The author Eric Kaufman ends his book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? with the statement: Without an ideology to inspire social cohession, fundamentalism cannot be stopped. The religious shall inherit the earth. Do we atheists agree, and if we do, are we prepared to spread the word? and if we are, do we stand a chance?
I have been given the argument about all the beautiful things in music and art which have been done in the name of one god or another (or bunch of them) and I have always replied that creative people will always find an outlet for their talents and that gods were the vehicles because that was the cultural norm at the time and priests could afford to pay. However, Michelangelo without a religion to inspire would have sculpted magnificent things because the talent was in him.
Fundamentalism may not be fully stoppable, but it can be opposed, and it is. Worthy of note that the number of non-catholic christians in this country dropped below the 50% mark for the first time in US history not that long ago, while the number of "nones" - those who claim no religious affiliation - is on the rise. The millennials are less religious than any generation before them, and they are helping to drive the move both for GLBT equality and the acceptance of atheism and atheists.
Organizing atheists may be "herding cats," but we're still making progress ... and in my humble opinion, we're still young on this particular curve. The best may be yet to come.
It is always encouraging to look at the actual numbers and the changes in those numbers over time. It takes me back to the Intelligence Squared debate Hitchens and Fry participated in over whether the Catholic church was a force for good. The religious side argued so self-righteously and so self-confidently it made me wonder if I was missing something, but in the end the audience voting told the truth. And boy were the religious debaters flustered. I think it is a great analogy to what is actually happening in our country regarding religion right now. And in time it's just going to get a lot better.
With all the denominations preaching their own forms of religiosity, it seems to me they are as split as we atheists. With their arguments over doctrine, they will stay divided, unless they see it is to their advantage to set aside their differences. I don't think that will happen. One thing that concerns me is their high birth rates. I and many others had no reason to confront religious until they started getting into politics and public education. Many atheists refuse to submit to their politics or religion. Too many of us speak out, some rather harshly. I, for one, am so disgusted by their beliefs, I want to step on their toes until it hurts. Religious fundamentalists are doing more whining and complaining about my/our stridency means we are touching where it hurts.
I agree Joan - I am also concerned about the high birth rates of the religious.
Yes, religious were able to keep people in line and they had the tools to have their way. Most Painful 20 Torture Devices in the History…
"The worst thing about medieval life was the unwavering evil of the Christian “justice” system and the tools of torture they employed."
It makes me very happy that the power those religious institutions wielded then has diminished so much in modern times. In a much smaller degree the grip religion has in the Muslim world, even in countries like Iran, has eroded from exposure to the greater world community. The worst thing to ever happen to Islam, I think, has been the wars the USA has participated in the middle east since 2001. Not from the actual war itself, which is debatable in its merits, or the efforts to reform regional politics, but rather the exposure to our standard of living and our technology that has upset the people who live there the greatest. They've been missing out on a better life and they now know it. And with that exposure to the greater world naturally comes a tolerance and understanding religion cannot provide. I don't think religion will inherit the earth, but it will take a long time before people are free from its influence.
I have begun to fear the fundamentalists. They really scare me these days. I am afraid they will not go "quietly into the night." I used to think they would loose their ground and just fade away. I do not think so now. There is talk among their rank of revolution. At first I thought this was just banter among themselves. But the fundamentalists I know, including my brother who is a methodist minister, are talking "ammo and guns" revolution more and more these days. Their "very way of life and freedoms" are at stake. It really scares me. I still continue to voice my disdain for religion of any kind. But these days, I feel as though my voice is marking me as "one who shall have to be eliminated."
I know for many of you this may look like paranoia. However, as one who deals with the mentally disabled on a daily basis, I can tell you that when my clients are loosing the "battle" and feel as though they are being backed into a corner, that is when they are the most vicious. I fear the the religious fundamentalists will be reaching this point very soon. They are being backed into a corner and will fight back.
One of the reasons I'm glad states aren't allowed to secede from the union is because of the obvious fundamentalist religious institutions that would take power in those parts of the continent. I can't imagine what it would be like having an Iran or Syria just across the Mississippi river.
Larry, you're not alone. I have been saying much the same thing for a while now, and indeed, one of my first blogs on A|N was about this very issue. You might give it a look and let me know what you think.
Larry, from my perspective, religious have always been vicious. Just look at how long it took to get rid of slavery in this country, even with some religious abolitionist. Or the dreadful things religious have done to girls and women for centuries and only now are the boys being noticed as victims of abuse. The abuse has always been there, just "don't talk about it!" Oh! How I hate that phrase. Or look at what religious do to immigrants in this modern age. Vicious? Yes! Cruel? Yes! Many not only feel justified in their beliefs and behaviors, they feel entitled.