Atheism and religious indifference are growing in the United States. In Faith No More, recently reissued in paperback, Pitzer College sociologist Phil Zuckerman cites Pew surveys showing that “20% of Americans now claim ‘none’ as their religion.” Harris polls register an uptick of atheism, from 4 percent in 2003 to 10 percent in 2008, with another 9 percent identifying themselves as agnostics.
Several weeks ago, I was having dinner with friends in the town of Bridgewater, PA—a sliver of land at the confluence of the Beaver and Ohio Rivers northwest of Pittsburgh. As tends to happen whenever orthodox Christians gather, the conversation turned to cultural decline. As we discussed the latest outrages, though, I couldn’t help but observe our surroundings.We were on the patio of a casual restaurant within sight of the gentle Beaver River. Between us and the riverbank was a pristine lawn, crisscrossed by walking trails. The weather was mild and clear. Around us, people conversed contentedly while dining wholesomely and affordably, in perfect security. To all appearances, here was the very image of the good society: pleasant, safe, and prosperous. Continue Reading »
When I heard Hillary Clinton’s statement at the recent 2015 Women in the World Summit that “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” for the sake of giving women access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth,” at first I was confused. She has spoken often about being a Christian and having a rich prayer life, and I have no reason to doubt that she has real religious commitments. I wondered how someone who attends church regularly, prays, and therefore presumably knows something about the value and the sanctity of religious belief could say something so hostile toward religion.Then I thought of Harvey Cox’s The Secular City. Something about her statement rang that bell. I have no idea if Secretary Clinton read Cox’s influential and popular 1965 book, or assuming she did, if the book influenced her thinking. Tracing the particular influences behind anyone’s conceptions is rarely a simple matter. What struck me, though, was the possibility that I have been missing something big: it is likely that many of those who denigrate religious beliefs aren’t drawing just on secular, anti-Christian ideologies, but on liberal Christian ideas about God. What I assume to be anti-religious animus might in some cases actually issue from a particular form of religiosity. Continue Reading »
Bruno Latour’s 1993 We Have Never Been Modern is a neglected masterpiece. Its argument is compressed, the terminology idiosyncratic. Latour is witty, ironic, and funniest when he’s outraged. It’s not an easy book, but it’s worth the effort. As a diagnosis of us “moderns,” it’s more penetrating, and rings truer, than many better-known works. Continue Reading »
In Maryland, the Montgomery County School board has stripped Christmas, as well as all religious holidays, from the school calendar. The vacation days are still there, but under new names that make no religious reference. In Piedmont, Alabama, the Freedom from Religion Foundation pressured the small southern town to drop its “Keep Christ in Christmas” parade on grounds that it was unconstitutional. The bottom line: Christians need to stop alienating their secular neighbors and celebrate something more inclusive. The war on Christmas is real. Continue Reading »
In his 1782 book Letters from an American Farmer, John de Crèvecœur asked the most famous and important question in American history: “What then is the American, this new man?” The authentic American leaves behind him “all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new . . . . Continue Reading »
by Frank TurkSo you know: Pack a lunch.And before you read a single word of this post, I require of you that you read this post, by me, regarding this essential conflict involved in talking about this topic. If you do not read that post, and you want to reproach me about my post here, I will simply . . . . Continue Reading »