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The New Profile Of Faith

Religious faith now in America. Protestants, in a minority for the first time ever. And “no affiliation” on the rise. We’ll look at the new profile of faith.

Empty pews. (kevin rawlings/Flickr)

Empty pews. (kevin rawlings/Flickr)

Everything changes. Including Americans’ relationship with religion. Not so long ago, more than two-thirds of Americans were Protestant. Christians, read to check the box. A new study, just out, finds fewer than half now say they’re Protestant. Lowest ever.

Nearly one in five say they’re atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” Catholics, with big immigration, now the largest single faith group. But just a touch ahead of the unaffiliated…two-thirds of whom say they still believe in God. It’s complicated.

This hour, On Point: religious faith now in America.

-Tom Ashbrook


Gregory Smith, senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life . He is one of the primary researchers for the report released Tuesday titled “Nones on the Rise.”

Robert Putnam, professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. His most recent book, American Grace, co-authored with David Campbell of Notre Dame, focuses on the role of religion in American public life.

William Lawrencedean of the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.

C-Segment: VP Debate Preview

John Harwood, chief Washington correspondent for CNBC and a columnist at the New York Times.

From Tom’s Reading List

You can read the Pew report in its entirety here.

Daily Beast “One in five Americans today has no religious affiliation, and for the first time there are as many who claim no religion as there are white evangelicals, according to a new Pew report. With evangelicals forming the GOP’s backbone, the party may face a struggle to survive, says Michelle Goldberg.”

USA Today “In the 1960s, two in three Americans called themselves Protestant. Now the Protestant group — both evangelical and mainline — has slid below the statistical waters, down to 48%, from 53% in 2007″

Pacific Standard “The data, by the Forum on Religion and Public Life group at Pew, was based on telephone interviews with 2,973 U.S. adults around the beginning of this July. The study credits the overall rise in non-religious affiliations (up almost 5 percent in the last five years) to generational replacement—that growing number of young folks.”

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  • Shaman2

    Though I was a rather religious Catholic for most of my life I became exhausted working through the twisted intellectual and emotional acrobatics required to understand:

    1. why prayers to God don’t seem to work any better than praying to your computer or your refrigerator. 
    2. why George Bush’s Christianity was so different from mine. 
    3. why the Christian Right doesn’t speak to most Christians I ever knew.
    4. why Creationism and other anti-science is taking hold among religious people.
    5. how it can be a sin to be gay since science is showing that being gay is not an aberration but part of natural sexuality. 
    6. why God needs us little nobodies ‘to protect’ His supposed eternal kingdom.
    7. why divorced people needed to be excommunicated from churches where they had worshiped for years. Apparently Christians can forgive murderers but not divorced people. Dumb.

    And for so many other reasons…

    Over the years I came to the dawning awareness that religion simply makes absolutely no sense the way it is described by priests and rabbis. 

    There may be some wisdom in the Bible. But if so it is in the words of Jesus, which no one really seems to pay attention to.

    At the moment the whole “Christian Thing” seems like a big excuse to push other people around.

    I say love people and have compassion because they are part of your humanity, they are hurting and they need you. 
    Why bring God into it at all?

    • Mike_Card

      All religions exist solely for the benefit of their priests.

      • JobExperience

        Nope, even priests gotta serve somebody.

    • anon

      I was also brought up in a religious Catholic family and rejected the religion (although at the time I was rejecting ALL religion). I considered myself something between agnostic and atheist for 20 years and was happy with that. I happened to go to work in a Muslim country, though, and learned about Islam (the real Islam – not the distortions that so many people hear about). Most of the things written above (from rejecting science to forbidding divorce to religions existing for the benefit of priests) don’t apply to Islam.

      And Muslims DO pay attention to the words of Jesus, who is much loved and respected - and written about in the Quran – as a prophet of God. In fact, it is Muslims who follow his lifestyle (in terms of how they pray, how they dress, circumcision, not eating pork, and especially worshiping the One Creator, not an idea of a trinity in which he was a god – something that he never taught).

      • Shaman2

        Humans use religion to control other humans. 

        Religion is a charade or social theatre where people make up rules, infuse them with meaning, threaten the non-participants and then guide them to a promised place which always benefits the leaders of the social order. 

        There is no god watching over any of it. If there is  He is quite cruel.

        • JobExperience

          Proven by the observation that religious rules of conduct  change over time varying with technology and circumstance.
          (ie-Religion become more fundamentalist and absolutist in societies where wealth  inequality is greater.)

    • medique

       Only 7 items, yet so many mistakes; alas, so little time…

    • JobExperience

      8. Why the Creator of All is always begging for cash.
      Even the FED can create money, so why can’t Yahweh?
      Water into wine: lead into gold.

  • Yar

    One must trust a pew poll on faith, for it sounds like it comes from the horse’s mouth.  I count the numbers in pews every Sunday, and they are down a bit.  I worry about that and if we can pay off the new addition or even the electric bill.  But then I am reminded that Kentucky is 20 years behind the rest of the world, so we never have to go to a little league game on prayer meeting night, and while I hear there is going to be this big cock fight tomorrow night up in Danville, I don’t think I will go, as these things aren’t very civil and besides I can get a better view on the TV.  I was trying to explain the Poisonwood Bible to friends from a different culture, and realized that unless you have heard a preacher speak in cadence, Nathan Price may not make any sense, although I see a bit of Brother Price in Mitt Romney,  I wonder if both preached themselves out of the church.  Do we inflict missionaries on tribes across the waters to save lost souls or to get them out of our own hair?  “There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure ‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.” says the spiritual from Led Zeppelin. 
    It could be both at the same time, never understanding the coin has another side.  While thinking of Poisonwood, Anatole may find himself at a loss for words as leader of the world’s most powerful nation. How does one argue with a crazy man and not seem crazy as well?  Better to remain silent and be declared a fool than speak and prove it.
    Why do we use boxing matches and cock fights to look for a brain surgeon?  Isn’t faith a type of brain surgery?  And isn’t the only surgeon who can give the gift of faith, called creator?  Prohibition ended in town last summer, and now they have moved the butter to keep the beer cold.  I don’t know why that bothers me, but I guess I just don’t like change.

    • Shaman2

      I was sentimental about church and faith too. That is partly what got me to stop wasting my time.

      When you put money in that basket on Sunday it amounts to funding a kind of theatre and nothing more.

      • JGC

        I like the “money in that basket…funding a kind of theatre”, however “nothing more”?  What about, for example, the 10% tithe to the LDS church?  That is significant money and it is all tax-deductible, meaning that we all end up  supporting their church as they divert their taxable income to LDS initiatives such as building more temples and shopping malls. Very little (0.7%) of the tithe goes to true charitable circumstances.  Of course, other religions take advantage of this tax deduction, but their demands from their congregations are more modest and they use a greater proportion of the money collected for true charity (assistance to the poor and the sick, for example) rather than on supporting infrastructure and media empires. 

        • JobExperience

          LDS tithes go 100% for missionary work and new edifaces (temples), so basically it’s advertising and infrastructure, not charity. Maybe our new government will resemble their inequality advancing scheme if it’s not there already.

  • Ed75

    Protestants are now less that 50%, Catholics between 20% and 25%. Over 90% say they believe in God, and are spiritual persons. There is an increase in the unaffiliated, because of the struggles of religious communities, but hardly a decline in faith. But the secularists are now in government, and in the media, so they sound like they are on the rise.

    • jimino

      Can you explain the difference between the secular way of dropping a bomb, building a road, responding to a fire alarm, and the myriad other activities we depend on government to do, and a faith-based way of doing so?

      • jefe68

        You do it knowing God is on your side. Or something like that.

        • Ray in VT

          Oh, God doesn’t have time to support wars.  He’s way too busy answering all of those prayers from people hoping to sway the outcome of football games.

        • BHA_in_Vermont

          And each “side” firmly believes that “god” is on THEIR side. Funny how it never seems to work out that both sides win. Is “god” playing chess with “him/her/it” self and favoring one side over the other?

      • JobExperience

        A secularist believes that God could not be present amidst strategic wars over resources or in the hopeless hellholes following capitalist extraction (Like Haiti and Chernobyl). The faithful believe God enjoys these atrocities (and fear they may  be next).

    • Ray in VT

      So who are the “secularists” in government, and what is a “secularist”?  It is certainly possible to be religious and believe that the government and society should not be picking which faith should govern society.  The Founding Fathers certainly saw a value in not having a faith securing the official blessing of the government, so were they secularists?

      I think that every person for whom I have voted for for major office, with perhaps one exception, over the years has been Christian of some sort. Many of them have not seen it fit to broadcast their church preferences, and that’s the way that I like it.  I don’t care what someone’s faith is, but, rather, what their policies are.  I know that one informs the other, but I have found over the years that I prefer the policies of politicians who do not have to tell me every 10 minutes how much they love Jesus and how much he loves them.

      I think that there have always been non-believers in all societies, but it has gotten easier to be one in modern America.  I think that there are more of us, and I most certainly welcome that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

      You have it backwards. Politicians in the past were far more secular and rarely their religiosity. Can you imagine FDR, Eisenhower, Truman, or even Nixon yammering on about their religion the way the current crop of nincompoops does? Beyond that obvious fact of history, please name one significant government leader today who could be reasonably classified as a “secularist” (whatever that means). Actually, since your assertion is that there are “secularists” (plural) and your implication is that they have taken over the government, you will need to provide a fairly long list of names to support your sweeping and meaningless generalization.

      • Ray in VT

        It does seem like there was a time, not so long ago, when if a politician would get laughed off of the public scene for denying basic science in favor of religious fundamentalism.  Now, I’m not sure if that is reality, but it seems like there was a time when that was the case.  These days it seems to be a plus in the eyes of some segments of the populace, such as with the Georgia guy who recently said that evolution is an idea from the pit of hell.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        Exactly. I’ve never heard so much blathering about religion from pols in my life! It’s almost mandatory. And as Ray says, the corresponding denial of science, a return to the middle ages, is unbelievable and would never have been heard in the mid 20′th century. JFK had to make his famous speech about how he would not be ruled by his religion in making decisions for the USA. Now that would probably be political suicide.

      • JobExperience

        In the “olden days” (1950s) people had better sense than to vote for “guys” who expect to inherit a planet with a hundred wives when they die or think evil is independent of Financialism.

      • J__o__h__n

        They have always yammered on about it.  It was just more mainstream.  Our money got stamped with in god we trust so we could beat the godless commies.  Even presidents the radical Christians hate still end every speech with god bless the United States.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          What about the watershed moment of Kennedy’s speech?

          A half century ago, the ne plus ultra of religious freedom was a Catholic having to convince Protestants that Rome wasn’t pulling his strings. (And I’m sure you’ve seen photos of the billboard with a drawing of JFK kneeling to kiss the Pope’s ring, a warning that a president Kennedy would be subservient to his church’s earthly leader.)

          Now “religious freedom” is turned upside down: It’s the “right” of the evangelicals or the US Catholic hierarchy to take tax money and still pimp for their beliefs in the marketplace.

          That’s what I call backsliding, as a nation.

    • Vandermeer

       I’m one of those “spiritual” types. I respect those who believe in organized religion but want to keep church and state SEPARATE.

      • JobExperience

        Historically it was organized religion (in early USA) that demanded to be separate from government. Boy, are they asking for trouble now!

  • gemli

    It’s interesting that atheism is not mentioned explicitly, although it’s danced around a bit, with “not religious” and “no affiliation” being used for euphemisms.  It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of, especially in light of the horrific acts carried out in the name of Islam and the embarrassing display by our conservative Republican candidates, several of whom proudly raised their hands when asked if they didn’t believe in evolution.  We’re all atheists with respect to the thousands of gods that many people lived and died for in years past.  None of us believe in Zeus or Mars, nor do we believe in lots of modern gods, or for that matter in other people’s religions. 

    I would suggest that people who respond to polls understate their lack of belief, as ironically there is a stigma to saying you believe in rational thought and common sense.  Fortunately, there seems to be a momentum to unbelief that is growing, no matter how it’s characterized by the polls.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      None of us believes in Zeus or Ares?  Speak for yourself, thanks.

  • LinRP

    All I know, is that when I hear the right wing version of Christian faith that espouses homophobia, war, scientific theory coming from “the pit of hell,” Islamophobia, hard knocks for the poor because they deserve it, etc….I just think, “that ain’t my Jesus.”

    I am not a person of faith, but what is passes for Christianity today in some circles sure doesn’t reflect the teachings of the Jesus I learned about as a kid.

  • responseTwo

    I used to go to church when my children were young. I sang in the choir and taught Sunday school. From what I see now with the intertwining of politics, religion, creationism, money, and guns I’m afraid to set foot in a church. I’ve seen videos of ministers down south telling people who to vote for, a video of Jerry Falwell’s school telling little children that president Clinton was the devil. I’m back to where I started from. Read the bible at home and judge no one.

    • medique

       Pick your poison. There are videos of public school children being taught that Obama is the “messsiah.”

      • responseTwo

        Can you send me some links. I want to see them.

        • medique


          • responseTwo

            Thanks for sending this. I don’t condone this. 

            My comment was about religion in politics. I see no religion in this and it has nothing to do with the topic of religion in politics. 

            It’s a bunch of adults indoctrinating children into praising a political candidate but I hear no mention of a religious belief and it wasn’t in a church; it was in a neighbor’s house. 

            According to the type of analogy in this video, Jerry Falwell can be associated
            to Hitler also. He indoctrinated children into worshiping conservative
            politicians and he taught children that president Clinton
            was the devil.

  • jefe68

    And yet about 50% of the American population believe in angels.
    Which means they believe in myths. At the same time are not other evangelical churches growing, such as the Pentecostals?

    • Ray in VT

      Plus there was a survey a while ago that found that 40%ish of people surveyed thought the the second coming would happen in their lifetime.

    • Gregg Smith

      Many also believe in Mother Nature and Karma. Same thing.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      I’ve never seen the “Enterprise”, but I know Star Trek is real.

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

        It’s currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum. Some versions were CGI, alas.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Myth is one way that we understand the world and human nature.  It’s story-telling.  That has its own rules and methods.

      Science is another way, but the two don’t have to contradict.  They address the world in different ways, and as long as we understand the differences, there should be no problem.

      • J__o__h__n

        They only conflict when people claim the myths are true.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

           But true in what way?  Is Hamlet true?  Historically, no, but as an analysis of human psychology, of family conflict, of personal doubts and actions, yes.

          • J__o__h__n

            How many religions confine their “truths” to matters like that?  No one cites Hamlet as an actual person and asks how he would vote or claims he has magical powers.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

             I agree that many believers view their religion as scientific and historical truth in addition to spiritual truth, but I’m saying that another view is possible.  Look at religion as mythical truth, valid in its own field, and understand the differences between fields of thought.

    • anon

      More than one-third believe in UFOs, too.

  • AC

    i can’t tell the difference between islamic extremists and Fred Phelps….it feels like the day that Westboro church turns to more violent demonstrations is a breath away…..

    • J__o__h__n

      The Reverand Fred Phelps hasn’t killed anyone.  At least he is honest about his hatred of gays and doesn’t hide behind claiming to love them like many churches that oppose gay equality do. 

      • JobExperience

        His hate message motivates other killers.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Or members of the white supremicist Christian groups or the man who killed an obstetrician over the question of abortion–you’re correct.  Extremists of all kinds are the same.

      • JobExperience

        Or Justice Scalia…

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

          He may have positions that you don’t like, but he’s not out advocating for murdering people who disagree with him.

  • 1Brett1

    If there is a god, it most likely is not the kind of energy that has inherent qualities demanding obedience to any specific tenets, faithful worship, and a reward/punishment system (say, heaven/hell) for either adhering or ignoring those same doctrines or loyal adoration.

    We, as humans, seem to have goodness and a desire to grow, intrinsic in our nature. We also have the capacity to ignore our nature. Our rewards (and consequences), most likely, are within our own physical and “spiritual” world here on earth.

    I think a large percentage of people go to church for the social aspects. They may have some general belief of a god and afterlife; but, organized religion, across all denominations, has taken its role and desire for control too far, in my view, and I believe people are weary and leery of most organized religions’ demands. 

    I also think, as people evolve, traditional beliefs required to accept mythological ideas fade while broader, more abstract concepts become commonplace.    

  • Gary_Disqus

    Are there studies that look at the prevalence of magical thinking in the population? If so, is there any correlation between religious affiliation and magical thinking?

  • adks12020

    I went to a Catholic elementary school and went to mass every Sunday until I was 12 or 13 when I decided it wasn’t for me (my parents gave me a choice).  During the next decade I studied a bunch of different religions to try and find the right one for me and always came back to three things: I don’t have faith in the fact that there is a supreme being; I don’t really need to follow a religion to be a good person; religion is the cause of so much unnecessary conflict that I want nothing to do with it.

    As others have said…I think there have always been a lot of non-believers.  It’s just that people think someone that has no faith in God is a bad person.  I’ve even noticed that it’s even uncomfortable to bring up non-belief in God among people that never go to church at all.  They still somehow have faith in God and think I’m odd because I don’t..

    That’s just how I feel; people are free to believe whatever they choose but basing my entire life on some stories that were written by men a couple thousand years ago to help people deal with, and make sense of, a very tough existence isn’t for me…and never will be.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       “As others have said…I think there have always been a lot of
      non-believers.  It’s just that people think someone that has no faith in
      God is a bad person. ”

      It has always been dangerous in many parts of the world, the Americas included, to NOT believe what the “others” believe. Convert or die was not uncommon. The Polynesians were polytheistic until they were “shown the truth” by Europeans at the end of a sword, spear or gun. Adapt or die.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Tangent: “It’s just that people think someone that has no faith in God is a bad person”

        Plenty of people who don’t mind the idea of “God”, are now churchless because they can’t stand the behavior of other people in His fan club. I’m one of them.

        That’s in my white northeastern suburb, where the theocracy has yet to take hold. Others’ experiences may differ.

  • adks12020

    I can’t point you directly to one but there most certainly are studies like that out there.  I have a BA in Anthropology and I remember reading them back in college. Try JSTOR or GoogleScholar.  I bet you’ll find something there from an anthropology or sociology journal.

  • NewtonWhale

    There is no God.

    Religion is nothing but a mass hallucination that allows one group of people to be controlled by another. It has caused more death and destruction than any other factor in human history.At a time of violent religious extremism it hardly seems surprising that more Americans are reaching that conclusion.

    When I hear supposedly intelligent people profess their faith, an I conclude

    • Gregg Smith

      “There is no God.”

      That’s fine, just realize it’s an opinion and there is no possible way to ever know the answer. How you deal with your own mortality and purpose is no ones business but your own. Your personal opinion should be respected and is. I would hope you, in turn, would respect the opinion of those who think otherwise about the unknowable.

      • Prairie_W

        Probably having a sense of humor is a lot better than having a religion, when we’re talking about our future, living together on a shrinking planet.  Humor seems to give us more space, more air to breathe, and a better chance to love and appreciate our neighbor.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       How is it that you know there is no God?  Unless you have proof, you’re expressing a belief based on faith.

      • NewtonWhale

        Your reasoning has also been used to support the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
        The major difference being that Pastafarians don’t try to pass laws in the belief that they’ve been touched by His Noodly Appendage.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

           And if the Flying Spaghetti Monster brings meaning into your life, I’m the last one who will tell you not to believe or not to read the stories of that faith.  I agree that our laws must be based on something that we all can buy into.

          In case you’re wondering, my own belief is in the gods of the Greeks and the Norse, not Christianity.

          • NewtonWhale

            Intriguing mix.

            So who wins a steel cage death match: Zeus or Odin?

            I think Kenneth Branagh could use that premise as a sequel to THOR.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

             I stick with the classic texts.  I teach ancient and mediaeval literature, so it’s the world that I live in.  Polytheists from that world often accepted the gods of many cultures as equally valid, no matter which ones they revered.

          • NewtonWhale

            I recently finished book 5 of George RR Martin’s series, (Game of Thrones on HBO).

            He writes very well, and you might find the books enjoyable.

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            They’re on my long list of books to read, yes.

          • Gregg Smith

            Interesting, thanks. Respect goes a long way when you can’t be sure you’re right.

          • NewtonWhale

            You could save money by casting Liam Neeson in both roles. The back story has them as identical twins, separated at birth by their Titan father.

            Excuse me while I get started on the screenplay…

    • Gregg Smith

      I saw Stevie Wonder in concert a couple of years ago. He is certainly a religious man. He’s a lefty too but kept his show apolitical. His mother had recently died and he started the show by talking about her for 10 minutes or so. His daughter had led him out. They sat at the piano and she sang a simple melody as he began to play. The band sort of fell in one at a time. The next thing you know the room was transformed into a giant group hug. It was great. I returned to earth about 3 hours later. It’s not an exaggeration to call it a religious experience. This is the song he opened with:


      BTW, no point really.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=584989777 Brian P. Kasso Gaidry

    “The great religions are the ships,
    Poets the lifeboats.
    Every sane person I know
    has jumped overboard.”
    - Hafiz

  • Shag_Wevera

    To all the posters before me who have ridiculed religion:  Why can’t a declared agnostic or atheist win any major political office in this country?

    Also, I’d love to administer a stiff dose of sodium penathol to major political candidates and ask them if they believe in god.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=584989777 Brian P. Kasso Gaidry

      In a word FEAR.

      Fundamentalist Christians in America, Like fundamentalist Muslims in other countries, find comfort in their common fears. Their entire existence is built on the fundamental belief that there is one god (theirs), one right way to live (also theirs), and that anyone who doesn’t believe the same is crazy and dangerous.

      The irony of course is that this fear and distrust of “others” causes fundamentalists of all stripes to behave in ways that are – crazy and dangerous.

      • JobExperience

        Maybe, but mostly they get off on assuming the cloak of inerrant authority. (Like the guys who are disatisfied with male equipment and want to supervise female anatomy, or the right wing female pimps who can never weild enough vaginas) Next debate: give Barry and Mitt rubber Jesus dolls and let them beat one another silly. This will entertain the 1%.

  • http://www.facebook.com/irvwestyouthadvocate Irv West

    I hope that the discussion meanders to Paganism, the most rapidly growing religion in the world. As a Pagan, I find the tolerance for other people and their differing ways to be refreshing, where conventional religioons favor their way or the devil. We believe the individual is born whole, not born into “original sin,” and Mother Earth is our G/god. Who among us can claim that the earth does not nurture us… give us life?

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Don’t forget reconstructionist pagans who are reviving the religions of the Greeks, the Norse people, and so forth.

    • anon

      Everyone but Christians believes the individual is born without original sin, don’t they?

      But how can you explain that the earth is God? What does God mean in that case? It has no power to create, no will, it is not all-knowing or all-powerful…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=584989777 Brian P. Kasso Gaidry

    If you look to the sacred texts
    of the Bible, Torah, Qur’an, Dharma, Bhagavad Gita etc., as accurate literal
    historical accounts, it is only natural that you will either become
    disillusioned (if you seek the comfort of belief), or disappointed (if you are
    a seeker of truth). It’s a bit like watching corporate news. The
    problem is not that what our religious institutions tell us doesn’t contain
    some truth. It’s that they never tell us the WHOLE truth. Their versions
    contain just enough reckless truth to be believable, but will always be
    distorted to reflect their own perspective and serve the agenda of the
    hierarchical institution before the needs of Soul and Spirit.


    When you come to see these sacred
    texts for what they are, poetic myths, they can be deeply insightful. I don’t
    mean to offend anyone’s beliefs or religious traditions by calling them myths.
    Myth doesn’t mean it’s not true. Myths are artful stories that reveal deeper
    truths that no literal, historical account ever could. Literal news reports are
    about other people. Myths are really about us. All of us. When you read these
    sacred texts, and understand that YOU are a Christ, a Buddha, a child of God
    and a living embodiment of The Creator in this world, then you will KNOW the
    meaning of life, and your purpose in it. Turns out, when you actually KNOW
    stuff, you don’t have to BELIEVE.


    • skeptic150

      Have you actually read the Bible from cover to cover?  Imo, it is a horrendous book, full of an angry/psychopathic god that needs constant worship and sacrifice, genocide, slavery, misogyny, homophobia, etc. There may be some “decent” parts, but it is 95%+ nonsense and essentially worthless, imo. 
      Imo, there is no defense for the nonsense in the Bible as a whole – you can cherry-pick it for the few decent parts, but why?

  • Wild_Thing

    Buddhism has been working with the mind for over 2500 years. Meditation forms the experiential basis for inquiry into the nature of things. There is great intellectual discipline behind that inquiry. Christianity gives you the rules for living. Buddhism gives you the tools for living in the present. The religion is portable among cultures. It is growing in the US.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       The fundamental claim of Buddhism is that life is suffering caused by desire.  Meditation is designed to eliminate desire.  I’ll pass, thanks.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

        The Buddha taught that (1) life is suffering; (2) suffering is caused by selfish desire/attachment; (3) the way to end suffering is to end selfish desire/attachment; and (4) the way to end selfish desire/attachment is by following the eight-fold path. Here is the eight-fold path:

        1. right views
        2. right intent
        3. right speech
        4. right conduct
        5. right livelihood
        6. right effort
        7. right mindfulness
        8. right concentration (usually meditation)

        You can pass, if you like, but many people find Buddhism enormously helpful in leading their lives. 

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

           All you did was give more detail about what I said.  Attachment, in that sense, means connection to my identity as an individual, as opposed to a part of some collective consciousness.  And yes, I’m attached to that and have no interest in changing.

          • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

            All I intended to do was give more detail and point out that, though you chose to pass on Buddhism, many people find it very useful and satisfying. No one is trying to change you or undermine your individualism, and certainly nothing in my post would lead to that conclusion. 

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

            I see a lot of people who claim to be Buddhists who have the attitude that a person can only not be a Buddhist through ignorance.  That’s the position that I’m objecting to.  If it works for you, good enough.

        • scottmartin49

          I’ve always taken the teachings of the Buddha to be quite similar to those of Jesus when considerered wholisticly.

          Perhaps he had read them…..

          Beyond the Christ’s claim of co-equal divinity, they are even more so alike, but even that difficulty may be understood by faith.

          Best Wishes Leonard!

  • sickofthechit

    Wake up On POint!  How is this hour not about the VP debate happening less than an hour from my home tonight?

    Romney set the bar low enough on the truth meter that Ryan should feel quite comfortable continuing the charade.  Just hope Joe brings his A game.

    “They may have all the money, but we have all the votes!”

    “Republican Politicians;  Hypocrites or Schizophrenic Hypocrites?”

    Charles A. Bowsher

    • Gregg Smith

      I was wondering why this show wasn’t on the Benghazi hearing yesterday. The scandal makes Watergate and Iran-Contra look like childs play.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

        Not as big a scandal as the government allowing those space aliens to monitor your movements from their flying saucer (in spite of your tin foil hat)!

      • Shag_Wevera

        C’mon man, I know you are capable of both logic and hyperbole, but this post is ridiculous!

        • Gregg Smith

          It’s true, this is awful.

    • J__o__h__n

      I don’t think there is enough for an hour for an event that hasn’t happened yet.  And VP debates tend to not be a factor in the race.

    • Yar

      Charles I tried, and even attempted to use humor, which is probably a mistake, as each side wants to win and not laugh. But this is deadly serous when society wants to push the social safety net off on the church and participation is voluntary.  Sort of like health care, taxes and everything else money can buy.  Maybe we should change the sign on the church to say “in money we trust.” At least then our currency and our faith would reflect each other.

      • JobExperience

        Said social safety net when delegated to “believers” becomes coercive… gotta take a browbeating before you eat sort of proposition. I am a seminarian who rejected ordination and I’ve lamented this deeply. If you pray each week when you enter the Lottery, God gets all the credit when you win, even if 30 years have elapsed.

        • Yar

          My belief is that if God wants me to win the lottery then I won’t have to buy a ticket.  Faith is a gift not do to some act on my part.  Buying a ticket is putting God to the test.  We should not do that.  I fault the media for not covering the amount people lose to the lottery each week.  At least in the stock market report they say how many shares are traded.  We have more numbers and less information each day.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       I don’t think we need to spend ANY time “analyzing” an event that will not happen for almost 11 hours. Guessing what they will say, how their performance might affect the race, is a total waste of time. Talking to fill a void. There is plenty of time to analyze it after the fact.

    • TinaWrites

      There was ALSO a news item, yesterday, that reported that for the first time, Protestants did NOT represent the majority of Americans. 

  • TomK_in_Boston

    Whatever the protestants are losing in numbers, they are gaining in fanaticism.

  • J__o__h__n

    Catholics would be down too if it weren’t for immigration.

  • skeptic150

    I finally shed my beliefs in a virgin birth, resurrections, vicarious redemption via human sacrifice predicated on animal sacrifice, heaven/hell, imaginary friends/enemies, magical thinking/prayer, judgment day, etc, about 4 years ago – I wish I would have done so earlier in my life, and I think childhood indoctrination in “religion” is wrong.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       ” I think childhood indoctrination in “religion” is wrong.”

      It is the only reason religion exists. As a Catholic friend told me many years ago: “It is easier to create them than convert them”.

  • Sieh Samura

    It is progress.
    We have recently witnessed a worldwide realization of the decades long, Catholic Churchs’ pedophilia and sexual abuse campaign.
    We watch religious fanatics and extremists blow themselves and others up, murder, terrorize, starting wars in the name of their god.
    We see women continually the target of the religious extreme.
    We see the rampant anti-intellectualism of believers all over the world and the way many of them look forward to a apocalyptic/armaggedon type violent catastrophe that ends the world.
    Religion is backward and ugly, and Americans are no longer buying the line that religion is good or necessary to a civil society. our recent experience shows that religion is a destructive force in our modern societies.

    Religion pumps fear into the populace and people are rejecting a life of fear.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       “Americans are no longer buying the line that religion is good or necessary to a civil society”

      Having followed this show for several years, I think it is safe to say that your statement is not accurate. Plenty of people posting on this show believe that the only way to be moral is to be religious. If you are not religious you have, by definition, no morals. Of course they are ignoring all the damage done by “moral” religious people and have zero proof that not being religious leads one to a life of immorality.

  • ludwig44

    How many of those who simply say their religion is nothing in particular, the 2/3 who say they “believe in God,” are just reluctant to admit to anything else?

  • Davesix6

    Excellent point Tom, there has always been flex, ebb and flow with regards to religion throughout the known history of humanity.

    • skeptic150

      But the proportion of “nones” (atheists, agnostics, ignostics, freethinkers, etc), I believe, is greater than ever and growing faster than ever – possibly due to the ease of information sharing and more scientific literacy.

  • TinaWrites

    How about UNITARIANS?  I’m wondering specifically if they are seeing increased numbers of people ATTENDING services, especially with Sunday School age kids in tow; while not necessarily seeing any increase in MEMBERSHIP?

  • rpmoore52

    It is simply because organized religion does not answer the really important questions and is generally very narrow minded and non-accepting in a very changed world. Many people then turn elsewhere for the answers to life’s important questions.

  • GarretWoodward

    Born and bred in a devout Irish-Catholic family, attended a hardcore French Canadian elementary school (nuns all about suffering and such)…now, as a world traveler and writer, the more I see and learn, the more I distance myself from my original religion, but not from faith…probably consider myself more of a Buddhist, living in the now and living by “The Golden Rule”…faith take many forms, many of which is about optimism and not a specific religion…

  • GarretWoodward

    Born and bred in a devout Irish-Catholic family, attended a hardcore French Canadian Catholic elementary school (nuns all about suffering and such)…now, as a world traveler and writer, the more I see and learn, the more I distance myself from my original religion, but not from faith…probably consider myself more of a Buddhist, living in the now and living by “The Golden Rule”…faith take many forms, many of which is about optimism and not a specific religion…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKGW6YLYQSJVJJQY3JJ2D4UWI Nancy A C

    There is some wonderful irony here that I find intriguing.

    Most of us claim we are seekers of Truth. 
    The truth,however, is that most of us are really seekers of Self.

    If it aligns with our personal preferences, we call it Truth.
    If it is distasteful/makes us uncomfortable and/or makes our head explode for lack of understanding, we call it heresy.

    The life and claims of Jesus Christ are at once alluring and appalling.  Yet I can find no fault with Him… only in some of our reactions to Him… including my own.

    We blame “religion” for screwing us up.  Maybe that’s not so inaccurate, as “religion” is man’s attempt at understanding  God.

    Jesus’ whole M.O. was to unravel our paltry attempts at figuring Him out… and laying it all down for us.

    Come to think of it… that has nothing to do with religion.

    • skeptic150

      Jesus peddling has everything to do with the Christian religion.
      The whole character of Jesus is based on pre-existing Mediterranean mythology.  Everything we think we “know” about this character is hearsay.  These have nothing to do with personal preference, they are simply facts.  Yet millions of people still accept this person as factual based on the Bible and that he not only existed but really did perform supernatural feats.
      Religion is not merely an attempt at man understanding a god – a god is only one aspect of religion, and gods are earmarked with mythology.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/DJKGW6YLYQSJVJJQY3JJ2D4UWI Nancy A C

        Thanks for your reply, skeptic.I accept that not everyone is crazy about the claims Jesus made about himself, but no one seems to refute the good deeds and stuff he did :^)  There is more than enough historical evidence to support his existence, his works and his claims.  The problem is not lack of evidence, but the pesky things he said about himself, like “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…” Agree or disagree, fine.  But there is no refuting He made those claims. 

      • anon

        A billion and a half people also accept him as factual (but as a prophet, not God) based on the Qur’an. Believing in Jesus and the other prophets is a pillar of Islamic faith.

    • scottmartin49

      “Most of us claim we are seekers of Truth.  The truth,however, is that most of us are really seekers of Self.
      If it aligns with our personal preferences, we call it Truth.If it is distasteful/makes us uncomfortable and/or makes our head explode for lack of understanding, we call it heresy.”

      Nancy, this is precisely what an identification with Christ’s words, deeds, and suffering frees us from. It also sounds an awful lot like the mans own words! (Jesus the psychologist)
      As the phrase goes, “You are not far off….”. 

      Following the model of Christ will get you “killed” every day, but the LIFE is worth every bit of it. 

  • Kate Bauer

    My fiance and I are having a civil ceremony next year. While we were both raised in Catholic families, church every Sunday, bible classes, etc, we now define ourselves as Agnostic (me) and Atheist (him). Needless to say, our parents are disappointed we’re not having a Catholic ceremony. My mom has threatened to bring a priest as her date.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      I don’t think Catholic priests are allowed to date.  They can abuse young boys though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1017927756 David Gomez

    Hi Tom. I don’t know how to classify my religious preference.
    I was raised Catholic, attended Catholic elementary school and served in the church. However, as time went on, the church could not provide the answers that I was seeking. I began to explore other concepts and eventually ran across Buddhism. Today, I would say that I am Buddhist-Christian. I have picked various teachings from other religions, blended them together to my liking in a sort of spiritual smoothie. Thank you.

    • TinaWrites

      That’s the exact mix of our former Unitarian minister! 

  • casey culver

    We have to accept that Mother Earth is our creator – even if that scares us. This is the only way that we deal with the perils we face. As long as God is some abstract external being that cannot be harmed, we can continue to disrespect and destroy ourselves and our habitat. Be thankful, kind, and gentle with our creator – the earth, the sun, and the stars – as it has blessed us with this amazing experience we call life. 


    • anon

      Mother Earth is our creator? That doesn’t even begin to make sense… 

  • TinaWrites

    Hearing Evangelicals on the news, I realize that the Presbyterianism I was brought up in was barely the Christianity that must have existed even then.  We were taught that we were connected to the Jews of the Old Testament, and that the Golden Rule was one of the most important things we should retain.  From the New Testament, we were taught that Jesus loved the little children, and so should we:  that deep compassion for those living in poverty and want and sadness needed help.  This was the most important thing we should take from the New Testament.  We were also taught that we should learn about and respect the other religions of the world, for they had much to teach, too.  (We learned about them thru World Literature in public high school by way of reading excerpts from their great books.  Everyone in class wanted to convert to each new religion whose great book we were reading!)

    Hearing Evangelicals on the news, especially with their will to convert everyone to Christianity, I began to feel funny about wearing my cross.  It embarassed me that it might mean that I, too, was presumptuous enough to think that I knew better than the other peoples of the world.  I also despise the homophobia of most Evangelicals.  

    When my child was three, we started taking her to a Unitarian Church, and I felt like I was back home in the flukey form of Presbyterianism I was raised in, and I was happy to be there!

    • scottmartin49

      Amen Tina! Remember that Presbyterianism is decidedly NOT evangelical, it is a Calvinistic theology.

      The american evangelical movement suffers most from the fact that it is in fact anti-christ in practice, whatever it proclaims. The results of their actions are readily apparent to anyone who actually reads scripture- Kings, Chronicles, the Prophets- all of the warnings and punishments derive from hypocrisy. Their violent defense of their own power and prejudices even lead them to the murder of innocents. Sound familiar?

      If there is any saving grace to evangelicals, it is that they bring Christ’s words, deeds, and passion to life.

      They killed him then, and they are still doing so even today….. 


    • TinaWrites

      Casey reminds me that my True Religion had been the World Outside.  I usually say this, but forgot to today:  the Presbyterianism I speak about, above, was the religion I was “converted to” from my Paganism, as I used to call it.  But then, even saying Paganism was hard, because Paganism even began to take on an American commericial feel to it, as stores started to sell Earth Goddesses, etc.  When we went to the Unitarian church, the minister then read poetry to us lots of times, and he found poetry and music that totally transfixed you into a feeling that you were in and part of the Natural World. Actually, we’d go from the services at U.U. to one of the wonderful nature refuges we have around here!  

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       ” that deep compassion for those living in poverty and want and sadness needed help.”

      Which is why it is very confusing to me that the religious right hangs with the “by your own bootstraps” Republican party. Does all the “compassion for others” go out the window, overshadowed by birth control and abortion rights?  Apparently so.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shannon.mullen.31 Shannon Mullen

    I am a Lutheran pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We are one of the declining mainline denominations that Tom could not think of!

    I think there is another key part of this increase in ‘nones’ which is not yet well recognized, but which dawning among many of us in the institutional church:

    The Biblical message of Jesus itself undercuts cultural structures that use ‘religion’ to oppress people or control violence. New, flatter, less-structured, more-democratic forms of being Christian are arising everywhere, AS A RESULT OF the Gospel.

    • ludwig44

      The Gospel that divides humanity into the eternally damned and the eternally rewarded, based upon a thought held or not held in people’s minds during an immeasurably minute time span (if one believes in eternal life)?  That one?  Somehow that message does not oppress and is not violent? No matter what kind of twist you put on it, I cannot think of anything more violent.  The Old Testament stories of slaughter and devastation don’t even approach the horror.  And if you try to sidestep it as many Christians seem to, you no longer have need of the myth of a need for salvation from “original sin.” 

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    How many Westerners who claim to be Buddhist really understand what Buddhism means?

    • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

      How many westerners who don’t claim to be Buddhist understand what Buddhism means? Probably not many.

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

         Exactly.  Buddhism is a rejection of the Western ideal of individualism, and yet many who claim to be Buddhist like it because it’s different and “cool.”

        • anon

          Buddhism has some great principles of peace and non-attachment, but then  they go and give offerings to a statue, and that kind of ruins it…

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

             You regard those as beautiful, but I don’t.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rich-Madison/100002956347397 Rich Madison

    I was raised in a mainline protestant church but have been an evangelical for 30 years. I remain an evangelical because of my beliefs, but I miss a lot about the mainline churches. I think that evangelicals, in their attempts to “spread the faith” have narrowed it down to such a stark formula that we have lost the depth in our religion. We have lost the wonder, curiosity, awe at nature, and joy in the differences of other people and cultures. 

    Instead of giving children “unfinished sentences” and mystery, parents give them a distilled version of faith over and over. It is no wonder that it has lost its meaning and appeal for successive generations. That doesn’t change the value of our faith, but it has certainly changed the value of its common practice. As an evangelical I have to work hard to continue to give my children the mystery and self-discovery of a faith journey. 

    I also think that the emphasis on “going to heaven” is very self-centered, not the main point of the Bible, and goes against the reason most people look for religion. I think people WANT to think of others, not just themselves, and that they are not attracted to a faith that comes across as self-centered.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/OVIN7L36M5JZ4PPB5SZDUU4PQY Michael

    Charles Taylor, in A Secular Age, discusses the specifics of our age’s secularism and how religiosity has been replaced with other sources of ‘meaning’.  I highly recommend this book.

  • Tominator

    Belief is clinging. Faith is letting go. Try convincing an evangelical of that truism. 

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      I don’t see your statement as necessarily true.

  • nlpnt

    To add to Rev. Lawrence’s description of the 1950s; it was the McCarthy era, wouldn’t there be a much harsher social pressure to belong to a church for appearances’ sake than there is now?

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       Why do you think “Under god” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 and “In god we trust” was put on our money in 1956? McCarthyism, red baiting, black listing and to prove that WE are not disgusting godless communists. As if an economic system based on “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs” is AT ALL related to a lack of belief in a supreme being. In fact, one would argue that Christianity would embrace such a system (Evangelical right wing Christians not withstanding).But a lot of people falsely think those words have been with us since the dawn of the Union and have no idea WHY they are there. We have been suffering from the stupidity of adding those words for nearly 60 years. From E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one) to “We believe in a common single god”. The former makes a WHOLE lot more sense for the population as a whole than the latter.

      • skeptic150

        It is argued that “In God We Trust” does not “establish” one particular religion.  But it is reasonable to conclude that this “motto” excludes polytheists and nontheists and establishes monotheism.  As such, I believe it does violate our Constitution.  But as long as there are people like Scalia out there, it will never be viewed as such and polytheists and nontheists will have to continue to stomach the imposition of monotheism (typically reflected in Christianity) on those of us who are nontheists or polytheists. 
        I recently visited DC and saw “In God We Trust” engraved on the Capitol building and other buildings/monuments - it doesn’t represent me or many other American citizens, but since it represents the majority of our so-called leaders, I guess it’s ok, even if our Constitution says “Congress shall make NO law..”

  • bacterial_sizzle

    As an  atheist, this is delightful news. If the trend continues, perhaps we will see a new age of enlightenment. Maybe someone who doesn’t believe in fairy tales may even be elected president one day.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    See Martin Gardner’s book, The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener.  He was a skeptic in terms of claims of miracles and so forth, but he declared his personal belief in God, while not identifying with a particular institution.

  • Annie Tye

    “…for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” Nobel  laureate Steven Weinberg. I am a graduate student in the molecular sciences and a proud atheist.  Religion clings to ignorance and seeks to prevent individuals from freedom of thought, not to mention that more people are murdered in the name of religion than anything else. Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion is an excellent summation of the realities of religion.

    • anon

      Oh, please. What religion was Stalin?

      • Annie Tye

        Stalin was not a good person. Weinberg’s whole quote: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

        • anon

          But the commenter was arguing that more people are murdered in the name of religion than anything else. Stalin was responsible for what – 20 million deaths? Mao at least double that… neither of them did it in the name of religion, and of course there are many more. Or look at contemporary figures. There are something like 16,000 murders in the US every year; how many are in the name of religion?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QMDZ3LH5U2B4GAT7J2HS4TCP6E Jim

    I am not surprise. Christian sect like evangelical christianity is very conservative and political. at times… the impression is these people believe that they are better than anyone outside of their religious sect. that is quite unchristian like and hypocritical.

  • skeptic150

    I left Christianity for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  • Dick Johnson

    Abrams, the great literary critic, argued that Romantic stories of growth and
    development, bildungsroman, were naturalized versions of Biblical spiritual
    history.  Judaeo-Christian Biblical
    history was finite, plotted, dramatic, and right-angled: Creation, Fall,
    Millennium, Final things. In Romantic poems and stories, this became birth and
    youth, trouble and confusion, and eventually vision and reconciliation, the
    modern life pattern, a version of Biblical history.

    How different, fifty years later:  Big Bang, expansion of time and space, matter
    and evolution, and then, who knows, the multi-verse. Infinity has never seemed
    more infinite.  We look for stories about creation, who are we, and where are we going?  This story encorages faith (who could “know” it all?), generates an incredible sense of awe and of humility, aspects of religious sensibilityother aspects of religious ssensibility. 

  • Tominator

    To the caller from Auburn, AL: I, too, live and work in Auburn, and I see daily the hypocrisy and outright hate for people who do not ‘believe’ the same way United Methodists and Southern Baptists believe. The belief in a unique, one-time only occurrence of a viable homo sapiens being born of a virgin teenaged girl, growing up to be a haploid zombie who can save your soul, is outright stupidity. How do you and your husband, who are ashamed of being called evangelicals, square this with any semblance of reality? Our society is completely off the rails.

    • ludwig44

       If I am correctly understanding your post, it speaks to a major peeve I share — Christians cringing at the ‘over the top’ beliefs of other Christians.  How is even the most basic core story of Christianity not just as cringe-worthy, superstitious, and over the top all by itself?

  • ThirdWayForward

    This conversation needs to make an explicit distinction between religious belief and religious feeling.

    Most of what we associate with religiosity is not adherence to a particular set of metaphysical beliefs (e.g. existence of god, life after death, virgin birth, transubstantiation, etc, etc), but the presence of religious feeling (“spirituality”). The latter involves a sense of unity with the universe, being a part of something larger than oneself, and comfort that one is doing the right thing and/or that things will work out.

    You cannot make any sense of people who say they are religious but are not part of any “faith” unless you make this thinking/feeling distinction.

    Psychologists have long incorporated the thinking/feeling distinction into their theories of personality. Thinking people tend not to be religious (because of the ridiculousness and obviously false nature of the metaphysical beliefs involved). Feeling people often tend to be religious — it gives them compass (orientation) and comfort.

    This has poilitical consequences — liberals tend to be more rational, thinking people, whereas a greater fraction of conservatives are feeling people for whom facts are largely irrelevant. This is why many conservatives don’t believe in ideas that bother them, such as evolution and global warming.

    This is how a lying con artist like Romney can appeal to half the country — they are not tracking the truth or falsity of what he says at all. They want to feel good, and not to be confronted with facts and arguments.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Being conservative doesn’t necessarily mean that a person is less intelligent or less rational.  I’ve known far too many leftists whose “thinking” was based entirely on how they felt.

    • anon

      “Thinking people tend not to be religious (because of the ridiculousness and obviously false nature of the metaphysical beliefs involved).”I think you (like many of the people here) are using ‘religious’ when you mean ‘Christian’. All of my Muslim friends are very much ‘thinking’ people. Islam is in sync with Science, and many of the great scientists and mathematicians in the Middle Ages were Muslim – specifically because of their religion, which encourages us to reflect upon and understand the world around us.

  • Outside_of_the_Box

    While religious folks will likely tell you we’re seeing a dark age on the horizon, I see it as simply the natural evolution of spirituality. Away from religious dogma, towards a personal inner experience of one’s true Nature. With that in place, there is no need for religion. I think this is where we’re headed.

  • Rex Henry

    I respect the social aspects of church, but reject the basis on which the values are taught (heaven, hell, the devil, etc.). I know the difference between good and bad, and have a conscience.

    Just as our political parties are becoming more divisive, using religion to push your view is pushing me away.
    If you want to get people back to church, lay off the heavy stuff and have a modern discussion on what we can’t explain with science.

  • AF_Whigs

    This is not a crisis in faith, per se, however it IS a…referendum, perhaps?…on general disillusionment with the human aspects of organized religion.  We have repeatedly seen hypocrisy at best and vile, evil behavior at worst from officials and representatives of various churches and organizations. 

    Religion is one thing, no matter which religion we’re talking about.  The way humans twist and warp religious beliefs and messages to their own ends is another.   The decades-long enabling of abuse and subsequent coverups and denials in the Catholic church is an obvious example.  I think it’s sometimes tough for people to find something to draw them to the church.

  • Annie Tye

    The Bible: because all of science can’t compete with a bunch of cattle sacrificing primitives who thought that all of the animals in the world lived within walking distance of Noah’s house.  (paraphrased from something seen online)

  • gala1

    I am an agnostic, and I found a home at the local Unitarian Universalist church. They didn’t gasp or said we couldn’t attend, when I told them I was bordering between agnostic and atheist.

    And as I learned more and more about this religion, it felt more and more like their principles were in alignment with my own beliefs and values.

  • http://www.facebook.com/garden29 Eden Bennett

    Humans have attempted to describe their surroundings in any way that they could. The Bible did this for that group of people at the time. It was a way to give people an explanation for the way things were, as well as codes of conduct for their daily lives.  Today, we have other ways of explaining our world, and the Bible is no longer relevant to me. Science is a way to explain the world. They didn’t have the technology that we have today, so they couldn’t come to the same conclusions. I also don’t need a threat of “hell” anymore in order to have ethical behavior. I am not 4.

    • Gregg Smith

      Science cannot explain what happens to your soul after death. It cannot explain what existed the day before the big bang. It cannot explain what is on the other side of the outer edge of the universe. At some point it comes down to faith even if it’s faith in nothing.

      I agree with you about the threat of hell. I think the Baptist religion is based on fear like the Catholic religion is based on guilt. Maybe they’re right, I don’t know. Maybe the Rastafarians are on to something, we just don’t know. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/shannon.mullen.31 Shannon Mullen

    The caller has it backwards. One reason Christianity is declining is because it has been wrongly understood as a system of ethics which tell people how to behave. Jesus is simply about orienting self toward others in mutual self-giving love.

    This certainly effects the ethics of the person being led in a new direction, but if you understand the faith as being about telling others how they should live, people leave.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    I see this not as a move away from belief, but as a move away from institutions.  Call it a libertarian awakening.

  • Josiah Vanvliet

    I’ve been working on how to have secular ethics with The Boston Atheists. You can see what I’ve been working on here: http://bostonatheists.blogspot.com/2012/10/video-from-ethic-of-truth.html
    and here:

  • Scott B

    People are tired of the hypocrisy, bigotry, politicization, and the lack of forward thinking they see increasing around organized religion. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/treeny.ahmed Treeny Ahmed

    These religious leaders take what they offer far too seriously. They do not own morality- rather they have made the world a worse place by creating false dichotomies. What we need is for secularists to stop being so meek and take ownership of their superior moral code. It is a wonderful thing for America, and for the rest of the world, when religion takes a back seat. 

  • superfinehelios

    I like some have become distanced from churches. My wife and I share our faith over small discussions of scripture with other couples that have left organized bodies of faith. We find that’s enough for us. 

  • trzepka

    This great American secularization is finally bringing our population full circle, back to the enlightenment principles of our founding fathers. Their scientific, ethical and philosophical approaches to religion (exemplified by the “Jefferson Bible”) more closely resembled modern humanism than modern evangelical protestantism. As alternative social support systems emerge, the need for organized religion fades, allowing us to escape the echo chamber of religious superstition and use our own powers of discernment to glean our place in the universe. Many of the founders had no time for the supernatural, and more of us are now coming to the same conclusion.

  • J__o__h__n

    Does anyone else find “spiritual not religious” to be overused and boring? 

    • Gregg Smith

      I do but I get the intention. I think the distinction is between organized religion (the church) and an awesome wondrous respect for our existence and environment.

    • BabaTaro

      I use ‘spiritual’ to mean my own relationship with God which has nothing to do with organized ‘religion’.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/U5TMB24JAPD37TBH6VS3W5XP5Y Nashstu

    I turned away from my protestant denomination for two reasons: 1. the GOP co-opted religion for political gain, which I still find disgusting 2. hypocrisy in those who professed they were “strong Christians” and “put God first in their lives”

  • Thinkin5

    Religion is a double edged sword. People use it to do harm to others and to do good. I think that in the last 4 decades or so, it’s more about dividing people and persecuting people. That’s why it’s losing people.

  • hopecrolius

    I listen to this show every day and love it. But please tell Tom that he is developing an irritating habit of interrupting people with this own comments and second questions. It makes it less enjoyable to listen to, as I’m braced for him to break into the speaker’s train of thought. People should be brief, but please, Tom — let people finish their thought!

  • imjust Sayin

    Regardless of whether you are for or against religion, religion will happen.

    The best argument for organized religion is the prevention of abuse and vulnerability.

    And, for a few thousand years, we have learned to have community, and a time to reflect (like a sabbath).  Without that we can still feel spiritual, but yet have a faustian box where we work all week and never take time to reflect.

    Industry is pandering to the worst impulses of people’s religious views.  Not everyone who denies human causes for extreme weather also denies the Jewish holocaust.  But just about everyone who denies the Jewish holocaust also denies industrial causes for weather change.

    People who sit alone are more vulnerable to hatred approaches to religion.  If we surrender our religion to those who will pander to our worst impulses, then what are we christians saving people from?

  • Scott B

    Virtually all religion is based on the golden rule of treating others as you would be treated. There was a great PBS film on it. But they see their church, and leaders of their churches, doing anything but, and that’s coming between them and their God.  They can’t obey the golden rule if the church hierarchy and dogma says: “Obey the golden rule*”

    * except gays, other races, other religions or sects, political affiliation, sex….

  • http://www.facebook.com/haley.mathis7 Haley Mathis

    it’s a shame that this is considered by some to be a “crisis,” particularly when one considers all of the more frightening things happening in the world.  i also disagree with the idea that people are replacing community religion with a more individual lifestyle.  i consider myself to be a very spiritual person as a yoga instructor, and i am also very involved in my community.  as a couple of the callers and comments have pointed out, i think we are actually evolving and becoming *more* enlightened as a culture and i have to admit that i hope this is *not* temporary.

  • skeptic150

    There is no need to entangle religion with “just” laws.  Our secular laws have done just fine without religion.  And religion is not needed for a moral or ethical code.  I think Humanism is a reasonable alternative to any religion as a basis for morality/ethics.
    Here is a list of “commandments” I found in an atheist’s book:
    Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you
    Treat all living things with love, honesty, faithfulness, and respect
    Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted
    Live life with joy and wonder
    Always seek to learn new things
    Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them
    Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you
    Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be blindly led by others
    Question everything
    Do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of sex, race, or (as far as possible) species
    Do not indoctrinate your children; teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you and others
    Value the future on a timescale longer than your own
    Main points 
    1) Strive to do no harm 
    2) Try to make a positive impact in all you do 
    3) Enjoy yourself

    Are these not as sufficient, if not “better” than “commandments” provided by religion?

    And, imo, science is far more revealing and satisying than any religion – as long as we can continue to learn and expand scientific knowledge, there will be less need for a god/religion (let’s face it, religion has suppressed/oppressed science and continues to do so simply to continue to exist).

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    Ryan is “grounded in substance”? This, the same Ryan who’s the GOP’s idea of a wonk?

    Tom, who is your other guest for this subject?

  • Steve__T

    I don’t attend a church of any affiliation I don’t  believe that God has one.

     My Rules of Life

    Be humble
    slow to anger
    Love with compassion
    Pray with faith
    don’t point your finger for there are three
    pointing back at you
    Teach with truth
    respect is earned and must be givin to recieve
    Have unconditional forgiveness
    By understanding through patience and wisdom
    Give thanksgiving with your soul  

  • nj_v2

    Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful. — Seneca, ca. 4 BC –AD 65 (maybe; some question the attribution)

    People tend to want simple, easily understood, unambiguous answers to complex or intractable problems or questions. Most “organized” religions have traditionally filled this role.  It’s also a handy tool for the ruling elite to use to manipulate and subjugate the unwashed masses.

    Most of the tenants of most of the mainstream religions strike me as sadly, cartoonishly simplistic and anthropomorphic. I find it difficult to talk to adherents in a meaningful, honest way without either being dismissive or disrespectful, so bizarre do i regard most “beliefs.”

    Personally, i’ve settled into a kind of agnostic/zen/pagan view of “spiritual” (i’m not fully comfortable with even that word) matters.

    Einstein comes close for me…

    “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”

  • BonnieNatick

    I was pleased with the very widely held view by many callers that religion is not nearly as important as spirituality. 

    I do consider myself to be agnostic according to definition, but I’m bothered that people need to put a name on “spirituality” at all. Since the birth of religion, it always has and always will be a volatile issue that will cause unrest. This flies completely in the face of what the basic “purpose” of what religion is. Religion is also a beautiful joining of people who genuinely love one another and act accordingly in their homes, families, careers, communities and with the world at large. 

    Spirit comes from inside. Be a good person and want good things for others. I personally do not need to fear a god who will judge MY very human responses in HIS eyes. I am my own best judge, and just like everyone else on this planet. I have done very well for others, as well as behaved  in a way that i’m ashamed of. I don’t need forgiveness for anything I’ve done (or not done) in my life from anyone but the persons directly affected by it, and I would never ask it did i truly not think i was up to the task of delivering and deserving it.

    Peace and love to all.
    Bonnie – In Natick

  • ThirdWayForward

    There is no evidence that organized religion promotes higher ethical standards. We develop our ethical sense by treating people in our immediate lives in a fair manner (the Golden Rule, reciprocity, treat those as you want others to treat you), not through church attendance.

    It has very little to do with what happens after death or whether some omniscent being is looking over your shoulder, and it has everything to do with how you think about yourself in relation to others.

    On a larger, social scale, religion with all of its talk of brotherly love, falls in with opinions of political and social elites when it comes to issues of slavery and war.

    The Catholic Church notably collaborated with the Nazis and Fascists of the 190′s and 1940′s. The less social and political power they have, the more benign these religions become.

    Churches in the South supported slavery and came up with all sorts of Biblical justifications.

    Most churches today support the Republican Party, whose political program is highly at variance with the moral teachings of Jesus (i.e. help one another, especially those in need). Modern Republicans want to repeal health care reform, despite the 40,000 people who without it (it’s not yet here) currently die each year because they do not have access to health insurance. How is voting Republican at all ethical?

    Then there is all the Ayn Rand inspired selfishness (Paul Ryan’s patron saint)  that is so popular with plutocrats and millionaire-wannabees. How can evangelicals support this philosophy if they are, morally speaking, real Chirstians?  One could go on and on.

    • anon

      I’m also puzzled as to how these politicians who claim to be very Christian also fall all over themselves praising Ayn Rand…

  • Belmyriel

    Christianity has not lived up to its name. Christianity is supposed to be tolerant and selfless. The ideals that actually have come out of that religion have been anything but, even since the beginning of its organization and especially today since it has been aligned with the Republican party. Segregation, wars, intolerance, unwillingness to help the poor and destitute – so much has happened that goes completely against humanity’s moral compass that it is impossible to support it anymore. 
    Imagine this: you are playing a board game with someone. You play with them 99 times and every time they are honest and play by the rules. You play with them for the 100th time and they cheat. Can you ever trust them again? Now imagine they have cheated 50 out of those 100 times. How can you continue to play with that person?

    • ludwig44

      For half a lifetime I believed Christianity could be tolerant and selfless.  Then my eyes were opened to the fact that the most basic, and only unique, message it holds is one of defining humans as sinful and then judging them based on a thought (belief or unbelief) held in their minds and grouping them into the damned and the rewarded.  Not tolerant.  Not selfless.  Not patient or loving.  And, thank goodness, not real! 

  • ttllrr

    I was  a mainline Christian since birth.  I’m now one of the Nones.  What created the change was 2 things:  wanting to be out in the world doing good, not spending much of my free time with fellow churchgoers making casseroles and basically tending to our own needs; and, second, taking issue with the fact that the user’s guide (the Bible) to most important relationship of my life (with God) was exceedingly difficult to understand, and therefore apply, and that the use of an interpreter/intermediary (clergy) was required.  The communication and relationship between myself and my Creator should be direct, simple, joyful and fulfilling–not obscure, difficult, guilt-ridden and complex.  Religion and church are not necessary to access God.  Ultimately, no one TRULY knows the Truth until after death, so all opinions on this side are equally valid.

  • JobExperience

    The malleable Jesus myth is a product of its origin times and of subsequent crowd control needs. Maybe the echo of post-Roman Christianity has patterned the US Empire, and maybe the Protestant work ethic was what management needed from religion during the Industrial Revolution Revolution. A modern Max Weber would not count steeples so much as superpacs.

  • Josiah Vanvliet

    I believe that ethical behavior is grounded first in out biology as cooperative primates. We evolved to cooperate, and in basically healthy environments basically healthy people will behave ethically. What stories we tell about our place in the world and our relationship to it are important. But even without such stories we will, for the most part, get along and treat each other well enough.

    You don’t need the threat of hell to keep people from killing on another, taking another persons life is abhorrent to almost anyone with or without a religious justification. I have been trying to work out what to do in a world where we don’t need religion and what a secular community would look like for a while now and would appreciate any comments or suggestions at my blog.



    • jwkinstl

      I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as well. Would enjoy trading ideas. I agree with your reflections here and would only add that I think our stories are important (A) to get us through the day when we don’t have anything better, and (B) to remind ourselves of the things we are inclined to believe when we don’t know any better. I’ll allow that we also sometimes find interesting, intuitive insights (often in metaphorical terms) in some of our old stories.
      If you’re interested, I’ve posted more thoughts in response to comments here, beginning on Friday evening (Oct. 12). I’d welcome any responses you might have to them.
      Regarding what a world without religion might look like, I can imagine hopeful and fearful possibilities. Evolution, whether biological or cultural, offers intriguing possibilities but no guarantees. The latter (cultural evolution) will be what we make it — and all our objectives are moving targets. Too many variables to control, like human population and economic processes, just to name two. Every generation has new challenges, whether previous challenges have been adequately met or not.
      It seems the big picture is always the same though. H. G. Wells said that “We are in a race between education and catastrophe.” The problem is that, while more-enlightened people work valiantly to promote good education, less-enlightened people work just as valiantly to promote mis-education. (I’d be happy to qualify my understanding of “enlightened.”)
      Swimming upstream is difficult, but not swimming at all is to be forced backwards.

  • LaurenR22

    Roger Finke and Rodney Stark wrote a book called The Churching of America 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy.  The thesis of their research is that churches are more successful if their membership requirements/demands are more stringent.  In other words, the more that you have to do to be a member of a church and to sustain your membership, the “more committed” you become to the institution.  When membership requirements are relaxed, such as those that came about with the Vatican II, what they saw was a decline in membership.  

    It seemed that a lot of the discussion on this show was centered around a decline in faith in America as it pertains to people’s commitment or attachment to institutions of faith.  If you assume that people today, especially the younger generations, are turned away from faith because they associate it with strict, uncompromising institutional dogma, then Finke and Stark’s thesis becomes relevant to this discussion.

    The shame of it all is that I think that the discussion really needs to be centered around faith as it pertains the human consciousness and spirit, and that this understanding of faith applies to every single one of us and simply cannot be ignored. I believe that in order for us to address the problems that we are facing today, a transformation of the human consciousness and spirit is required, and faith, therefore, becomes necessary. However, the transformation of our consciousness begins within ourselves.  Religious institutions CAN be a pathway that aids in the transformation of the human consciousness, but this transformation MUST begin within and does not require membership or participation in a religious institution (and religious institutions that focus on external claims of salvation actually are destructive and prevent people from finding the salvation that comes with transformation in their consciousness in the here, now, and present day).  

    • jwkinstl

      Good comments. I’ve read some of Rodney Stark, but not this book and you’ve compelled me to get it. To your point, it seems that to encourage free thinking is to open the door to the cage. There is the danger that the thinker will fly away.

      Wouldn’t it be great if we quit focusing on bolstering our religious affiliations and focused instead on encouraging and promoting and living the kind of transformation you speak of? See our “congregation” as the entire human community? It would put some folks out of business, but we might get a lot farther in human progress.

      Christianity started as a movement of people moved by Jesus’ message of Love — of a Kingdom of God (love) ruling in the hearts of people. It quickly became a personality cult that was all about what theological formulations you believed about Jesus and less and less about his actual message.

  • Fiscally_Responsible

    There have been many varied comments about people finding God their own way, developing their own personal moral rules of life, etc. expressed in posts shown below.  The bottom line, however, is that man chose to go his own way and disobey God’s command not to eat of the fruit in the Garden.  The result was alienation from God and spiritual and physical death.  God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins by dying on the cross.  But He does not force Himself upon us.  He leaves the choice up to us to either repent and turn from our sin, recognize what He has done for us, and accept Him as our Savior and Lord.  Or we can choose to refuse His free gift.  Again, the choice is ours.  But one day, everyone will realize that God’s existence, power, and mercy were amply demonstrated through the wonder of His created universe.  Everyone will realize the free gift that God offers through His Son’s substitutionary death on the cross.  Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. The only question is, “will we do it during this lifetime or will we do it on judgment day?”.  The decision will affect whether we spend eternity with God in His kingdom which is established on earth or whether we spend eternity separated from Him (what we expressed that we wanted by rejecting His offer) in Hell.  The choice is yours.  Nothing that we can do or say will change any of these facts as clearly articulated in the ultimate source of truth, the Bible. 

    • Mike_Card

      Spending eternity with the likes of you does not sound like paradise.

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        now, now, be nice.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Yep. For someone to sermonize about (their own) religion, and choose that screen name?

        Yeef. I get enough religion in my politics / economics on this mortal coil, thanks.

        But Mike, you shouldn’t forget the punchline to the old joke. “Be quiet going past that door; they like to think they’re the only ones here in Heaven.”

    • nj_v2

      Calling Cult Rescue Services…

      Where does one start with something like this?

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        As Jesus said, “To him who has ears to hear, let him hear”.  My comments are simply the truth laid out from Genesis to Revelation.  As I said, you have the choice to respond to it as you see fit.  That will not change the fact, however, that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

           Are you aware that the Koran makes the same claim?  Aren’t they mutually exclusive?  If so, you’re going to be in trouble if you’ve chosen the wrong faith.

          • anon

            Islam says that when Jesus (peace be upon him) returns, he will make it clear that those who worship him are not following the message that he came with. (Most of what we think of as Christianity was not taught by Jesus; it came from Paul, who never met him. As if God came down to earth but forgot to give the message…)

          • ludwig44

            :-)  Quotable:   “Most of what we think of as Christianity was not taught by Jesus; it
            came from Paul, who never met him. As if God came down to earth but
            forgot to give the message…”

          • BabaTaro

            Actually, the Bible says that too, in Revelation.  

            And yes, Paul was, among his other sins, a woman-hater.

          • J__o__h__n

            I think an atheist would be better off than someone who picked the wrong god.  Not believing is only one sin.  Not beliving in the correct god and believing in another would be two.  Fortunately, this is only a hypothetical problem. 

        • BabaTaro

          I briefly (years ago) found such opinions hilarious.  Now they just make me sad.

        • jwkinstl

          Your comments are the “truth” as you understand it, from interpretations to which you subscribe. Other honest, earnest, seeking people have different understandings and interpretations. You are entitled to your interpretations, but it might be useful to consider Paul’s warning that “If any man thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know as he ought.”

          In my reading of the Gospels, Jesus seems far more concerned with what you DO — i.e., love your neighbor as yourself and as he loved his disciples — than with what you BELIEVE.

          A more humble position (just sayin’) might be to say “this is how I understand God’s message in the Bible…” than to assert with a certitude that seems rather arrogant “THIS — the understandings and interpretations I embrace — are unequivocolly and absolutely GOD’S truth, and I couldn’t possibly be wrong about any of it.”

          It seems wise to me to be always open to the possibility that “truth” is much bigger and has much more to offer than what I currently have figured out. Much wiser to be more concerned with how I treat my fellow humans.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       You were doing all right until you called the Bible a fact.  If the Bible gives a meaningful story to you, that’s good.  But it is not a fact in the sense that gravity is a fact or the Norman Conquest are facts.

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        You have the freedom to believe whatever you want to believe.  You will, however, bear responsibility for the resulting consequences.

        • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

           Would you really want to live with a deity who would torture you for not loving him?

          • BabaTaro

            You realize you’re talking to the deaf, right?

          • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

             But the conversation is going on with other people around.

          • BabaTaro

            Good point.  Except in that case you’re ‘preaching to the choir.”  We’re with you.

          • jwkinstl

            The other people affected by the conversation who concern me most are the impressionable, little people. I’m reminded of the wonderful bumper sticker that says: “Have you threatened your child with eternal damnation today?”

          • jwkinstl

            The other people affected by the conversation who concern me most are the impressionable, little people. I’m reminded of the wonderful bumper sticker that says: “Have you threatened your child with eternal damnation today?”

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            “I can’t get behind the Gods, who are more vengeful, angry, and dangerous if you don’t believe in them!”

            –William Shatner and Henry Rollins, “I Can’t Get Behind That”.

    • J__o__h__n

      These are not facts.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Christianity is full of stories about people being rewarded when their faith is tested and found secure, isn’t it?

        Part of me wonders why the script has flipped now to where “believing” means “paving the way for the One True God (TM) over all possible objectors everywhere”.

    • anon

      They’re not facts and they’re not even representative of what the Bible says. Jesus said to worship the Lord, and he prayed to the Lord; he never claimed to BE the Lord.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Claiming you have “facts” makes as much sense as the far right’s claim to be “fiscally_responsible” while cutting taxes and increasing the weapons budget.

    • Annie Tye

       Bwahahahaha!!!  You religious people crack me up. 

  • BabaTaro

    Christianity needs to focus on the teachings of Christ Jesus: 

    “By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”  And those fruits? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  (Apparently Republicans think that ‘truth’ isn’t necessary because it isn’t mentioned here.)  

    Then there is “And the second (commandment) is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The only other thing needed is, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”  


    • skeptic150

      Ok, so keep these.  But then what about all the other “stuff” (virgin birth, resurrections, vicarious redemption via human sacrifice predicated on animal sacrifice, heaven/hell, the Bible as “truth,” imaginary friends/enemies, judgment day, etc.)?  If you keep what you say above and discard the rest, you are left with just being a nice person for the sake of being a nice person – which is fine with me (and personally, I can’t stomach the rest of “Christian” mythology and think the only valuable thing Christianity offers is “do unto others” – and that isn’t even uniquely Christian).

      • BabaTaro

        Nothing is ‘uniquely Christian’.  All parts of it are similar to other religions.  Hey, Great People (Jesus, Buddha,Moses, Baha’u’allah, Indus, Zoroaster …) are really all alike.

        And yeah, I think Jesus was really saying, “Go out and be nice people.” 

        As for ‘virgin birth’, the word ‘virgin’ in the original simply meant ‘young girl’.  Who cares?  It’s the message that counts.

        • jwkinstl

          I agree with you, accept to note that Jesus seemed to be calling for something more radical than just being “nice.” In addition to the Great Commandment (which Rabbi Hillel had already asserted summed up all of the Law and the Prophets), Jesus said he was giving a new commandment to his disciples: To love each other as he loved them. He washed their feet (the service of a servant) and said “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Then, we are told, he died for them.

          Jesus seemed to be calling people to a radical way of reordering society around the principle of self-sacrificing, others-focused love. He preached the “Kingdom of God” — the rule or governing of the spirit of god (Love) within people. Not something legislated, but driven from within, from hearts “born again,” converted from the old selfish ways to the new way of loving your neighbor as yourself and as Jesus loved them.

          Pretty radical. No surprise, I suppose, that theology seemed an easier thing to promote.

        • jwkinstl

          To what I just posted I’d like to add: (A) the “new” way of loving one another wasn’t new to Buddhists; and (B) the “conversion” to the new way has been seen by people like Abraham Maslow, Erich Fromm, and Ashley Montagu as a natural development into a “self-actualized” level of human maturity (Maslow); the natural development away from the naturally narcissistic state of infancy (Fromm); the development from needy child to need-serving adulthood (Montagu) – provided the necessary conditions are present to nurture the developing person into the capacity for such maturity.

          Providing these necessary conditions of nurture for all children is the great burden of liberal society.

    • ludwig44

      The Spirit itself must not be very patient, peaceful, loving, or gentle when based upon the thought a person holds in his head during the immeasurably miniscule time of his mortal lifespan (if you believe in eternity) the Spirit judges him worthy or not worthy for all eternity. 

      You don’t need a mystical story of Jesus sacrificed, salvation/damnation, and all the rest to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Without the former, the latter are much easier in fact. 

      • BabaTaro


        … and yep

    • TomK_in_Boston

      According to the far right, Jesus was an early ayn rand type, perhaps the CEO of Galilee Capital Management.

      • BabaTaro

        Hahaha!  *snort*


      • Tim Janisch

         Give a listen to David Barton and Wallbuilders (their podcast is a good place to start) or try Focal Point (The Home of Muscular Christianity), Bryan Fisher’s show.  It is truly amazing how far these folks are going to manipulate the teachings of Jesus and the Bible to reflect their right wing positions.  Did you you know that Jesus hated labor unions and the progressive income tax?  And believed that corporations are people?  Amazing, but a little frightening. 

    • jwkinstl

      I agree that this was the message of Jesus. If Jesus was the Logos, the message of god, THIS was the message he proclaimed. He said THIS is how they’ll know you’re my disciples: that you have love for one another — not by what doctrinal “confession” you impose on one another.

      It seems his followers, perhaps out of grief after he died, set up a personality cult about Jesus, rather than going forth into the world with the message of Jesus. The cult became all about what theological concepts you were supposed to believe about their beloved master, rather than the message the master proclaimed. When the message was acknowledged at all, it was secondary to the theological assertions.

      The personality cult came to be known as “Christianity.” Its theological wranglings continue two thousand years later, while the message itself struggles to be heard.

  • BabaTaro

    (accidental re-post)

  • http://www.facebook.com/marc.roche.549 Marc Roche

    I am a long time listener….where were the panelists representing the secular community?  The whole tenor of the discussion seemed  to me to be bemoaning the loss of religious belief among the public.  Why not celebrate it as a positive evolution?

    • J__o__h__n

      When they had shows with Dawkins and Hitchens, they also included proponents of religion (yet when the guest is religious, no sceptic is included).  And every time there is a show on science some religious nut calls in. 

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Waitaminit, “some religious nut calls in”?

        That discounts the propensity for religious guests (and I mean RealAmericanReligion, hardcord fundies) to somehow always be found in the Rolodex for such science shows. Y’know, for “balance”.

        BTW, as a non-Churchy sort, I was never very fond of having Christopher Hitchens being the default “go-to guy” for agnostics and athiests. He had too many other blind spots in his thinking–not his opinions, his actual thought process. Maybe the mainstream media will start discovering others of us.

    • skeptic150

      Or look at it like this- what’s the natural progression- animism, polytheism, monolatry, monotheism, ….. Clearly, the “evolution” here is to non-theism (atheism, agnositicism, ignosticism, freethought, etc).

  • ttajtt

    we get freedom of religion and speech.   not freedom of religion speech.  Some have mother earths way as the religious gift for life.   not money for this as the way, less crime…    

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=584989777 Brian P. Kasso Gaidry

    Do sad people have in
    It seems
    They have all built a shrine
    To the past
    And often go there
    And do a strange wail and
    What is the beginning of
    It is to stop being
    So religious
    Like That. -Hafiz

    • jwkinstl

      Hafiz is wise. Still some sadness is not rooted in the selfish pain of loss; rather, it is sadness for the painfulness and ineffectiveness around one. It is not a sadness that looks nostalgically to the past, but yearns hopefully for a better future — and seeing how far we are yet from that.

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  • Imran Nasrullah

    I have not yet heard the show, but from the readings provided, I wonder if our general understanding on the nature of Nature and physical reality, especially as it seemingly impinges on spiritual reality, changes the way we think about God and religion. It is like we moved on from believing in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus to a more mature view towards the divine and the physical.

    We have become dissatisfied with the notion of a traditional God, as portrayed on the Sisteen Chapel – that stern Father who is all about punishment, in favor of a more sublime and subtle God.  Similarly, religious practices that are steeped in dogma, persecution, “us versus them”, seem anachronistic.  We seek a religion or set of beliefs that speak to sublime and subtle. For example, in the age of information theory, what does it really mean to believe in a God that is omniscient and omnipresent? Does religion have to be about having only one path to God, and acknowledging there are many paths to God – after all he is infinite in his nature.

  • Adrian_from_RI

    There are those who believe, like Dostoevsky’s character Ivan Karamazov, that if there is no God, everything is permitted; that without believe in a supernatural being no morality is possible. To believe this is a deathly mistake as I learned in a 2006 lecture titled: “Morality without Religion.” Listen to it at:
    It is interesting to note that the view of morality by atheist, like Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens are no different from the religionist’s view of morality. These modern atheists also failed to figure out that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it. An article in The Objectivist Standard analyzes the writings of these atheists and their answer to that very important question of how men should live on earth. You can find that analyses at:

    • rockhauler

       good grief. i live my life in the context of others, and without others i am nobody. my identity comes from being a member of community, and i believe that if we fail each other, we fail ourselves. what am i without the others? useless.

  • 11discusser11

    Have you compared the increase in Nones to the increasing prominence of the Mental Health Industry since the 1960′s (e.g. presence in schools, equal pay for “mental health” in insurance claims etc. and the subsequent Brave New World)?

    • skeptic150

      How is this relevant? Don’t confuse correlation with causation.  I can correlate a decline in pirates with the increase in global temperatures (or the increase in “nones”).

      • Annie Tye

        Not to mention that better diagnostic tools are available because of scientific advances.  What about the increase in events like planes crashing into buildings?  I don’t seem to recall reading about that in pre-1960′s history books…

        • jwkinstl

          Not to mention that stigma regarding mental health struggles is diminishing. You don’t have to read much history (of any era) to recognize a lot of mental illness that wasn’t recognized as such at the time.

  • 1Brett1

    Some of William Lawrence’s uses of language were interesting. Among them, blue laws were characterized as “supports.” The increase of no religious affiliation was characterized as a “crisis,” although that one may be attributable to Mr. Putnam. Both men tried so hard to make their opinions sound observably conclusive. 

  • Sy2502

    I have been an atheist since I can remember and I am certainly not to change that regardless of how organized religion decides to repackage itself. But this unholy alliance between religion and politics really has to stop! It’s becoming nothing short of grotesque. When in the 21st century we have to go back to discussing whether contraception is right or a sin, people like me wonder if they accidentally woke up in a “Twilight Zone” episode. And when I hear Presidential candidates like Santorum state that, if elected President, the Bible (but wasn’t it supposed to be the Constitution?) will be his basis for his policies, I feel in equal parts nauseated and scared. Judging just from who shrills the loudest, one would think Evangelicals were taking over the country. I am certainly glad to see so many others are as disgusted with it as I am.

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  • Mike_Card

    This presentation is just weird, especially following on the heels of such an over-wrought beg-a-thon for money from WBUR.  Two representatives of something-or-other wringing their hands about the declining dependence on established religious institutions by the same constituency?  WTF?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1427235586 Jon Walker

    One thing not mentioned about the young crowd, is that they are the first generation to grow up with the internet. This freedom of information has allowed a lot of self-education that was not previously possible. This has allowed people to research religion, and has exposed to many more the history of religion, including the corruption, changes to suit the desires of others, and more commentary on the views. While it is true that churches can reach out this way, viewing web sites further demonstrates the inconsistencies and sometimes hatred between churches of the same religion. Internet facts have also encouraged us to question everything we hear even more.

    It doesn’t help that most of the bigotry I encounter is defended with someone’s interpretation of a religion.As an atheist, I was once a member of many of these groups. I went from church-going Christian, to non-church going Christian, to “I believe in god but not organized religion”, to atheist. I’m interested in where a lot of these other “nones” will end up. Letting go of religion is a very hard thing to do, worse than quitting smoking. You are letting go of the idea of an eternal life, of forgiveness for you sins, or some sort of final vindication, the idea that a god will tell everyone that you were wrong and they should have listened to you.

    Jon – Gainesville, FL

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1427235586 Jon Walker

    I’d also like to point out that one thing Atheists are looking for now are to bring other Atheists out of the closet. There are many people that go to church to fit in, because it is all they have known. They may not believe in it or even think about it much, but they go because they always have. We are looking for those people to stand up and say they aren’t buying it. I don’t know if this has affected these numbers much, but I like to think that we are creating a world where more people will stand up and say (or answer on a poll) “I don’t believe”, just as less people are afraid to publicly declare their homosexuality.

    • jwkinstl

      Jon, I wish to appeal to you to widen your scope. Seek solidarity with all open-minded free-thinkers by letting go of labels like “atheist.” Labels are inevitably divisive; they let you unite with a few while shutting out many others. Invite and empower people to declare their skepticism, “I don’t believe,” without declaring a label that, in its widest usage, declares a belief — namely, a belief that there is no god.

      I don’t believe in a god or gods. Neither do I embrace a position of disbelief in a god or gods. There might be some aspect of the universe — the possibility of which I’m very skeptical — that could be understood as some kind of “higher intelligence” or “intelligent energy.” Though I’m skeptical of this, and though I’m not persuaded by any of the “evidence” put forth to support such a notion, I don’t KNOW that there isn’t any such thing. Moreover, I’m willing to consider some metaphorical truth to religious ideas. Like the idea that “god” is a metaphor for the highest aspiration of the human soul — the quest for a supreme quality of social/interpersonal love/caring that in an ideal state would promote a kind of “heaven” in human society. When religious people are willing to consider the metaphorical value of their “truths” they become a little bit freer and a little closer to a kind of human solidarity with me.

      Please accept me with my agnostic position without demanding that I embrace the “atheist” label. Aside from the label, we’re on the same page. We both want to promote a more mature and maturing rationality in place of superstition and magical thinking. Please accept my wish to not believe in god without asserting a positive belief in no god.

  • stephen rzonca

    Having been born into the Catholic Church, I became decidedly atheist at an early age.  What the panel is ignoring is the ‘religion’ of science.  ALL religion was borne from explaining the inexplicable, with Christianity taking many of its traits from previous religions that dealt with such questions (Christianity has pagan DNA after all).  The more informed people are about science, the less they need to rely on something that can’t be proven, i.e., faith.  At least with the scientific religion, there are people who can help prove or disprove what it is commonly accepted.  America, religion wise, is where Europe was 40-50 years ago.  It perhaps took the internet, because of the vastness of the country, to start said trajectory of ‘Nones’ towards where Europe is now since the European continent is relatively crowded. I’m not saying that religion is not important in Europe, but it serves more of a societal structure than anything else…for instance the French often call themselves ‘Catholic Atheists’.  The internet removes the barriers of distance in America that did not exist in Europe for exchanging ideas.  Knowledge is a dangerous thing to organized religious faith.

    • jwkinstl

      Stephen, I’m with you in spirit, but I’m not comfortable with your semantics. To speak of the “religion” of science is akin to speaking of the “fantasy” of reality. (Leave aside misguided post-modernist notions.) I agree that religions are efforts to explain life’s mysteries, but that doesn’t make all attempts to explain life’s mysteries religions. We came to a point in our cultural evolution when the religious explanations no longer served our real-world needs and we set about refining a non-religious approach to testing and verifying our assumptions and perceptions. We call it “science;” we prefer factual knowledge rather than magical beliefs.

      Granted, people conditioned to the dogmatic forms of religion have tried to be dogmatic with science — the quintessential anti-dogma — and have tried to replace traditional religions with a modernist religion that became scientism. It was an immature and misguided venture. Religion pushes beliefs; science is perpetually skeptical toward all beliefs, including “scientific” beliefs. Science settles for confidence — provisional confidence: a confidence we’re willing to change if subsequent information requires us to do so. This is far from religion.

      • Stephen

        Try typing a cogent point on a cell phone via two thumbs without a flaw or two :) Did not intend to frame science as a religious equivalent per se, but rather something that a multitude have replaced theism with (be it originally accepting or eventually ‘switching’) and have put their ‘faith’ in…with evidence… (I know, that’s not exactly faith then!).  Anyway, on a less serious note, the only difference between a religion and a cult is the amount of real estate owned! Boom boom…I’ll grab my coat on the way out the door now…

        • jwkinstl

          I understand. I don’t phone text — I’d be hopeless.

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  • jwkinstl

    Just to be clear on the fantasy/religion analogy: I mean to suggest that to speak of replacing old religions with a “religion” of science is like saying we will replace childish fantasies with the “fantasy” of reality. If you have reality, you don’t need fantasies. The point of rational maturity is growing out of such chilish dependencies. I no longer need fantasies and magical beliefs to comfort me in a dark world; I now have a reliable source of real light to illumine the heretofore confusing realities before me. There’s much more I’d like to have illumined, but I don’t expect illumination to come from make-believe mind games. In the mean time, with Rilke, I can learn to live and love the questions without needing to have all the answers.

    Science is not a religion. It’s not a belief system. It’s a set of tools for verifying our understandings of realty.

    • Stephen

      I BELIEVE humans will eventually do the right thing…after exhausting all other alternatives…because of science…

      • jwkinstl

        Thank you, Mr. Churchill. To quote Agent Fox Moulder: I WANT to believe. Sadly, there are many anti-progress, anti-intellectual, anti-science forces working hard to undermine the ground we have collectively gained. H. G. Wells captured what I think is an appropriate — and still relevant – sense of urgency when he said “We are in a race between education and catastrophe.

        • Stephen

           There was a poster behind Mulders desk, the ‘I Want To Believe’ poster.  For lega reasons, they had to switch the print because of copyright in season 4, different UFO, different background.  The only other poster made by Ten Thirteen productions, i.e., season 4 onwards, was donated to an X-Files Expo to raise money for Chris Carter’s favoured charity, Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.  That’s a long winded way of saying…I own said poster ;)

          • jwkinstl

            Stephen, I am alien-green with envy! At least I own a large “Krull” poster. My name; my planet. As an X-Files fan, you may appreciate that I frequently tell people I’m of the Fox Moulder philosophy: “I want to believe,” balanced by “Trust NO one” (the dying words of Deep Throat).

  • http://www.dogoodgauge.org The Do Good Gauge

    A key word to this discussion was only used once in this thread.  I’ll use it twice.  When we think of science we think of logic or critical thinking. The science of reason has not changed much since Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato developed the concept some three thousand years ago. 

    There is an area of science which religion has a better handle on.  The Republicans have a head start on this science.

    Understanding this concept has help me ride the fence on religion. Some label me as an Atheist and others call me a religious zealot. So be it.  That is their Perception, not mine.  Reason struggles to find so many answers.  Maybe a new mathematics would be better equipped to deal with Perception.

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