Before I intimate the declining state of religion in this country, let me say that it is in dismal disarray.
Thousands of churches in America, on any given Sunday morning, have a telling number of empty pews–most of them more than half-empty. An equal number (thousands) of articles have been written, asking, “Why is church membership declining?” That is not my particular concern either.
My interest is in the growing number of agnostics and atheists, in general. I well remember a time in this country when only one atheist’s voice was being heard and who name was well-know–Madalyn Murray O’Hair. O’Hair once opined, “Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea.” The remarkable, but unthinkable truth, is that she was right! Keep this thought in mind.
Before I share statistics, it is important to understand the meaning of the words “atheist” and “agnostic.” According to Dr. Phil Zuckerman, in an October 2015 issue of Psychology Today, “An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of God or gods. And agnostic is someone who isn’t sure if there is a God or not, or who doesn’t feel like he or she (or anyone) can have any valid information on the matter, and thus, thinks that it is impossible to say there is a God, or that there isn’t.”
I’ll go with Zuckerman’s definitions, but simplify them by saying that both atheists and agnostics (nonbelievers) simply have no belief in a deity, period. They are neither theists nor polytheists. They are about as willing to talk about God or gods as they are to enter into a passionate, intense discussion of unicorns or leprechauns!
Atheism and agnosticism is growing at breathtaking rates through the world. Just to share some statistics, according to the Oxford Handbook, 41 percent of the people of France (or nearly 20 million) are nonbelievers. Almost one-third of the people of the United Kingdom are nonbelievers. But, wait…
While we may not be surprised that 17 percent of the people of Russia are nonbelievers, it startles us to learn there are a little less than half that number (8 percent) in the United States. The actual number of unbelievers in the United States is 18,625,556. Compare to the population of the State of New York - 19,795,791 (2014)
The rise in numbers of unbelievers in the U.S. is, unquestionably, not due to the efforts of Madalyn Murray O’Hair!
I suspect this statistic is buoyed and burgeoning because the church continues to be unrealistic in its teachings, along with its unrelenting promotion of the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. It is growing because of the unremitting hypocrisy between what Christians “say” and what Christians “do.”
The results of the recent election evince the latter. I cannot, in my lifetime, remember so profane and un-Christ-like a candidate as Donald Trump; yet, evangelical Christians overwhelmingly supported and voted for him. Go figure!
(c) 2017, L. Milton Hankins
“Please ignore the attention whore.” This is the response I wanted to give in response to a number of questions asked of me during my recent travel abroad. My wife and I had the good fortune of taking a walking tour along the Dodogne River in Southern France. We met great people on the path, some of whom, upon learning we were Americans, were truly inquisitive, asking us about the President of the United States. The question was often, “So tell me about Trump,” or some similar open-ended question.
It appeared to me they could not comprehend him. Being advised in advance that it is considered bad form in polite European company to offer open disrespect of one’s country and its leaders, my wife and I chose a middling response: “We pay no attention to him.” This response was often met with more questions seeking our opinion of the Trumpster, to which we hung to our position - “We give him no mind,” and similar responses. Being pushed further by one British couple, I finally equated Trump to another’s child in the grocery check-out line whining and crying for candy. It is not my job to fix that kid. I endure it.
Journaling while flying back to this great country leads me to conclude that Donald Trump wants, desires, demands and maybe even craves your attention. “The Donald” does not care if you praise him or loathe him. He wants only that your attention is aimed towards him, that your energy is focused on him, that he is your first thought when you awake and the final thought when you fall asleep. And then he wants to be the sandman of your dreams.
A possible bromide - Pay no attention to the attention whore. My hope is this prescription may be considered by my hometown of Huntington, West Virginia, which braces itself to receive The Donald on August 3, 2017. My soul was lifted upon learning that tickets remain available for those willing and able to endure his whining and crying for candy. Yet, I fear that any deprivation The Donald may feel for each empty seat inside will be offset by The Donald seeing a sea of protesters outside.
As a final shot - To every local politician considering an apprenticeship on the continuing “Donald Show” by standing on stage with him…REALLY?
Some days I think people choose to miss the point.
In the weeks following the election, those of us opposing the coming Administration and protesting what we see as very problematic Cabinet appointments and flag-raising political maneuvering, have received a similar scolding from Conservatives as we engage in debate on the issues. It’s an attempt to call us out for our alleged hypocrisy:
“I see, you’re all for diversity unless someone disagrees with you! Apparently we don’t get included in that! You Liberals are so tolerant!” they say.
Well, they’re partially right.
The commitment to diversity and equality means demanding that everyone gets a seat at the table; that each person’s inherent worth is recognized there, that no one is devalued or excluded based on fixed and fundamental part of their identity: skin color, gender, nation of origin, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
This means that we declare every human being equally valuable. It does not mean we treat all behavior equally:
If your opinion directly endangers people based on those essential parts of who they are–we’ll pushback.
If your worldview permits you to treat someone as less deserving of civil rights or it discards their basic humanity–your worldview is a threat to true diversity.
If your evaluation of another makes you more tolerant of their mistreatment or less outraged by hate crimes against them, that’s a fundamental problem.
Active discrimination and violence don’t get a seat at the table. They don’t get proximity to do further damage to people.
For example, a gay teenager and a Baptist preacher are both invited into genuine community and both welcomed into conversation, but if the preacher insists on the inherent depravity of the teenager, if he or she cannot see the teenager as fully equal to them in the eyes of God or the Law, this is a barrier to diverse community and an assault on the teenager’s very identity. The teenager’s place at the table is terribly altered by the preacher, not the other way around.
Diversity will always err on the side of the marginalized and always be an inconvenience to the privileged because diversity seeks justice. It demands benevolence for those who are not experiencing it.
The contention for the past year has been that all political perspectives are valid, but I won’t consent to that and it’s a matter of personal safety. No individual groups of white people are explicitly, measurably endangered by a Progressive platform, they receive the same consideration. But I can illustrate the specific ways people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ community are less safe and less represented by the coming Administration, which is already by its conduct, a movement of exclusion.
Friend, I can respect you and seek to understand you, while declaring your actions or those of politicians you support, completely reprehensible. I can criticize your conduct or the results of your behavior without attacking your worth. That’s how this works.
If you believe people of color are simply inferior to white people, you’re going to have to work hard to stay at the table.
If you claim LGBTQ to be abominations, you’ll have to do better.
If you believe Muslims are likely terrorists, you probably won’t feel welcome at the table for long.
And so no, it isn’t at all hypocritical to champion diversity and to confront injustice simultaneously. They are fully collaborative and integrated movements.
All people are welcomed at the table but bigotry isn’t, so save the allegation that its acceptance is a requirement for me.
Equality demands decency toward humanity’s diverse gathering–and it’s what I demand.
[The above article appeared first in John Pavlovitz’s STUFF THAT NEEDS TO BE SAID on January 12, 2017. Permission pending.]
Kristin Beck, who spent two decades as a Navy SEAL, has a challenge for Donald Trump in the wake of his morning tweetstorm announcing a ban on transgender service members. From Business Insider:
“Let’s meet face to face and you tell me I’m not worthy,” Kristin Beck, a 20-year veteran of the Navy SEALSs, told Business Insider on Wednesday. “Transgender doesn’t matter. Do your service.”
Beck is a bonafide American hero:
Beck is not just your average service member. Born Christopher Beck, she served for 20 years in the Navy with SEAL Teams 1, 5, and, eventually, the elite 6. She deployed 13 times over two decades, including stints in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. She received the Bronze Star award for valor and the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat.
“I was defending individual liberty,” she said. “I defended for Republicans. I defended for Democrats. I defended for everyone.”
Beck’s missions in Afghanistan helped take out Osama bin Laden. What an embarrassment to this nation and a stabbing insult to patriots like Beck, who simply want to serve their country.
[Article first appeared in Daily Kos, Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Reprinted with permission.]