Thursday, February 14, 2013

Religious Right Becoming Irrelevant

Members of the Religious Right must be sweating terribly these days and reading the news with stunned disbelief.  They must be having a ton of nightmares. However, the facts are obvious: their influence is slowly eroding, as this country turns away from religious traditions and edges in the opposite direction.

Artist Charles Lucy's concept of Pilgrims landing in 1620.

The Pilgrims who landed in Massachusetts in 1620 would definitely kvetch.  After all, they harassed, killed or exiled anyone who dared to question their fundamentalist Calvinist views.  Eventually, they were overwhelmed, too.

These days, the National Atheist Organization has grown strong enough to hold marches in Washington, D.C. At the same time, embolden by surveys showing that 19 percent of Americans no longer follow any religious faith; the Secular Coalition for America is organizing local chapters.  If the Silent Majority and religious zealots can do it, nonbelievers figure its time they did, too.

"Secular humanists don't care what you believe," said Nick Curry, a Tennessee native who has joined the coalition after rejecting his Lutheran upbringing.  "That's on you. But don't bring that into public policy."

Added Robert B. Talisse, Vanderbilt University professor of philosophy and author of Reasonable Atheism: A Moral Case for Respectful Disbelief:  "When the government forces us to do something, it's got to be able to explain to us why we have to do those things.  The government can't say 'The Bible says this' or 'Jesus says do this.'"

Besides, it’ll be tough for politicians to ignore 1 in 5 Americans, especially since they are not nonvoting children.  Youngsters are still in thrall to their parents’ faith and don’t begin to think for themselves until they are near voting age.

This is not the God is Dead Movement that outraged conservatives in the 1960s.  This is God May or May not Exist, but Doesn’t Matter.  That view is far more widespread than the 1960s movement and, at least to the religious right, more insidious.

To the religious right, good behavior is bound to the Bible and religion.  In contrast, secularists argue that morals and ethics don’t have to be limited to religion. No wonder the pope, who has just announced his pending resignation, has devoted sermons to attacking secularization.  American religious leaders have chimed in with robust enthusiasm.

Their concern is logical: they face becoming irrelevant in American life.  

Thaddeus Schwartz, the leader of Secular Life, a social group for Tennessee-area nonbelievers, was quoted in a news story as saying “atheists have moral and ethical principles, but those principles are different from a religion.  I don’t need God to tell me what is right and what is wrong.

"I teach my kids the same things that you do about how to treat other people," he said. "I simply believe in one less god than you do."

There is not much the Religious Right can do about changing such logic.  They can yammer about hell, but that ancient idea has been exposed as mere bogeyman borrowed from a pagan faith.  Space travel has dissolved heaven as a kingdom in the sky. Archaeology has undermined many long-standing historical claims in all beliefs.  .

Meanwhile, the constant sniping and violence between religions has decreased the credibility of any single faith even more.  Throw in abuse of children, which is not limited to any one religion, and any true believer has to be tossing and turning most nights.

They can’t even turn to the radio for solace.  John Lennon’s beloved classic Imagine, which is regularly played, is becoming a reality.  

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace.

You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one.

Ironically, opponents are claiming that seculars are actually forming a new religion and seeking special favors.  Of course, that’s what people in older religions have done for centuries.  

On the other hand, secularization is not a new faith.  It appears to be the wave of the future.
That may be a nightmare for the faithful, but it's a beatified vision for an increasing number of Americans.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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