The Pulpit and the Pew

August 6, 2011 at 10:05 am Leave a comment

The Pew Research Center can get you hopping around their website like a videophile seeking the energy nuggets of their computer games. They are the folks who come up with the percentages of the religious in America. How many are atheists? That sort of thing. We have hung our worldview on those numbers.

Haven’t you heard a few statistics being slung around? Perhaps we’ve all slung a few. “95% of Americans believe in God.” “12% of the US population are atheists.”

The Pew even has a website, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

I imagine they catch a lot of criticism–from all sides. If we reflect on how easy it is to misunderstand someone, then extend that through the population of a survey sample, unforseen ambiguity in the questions or the responses can become apparent only too late. I forget the exact number but the results of a survey “determined” that about 20% of the American people were identified as having no affiliation with a religion. The conclusion lept to, however, was that they were all atheists.

On the page, Belief in God, you will find this introduction to another survey:

“Not All Nonbelievers Call Themselves Atheists

According to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, 5% of American adults say they do not believe in God or a universal spirit, but only about a quarter (24%) of these nonbelievers actually call themselves atheists.”

Now that would seem to shave our numbers to 1.25% of the adult US population–an exceedingly razor thin number indeed.

From frustrating statistics–that we just can’t live without–I’d like to draw your attention to an article circulating “Atheist clergy in Dutch churches” I found it at Christian Concern, August 6, 2011(not the original source).

Paraphrasing, One in six clergy in the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN) and six other denominations is either an atheist or agnostic. “Klaas Hendrikse, who leads a PKN church wrote a book called Believing in a Non-Existant God which prompted the denomination to consider removing him. However, having found that his views were so widely shared amongst clergy in the denomination they decided not to single him out.” !!! (Exclamation points mine.)

Presumably, they must be pretty certain of their statistics. SO MANY directions to go from here!? Wake up call to the denomination– “OH! So that’s what we believe.” What a position to come out from! Can’t happen here. Although I don’t know a thing about this denomination in the Netherlands. I only know Europe is secularizing faster than we are. These events certainly fit that mold.

Along the denominational divides, I’ve attended a Unitarian Universalist church off and on over the years. The churchgoers there think each other are about all atheists. It’s still in the Bible Belt so one doesn’t shout it out. Still, the figurative question, “Are you one, too?” is above a whisper.

Above a Whisper
Still, religion is alive and well(?), at least in the U.S., and it takes some courage to come out atheist. I beleive the thesis has been afloat for a while that those who emigrated to the U.S. for religious freedom brought with them more than their share of the God gene–or some proclivity toward faith. The upshot is that being immersed in our gene pool is as good as being genetically baptized.

Whatever the realities that brought us and religion together, American Chritianity is imbedded in our culture. You can almost hear its background hum. It’s always there. Atheism, humanism, freethought–all need to start a chorus so that we are part of that culture, our culture, and raise our voices until there is a steady hum. Be here now for each other. This is the instant value of communties we create, even if only cyber communities. This counts! It’s immediate. The internet is immediate. Who would have thought So many middle easterners could have organized, even if impromptu, to challenge theocratic or despotic rule? If it can free them, it can free us.

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An Atheist Defends Religion The Anthropological Origins of Religion

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I write for agnostics, freethinkers, atheists and humanists. In my nonfiction, the purpose is the celebration of our noble human spirit. The general pursuit may be Evolutionary Theology, though believers seem to populate that field (so maybe it's evolutionary Humanism). By looking at who we are and where we came from, we can derive much meaning, and perhaps more importantly, understanding, as well as some sense of where we could go.

Religion is God’s Way of Showing Us it’s Earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought

This title is an upcoming book at the publisher's now. I'd like feedback on this title. It's meant to make people think and feel something. And to hint at things for both believers and non- on multiple levels. The book is of a wider scope, though, one which is ultimately a way to grasp more meaning for ourselves. Believers are always telling us our lives don't have meaning without a god. We often counter that it's more meaningful to be looking for our own meaning than to be arbitrarily ascribed it by an imaginary supernatural being. Ultimately, and this is what I think is unique about this book, you'll see how we can be just as spiritual in our own way. Since we've inhertited a capacity for religion (some more than others) as an evolutionary adaptation, believers and non- are both potentially spritual in the same way--but it is an earthly, secular spirituality in which we all can share.

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