What the Numbers Don’t Tell Us: Religion Is a Lived, Shifting Experience

A new survey doesn’t tell us why that’s occurring, only that it is occurring, and that it is unstoppable. Having spent most of the last two years in conversation with Nones, seekers, doubters, and those who feel culturally bound to a religious tradition even while they don’t participate in one, the latest Pew survey results come as no surprise. It’s been clear for years that Mainline Protestant Christianity in America is on the decline. That Catholicism also is in precipitous decline—and the news that the religiously unaffiliated now outnumber Catholics—is perhaps only surprising to those who haven’t attended a Catholic church recently. Today, 13 percent of American adults are former Catholics. For every person who joins the Catholic church, six Catholics leave. “No other group,” according to Pew, “has such a lopsided ratio of losses to gains.” When it comes to the topic of religious switching and the decline […] Read More

2015: 9 Things Many Americans Just Don’t Grasp (Compared to the Rest of the World)

Americans’ lack of worldliness clouds their views on everything from economics to sex to religion. To hear the far-right ideologues of Fox News and AM talk radio tell it, life in Europe is hell on Earth. Taxes are high, sexual promiscuity prevails, universal healthcare doesn’t work, and millions of people don’t even speak English as their primary language! Those who run around screaming about “American exceptionalism” often condemn countries like France, Norway, and Switzerland to justify their jingoism. Sadly, the U.S. economic deterioration means that many Americans simply cannot afford a trip abroad to see how those countries function for themselves. And often, lack of foreign travel means accepting clichés about the rest of the world over reality. And that lack of worldliness clouds many Americans’ views on everything from economics to sex to religion. Here are nine things Americans can learn from the rest of the world. 1. Universal […] Read More

Is the Internet Making Us Less Religious?

If you’re a sociologist of religion, one of the biggest stories of 2014 has been the decline in religious affiliation in the United States. Both the Pew Forum and the University of Chicago found that the number of unaffiliated Americans has more than doubled in recent years, to the point where roughly 1 in 5 Americans identifies as non-religious. There are a wide range of theories as to why this happened, the most credible—in my opinion—centering on the culturally transformative role of the American Religious Right, which has made it very difficult to be both theologically conservative and politically liberal. But there’s another interesting factor that could help explain the growth of the secular community: the Internet. The MIT Technology Review’s end-of-year feature highlights an April study that found an interesting correlation between increased Internet usage and decreased religious participation. From the article: In the 1980s, Internet use was essentially […] Read More

2014: Satanic Displays Going Up in Michigan and Florida to Counter Nativity Scenes

Satanic displays will be going up at Statehouses in Michigan and Florida this Christmas season.  The Florida Department of Management Services approved the display in Tallahassee from the Satanic Temple after rejecting it last year as “grossly offensive.” The satanic display will be put up in the first-floor rotunda of the Capitol for the holiday period beginning on December 22. In Michigan, the Detroit chapter of the same satanic group sought and won approval to put up its exhibit as a counter to the Christian Nativity. Officials approved the display after the Capitol staff consulted the state attorney general’s office. It’s a First Amendment right,” said Michigan Capitol Facility Director Dan Brocklehurst. A Christian Nativity will be erected on the Capitol grounds beginning on Friday morning and the Satanic Temple’s display will go up on Sunday. Back in Florida, Festivus, a non-commercial festival “for the rest of us,” will […] Read More

2014: The Mystery of Jesus in Japan

No matter what one’s religious affiliation, there is no denying that one of the most readily recognizable figures in all of the world’s  religions is none other than Jesus Christ. There is a rich history of stories and adventures attributed to this iconic figure, but did one of these adventures involve Jesus traveling to ancient Japan? According to the folklore of one remote mountain village in the northern corner of Japan, Jesus Christ not only journeyed to Japan, but also found his final resting place here rather than dying on the cross in Golgotha. For all of you scratching your heads right now, let’s take a look into the weird story of Jesus Christ’s alleged life in Japan. Tucked away within the mountainous terrain of Aomori prefecture, in the northern region of Japan, is a village by the name of Shingō. It is a modest village of only 2,632 people, […] Read More

2014: Book of Spells Deciphered for Lovers, Exorcists and Healers

Need something to get her to notice you when flowers don’t work? Want to drive out an evil spirit or domineering boss? Suffering from black jaundice? Then the “Handbook of Ritual Power” is the book for you. This 20-page, 1,300-year-old Egyptian book of spells has been translated from its Coptic language by Macquarie University’s Malcolm Choat and the University of Sydney’s Iain Gardner in their new book, “A Coptic Handbook of Ritual Power.” Macquarie University acquired the book of spells from an antiques dealer in 1981. Its history before that is unknown, but its translators believe it originated around the ancient city Hermopolis near what is now Al Ashmunin in Upper Egypt. The text is written on parchment and bound in a folded format known as a codex. The first part of the text consists of prayers to well-known religious names like Jesus and David as well as to […] Read More

2014: Georgia Pastor Has His Mind Blown by European Atheists: ‘If There’s No God, Why Should I Believe?’

During a trip to secular Nordic countries, Baptist pastor Marty McLain was asked by one man: “If there’s no god, why should I believe in him?” A Finnish television network recently filmed a Southern Baptist pastor as he visited secular Nordic countries and struggled to come to grips with widespread LGBT rights and atheism. In an episode of Yle’s The Norden, Summit Church of West Georgia Lead Pastor Marty McLain tells the network that he is a creationist who believes in the story of the Garden of Eden and that there is a “literal Hell.” “The Bible does refer to — in the book of Revelations — the lake of fire,” he explains. In a trailer for the episode, McLain interviews people on the street in an attempt to find someone in the Nordic countries he visits who believes in God. “If there’s no god, why should I believe […] Read More

Learning to Think in a Society Ruled by Absurd Religion and Other Dogma

The following is an excerpt from Parenting Without God by Dan Arel. One important thing to teach our children is how to think critically. It is easy to tell them they should, but it is not as easy to teach them how, mainly because we may not be that great at it ourselves. How many atheists do you know who are anti-GMO or anti-vaccination? We know these can be smart people who took on a position that is full of emotion, misinformation or bad research methods. Think back to earlier discussions about vaccinations when those opposed were flooding you with links, not links to scientific studies, but to blogs or “information” sites by doctors who seemed to be selling a cure-all at the same time they were telling you to avoid modern medicine. This is a failure in critical thinking, and it’s usually the result of confirmation bias. If you start […] Read More

2012: Why Metaphysics?

What is metaphysics, and why should we bother studying it? What benefits does it have for humanity? What is its purpose? How will its teachings help advance society? How will it assist our civilization and culture to progress? How will our lives be re-created individually and collectively with the application of metaphysical principles? Questions abound concerning metaphysics, for people intuitively feel that it may have something precious to offer in terms of facilitating personal growth and self-empowerment. Among those spiritually inclined, it has become a “prime directive” to understanding their lives in terms of metaphysical principles and concepts such as multi-dimensional realities, the Higher Self, love, karma, reincarnation, etheric energies, psychicism, oneness with all, cosmic beings, the ascension, etc., and some of the causes of this higher thinking and awareness is the thinning of the cosmic veil between dimensions; the increased contact with invisible forces; the influence of intense […] Read More