Christians Decline as Share of U.S. Population and the Unaffiliated Are Growing

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According the Pew Research Center Christianity is on the decline in the United States. Religion, as a rule, has been on the decline in more prosperous and socially progressive countries world wide for some time.  The numbers don’t necessarily imply a decline in belief and even if religion were to disappear, then what? Some experts believe the decline in religion shown in a lot of modern research is more indicative of a decline in religious affiliation. For example this chart shows that there is indeed an increase in people who identify as non-religious (atheist, agnostic, unaffiliated, etc.):

But this chart also shows an increase in diversity among Christians:

On first look these two sets of data do reinforce the theory that people aren’t necessarily less religious but more often going their own way in finding what sort of beliefs they like. (Source). The research also points out: ‘While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time.’ It’s hard to pinpoint while younger generations are less religious but Michael Hout, a professor of sociology at New York University says :

Many Millennials have parents who are Baby Boomers and Boomers expressed to their children that it’s important to think for themselves – that they find their own moral compass. Also, they rejected the idea that a good kid is an obedient kid. That’s at odds with organizations, like churches, that have a long tradition of official teaching and obedience. And more than any other group, Millennials have been and are still being formed in this cultural context. As a result, they are more likely to have a “do-it-yourself” attitude toward religion.(Source)

Hout cites cultural upbringing as the reason for Millennials to be so disconnected from religion. Things like Watergate, televangelists and other scandals have shaken younger generations’ trust in traditional institutions. In 2009 The Center For American Progress found that Millenials are much more progressive then older generations.

Millennials support gay marriage, take race and gender equality as givens, are tolerant of religious and family diversity, have an open and positive attitude toward immigration, and generally display little interest in fighting over the divisive social issues of the past. Almost two-thirds agree that religious faith should focus more on promoting tolerance, social justice, and peace in society, and less on opposing abortion or gay rights. (source)

I did post on why religious unbelief is tied to affluence in 2013 and concluded that religious belief is indeed tied to social and economic progress.  This is very positive. However history has taught us that until human condition changes there will always be hate, greed..etc but perhaps as civilization grows more of a focus on this world and not the next we will save ourselves from a very uncertain future.

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Pence Was Right, Sort Of.

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U.S. Vice-President has recently claimed that Christianity is the most persecuted faith. At first glance it seems ridiculous that someone as privileged as Mike Pence would say that his religion is the most persecuted, but is it? The honest approach is to examine the truth of the statement. According the Pew research center Christianity is still the most widespread religion. (source)

How persecuted is each religion?

It’s hard to say, ‘religious restrictions’ are on the increase worldwide but depends on what part of the world you are talking about. The issue is complicated by the fact that Christianity is the most popular religion in the world. It is also hard to find reliable numbers but according to some estimated 90,000 to 100,00 Christians die in violent conflict each year but those numbers are skewed by armed conflicts in which Christians and other faiths are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  When you crunch the numbers it is likely that around the same percentage of Christians are killed as any other religion but again hard to find solid evidence to support this. Assuming Christians do suffer more violence, what about quality of living?

Quality Of Living

This depends where you go. Obviously the more impoverished the country the more it’s population, religious, or other wise suffer a low quality of life. Like this study that shows the most religious restrictions are in African countries that are suffering from poverty and war. By comparing the countries that have the most Christians with standard of living they have we can get some insight into quality of life for Christians worldwide.

 1  United States 230,000,000 71.0% Quality Of Life Rank  19
2  Brazil 175,700,000 91.4%  Quality of Life Rank  46
3  Russia 117,640,000 83.6%  Quality of Life Rank  75
4  Mexico 113,500,000 93%  Quality of Life Rank  51
5  Nigeria 92,281,000 52.8%  Quality of Life Rank  119
6  Philippines 86,500,000 85.8%  Quality of Life Rank  68
7  Congo, Democratic Republic of 68,558,000 95.6%  Unranked
8  Ethiopia 54,978,000 64.5%  Quality of Life Ranking  126
9  Italy 54,070,000 91.5%  Quality of Life Ranking 24
10  Germany 50,000,000       Ranking: 15

(Courtesy of Wikipedia and Pewforums.org) and the 2016 Social Progress Index

Of the top ten countries with the most Christians only two ranked above 20 and three were 75 or lower and The Congo was unranked. The list seems to show the entire spectrum of living conditions for Christians around the world from very good (United States, Germany and Italy) to very bad (Nigeria and Ethiopia and the Congo).

Conclusion:

To say that Christians are the most persecuted is only correct if you also claim that it is likely because they are the most populous. Far more serious research would be needed to conclusively show that they are the most persecuted proportionately, as Pence and many others seem to claim.

Dear Vatican, We Haven’t Forgotten

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With so much Trump, Syria, North Korea and so on it’s easy to forget why many call for the Vatican’s dismantling. Since it’s inception the Vatican has been a center of hate, greed and violence.

Historical Crimes:

  • Crusades: For more then 500 years militant Catholics waged war on Muslims, The Jewish, heretics and pretty well anyone different from them. Millions died, including innocent men, women and children.  The Fourth Crusade alone has a death toll in the thousands.
  • Inquisitions:  in 1232 Pope Gregory established a tribunal whose goal it was to suppress heresy and thus began another few hundred years of violence, subjugation and torture.
  • Pogroms:  In addition to the massacres of the Crusades of which the Jewish were a part of the Jewish also faced regular prosecution and violence from the Catholic church through the centuries. (religious tolerance.org)

the Jews, by their own guilt, are consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord…As slaves rejected by God, in whose death they wickedly conspire, they shall by the effect of this very action, recognize themselves as the slaves of those whom Christ’s death set free…” Pope Innocent III, 1205 AD

Nazi Complacency: The Vatican’s relationship with the Nazis during WW2 is no secret.  In fact an agreement called ‘Reichskonkordat’  signed by both the Nazi Germans and the Vatican laid out a formal relationship between the two. The agreement between the them made no mention of the Jewish so it’s hard to say if the Vatican was turning a blind to increasing persecution of the Jewish in Germany at the time or if it just didn’t care. German schools were run by the Catholic Church around WW2. Many of the ways the Nazis persecuted the Jewish mirrored Catholic Church techniques used centuries before. Never once did the church ever officially condemn the Nazis. The Independent did a great piece on the increasing evidence of Vatican complacency of antisemitic Nazism.

Homophobia: The Church has a long and sordid history of homophobic hatred. Allowing, even officially sanctioning all forms of persecution, torture and death.(source). Even today the Vatican still views homosexuals as suffering from some kind of ‘moral disorder’.

HIV in Africa: Before 2010 the Catholic Church was vehemently against condom use in any situation. The preaching against and condemnation of condoms in Africa resulted in millions of Africans getting sick with the disease. They even went so far as to say condoms cause HIV by lulling people into a false sense of security.  Christopher Hitchens said this when he confronted a Vatican cardinal in 2011:

“I think it will one day be admitted with shame that it might have been in error to say that AIDS is bad as a disease, very bad but not quite as bad as condoms are bad or not as immoral in the same way. I say in the presence of his grace and I say it to his face the preachings of his church are responsible for the death and suffering and misery of millions of his brother and sister Africans and he should apologize for it, he should show some shame.” -Christopher Hitchens

Residential Schools: Shortly after settling in North America, violently stealing native territory and murdering, starving, kidnapping and torturing their men women and children the church setup residential schools. The schools stole children from native tribes and forced them into a program intended them to assimilate them into European culture.  This part of the effort to eradicate a culture they viewed as much lesser then their own was brimming with hate, violence, neglect and sexual abuse. Though the Catholic church oversaw three-quarters of Canadian residential schools, it was the last church to have one of its leaders officially address the abuse. (source and brief history)

Sex Abuse Scandals: Several years ago investigative reporting revealed a widespread problem with sexual abuse of children by priests and covering up by Vatican Officials. Typically once sexual abuse was reported the church would simply move the offending priest to another region. Even Pope Benedict himself was caught actively encouraging his bishops to make very effort to keep the scandal within the church. A Google search reveals the depth and scope of the scandal of which only recently did the Vatican begin changing it’s policy to properly address the issue and punish it’s offending priests.

Church Wealth: The Vatican is a multi-billion dollar organization. The entire Vatican city and all the Church property, valuables..etc is worth billions more. Praying for the poor and hungry is just immensely hypocritical while this fact is true.

The Vatican lost its moral authority centuries ago., if it  even ever had it. Throughout time it has been guilty of murder, torture, robbery, rape, greed, lust,hate, subjugation and all of the things it hypocritically preaches as immoral. The Vatican continues to be mired in homophobic hatred, misogyny, greed and other scandals. They come out with apologies far too late and do far too little make amends. The Vatican would like us to forgive and forget but no moral person can do that, its too late for that. The only right thing to do now is for the Vatican to shut its doors and spreads it’s wealth to those in need and until that happens we will not let them off the hook.

 

 

Jesus is Returning Anyway

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What is the origin of morality? Religious apologists believe it’s their holy books and atheists/humanists..etc. argue that this is very untrue. It’s been argued and discussed and examined time and time again. In fact the morality argument has been done so much it has gotten to be kind of stale. At this point in western civilization unless your are an apologist you likely understand the Bible is not the only resource for moral values. By fostering apathy towards others, the planet and even life itself the Bible and other holy books profoundly undermine ethical living.

The Earth

There are many descriptions of what Heaven is. In the religious sense Heaven is a place of eternal bliss that is presented as a reward for faithfully following a certain religion, behaving according to certain terms and so on. With the existence of such a place in the afterlife one could easily ask: ‘why would I care very much about the Earth when it it pales in comparison to what awaits in the afterlife?’

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.’ -Colossians 3: 2-7

No one can say an active disregard or contempt for the Earth is in anyway moral. Religion fails the moral argument on these grounds alone.

Others:

Religion’s, for the most part, do teach love for other people but tend to be self-centered, valuing members of one particular faith over another. This view varies from indifference to hatred and as a result brings all the hate and violence and discrimination that goes with learned mistrust of another person or persons

Life Itself:

We can all thank the concept of heaven for the possibility of apathy towards life itself. If we are headed to an eternal bliss of constant health and happiness then what’s the point to living? Religions narrowly avoid more widespread suicide by making suicide a sin. Also judgement day is coming so there is additional reason to view life as meaningless. There are some who are actually excited about the possibility an end to all life on Earth, a disturbing state of mind indeed.

Religion generates, simply put, a shitty attitude towards the wonder that is life. Instead of embracing the bigger picture and caring for the only life we know for sure we have religion can make a person only want to do enough to get by and hope to score enough heavenly brownie points to get into heaven after death.

 

Trump Set To Make This An era of Alternate Facts And Discrimination.

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Trump is set to celebrate Natgional Day Prayer by signing an executive order allowing what the Trump administration is calling ‘greater religious liberty’ while critics say it will open the door to discrimination based on religion. According to leaks the order will include:

  • Require all federal departments and agencies to respect statutes and Supreme Court decisions that make clear the free exercise of religion applies to all people, of all faiths, in all places, and at all times—and that it is not merely the freedom to worship.
  • That religious organizations include all organizations operated by religious principles, not just houses of worship or charities.
  • Instructs agencies, “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law,” to reasonably accommodate the religion of federal employees, as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
  • Instructs the secretaries of health and human services, labor, and treasury to finally grant relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor and others not exempted from Obamacare mandates on contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.
  • Ensure that consumers buying health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges have the option to buy plans that don’t cover abortion or subsidize plans that do.
  • Prohibits the federal government from discriminating against child welfare providers, such as foster care and adoption services, based on the organization’s religious beliefs.
  • Adopts the Russell Amendment, instructing agencies to allow religious organizations to hire in accordance with their faith principles.
  • Effectively rolls back the Johnson Amendment by instructing the Treasury Department to ensure that it doesn’t revoke nonprofit tax status because a religious group speaks on politics.
  • Instructs agencies to refuse to recognize any decision by a federally recognized accrediting body that revokes or denies accreditation to an organization because of religious beliefs.
  • Instructs agencies not to take adverse action against federal employees, contractors, or grantees who express their belief on marriage outside of their employment, contract or grant; and that agencies should reasonably accommodate such beliefs inside of employment, contract, or grant.  (source)

The order, if signed, will provide legal protections for people who are opposed to abortion, pre-marital sex, same-sex marriage and so on. The order is worded so one could indiscriminate for a wide gamut of reasons and hide behind religious freedom. Legal experts do doubt the act’s ability to withstand legal scrutiny:

“This executive order would appear to require agencies to provide extensive exemptions from a staggering number of federal laws—without regard to whether such laws substantially burden religious exercise,” said Marty Lederman, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an expert on church-state separation and religious freedom.

The exemptions, Lederman said, could themselves violate federal law or license individuals and private parties to violate federal law. “Moreover,” he added, “the exemptions would raise serious First Amendment questions, as well, because they would go far beyond what the Supreme Court has identified as the limits of permissive religious accommodations.” It would be “astonishing,” he said, “if the Office of Legal Counsel certifies the legality of this blunderbuss order.” (source)

Still however the leaked draft makes discrimination legal and it could effect everyone. Religious conservatives are the biggest hypocrites in modern culture and their leader Trump is pandering to them again. Political moves like this are the reason why all freethinkers must continue to fight religious fundamentalism. Educate, write letters, protest, blog, tweet…whatever it is you do because political moves like this effect everyone and only please the most backwards thinking of modern culture.

U.S. Appeals Courts Allows Same Sex Couples To Seek Damages From Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis

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Kentucky clerk Kim Davis who made a big controversy last year when, despite a recent supreme court ruling, refused to issue same sex couples marriage licenses saying it violates her religious beliefs can now be sued. She eventually lost her efforts not to issue licenses and was even sent to jail but not before being praised by right wing fundamentalists as a hero (more information).

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the same sex couples suing for damages can now proceed.

“The district court’s characterization of this case as simply contesting the ‘no marriage licenses’ policy is inaccurate because Ermold and

Rowan County clerk Kim Davis is shown in this booking photo provided by the Carter County Detention Center in Grayson, Kentucky September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Carter County Detention Center/Handout via Reuters

Moore did not seek an injunction-they sought only damages,” Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote. “The record does not support an argument that (their) damages claims are insubstantial or otherwise foreclosed.”

Ermold’s and Moore’s case was sent back to U.S. District Judge David Bunning in Covington, Kentucky.

“The ruling keeps the case alive for a little while but it is not a victory for the plaintiffs,” Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, a Christian advocacy group representing Davis, said in a statement. “We are confident we will prevail.”

Michael Gartland, a lawyer for Ermold and Moore, called the decision a “no-brainer,” saying damages claims based on past harm often survive mootness challenges. His clients are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

“Do I think it’s a million dollar case? Probably not,” Gartland said in an interview. “The next step will be to go to discovery and go to trial, where I am confident we will obtain a judgment against Davis.” Courtesy of Reuters

Glorious and refreshing to one’s faith in humanity to see good sense prevailing. Ms. Davis and her fundamentalist cronies will probably never see the error of their ways but hopefully another loss in the courts will help future haters think twice before using religion as an excuse not only not do their job but to make other perfectly good people feel like lesser human beings.

 

Pope Warns of Dangerous Situation with Radical Atheism and Radical Islam

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In a letter addressed to a conference with Poland’s President the Pope expressed a concern with clashing radical ideologies emerging in Europe. In the letter he said:

I was greatly moved, grateful and happy to learn that an academic conference on the topic of “The Concept of the State From the Perspective of the Teachings of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI” (Pojęcie Państwa w perspektywie nauczania Kardynała Józefa Ratzingera/Benedykta XVI), attended by the representatives of Poland’s government and Church and organized under the patronage of the president of the Republic of Poland, was held to coincide with my 90th birthday.

The topic of the conference brings government and Church officials into common dialogue on a topic that is of key significance to the future of our [European] continent. The contrast between the concepts of the radically atheistic state and the creation of the radically theocratic state by Muslim movements creates a dangerous situation for our age, one whose effects we experience each day. These radical ideologies require us to urgently develop a convincing concept of the state that will stand up to the confrontation between these challenges and help to overcome it.

During the agony of the previous half-century, Poland gave the world two great figures — Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Pope St. John Paul II — who not only reflected upon these issues, but also carried within themselves suffering and vivid experiences; thus they continue to give us guidelines for the future.

I give my blessing to all of you and would like to express my sincere gratitude for the work that you do in these circumstances.

Benedict XVI
Vatican, April 15, 2017  (Courtesy of the National Catholic Register)

Any form of radicalism is most certainly cause for concern. In this case the Pope seems to be worried about two ideologies that are very different and at odds with each other in the first place: Islam and Atheism. Even in among moderates of the belief systems they disagree on nearly everything. The Pope is right to say that it is a volatile and dangerous situation if extremists of either belief system were to come into contact.

The concern here is the statement ‘radically atheistic state “. There is no radically atheistic state unless he talking about a state of mind. Poland is 87.2% Catholic and 10.8% unspecified (source). So it’s hard to say what he is talking about. Currently there is no real evidence that atheism leads to violence. While dictators like Pol Pot and Stalin certainly committed some of the worst crimes in human history as devout atheists their crimes were driven by radical communism and not religious unbelief itself.

In short the Pope took a jab at atheism today by suggesting that atheism contains radicals that would be a problem if they came into contact with radical Islamists with no proof of that claim. Perhaps the Pope should consider what happens when radical Catholics come into contact with radical Muslims: