How do we reconcile the fact that only 15% of Americans believe that humans are the product of evolution, with no divine guidance, with the supposed drop in religiosity?

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Thoughtful and interesting concepts.

My experience with the weakly spiritual/religious is that they and/or their children were much more likely to abandon magical thinking entirely than those who were deeply involved in a fundamentally religious community. The spiritual whackos don't have the support system, for one thing, and the fact that they latched onto Deepak Chopra or holistic healing suggests that they had doubts about the traditional Western god.

Certainly any faith based, anti-science belief system will have its vulnerable and its exploiters, but I fear the totalitarian nature of fundamentalist Islam far more that Wicca.

The spiritual wackos usually have a strong support system of friends and family who are equally wacky, or at least blindly tolerant of their wackiness. They have probably also invested a significant amount of money and time into their personal spirituality--and few things make people feel more stupid than to realize they've given their money to a huckster. They will do anything to keep from admitting that including spending even more money to prove themselves. They are not weakly spiritual, and belief in dubious holistic therapies or pop philosophers doesn't mean they have doubts in any traditional gods. The thinking is exactly the same, its just dressed up in a harmless looking costume.

And I don't mean to suggest we have more to fear from Barnes & Nobel religions than theocratic dictatorships. That's a false dichotomy--both are harmful in different ways. Just because Wicca may not be immediately and personally harmful to me doesn't mean I shouldn't be concerned. These people are my neighbors and service workers. They are my friends. I benefit from their health and lack of ignorance. Off the shelf religion robs them of that.

I'm certainly not defending the spiritual and magical, but I won't go along with the suggestion that there are no relatively harmless and weakly held magical beliefs, and, as in my example of the American Ashkenazim, transitions away from strong religious traditions may pass through Chopra, Marxism or other less than critically examined phases. There are certainly a lot of quick transitions as well, directly from fundamentalism to atheism. But, particularly on the larger societal scale, I don't rule out transitional devices on the way to critical thinking and science. And I'm still hopeful that larger percentages of people will go that way in the future - at least until over-population, disease, resource depletion, etc. takes the whole show down.

It's a name a hesitate to even bring up but I was thinking specifically of Silver Ravenwolf and her ilk. Her earliest books read like role playing guides, don't know what they're like in detail now but reportedly she still peddles the same dishonest, white-light crap she always has. I know people who devoted a LOT of time, energy and money in that sort of thing and coming out hurt in the end. That's not the universal experience of neo-paganism or people who practice traditional life ways, I know. But I suspect there are a lot of people who were left out in the philosophical cold when they realized they couldn't buy the thing Silver said she was selling--personal fulfillment.

I was left in a similar boat at one point and literally had no one to turn to for guidance in coping with the cognitive dissonance. It bothers me that there are probably other people out there going through what I went through but are ignored because what they believed is seen as "not serious".

And I think that's not good enough! ;)

Well, that's just it; just because they believe in a type of ID that happens to encompass a proven biological theory doesn't mean they're any more likely to take "our side". These same people could wish death on "our side" for being too secular, too liberal, (even) too scientific, or whatever random thing they wish to believe about secular thinking people who understand and are interested in science.

There's at least one example of a culture moving from fundamentalism to secularism and it may provide a model for others.

In the early Nineteenth Century, Judaism was more or less god-based, patriarchal and all-encompassing. Later in the century came reform, and tolerance of new ideas. Valuing of education was no longer limited to religious education. Today, people who identify as American Jews are primarily secular and are Jews in an ethnic sense only. Others have given up the identity.

By the way, exercise didn't seem to play much of a role in the transition.


Good article, and hopeful. We will reach the critical mass eventually and most people will get that "squirt of blood to the anterior cingulate cortex".  

According to nature that part of the brain is enhanced by exercise.  Americans don't move much.  I see a need for a study to find out if atheists are more physically active than religious counterparts.

Physical activity and the anterior cingulate cortex:



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