Atheists to Talk at May Day Books
Yesterday, the PEW survey of religion found that self-described Protestants in the U.S. had dropped below 50% of the population, and secularists were increasing. Self-described Protestants now are 48% (from 53%), while the 'religiously unaffiliated' category rose to 19.6%. That is an 'un-churched' increase of 5% in 5 years, or more than 60 million people - far more than identify as Muslims, Jews or Mormons, faiths we never hear the end of. Catholics dropped by 1%, while some 'other' faiths saw tiny gains. This 'non-affiliated' category is more common among the youth and
among Democrats. To all those people whining about the 'new Atheists' and their 'deleterious effect' - they should eat their words.
It is clear that most of the erosion in the U.S. is not from Catholics, but from Protestants, or those brought up Protestant. This follows similar recent findings in Germany, where you cannot find a person who believes in God under 28 in the formerly Protestant eastern Germany, while the Catholic south and west of the country is still far more religious, and home to the ruling "Christian Democrat" party of Angela Merkel. This continuation of membership is surprising, considering the lurch to the right by the Catholic Church in the last few years under Pope Ratzinger.
The U.S. Catholic Church is now in a highly-publicized fight with the older "Nuns on the Bus" (mentioned below in "Reflections on May Day," ) about their work for the poor. The nuns were inspired by 1962's Vatican II, for Christ's sake, while younger nuns - the few that exist - are reported to be more about praying, fasting and penance. And can we forget the U.S. bishops highly-publicized fight against gay marriage - which makes them allies of the Mormon Church and the Protestant fundamentalists. This and the Catholic child abuse scandals all over the world, and especially in Germany, have for instance led to 100,000 Catholics quitting the German Church every year. I actually see the end of the line for this Church that thinks of itself as 'eternal' - especially in countries with higher standards of living. Recently the German Church - which is one of 3 religions recognized by the German state - received over C8 billion Euros in donations collected by the German state through taxes. They announced they would only give absolution, marriage, funerals, confession, etc. to those who pay through this method or other methods. I.E. you have to pay to play. Sound familiar?
Many older Catholics were brought up thinking the Church was some kind of bastion of progressivism - a Dorothy Day or Liberationist Theologist around every corner. Au contraire. Open your eyes. Dorothy Day is dead, and Liberation Theology has been banned. From the outside, this former liberal Protestant saw private schools run by punitive nuns, sexual repression, chauvinism, a bizarre high-church cult, and absolutely no 'gain' in educational quality. Every disgruntled Catholic should quit this church.
Of course our Muslim brothers are not much better - even 'liberal' Muslims are still culturally conservative and saturated in their religion, while the political Islamists are busy attempting to kill teenage girls who are for education. Local Somalis get uptight around your tiny Satanic dog, but the women still drive - while in Saudi Arabia even rich women are not allowed to do that. Right-wing Hindus? Remember the periodic religious pograms in India which resulted in the death of thousands of Muslims or Christians? (see Arudati Roy's "Field Notes on Democracy," reviewed below.) Heaven help an atheist in a place like that. At least atheists don't have a language, style of dress or skin color - or they'd be dead targets too.
While it is obvious that all the 'unchurched' are not on the same page ideologically, the fact that so many are not going to church, are not paying money to churches, are not following some preacher, some priest or some Inman - means that they can let logic and material reality have a bit of a role. Many people are 'spiritual' - you find that vague description a lot - but what this means other than being theoretically impoverished, I do not know. I myself have been an atheist since I was a little boy. Having a father die when I was two didn't strike me as quite the thing, nor did it impress my mother about God's mercy or whatever.
However, atheism by itself misses the point. Religion is not just a topic of intellectual contradiction, as so many plain atheists think. It has material roots in class society. Class society needs a 'religious' illogic in order to justify itself and its ideas, and a religious illogic in order to hand solace to those who will find it nowhere else - certainly not from them. But above all it is the power of long-standing material organizations, large buildings in every neighborhood, whose tax-free pulpits preach their doctrines, support war, support reaction, support capitalism. The organized conservative churches are one of the main pillars of the Republican Party, while liberal ones steer 'reasonable' Christians into the tender embrace of the Democratic one.
So congratulations to the freethinkers out there. Enjoy Sunday morning. Or Saturday morning. Or Wednesday afternoons. Or every other religious holiday. Or all the banned foods and drinks. While doing so, you can read our reviews, below, of "American Theocracy," "Da Vinci Code," "Dark Side of Christianity," "God & Walmart," "God is Not Great," "The Handmaid's Tale," "The Holocaust Industry," and "Islamophobia."
Mayday Books will be hosting talks and a reception for the authors of the newly published book, "Atheist Voices of Minnesota," on October 24th Wednesday, 7:00 PM, at Mayday, hosted by George Kane, sponsored by the Minnesota Atheists.
October 15, 2012