28 February 2008

Goods Sign for the Godless

Well, everyone has been taking a look at the latest Pew Report on American Religion which came out a few days back and which I've been too busy to comment on until now. PZ Meyers at Pharyngula offers a pretty good analysis of it here and I recommend you take a look if you get a chance.

I think the most encouraging thing is the fact that the protestant population is shrinking. This seems to be a common misconception among people I talk to. Most seem to think because of the recent (and fortunately failed…at least thus far) attempted takeover of American government by the religious right that evangelical protestant religions are growing out of control and going to take over America. What evidently is actually occurring is that the extremely religious that do exist are just getting louder. I would even contend that this is happening specifically because of the shrinking numbers of the protestant population. What we are seeing is a movement that is lashing out and using the typical scare tactics to stop the flow of people out of the pews. We saw this in the 17th and 18th centuries in response to the Enlightenment with the advent of the Great Awakenings.

I think this time though it's different. I think we are far better armed with scientific evidence and we can easily make the debate about that evidence. In the 1800s it was hard to counter any sort of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" nonsense. (The full text of which can be found here) That sort of thing pretty much scared the shit out of everyone and sent them into a frenzy. I think now we have made enough scientific advancement that we can refute empirically most all of religion's other claims to the degree that even the burn in hell stuff doesn't as many people as it used to, even if we can't empirically refute the idea that you're going to spend the rest of eternity in hell for not believing. Then again, the burden of proof doesn't lie with us, it lies with the one who makes the claim.

Anyways, this trend is extremely encouraging and I think it will likely continue into the future. The far right will scream and holler itself into oblivion in the face of rising evidence against its claims. Then again, maybe I'm being extremely and uncharacteristically optimistic.

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