The future of secularism: 1-25-13
January 25, 2013
Over the last decade or two a great deal of attention has been paid to the growing number of Americans who identify themselves as secularists, humanists, free-thinkers, atheists and similar labels.
Some of this attention has been because of interesting books by such folks as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, who have been among the more aggressive atheists.
And some of the attention has come from responses to polls showing that more and more people who respond to surveys about religion identify themselves as among the "nones," meaning religiously unaffiliated. When asked what religion they belong to they say, "None of the above."
The long-term question in the United States -- which traditionally has had the most or one of the most religious populations of any country in the world -- is whether these secularists will continue to be a big part of the American religious landscape or whether they'll fade away -- perhaps because they have regular lapses of disbelief.
A current Psychology Today piece argues that the secularist movement is here to stay. I think the author is right about that, but I don't see any impending collapse of the number of Americans who say they believe in God (still above 90 percent in most polls) or who claim to be adherents of this or that religion.
In many ways -- most good, some awful -- religion is at the core of the American soul. Yes, its influence has waned and/or changed over time and some of that change has been for the better. (Tossing out prayer in public schools led by people whose salaries come from tax payers is an example of a good change.)
But America is a landslide for religion, and it's going to take a long, long time to undo that. My guess is that if it ever happens (doubtful) it won't happen in the next several generations.
That said, it would behoove people of faith to listen to and learn from the secularists and to respect them as a legitimate subgroup of Americans.
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There's a new Catholic social networking tool and site called Awestruck. As far as I can tell, none of the postings there claim to be infallible, but you can check it out for yourself.