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 Post subject: Less Religious, Less Christian America
PostPosted: 090309 23:41 
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Religion is one of the things that tends to irritate me a bit; I think it's a bit strange, outdated, and/or stupid. However, I can completely understand why some people may need to believe in some kind of structure, order, or entity bigger than themselves, even if I don't want to go down that particular path myself.

More irritating than religion is the fact that so many people in various religions like the flaunt it and try to convert other people despite the fact that so many of those religions advertise humility as a staying point. Another thing that irritates me is that religion is more like a brand object or a point of visible pride (like a sports team) in the modern world -- a way to identify with other people and instantly have a connection, rather than any deep, existential well of faith.

So it's interesting to me to see an article like this proclaiming that America has become less religious AND less Christian. I'm still a bit skeptical due to the spin that news seems to put on surveys to make them see less dramatic, but it's still an interesting bit of news, if it is true.


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 Post subject: Re: Less Religious, Less Christian America
PostPosted: 090310 00:37 
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I don't find it especially surprising. Religious diversity seems to be a budding modern concept. When I was in high school, people were taking classes on "comparative religions". Sure, it's not the same as converting, but it's people learning about other ways, other paths. The natural religions seem to have become very popular in the last half century or so. And it's becoming increasingly stylish to follow Buddhism - in the West, even. The comments about atheism becoming more acceptable are believable, and also rather inspiring, personally.

I think we may be headed in a good direction, but it's a long route. If the concentration of Christians in America drops from 86 percent to 76 percent, that's still a strong 76 percent majority. We've still got a long way to go. But this is indeed promising news, if it's an accurate portrayal of the country.

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 Post subject: Re: Less Religious, Less Christian America
PostPosted: 090310 00:49 
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I was curious about the "atheism" bit... but then again, it seems like not many people seem to know what "agnostic" means. I tend to label myself agnostic because I honestly don't know -- it seems just as irrational to blindly cling to a belief that there is no higher power of any kind as it does to cling to the belief that there is. From a more scientific perspective, it would be like saying "well, the particles we know now are absolutely all there are to everything" -- there's more data out there than we know about and to stubbornly cling to a model now seems... well, stupid.


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 Post subject: Re: Less Religious, Less Christian America
PostPosted: 090310 01:38 
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You probably won't be surprised by this, but I'm gonna have to respectfully disagree. As an atheist, I'm not saying that I have unshakable faith in the non-existence of a "higher power". To me, being an atheist means that whatever "higher power" that may or may not exist does not have a significant effect on my life.

From a more scientific perspective, being an atheist is like subscribing to the quantum theory of mechanics. It doesn't mean that you believe that quantum mechanics is the end-all be-all of mechanical theory, just that you believe that, based on current knowledge, it's the most likely scenario. Granted, in the science world, people can be unhealthily dedicated to paradigms, but a true scientist rejects his personal bias for one model or another when presented with irrefutable evidence for a different model.

So, if anybody were ever to bring to me convincing proof of the existence of a higher power, I would have to modify my belief in the lack of one. However, in the meantime, I'm not gonna sit around twiddling my thumbs, saying, "maybe, maybe not, maybe, maybe not" - I'm gonna dedicate myself to the worldview that seems most rational to me. And that's what atheism is to me.

I have a related argument with my bro sometimes, the incontrovertible skeptic that he is. I submit that I can't be 100% certain about anything, but the fact remains that I have to commit myself to some belief, just in order to continue on with my life. That belief is scientific rationalism. And the evidence so far that's been presented to me demonstrates that the possibility of there not existing a "higher power" is greater than that of there existing one. So there it is. Occam's Razor.

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 Post subject: Re: Less Religious, Less Christian America
PostPosted: 090310 02:41 
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To me, being an agnostic means that whatever "higher power" that may or may not exist does not have a significant effect on my life.

Atheists by definition believe in the non-existence of a god, I think... which is why I generally call myself agnostic.


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 Post subject: Re: Less Religious, Less Christian America
PostPosted: 090310 05:51 
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Honestly, I like the way it's described here. I don't know how much of it is just semantics, but I've always preferred the term "atheist" over "agnostic" because it's a step further away from actual theism.

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 Post subject: Re: Less Religious, Less Christian America
PostPosted: 090310 12:54 
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Scott wrote:
So it's interesting to me to see an article like this proclaiming that America has become less religious AND less Christian. I'm still a bit skeptical due to the spin that news seems to put on surveys to make them see less dramatic, but it's still an interesting bit of news, if it is true.


I don't think there should be any skepticism. The "cool" thing to do now is to bash Christianity, often without any rhyme or reason ("everyone else is doing it!"). Just about any concept associated with it is under attack, most often needlessly (see: marriage) when an equivalent institution can be set up right alongside it.

I'm also a little miffed that it's always Christianity that's singled out, particularly by you guys in this thread. This hatred of religion that is growing daily in this nation is directed at more than just one of them... Wake up, there are numerous religions in this nation today. And, quite frankly, each religion is doing a good enough job itself of pissing people off. Furthermore, the people that follow each of these religions that might be in the public eye are doing a more than good enough job of pissing people off.

The sad thing in all this is that the genuinely good people that might follow a religion and just live their lives are the collateral damage. They probably never preached a day in their life, but untold amounts of hatred are directed onto them for what? Because they're trying to live a "do unto others" mentality? Because they help others? In Catholicism, at its most very basic, you should walk away with the goal of just trying to be a better person. Don't kill, don't hurt others, treat others as you'd want to be treated, be humble. Simple stuff. Common-sense stuff. The stuff our parents should have taught us. The people that live this are the ones that bear the brunt of this absurdly irrational hatred and it's extremely bothersome to know that.

I'm bowing out of posting again in this thread. It's not worth it getting angry over a fight that I or anyone else that follows a religion can't possibly win against all the religion haters in the world today. Just remember: Every group has their bad apples and their extremists. Should we hate music because some of the artists are terrible people that live a way of life that shouldn't be emulated? Should we hate sports because OJ likely killed his wife? Or because Kobe cheated with some teenager? Should we ban the internet because it's got porn or snuff videos on it? No to all of those. We also shouldn't do our best to tear down institutions that, for the most part, do a lot of good.

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 Post subject: Re: Less Religious, Less Christian America
PostPosted: 090310 14:12 
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Kashi wrote:
I'm also a little miffed that it's always Christianity that's singled out, particularly by you guys in this thread.


I didn't single out Christianity. I even said "various religions", I thihnk.


Kashi wrote:
The sad thing in all this is that the genuinely good people that might follow a religion and just live their lives are the collateral damage.


I don't mind those people; I don't really care what people think, even if I think it's stupid, as long as it doesn't affect me. When they start pushing it on me (like a lot of people in my town tended to do), then it gets irritating. I mean, it gets irritating now -- people in Japan ask what I believe in and when I say I don't believe in anything, they start trying to convince me that there is something out there. Christianity barely exists here, and they still get on my nerves despite not being Christian. It's not that I have something against Christianity, it's that it's the majority religion in America, so the ones who tried to convert me were invariably Christian.

Kashi wrote:
Every group has their bad apples and their extremists. Should we hate music because some of the artists are terrible people that live a way of life that shouldn't be emulated? Should we hate sports because OJ likely killed his wife? Or because Kobe cheated with some teenager? Should we ban the internet because it's got porn or snuff videos on it? No to all of those. We also shouldn't do our best to tear down institutions that, for the most part, do a lot of good.


I don't dislike religion because of individuals, I dislike it because I simply don't believe in any of the fundamental concepts. Yes, they tell people to be good people, but in the process they also tell people that being good is a path to salvation (generally) and also (generally) say that their religion is the only way to be good; others are not good if they don't follow the religion.

I'm pretty tolerant and willing to believe that people are good if they are good, regardless of what they may or may not believe. I've met plenty of people, Christian and not, who didn't want to believe that I was a decent/intelligent guy because I didn't espouse their particular belief.


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 Post subject: Re: Less Religious, Less Christian America
PostPosted: 090310 23:38 
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Kashi wrote:
The sad thing in all this is that the genuinely good people that might follow a religion and just live their lives are the collateral damage. They probably never preached a day in their life, but untold amounts of hatred are directed onto them for what? Because they're trying to live a "do unto others" mentality? Because they help others? In Catholicism, at its most very basic, you should walk away with the goal of just trying to be a better person. Don't kill, don't hurt others, treat others as you'd want to be treated, be humble. Simple stuff. Common-sense stuff. The stuff our parents should have taught us.

See, here's my perspective. The things you've described here are indeed simple, common sense stuff. That's why you don't need to be Christian (or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Pagan, or whatever) to live by them. I don't need a big guy in the sky to tell me how to live a virtuous life. The part that bugs me isn't that people are living this way - that's the part I actually respect. The part that bothers me is that these people had to receive those instructions from their god, rather than having been able to figure it out for themselves. Bottom line is, I agree with a lot of the aspects of the religious path, I just don't see what god has to do with it. The god part is an extraneous concept, and it bugs me that people attach so much value to something so worthless. At the cost of thinking for themselves.

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 Post subject: Re: Less Religious, Less Christian America
PostPosted: 090326 05:55 
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Balancing things out on Kashi's side on this one. Calling this 'progress' or 'a step in the right direction' puts you right alongside the Jesus freaks who would call this is a sign of moral decline. Believing that progress can only be made by unanimity is a dangerous, and frankly ugly, notion and one that I'm gonna have to call you out on.

Christianity is, indeed, singled out, but only because it's the majority (I know supposedly we're a majority, but I guess I just haven't really hung out in the right circles to ever experience anything but being a significant minority). One read through a Dan Brown novel will show this to be true; if he had written a book about the Great Jewish Conspiracy in which the Jews had staged the Holocaust and were using the built up guilt to get the world to let down its guard until they could bring forth their six-million strong army of cyborg ninjas and it was up to a single Harvard professor to expose the Jewspiracy and save the world, it would've been panned as a thoughtless and offensive bit of trash.

As for how to deal with expressing your beliefs, it's a fine line that's almost impossible to walk perfectly. I don't think we should all be forced to keep our beliefs to ourselves, whatever they may be; although, again, I think it's hard to deny that someone who starts ranting against how ignorant religious people are will make the room a lot less uncomfortable than someone who starts talking about how big a role Jesus has come to play in his life. As a fun exercise, every time you feel someone is forcing their beliefs on you, see if you can come up with a time when you've said similar things about your own beliefs to someone. You'd be surprised how easily it comes. Ideally, we should all be able to politely express our opinions and listen to others, and then disagree and discuss or put the matter aside entirely. Rarely does this happen, but that shouldn't prevent us from trying to change it. Yes we can, right?

Also, I know too much history to believe that letting atheists run the show will somehow make the world a better place (see in the past few hundred years: the Reign of Terror, the Third Reich, the gulags, China's humanitarian record of the last several decades, etc).

On a side note, I think Kashi misses a subtle point when he brings up the 'do unto others' mentality. While it certainly has an important role to play in human interaction, it alone falls short. I think it was Kant who pointed out that there's an inherent flaw in calling that morality, because at the end of the day it's just a fear of punishment. I won't hit you because I don't want to be hit - it's how you first teach children to behave, and that's a fine way to start because it gets the idea across. However, as has been noted, this doesn't take religion to manage, just a desire to live in a society where you can walk down the street without getting mugged, raped, or killed. What religion brings to the table (or at least Christianity, because that's what I know best) is, indeed, something more.

"On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. 'Teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life? What is written in the Law?' He replied, 'How do you read it?' He answered: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind"; and, "Love your neighbor as yourself." 'You have answered correctly', Jesus replied. 'Do this and you will live.'" -Luke 10:25-28

There is no sense of reciprocity in this, which is where I find the Golden Rule of 'do unto others' insufficient, you don't do it because you'll get something out of it in return. The message is not to love your neighbor so that you will be loved, but to love him because you recognize that you are both parts of a greater whole, and to love that whole in all its parts is the fulfillment of the greatest commandment given to us by God. This I cannot see as a possible doctrine without God and religion.

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