Thank God for the internet.
If you believe in God, that is. For a time, Mike McHargue did, and then he didn’t, and now he does again.
But it’s on the internet where McHargue — better known as “Science Mike” to listeners of “The Liturgists” and “ Ask Science Mike” podcasts — found community when he was questioning his Southern Baptist upbringing and then the atheism he had adopted. And it’s on the internet where he’s forged a community with others like him who can’t comfortably wear either label: Christian or atheist.
About 40 percent of Americans say atheists “do not at all agree” with their vision of America, according to a new study from sociologists at the University of Minnesota who compared Americans’ perceptions of minority faith and racial groups.
But the study marks a grimmer milestone — Americans’ disapproval of Muslims has jumped to 45.5 percent from just over 26 percent 10 years ago, the last time the question was asked.
And “nones” — those who say they have no religious affiliation, but may also have spiritual or religious beliefs — are also unpopular. This is significant because nones now make up one-third of the U.S. population.
Not all Americans pray. So the American Humanist Association, among the largest national advocacy groups of nonbelievers and other secularists, wants the first Thursday in May to be recognized by Congress as a National Day of Reason. But that day is already designated as the National Day of Prayer, with a 65-year history of support from Congress, state and local governments and every sitting president since its inception in 1952.
Before his death at 62, Christopher Hitchens, the uber-atheist and best-selling author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, considered becoming a Christian. That is the provocative claim of The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist, a controversial new book winning both applause and scorn while underscoring, again, the divide between believers and atheists Hitchens’ own life and work often displayed.
"I love the desert fathers. They are so neat. Especially because my life is all about maximizing comfort — like, my house is cozy, my dog and I have little spots on the couch that’s just shaped like our butts cause we just love being on the couch. And these guys are like, 'Well, I spend a lot of time not eating, and weaving baskets until my fingers bleed, but could I spend more time not weaving baskets until my fingers bleed?'"
Italy may be the spiritual home of 1.2 billion members of the Catholic Church around the world, but a new poll shows only 50 percent of Italians consider themselves Catholic. The poll, published in the liberal daily L’Unita on March 29, challenges long-held perceptions that Italy is a “Catholic” country, despite the popularity of Pope Francis and the historic role of the Vatican City State in the heart of Rome.
A California atheist who once argued against the Pledge of Allegiance before the Supreme Court has launched a federal legal challenge to the phrase “In God We Trust” on American currency. Michael Newdow , 62, a Sacramento-based emergency-room doctor, filed a federal lawsuit seeking to strip reference to God from paper money and coins in an Ohio court earlier this month. Newdow claims the motto is a violation of his religious freedom.
The legendary musician and showman David Bowie was as mutable and enigmatic about his religious views as he was about his music, art and gender-bending fashion choices.
Yet his death from cancer Jan. 10 at 69 brought tributes from religious leaders who knew talent when they saw it, and perhaps recognized that Bowie’s crossover style would inevitably touch the ineffable as he constantly looked for meaning — and novelty.
Bill Maher is known for his often vitriolic rhetoric against religion, especially Islam. But the comedian was actually raised Catholic. When Maher stopped by the Late Show to chat with Stephen Colbert, America’s most famous Catholic invited him to give Catholicism another try.
Their conversation was clearly tongue-in-cheek, but you can certainly feel some tension.
You don’t have to believe in God or identify with any religion to see a creator’s hand in human life and morality, suggests a new survey.
LifeWay Research’s overall finding — that most Americans believe there is a creator who designed the universe and defines human morality — is not surprising. After all, 3 in 4 U.S. adults identify with a religious denomination.
The surprise is that so many people who don’t identify with a religion — so-called nones — agree.
Professional football isn’t known for being a place that encourages deep intellectual reflection. With its history of silence on head injuries, locker-room harassment, and macho culture, the NFL would be the last place you would expect to find a philosopher and a poet — and an atheist to boot.
But all of those things come together in Houston Texans running back Arian Foster, who is the subject of a feature in ESPN The Magazine’s Aug. 18 College Football Preview Issue, published late last week. He revealed that he didn’t believe in God. That’s unusual in a league where players regularly point to the sky (never mind the questionable theology behind the assumption that heaven is somewhere up in the sky) and meet for regular Bible studies.
An internationally renowned atheist activist has relocated from India to the U.S. after receiving death threats from an extremist group that has claimed responsibility for at least one of three machete killings of South Asian atheists this year.
Taslima Nasrin, a Bangladeshi gynecologist, novelist, and poet, arrived in New York state on May 27. The move was orchestrated by the Center for Inquiry, an organization that promotes secularism and has been working with atheist activists in countries where atheism is unprotected by blasphemy laws.
As the 2016 election approaches, atheist, humanist, and other freethinking activists are encouraged. They say their longtime goal of creating a cohesive and formidable secular voting bloc from the diverse and scattered category of the nonreligious has taken new life from the study — and could carry them far if they use the data wisely.
“It is going to translate into a lot of political clout and social acceptance if we manage this correctly,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists.
The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.
That’s the top finding – one that will ricochet through American faith, culture, and politics – in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released May 12.
This trend “is big, it’s broad, and it’s everywhere,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.
You may be surprised to read this, but I owe the Friendly Atheist a personal debt. My atheist brother invited me to officiate at his wedding ceremony with this condition, “As long as you don’t say anything about God.” I’m very close with my brother, so of course I agreed. I wrote the majority of the wedding ceremony with no problem. I easily secularized everything else, but was stymied by how to secularize the final blessing.
Since Google has all the answers, I typed the words “secular wedding ceremony blessing” into my search engine. The first link that appeared was the Friendly Atheist’s article “ A Secular Wedding Ceremony from Start to Finish.” The entire transcript for the secular wedding is beautiful. As I spoke the words of the Friendly Atheist’s final blessing, I experienced a profound sense of awe:
May the glory which rests upon all who love you, bless you and keep you, fill you with happiness and a gracious spirit. Despite all changes of fortune and time, may that which is noble and lovely and true remain abundantly in your hearts, giving you strength for all that lies ahead.
My brother and his wife expressed their appreciation for those words. My dad, a devout Christian, said it was the perfect capstone to the wedding. And all I could think were words of gratitude. “Thank God for the Friendly Atheist,” I said to myself.
A new survey shows in stark relief that what some are calling the Great Decline of religion in America continues: Since 2012, the U.S. has about 7.5 million more Americans who are no longer active in religion.
Last week, the 2014 General Social Survey was released. The GSS is the gold standard for sociological surveys. Funded by the National Science Foundation, this multimillion-dollar study gives us the most accurate data on American society — including religion.
(An important point to remember as you see the data: Each percentage point increase represents a growth of 2.5 million adults. So a 3-point rise in secularity, for example, means that about 7.5 million people left religion since 2012.)
It’s a common ritual in religious observances this time of year: Light a candle against the darkness, the winter, the uncertainty of the world.
But a newly minted observance called Secular Solstice adds its own spin. Those lighting the candles are nonbelievers — humanists, atheists, skeptics, and other freethinkers — and the candles represent no unseen divinity, but the actions and intentions of those who light them to make the world a better place.
“We live in a world beyond the reach of God,” one of the service’s many readers said as 130 or so people gathered huddled over white candles in glass votives at Humanist Hall — a purple-painted house near downtown Oakland. “It is a hard universe. If we want to build a softer universe we will have to do it ourselves.” As a choir broke into “Here Comes the Sun,” an inscription painted on the wall beamed down upon the gathered, “The world is my country, to do good is my religion.”
Secular Solstice is the handiwork of Raymond Arnold, a 28-year-old Catholic-turned-humanist who wanted to do something meaningful with friends in mid-December. He put together the first Secular Solstice — a two-hour blend of music and readings by candlelight — last year in New York, where he works as a web developer.
He struck a nerve — the first Secular Solstice was packed, and this year there will be Secular Solstices in New York, Seattle, San Diego, and Leipzig, Germany.
1. A United Evangelical Response: The System Failed Eric Garner
The Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer who killed unarmed Eric Garner was a shocking injustice — but this time the injustice has been universally condemned across religious and political lines. Read this great roundup of evangelical leaders’ responses.
2. These Are the Best Jobs Numbers in Months, Maybe Years
In good news today, the jobs numbers released this morning were a pleasant surprise. The Upshot breaks down the numbers for you.
3. This Atheist Is Thankful for the Clergy
“The clergy here in St. Louis are a credit to their traditions and to their profession. They are doing what religious leaders ought to do: holding society to a higher moral standard, using their authority as a weapon against injustice, mobilizing the rich resources of their religion to bring hope and encourage change. I’m glad they are here, and I feel privileged to work with them.”
4. Why Are Some Cultures More Individualistic Than Others?
Apparently it all comes down to farming practices. “As we enter a season in which the values of do-it-yourself individualism are likely to dominate our Congress, it is worth remembering that this way of thinking might just be the product of the way our forefathers grew their food and not a fundamental truth about the way that all humans flourish.”
Two years ago, “Max” was a devout Catholic who loved his faith so much he would sometimes cry as he swallowed the Communion wafer.
Then came the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, where 20 schoolchildren and six adults were murdered by a troubled gunman. At that moment, a bell went off in his head, he said, ringing “there is no God, there is no God.”
Now, Max goes by his online handle “Atheist Max.” A 50-something professional artist from the Northeast, some days he now spends two or more hours online trying to argue people out of their religious beliefs in the comments section of Religion News Service.
Max left more than 3,600 comments in the past 12 months, making him RNS’ top commenter. Many of his remarks can be interpreted as angry, hostile, and provocative, casting him in some minds as an Internet “troll” — a purposely disruptive online activist who delights in creating comment chaos.
He’s written “Jesus is despicable” or its equivalent more than once — red meat to some readers who come back at him with fervor. Other users have called him “mean-spirited” or “angry.”