By James Haught
James Haught is editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He is 87-years-old and would like to help secular causes more. This series is a way of giving back, as he opens in No Qualms (Ed., published on 2018, July 18, i.e., when he was 86), “I’m quite aware that my turn is approaching. The realization hovers in my mind like a frequent companion. My first wife died ten years ago. Dozens, hundreds, of my longtime friends and colleagues likewise came to the end of their journeys. They number so many that I keep a “Gone” list in my computer to help me remember them all. Before long, it will be my turn to join the list.”
[Ed., Thank you, Jim, truly.]
The Secular Age is snowballing in America, as in other advanced democracies. Year after year, more reports show church membership and attendance slip-slidin’ away.
In the decades since the 1960s (while the U.S. population doubled), United Methodists fell from 14 million members to below 7 million. Presbyterians dropped from 4.2 million to 1.4 million. Episcopalians shrank from 3.6 million to 1.7 million. The Disciples of Christ sank from 2 million to 400,000. Just since 2007, the mighty Catholic Church fell from 24 percent of the population to 21 percent. Southern Baptists lost a million members in the past decade. Since 2012, white evangelicals slid from 20 percent of the population to 15 percent. Etc.
Church leaders agonize over this ominous erosion. Endlessly, they call for more prayer, more proselytizing, and other tactics to entice believers. They ask why the relentless loss is happening.
Sociologists too analyze the cultural shift and offer various explanations. Many concur that western life is becoming more prosperous and secure, so people no longer feel an urge to pray for divine help. That makes sense. The spread of education and science are other factors.
While experts try to explain church decay, I want to employ Occam’s Razor, the philosophical axiom that says the simplest, most straightforward, explanation is best.
I think 60 million Americans have turned away from supernatural religion for an obvious reason: They see that it’s untrue. Intelligent, educated, modern people perceive that magical dogmas are a bunch of hooey – just fairy tales, with no factual reality. Gods and devils, heavens and hells, angels and demons, miracles and messiahs, prophecies and divine visitations, visions and other such church stuff, are fiction. In other words: lies.
Researchers generally accept the Flynn Effect, which says average I.Q.s rise three percent per decade. Better-educated Americans are smarter than they were in the 1960s. They can detect nonsense more easily. Further, researchers find that doubters have higher I.Q. than believers do. As the West grows more intelligent, the brightest reject supernatural claims.
Ever since Ancient Greece, a few brave thinkers have doubted holy hokum. Prodicus (465-395 BCE) said: “The gods of popular belief do not exist.” Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) wrote: “Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen.” Thomas Edison (1847-1931) said: “Religion is all bunk.”
Wildest was the late comedian George Carlin, who ranted:
“When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims: religion. No contest. No contest. Religion. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!
“But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!…. There is no God. None, not one, no God, never was.”
Right before our eyes, supernatural faith is dying in America. Using Occam’s Razor, I think we can conclude that it’s happening because magical dogmas no longer are believable.
Link here at Daylight Atheism.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e Agnósticos/Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.