world nations. None of the secular advanced democracies suffers from the combined social ills seen here in Christian America.
More than 2,000 years ago, whoever wrote Psalm 14 claimed that atheists were foolish and corrupt, incapable of doing any good. These put-downs have had sticking power. Negative stereotypes of atheists are alive and well. Yet like all stereotypes, they aren’t true — and perhaps they tell us more about those who harbor them than those who are maligned by them. So when the likes of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly and Newt Gingrich engage in the politics of division and destruction by maligning atheists, they do so in disregard of reality.
As with other national minority groups, atheism is enjoying rapid growth. Despite the bigotry, the number of American nontheists has tripled as a proportion of the general population since the 1960s. Younger generations’ tolerance for the endless disputes of religion is waning fast. Surveys designed to overcome the understandable reluctance to admit atheism have found that as many as 60 million Americans — a fifth of the population — are not believers. Our nonreligious compatriots should be accorded the same respect as other minorities.



October 4, 2011

It has never been about God for politicians It’s about power




The president of a secular group says that there are 28 members of Congress who do not believe in God, but only one of them feels comfortable revealing his lack of faith.
Secular Coalition of America (SCA) president Herb Silverman told The Guardian that his group was aware of many members of Congress who weren’t ready to make their non-beliefs known.
“Privately, we know that there are 27 other members of Congress that have no belief in God,” Silverman claimed. “But we don’t ‘out’ people.” 
The number is up from 2006,when SCA determined that there were there were 22 atheists in Congress.


“At the time, twenty-two of them told me they didn’t believe in a god,” SCA Advisory Board Chairman Woody Kaplan told the Humanistin 2008. “Twenty-one of them said, ‘You can’t tell anybody.’ One of them said you could: Congressman Pete Stark.”

“My most recent accident was becoming a well-known humanist,” Stark said. “Somewhere along the line a nice group of people, the Secular Coalition for America, sent a form requesting information from those of us who support separation of church and state. In response to a question about belief you could check one of three boxes. I checked the one that said I didn’t believe in a supreme being.”
“I think that most of my colleagues, and politicians in general, just pay lip service to one god or another… The answer is that it has never been about God for politicians. It has been about power. It has never been about peace on Earth. It has been about profit in your pocket.”
He added: “I would confine God to currency, constitutional control, and colloquialisms like ‘Godspeed’ and ‘gadzooks.’ Then we can begin to deal with the real problems in the world, such as those related to education, health care, poverty, and human rights. But we can’t move ahead if we’re going to tolerate abstinence-only training, creationism, denial of environmental destruction, and oppression of reason. The power of simple solutions can fill a vacuum caused by the abandonment of reason, and that has got to end.”
“Nontheistic Americans, including humanists, are the group most likely to be discriminated against for their convictions,” Edwords said in a press release. “Recent polls show that fewer than 50 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist presidential candidate, even if that candidate is well qualified… Americans still feel it’s acceptable to discriminate against atheists in ways considered beyond the pale for other groups.”
American Humanist Association’s Fred Edwords believes that in the U.S., there is still a high risk for atheists in politics.
The Guardian noted that experts agree that the number of secular Americans has doubled in the last 30 years, making them the fastest growing major “religious” group in the country, a classification that many non-believers would object to.
(H/T: Examiner.com)



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ With a donation of $20.00(for UK and Canada $30.) Will send you FREE of charge and FREE freight the AF*Logo T Shirt shown on top of page. This will help us GREATLY to stay doing what we are doing to bring you these current posting

October 2, 2011

Rising atheism in America puts 'religious right on the defensive'


  • guardian.co.uk 

  •   High profile of faith-based politicians such as Michele Bachmann 
  •  and Rick Perry masks a steady growth in secularism.



 The attraction of Super Bowl Sunday throughout the US is just one sign of declining 
religious activity on the traditional day of rest. Photograph: David J Phillip /AP
SUPER BOWLAbout 400 people are preparing to gather for a conference in Hartford, Connecticut, to promote the end of religion in the US and their vision of a secular future for the country.
Those travelling to the meeting will pass two huge roadside billboards displaying quotes from two of the country's most famous non-believers: Katharine Hepburn and Mark Twain. "Faith is believing what you know ain't so," reads the one featuring Twain. "I'm an atheist and that's it," says the one quoting Hepburn.
At the meeting, members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) will hear speakers celebrate successes they have had in removing religion from US public life and see awards being presented to noted secularist activists.
The US is increasingly portrayed as a hotbed of religious fervour. Yet in the homeland of ostentatiously religious politicians such as Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, agnostics and atheists are actually part of one of the fastest-growing demographics in the US: the godless. Far from being in thrall to its religious leaders, the US is in fact becoming a more secular country, some experts say. "It has never been better to be a free-thinker or an agnostic in America," says Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the FFRF.
The exact number of faithless is unclear. One study by the Pew Research Centre puts them at about 12% of the population, but another by the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Hartford puts that figure at around 20%.
Most experts agree that the number of secular Americans has probably doubled in the past three decades – growing especially fast among the young. It is thought to be the fastest-growing major "religious" demographic in the country.
Professor Barry Kosmin of Trinity College, who conducts the national Religious Identification Survey, believes up to a quarter of young people in the US now have no specific faith, and scoffs at the idea, prevalent in so much US media and culture, that the country is highly religious or becoming more so. "The trending in American history is towards secularisation," Kosmin said.
He cites the example of the changing face of Sunday in the country. It was not too long ago when many sporting events were banned on Sundays and most shops were closed too. Now the opposite is largely true.
As in Britain, Sunday in the US has become a normal shopping day for many, or a day to watch big football or baseball games. "The great secular holiday in America is Super Bowl Sunday. Even in the deep south, the biggest mega-church changes its schedule to suit the Super Bowl," Kosmin said.
He also pointed to social trends – greater divorce rates, gay marriage and much higher percentages of people having children out of wedlock – as other signs that the religious grip on society has loosened.
There are other indications, too. For a long time studies have shown that about 40% of US adults attend a church service weekly. However, other studies that actually counted those at church – rather than just asking people if they went – have shown the true number to be about half to two-thirds of that figure.
More Americans are now choosing to get married or be buried without any form of religious ceremony. At universities, departments devoted to the study of secularism are starting to appear. Books by atheist authors are bestsellers. National groups, such as the Secular Coalition of America (SCA), have opened branches across the country.
Herb Silverman, president of the Washington-based SCA, lives in Charleston, South Carolina. His local secularist group was founded in 1994 with 10 people, but now has 150 members. "I've been living here in the buckle of the Bible belt since 1976 and things are getting a lot better," Silverman said.
Yet there is little doubt that religious groups still wield enormous influence in US politics and public life, especially through the rightwing of the Republican party. Groups such as Focus on the Family are well-funded and skilful lobbyists.
Kosmin said the attention paid by politicians and the media to religious groups was not necessarily a sign of strength. "When religion was doing well, it did not need to go into politics. Secularity of our population and culture is obviously growing and so religion is on the defensive," he said.
However, it is still a brave US politician who openly declares a lack of faith. So far just one member of Congress, Californian Democrat Pete Stark, has admitted that he does not believe in God.
"Privately, we know that there are 27 other members of Congress that have no belief in God. But we don't 'out' people," said Silverman.
Others think that one day it will become politically mainstream to confess to a lack of faith as US political life lags behind the society that it represents. "Politicians have not yet caught up with the changing demographics of our society," said Gaylor.






















































































































~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ With a donation of $20.00(for UK and Canada $30.) Will send you FREE of charge and FREE freight the AF*Logo T Shirt shown on top of page. This will help us GREATLY to stay doing what we are doing to bring you these current posting

October 1, 2011

Five signs that, despite the GOP's efforts, religion's impact on U.S. politics will soon decline


America's secular revival

BY TANA GANEVA, ALTERNET
  •  
Is America getting more secular?
 (Credit: Salon)
In between bragging about the number of people they’ve killed and vilifying gay soldiers, the GOP presidential candidates have spent the primaries demonstrating how little they respect the separation of church and state. Michele Bachmann seems to think God is personally invested in her political career. Both she and Rick Perry have ties to Christian Dominionism, a theocratic philosophy that publicly calls for Christian takeover of America’s political and civil institutions. (Even Ron Paul, glorified by civil libertarians for his only two good policy stances — opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and drug prohibition — sputtered about churches when asked during a debate where he’d send a gravely ill man without health insurance.)
GOP pandering to the religious right is just one of those facts of American public life, like climate change denial and creationism in schools, that leave secular Americans lamenting the decline of the country, and of reason and logic. Organized religion’s grasp on the politics and culture of much of Europe has been waning for decades — why can’t we do that here?
But there are signs that American attitudes are changing in ways that may tame religion’s power over political life in the future.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, founder of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, tells AlterNet that she thinks what happened in Europe is (slowly) happening here. While questioning religion remains controversial — Gaylor says the group’s work on church and state issues often elicits hate mail strongly suggesting they move to, you know, Europe — atheism, skepticism and agnosticism are becoming more widely accepted.
“The statistics show there are more of us … If you’re in a room of people you can count on more to agree with non-belief or to be accepting of non-belief,” says Gaylor.
Here are five trends that give hope one day religion will reside in the realm of personal choice and private worship, far away from politics — something like what the Founders intended hundreds of years ago.
1. American religious belief is becoming more fractured
The intrusion of religion into places where it doesn’t belong, like government or public education, naturally requires high levels of organization and control — it’s not something that just happens. So it’s a good sign that even many Americans who maintain a personal religious faith are distancing themselves from heierarchical, top-down religion. Polls have repeatedly shown that even among the devout, emphatic proclamations of faith do not translate into actual churchgoing. In fact, church attendance rates hovered at around 40 percent until pollsters realized there’s a major gap between what Americans tell them about their religious habits and their actual religious habits. Tom Flynnsummarizes the over-inflation of U.S. churchgoing and offers more accurate stats:
Americans may believe in a god who sees everything, but they lie about how often they go to church. Since 1939, the Gallup organization has reported that 40 percent of adults attend church weekly. (The most recent figure is 42%.) Gallup’s figure has long attracted skepticism. Were it true, some 73 million people would throng the nation’s houses of worship each week. Even the conservative Washington Times found that “hard to imagine.” New research suggests that there may be only half to two-thirds that many people in the pews.
Americans are also actively shaping their religious beliefs to fit their own values. Profiled in USA Today, religion statistics expert George Barna shares recent findings that show religion is becoming increasingly personal. Believers might drift from faith to faith until they find one that works for them, or cobble together a belief system drawn from many religious traditions. The U.S. is becoming a place of “310 million people with 310 million religions,” Barna is quoted as saying.
2. Non-belief — and acceptance of non-belief — on the rise
Last month was the first time atheists were knocked from the top of America’s most hated list, an honor that now belongs to the Tea Party. While this development may have more to do with the fact that the mainstream media’s love affair with the Tea Party is not shared by most Americans, it also dovetails with increased visibility and acceptance of atheism.
Gaylor tells AlterNet that the FFRF’s membership has never been bigger, and her observation conforms to larger trends. In a 2008 study by Connecticut’s Trinity college, 15 percent of Americans polled as “nones,” a group composed of vehement atheists, agnostics or people without religious affiliation. In 1990s, only 8.1 percent of the U.S. population could be categorized in this way, according to the report.
In an interview on NPR, Blair Scott, founder of the North Alabama Free Thought Association, says he’s noticed people are becoming more and more open-minded about non-belief: “I mean, I’ve been the victim of discrimination and harassment. They are very real, and they are legitimate concerns that people have. But what we’ve seen recently is an increase in the general public’s, maybe not acceptance, but more curiosity of what atheism is and is not.”
Scott also points out that the controversial writing of the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins regularly makes it onto the New York Times bestseller list, which in turn helps popularize atheist arguments and philosophies, even in unexpected places:
I mean, I expect an atheist group in New York, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, etc. But where we’re seeing them pop up is little places like Jackson, Mississippi; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Tallahassee, Florida, you know, so these little bitty mid-size and small towns, and that’s an incredible phenomenon because what that means is that these people are finally willing to say, okay, I live in a small town or a midsize city, but you know what, I know there’s others out there like me.
3. Growing numbers of young people who do not identify as religious
America is still a shockingly religious country by Western standards. But a more nuanced breakdown of religious belief tells a different story. Statistically the most devout demographics are middle-aged and older, while young Americans are increasingly likely to shun religious identification, according to professors Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, writing in the L.A. Times:
As recently as 1990, all but 7 percent of Americans claimed a religious affiliation, a figure that had held constant for decades. Today, 17 percent of Americans say they have no religion, and these new “nones” are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25 percent and 30 percent of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation — roughly four times higher than in any previous generation.
The writers point to a surprising culprit: the powerful religious right movement whose tight grip on American political life has steered the country in an aggressively right-wing direction for decades:
Throughout the 1990s and into the new century, the increasingly prominent association between religion and conservative politics provoked a backlash among moderates and progressives, many of whom had previously considered themselves religious. The fraction of Americans who agreed “strongly” that religious leaders should not try to influence government decisions nearly doubled from 22 percent in 1991 to 38 percent in 2008, and the fraction who insisted that religious leaders should not try to influence how people vote rose to 45 percent from 30%.
This backlash was especially forceful among youth coming of age in the 1990s and just forming their views about religion. Some of that generation, to be sure, held deeply conservative moral and political views, and they felt very comfortable in the ranks of increasingly conservative churchgoers. But a majority of the Millennial generation was liberal on most social issues, and above all, on homosexuality. The fraction of twentysomethings who said that homosexual relations were “always” or “almost always” wrong plummeted from about 75 percent in 1990 to about 40 percent in 2008. (Ironically, in polling, Millennials are actually more uneasy about abortion than their parents.)
4. Hate group that exploited religion to bash gays hemorrhaging funds
As Americans increasingly reject the politics of hate, the right-wing groups that thrive on it are facing tough times.
While many practicing Christians live their faith without trying to impose their values on others, the aggressive Christian extremism of organizations like Focus on the Family has always been charged by the demonization of people who are not like them.
Unfortunately for FOTF, many Americans just don’t hate gay people enough to keep them afloat. In 2008, FOTF had to cut its staff by 18 percent. Last week, FOTF had to do another round of cuts, again citing a drop in donations (though it claims the lower funding is a result of tough economic times). On the issue of gay rights, Focus on the Family CEO Jim Daly said:
“We’re losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage,” Daly said in the interview. “I don’t know if that’s going to change with a little more age—demographers would say probably not. We’ve probably lost that.”
It’s important to note that the religious right is still exceptionally powerful, as evidenced by the prominent role right-wing Christianity still plays in American politics. It is a powerful movement with lots of followers, smart P.R. and tons of organizational muscle. But as Sarah Seltzer pointed out, “The Christian right is far from dead, but it’s good to see one of its biggest wedge issues losing its power to wedge.”
5. Getting married by friends
On a lighter note, it looks like increasing numbers of Americans are looking to jettison religion out of their marriages as well. The Washington Post reported last week that more Americans are choosing wedding ceremonies without the trappings of religion, including the clergy. Reporter Michele Boorstein finds a crew of college friends who officiate at each other’s weddings:
Their decision to forgo the more traditional route is a slightly extreme example of a once-quirky trend that is becoming more mainstream. A study last year by TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com showed that 31 percent of their users who married in 2010 used a family member or friend as the officiant, up from 29 percent in 2009, the first year of the survey.
Boorstein points out this trend is likely the result of young people’s drift away from traditional expressions of religious faith.





~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ With a donation of $20.00(for UK and Canada $30.) Will send you FREE of charge and FREE freight the AF*Logo T Shirt shown on top of page. This will help us GREATLY to stay doing what we are doing to bring you these current posting

Featured Posts

Is Trump Dancing to the Putin Orchestra? Put the “Точки вместе"

🔫♛🔫♛🔫♛🔫♛🔫♛🔫♛🔫♛🔫♛🔫♛🔫♛ᙛᙑᙐᙏᙎᙅᙰᙩᙍᙇ ᐗ It’s terrifying to think that the Trump administration is simply wing...