Ls&Cs: The Fading of Religion, and Human Progress Despite It

Here are several links about religion I’ve captured in recent weeks mostly to the website, which is a collection of blogs from all points of view along the religious spectrum. The ones I tend to read, of course, are those devoted to pointing out the latest religious hypocrisies, especially among politicians, and those by people who once believed and left the church, and are happy to explain why, often in great detail. (They are the smart ones who have figured it out, as I keep saying.) Precisely the sites that believers will ignore. As they will ignore this post.

\\, James A. Haught, 27 Sep 21: Episcopal Church Fadeout

About how the Episcopal Church, once the province of “the high-steeple elite” who ranked high in intelligence and success, has dwindled in membership by half since the 1960s.

[[ Comment: I’ve never completely figured out the differences between all the Christian denominations — and I’m betting most of their members don’t understand the differences either — but my understanding is that the Episcopal Church is the American version of the Church of England, which is of course a split off from the Catholic Church… So Episcopals are… Catholic Light? ]]

Here’s my guess about Episcopalians: In the past, they were the church for the smartest, most successful American Christians. But smart, successful Americans no longer need supernatural fairy tales about God impregnating virgins, drowning millions, raising the dead, killing first-born Egyptians, etc. That’s nonsense from medieval times. So these bright people turned secular.

Smart religion is dying. Only dumb religion remains.

\\, Adam Lee, 25 Aug 21: When Prayer Fails: COVID Edition

This was about the time — late August — when conservative radio hosts who’d denied covid or vaccines began, unvaccinated, dying of covid. List included. The writer focuses on one, a South Carolina Republican named Pressley Stutts, and his entreaties to prayer warriors. They didn’t work. He died.

Good comments about the incoherence of the idea that God responds, e.g., to the *number* of people praying to him; how the idea of prayer is like the pagan one, a legalistic bargain offers sacrifices in return for, say, the vanquishing of one’s enemies. The apologetic response; the epistemic arrogance.

Final para:

Pressley Stutts was an illustration of this attitude, but his story is just one of hundreds like it that could have been told. Over the last several decades, conservative religious believers have grown increasingly untethered from reality. They’ve incorporated science denial into their tribal identity, and I suspect they’ve grown steadily bolder because in previous instances (evolution, climate change), it had no immediate impact on their lives. But in COVID-19, they’ve finally encountered a case where the consequences of ignoring science are swift and dire. Now they’re utterly unequipped to cope with it, except by praying and begging for magical release.

\\, Neil Carter, 22 Aug 21: Christians Need Their Faith to be True

When you leave the Christian faith, people come out of the woodwork to impugn your motives for leaving. First I was informed that I did it so that I could have more sex, then I was told I did it to make money. Someone else said I must have a problem with authority because I want to call my own shots. Each accusation tells me something about them that they don’t realize they’re giving away.

But even if all of them were right about my motives, it would still sidestep the question of whether or not I’m wrong, which is precisely the point. They need a reason to write off my departure because the alternative is to question their own faith yet again, and they decided a long time ago that’s only okay if it leads them back to where they started.

They stay within the faith because they need to.

Belonging is the point. In their hierarchy of needs, belonging outranks knowing by a margin so big, the former controls the latter. Upton Sinclair said it’s nearly impossible to get a person to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it…

Quite a long essay. Good stuff. The Sinclair quote applies to politicians with investments in fossil fuels who refuse to support actions to ameliorate climate change, too, of course.

\\, James A. Haught, 2 Aug 21: Religion Is Silly Fairy Tales

With quotes from Thomas Jefferson, George Carlin, and Thomas Edison. (He might well have added Thomas Paine.)

When I was young in the 1950s, you weren’t considered respectable unless you belonged to a proper church. To doubt religion was an outrage. But now, doubting religion is common among intelligent people. The ratio of young Americans who say their faith is “none” is approaching half.

The Secular Age is snowballing. Irrationality is retreating from modern democracies. Hurrah.

As I’ve said again and again, the smart ones figure it out.

Comments: When I was growing up, in the 1960s in a large city’s suburb, it was not a topic of conversation. My family went to church, but no one at school, none of our neighbors on the street, no one in Boy Scouts, cared; it never came up. I’ve gathered this has never been true in small towns, especially those so small that every new family that moves in is asked, what church do you belong to? Any answer except “none” is fine. It’s the nones who draw the suspicious looks.

(It’s like certain types of science fiction movies: “You don’t *belong*?? You must be absorbed!!)


James A. Haught,, 19 Jul 21: Human Progress

Enormous human betterment has occurred since the Enlightenment, chiefly because crusading liberals overcame conservative resistance, time after time.

He then ticks off modern democracy, slavery, women’s rights, birth control, unions, pensions and the social safety net, unemployment compensation, the New Deal’s welfare protection, wiping out of censorship, civil rights, and many other issues concerning prayer in schools, lotteries, teaching of evolution, sex education, interracial marriage, legalization of gay sex, and gay marriage. Which conservatives have fought.

Humanism means helping people, and secular means doing it without supernatural religion. Decade after decade, century after century, leftist reformers defeated conservatives to advance secular humanism. At the same time, churches and their magical beliefs faded enormously from western democracies. And recently, international warfare has virtually disappeared.

(And where warfare still exists, it is motivated by warring religions, more often than not.)


Center for Inquiry, Jim Underdown, 18 Jun 21: State Sanctioned Bigotry and the Vanguard of Regression

Although the rest of society has to play by the rules of what we generally believe to be fair treatment of our fellow citizens, religion gets a pass because the court thinks the U.S. Constitution says religion is precious and deserves special privileges, to… you know, slow human advancement.

Huh? Religion makes things worse?

That’s right. For those of you who are under the naïve impression that religions are purely good for society, consider this tiny sample of their multi-millennia anchor on social and scientific progress:

⦁ The Bible tacitly condones slavery, and was used to justify enslaving black people in America.
⦁ The church impeded exploration of our planet, solar system, and universe. (Think Galileo, Copernicus.)
⦁ Churches promoted prayer in public schools as long as it was their prayers.
⦁ The church prohibited investigation of the human body. (Think Vesalius.)
⦁ Women’s rights (including suffrage) were denied because of religious tenets placing man above woman. (e.g., Southern Baptists not so long ago)
⦁ Gay rights, including the right to marry, were refused, and LGBT people condemned… by churches.
⦁ Advancements in technology were delayed. “If God had wanted man to _______, he would have given him ______.”

Wherever you find organized bigotry — the Taliban, the KKK, White supremacists, (even the Boy Scouts) — the groups are usually closely tied to some godly doctrine which gives them permission to mistreat people. Holocausts, crusades, pogroms, all the way down to judgmental biases are traceable to faith doctrines and petty prejudices from the pulpit.


Finally, here’s a Facebook meme. I don’t think it’s public so I will quote it. It repeats something I’ve said before.

There is no such thing as sin. People do good and bad things but there is no such thing as sin.

Sin is a myth. The concept of sin was created as a recruitment method to get you to join an immoral religious organization and to extort money from you.

Religious leaders and believers tell you that you have an imaginary problem and coincidentally, they have the magical cure for your imaginary problem.

The go-to book that expands on this idea is Stephen Prothero’s God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter (from 2010), which describes how the various religions identify different problems that afflict humanity, and how for each one, only they are in a position to solve.

Of course, this quote is overly cynical. The church(es) don’t really believe they are scamming you, unlike the snake-oil salesman. But it’s how it works out. It’s an aspect of human nature, which is about building bonds among communities, and not about perceiving the real world.

This entry was posted in Links & Comments, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.