Is Evangelical America Really in Decline?

In today’s New York Times, pastor John S. Dickerson writes about “The Decline of Evangelical America” and why that’s happening:

We evangelicals must accept that our beliefs are now in conflict with the mainstream culture. We cannot change ancient doctrines to adapt to the currents of the day. But we can, and must, adapt the way we hold our beliefs — with grace and humility instead of superior hostility. The core evangelical belief is that love and forgiveness are freely available to all who trust in Jesus Christ. This is the “good news” from which the evangelical name originates (“euangelion” is a Greek word meaning “glad tidings” or “good news”). Instead of offering hope, many evangelicals have claimed the role of moral gatekeeper, judge and jury. If we continue in that posture, we will continue to invite opposition and obscure the “good news” we are called to proclaim.

This does not mean we whitewash unpopular doctrines like the belief that we are all sinners but that we re-emphasize the free forgiveness available to all who believe in Jesus Christ.

Dickerson (at least in this article) entirely ignores the fact that people are pushing back against evangelical Christianity because we’ve found a better alternative: Reality.

Atheism and its weak cousin “spiritual-but-not-religious” are no longer unfavorable options like they used to be. You’re no longer as isolated or shunned if you say you don’t believe that churches or any one religious faith has all the answers. Emphasizing “free forgiveness” won’t help when the idea that the death of someone two thousand years ago cleanses you of your sins is laughable from the get-go.

Evangelical America had a chance to be the moral leaders on the issue of same-sex marriage a long time ago — and they rejected it. They still do. No amount of whitewashing the past or emphasizing different doctrine will change their reputation. If you’re an evangelical Christian, no matter how you frame it, you don’t think same-sex marriage should be legal and you think homosexuality is a sin. On both issues, they’re are not just wrong; they’ve placed all their bets on the idea that they would win the fight against marriage equality. And now, they’re struggling to keep whatever power they still have.

But, like Dickerson points out, evangelicals aren’t the only people who think homosexuality is a sin. Muslims and Catholics feel the same way. So what’s the difference? Probably that no other group has tried as hard as evangelicals to force their views upon the population through legislative actions or ballot measures. It’s not enough that they condemn homosexuality in their churches; they want the government to ensure that LGBT people can’t have equal rights anywhere.

Thankfully, the rest of us have a better sense of decency.

If evangelical Christians believe they’re a beacon of moral goodness, and we know they’re not, we also know not to take them seriously on everything else they say. Why would they be right on anything else? If they believe in Biblical nonsense (Creationism) and political nonsense (anything the GOP says) and gender nonsense (men should control women’s bodies… and women in general), it’s a damn good thing their influence is waning.

No amount of technology or influx of popular young pastors will change the fact that evangelical leaders hold a variety of despicable views. The only chance they have of regaining their influence is not talking about them. Good thing they’re unable to do that.

Who knew that worship music was really just an extended swan song?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • bettsoff

    Hey, if they do quit with the raging assholism and go gentle into the twilight of cultural impotence, I’ll be the first to congratulate them on maintaining a tiny shred of dignity.

    But they won’t of course.

    • JBC

       No going gently into “twilight” this time.  Christians know what happens when atheists actually get control of society.

      It has been mentioned here, but ignored, that Evangelical Churches are devoting more study times to those periods in history when atheists have actually had the political power. 

      And I don’t mind telling you about it, because you will just arrogantly ignore it and not have a clue as to the roadblocks it is placing in your goals down the road.

      • bettsoff

         It’s so trite to say, “Thanks for proving my point,” but thanks for proving my point.

      • Troels Jakobsen

        Christians know what happens when atheists actually get control of society.

        Yeah, just look at all the secular European contries. Complete hellholes compared to the vastly more religious USA.

        • YouBetcha

           Secular does not equal Atheist.  None of the European countries are Officially Atheistic.

          The ones that have been have been hellholes, complete with Gulags, mass muder, you name it.

          • Troels Jakobsen

            Please show how exactly atheism was the driving force and inspiration behind the atrocities. In your own time.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/AMNLPDE6FXKEQQ3GVHCCSRZD54 Dave Littler

            Well, I don’t think that anyone cares whether or not a state is “officially” atheistic. I think it would be nice if people just lost interest in christianity and other such religions, relegating them to the same role as so many dead religions which preceded it. People would go about their lives, not thinking about religion, must like what happens in much of Europe today, and nobody would be bothered by the topic inside of government or out of it aside from as a curious cultural relic, and a part of our shared past, like the Greek mythology of ancient times.

            That’s the happily ever after I would love to see.

          • amycas

             The Freedom from Religion Foundation doesn’t want an “officially atheist” government, we want a secular government. I fail to see your point.

          • Brian Scott

            “What happens when atheists get hold of a country”

            I.e. because you don’t believe in god, you’re a terrible leader who’s going to commit mass murder.

            Even we accept the premise that “officially” atheist countries cause atrocities, few people here want an “officially” atheist government. We want a secular government. One which accommodates the religious and irreligious.

            But no, the waning of the influence of one authoritarian influence means that atheist will get into power and we’ll all die!

            Sorry, but JBC gave the standard tripe answer for why we should prefer his brand of authoritarianism. He was wrong, and he said it from a position of bigotry. Places that have atheists in power and that follow sound, secular principles do well. Places that have Christians in power and that follow sound, secular principles do well.

            The key is that “sound, secular principles” which evangelical Christianity has generally done a piss poor job of adopting.

      • advancedatheist

        Jews know what happens when christians get control of a country and then look for scapegoats. Just look at what happened to the Jews under the Russian Orthodox Tsars. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003279744270 Sara Sharick

        Authoritarianism is authoritarianism whether it is religiously inspired or not.  What makes religious authoritarianism more dangerous is the extortion and exploitation inherent in getting people to protect their afterlife status, once you’ve convinced them such a thing exists.  

  • Guest

    I’m unaware of anyone who is saying America isn’t in decline, or at least poised to be surpassed by other countries (a form of decline) within the next couple decades.  Why, of course, remains to be seen.  Europe is also in decline.  Both population-wise and economic-wise.  The reasons are probably useless to examine, since we won’t want to be honest.  But decline?  Sure.  Anyone over 20 years old can see that. 

    • Gavin (age 40)

      America is not in decline.

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

        The article does, of course, refers to ‘evangelical America’, so I’m not sure why we’re even talking about America as a whole being in decline.

        However, that said, the largest holder of US debt is China, so we’ll see how decline-y you feel in future as large chunks of US taxpayers’ cash go to fund their economic development.

        • JBC

           When the Chinese begin to dominate the world around 2050 guys like Gavin, if they have not been cut off of medical treatments by the system, will remember the days when they laughed at the warnings of decline.

          Of course, Gavin would be 77 or so then, so he will probably we a drooling old folks home resident.

          If they still have old folks homes.

          • RobMcCune

            I’m surprised your not predicting the planet will be ruled by apes. It makes as much sense as the rest of your posts.

          • Brian Westley

            “When the Chinese begin to dominate the world around 2050″

            Yeah, yeah, and in the 80s it was going to be the Japanese around 2020.

          • Vanadise

            Just because other countries are getting better does not mean the USA is getting worse.  Why is it so terrible to imagine that another country might become a first-world power?

        • Toast4122

          America is the largest holder of our debt . China only holds 8 or 9% of our debt.
          http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/21/who-owns-america-hint-its-not-china/

        • advancedatheist

          Read up on Modern Monetary Theory, which I like to call the National Spreadsheet. Federal Debt = private U.S. dollar assets to the penny, because the dollars literally can’t come from anywhere else. That means the Debt Clock we keep seeing really measures total private savings in people’s and institutions’ bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts and so forth. Despite the ignorant propaganda to the contrary, this kind of changes the look of the situation, doesn’t it?

      • bettsoff

         Yes it is, and that’s okay. When we finally get over ourselves and stop freaking out about being the Bestest Country Evah, we will find that it is perfectly possible to maintain quality of life* without being #1.

        *Assuming of course, climate change doesn’t wreak too much havoc.

      • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

        You must be new here, and by ‘here’ I mean Earth.

    • Vanadise

      How do you define “in decline”?  The economy’s not great, but things are looking up from when the housing bubble burst several years ago.  Otherwise, things are looking pretty good for me.  Religion is slowly in decline, we’ve had a lot of wins for social justice lately thanks to growing support for gay marriage, and our health care system is being dragged kicking and screaming out of the dark ages.  I’ll admit, I don’t define the “success” of a nation based purely on how much money it has.
      There are areas where other countries are doing better than the USA or are rapidly improving, but that certainly doesn’t mean we’re in decline.

      And I’m not sure what being over 20 has to do with it, unless you’re trying to dismiss the opinion of anybody under 20 before they can even post.  I’ve been over 20 for quite a while now, though.

      • JBC

         When your national debt exceeds your GDP and you don’t have the yearly income to pay it off by the next generation you are BANKRUPT.

        The possibilities will be economic depression or massive inflation.

        Can you say “Weimar Republic”?

        • Nancyfrankandjoe

          OMG, I think this is Glenn Beck following your blog, Hemant! What an honor!

        • advancedatheist

          The U.S. issues its own sovereign currency, and it literally can’t run out of dollars. It can no more go bankrupt than a bowling alley has to shut down because it has run out of points. Read up on Modern Monetary Theory. 

          BTW, hyperinflationists, why has gasoline gotten cheaper lately? Did someone at the money printing machine turn the knob the wrong way or something? Or does increasing the money supply not necessarily cause inflation because other factors have to come into play? Japan has a public debt of about 240 percent of its GDP, yet the yen hasn’t collapsed. If anything, Japan’s economy still struggles with deflation. 

        • RobMcCune

          You know, it’s sad when people long for the days of WWII just so they can feel self righteous.

        • Baby_Raptor

          Yup. You’re totally the voice to listen to on that. Not people with a vastly higher IQ, who’ve studied the subject for years and made it their job. And people who are obligated to be honest. 

        • Stev84

          The Weimar Republic went down because it couldn’t borrow money anymore. So they saw printing money as their own alternative, causing hyper-inflation. While the US is also printing money to some extent, it’s borrowing capacity is nearly unlimited.

        • Vanadise

          Ok, so just so we’re clear, you define a country’s success by how much money it has in reserve, and I define it in terms of personal liberty, quality of life, and equality.  I’m pretty sure we’re going to have to just agree to disagree here.

      • Coyotenose

        They either mean “People under 20 aren’t familiar with the pre-2008 Crash economy and lack historical context” (which is patronizing, wrong, and implies 1950s/1980s Golden Age Myth thinking), or, if they’re a pseudo-Conservative theist, they mean “People under 20 are usually liberal, and I think that insulting and dismissing them this way is an easy setup to dismiss anyone who agrees with me.” The second one is sort of an extremely passive-aggressive hybrid Association/Begging the Question fallacy (I think) designed to protect the speaker from having to defend his claims.

        It can be both, of course.

    • LesterBallard

      ” The reasons are probably useless to examine, since we won’t want to be honest”

      Please, enlighten us.

      • Baby_Raptor

        What he means is, we won’t come to the result that we kicked the christianist god out, so he’s wrecking everything. 

    • Patterrssonn

      What a load of dreary crap

    • Coyotenose

       Hey, are you the same sick, hypocritical “Guest” who stalks blogs like this one in order to feel outraged enough to justify lying and saying that atheists who criticize Newtown exploiters are worse than the exploiters?

    • Baby_Raptor

      America is slowly coming out of the decline that you and your buddies in delusion put it into. 

      And if you seriously think that “being honest” about why countries are having issues leads to “They kicked my god out, so my god is going to throw a hissy fit and destroy them”…I don’t know what to tell you, but “honestly” isn’t anywhere near it. 

  • Andrew B.

    “But, like Dickerson points out, evangelicals aren’t the only people who
    think homosexuality is a win. Muslims and Catholics feel the same way.
    So what’s the difference?”

    A win?  I wish!

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=watch GodVlogger (on YouTube)

       Hemant: small typo. in your blog post. I’m pretty sure you meant that these religious folks think homosexuality is a Sin, not a Win.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

        Ha, yes. My bad. Fixed.

        • Andrew B.

           But it was such a good bad.

  • Ian Reide

    Speaking as someone who lived through the 80s, even with a question mark, that is a great title.

  • drakvl

    Worship music reveals a lot. From a well-known hymn:

    Jesus is coming soon,
    Morning or night or noon.
    Many will meet their doom!
    Trumpets will sound! (Trumpets will surely sound!)

    That third line is sung with a level of cheerfulness that seems disturbing.

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    “Is Evangelical America Really in Decline?”

    One can only fervently hope.

    • Nancyfrankandjoe

      Hey, if I’m putting my faith into anything, it’s religion’s decline!

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    When stripped of all the supernatural aspects, Christianity basically advances a common-sense self-help psychology – that if we admit we have done bad things in the past, we can draw a line in the sand and turn our life around by concentrating on doing good things. 

    This is a good idea.  Christianity,  though, takes this simple good idea and attaches all these supernatural aspects to it.  Mankind created pure,  falls, God pissed off, God creates hell, loves us though, gives us an out, demands a sacrifice, sacrifices part of Himself on our behalf, demands we repent and accept His sacrifice, only then can we avoid hell and go to heaven. 

    The supernatural “accoutrements” probably had some utility in the early days of Christianity since people thought in supernatural ways back then.  But now the supernatural aspects are getting harder to sell. 

    Modern conservative evangelicalism is largely about maintaining the supernatural aspects.  The problem (for the evangelicals) is that the above described common sense psychology can be performed without the supernatural story mixed in.  

    Christianity will remain relevant if pastors simply leverage the old supernatural stories to sell the common-sense self-help psychology but refrain from insisting that the old supernatural stories are true.  It is fine to have a shared cultural mythology but at some point, one has to grow up. 

    • Bottle Rocket

      So freaking true man.

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      When stripped of all the supernatural aspects, Christianity basically advances a common-sense self-help psychology – that if we admit we have done bad things in the past, we can draw a line in the sand and turn our life around by concentrating on doing good things.

      If only they had stopped there!  It’s unfortunate that they are obsessed with the idea of “sin.” They want to shame people not only for harmful actions, but also thought crime, and set a standard of perfection so unattainable that when people inevitably fail, they will feel even worse about themselves.

      It all boils down to their belief that we are bad. Not just that we’ve done bad things. It’s that we’re inherently awful creatures, in the core of our being, which reeks of self hatred and low self esteem. It’s also disempowering. Rather than embrace personal responsibility, this way of thinking teaches that you can “get out of jail free,” and that only obedience, submission, and ceding control to a supernatural power can make your life better.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Patrick/100000027906887 Adam Patrick

    Those “popular young pastors” are the worst. Mark Driscoll is the first thing that comes to mind when I read that, but living in the Bible Belt, I personally know one, and know of several others. They draw people in by looking and sounding edgy and hip, but hold on to primitive beliefs. Unfortunately, a lot of people fall for them. 

  • C Peterson

    I seriously question how many people are moving away from evangelical Christianity because they have discovered reality. Certainly, that describes atheists. But I’m not sure the number of atheists is growing- it may simply be the number willing to claim that label. The rest of the nones, though… I haven’t seen anything that really tells me that they are moving towards reality, as opposed to simply rejecting obviously obsolete dogma, and dogmatic beliefs that they see as immoral or unethical.

    I guess I’ll have to see a lot more well constructed surveys and studies before I have any real sense for what these shifts actually mean in terms of people’s fundamental religious and theistic beliefs.

    • Octoberfurst

       I’ve often wondered that too.  We tend to crow about the fact that more people are identifying as “non-religious” than ever before. But that does not mean they are atheists.  I have a number of friends who never attend religious services or belong to a church but if you ask them if they believe in God they immediately say yes. (They may not know exactly WHAT they believe about God but they are sure he/she exists.)  Many are what I would call “cultural” Christians and Jews.
        I think that atheists just feel more free about coming out as atheists. We have always been here but atheism is unpopular due to it being unjustly labled as another way of saying you are a “communist” or a “hedonist.”
        I personally think that atheism IS growing but not as fast as some believe it is. I just hope the trend continues.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        It’s true that the Nones are not all atheists, and that a lot of people don’t keep the distinction clear. However, the Nones are rather more like atheists than they are like devout Christians, by several social measures. Additionally, the latest Pew Forum data suggests not only is the number of Nones rising in the US, but so are each of the sub-groups of Nones — the Atheists, the Agnostics, and the Nothing-In-Particular “NIPpers”. As such, the rise isn’t just internal shift. Furthermore, the Atheists and Agnostics are becoming an increasing share of the Nones.

        The “cultural” Christians and Jews would mostly be a separate group entirely — those who still are religiously affiliated, but who if asked consider their affiliation “not very strong”. It seems likely that the not-very-religious are the source of most of the recent slight rise of unaffiliation within each generational cohort; the main rise, however, is from the demographic succession, and the steadily (logistic curve) increasing baseline irreligiosity of each successively younger cohort.

        Similarly, the number of “not very” is getting some boost from people who were strongly or somewhat strongly religious becoming less so. (This oversimplifies a bit, since there’s some flow in both directions.) However, the decline of the fraction of Strongly religious is not as fast as the rise of the Nones.

        All of this hasn’t bothered distinguishing “evangelical” from “strong”. Not all the strongly religious in the US are Christian, but there’s not much shift there. (There’s a tiny increase in the number of strongly religious Hindus.) However, not all Christians are considered “evangelical”; it’s usually reserved for referring to a sub-section of Protestants. And, as was noted earlier this year, the Protestants are no longer the majority in the US.

        If you’re curious about the actual growth rates, there’s some interesting reading over at the PewForum.org website.

        • Octoberfurst

          Thanks. That helped me see things in a different light.  :-)

    • Pseudonym

      I seriously question how many people are moving away from evangelical Christianity because they have discovered reality. [...] The rest of the nones, though… I haven’t seen anything that really
      tells me that they are moving towards reality, as opposed to simply
      rejecting obviously obsolete dogma, and dogmatic beliefs that they see
      as immoral or unethical.

      If your church tells you that gay people are evil, and you discover that they’re not, and that causes you to pull away from the church, how is that not “discovering reality”?

      Granted, it might not be discovering all of reality. But it’s not like you’ve discovered all of reality, either.

      • C Peterson

        Well, my interpretation of “reality” in this context is recognizing the reality of a natural universe that doesn’t require the fantasy of a deity. That is much healthier, of course, than simply moving away from organized religion because you recognize that their dogma is no longer in sync with your personal morals, or those of society.

        • Pseudonym

          You are entitled to your interpretation. I would point out that in turn, letting go of hatred against your fellow humans is even healthier than that.

          Nobody in history has ever “arrived” at a place of
          perfect Vulcan-like rationality. Complaining that person X hasn’t made it as far as I
          have sounds an awful lot like a pissing contest.

          • C Peterson

            I’m not really sure where you’re getting the notion that I’m comparing reality to any Vulcan-like rationality, or that anybody hasn’t made it as far as I, or that I hate my fellow humans…

            All I did was distinguish two kinds of “reality”.

            • Pseudonym

              All I meant by that is that “reality” is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Nobody is fully in touch with reality; it’s a question of degrees on different axes.

              All things considered, Ken Miller is more in touch with reality than Bill Maher. Ken Miller, after all, actually agrees with the scientific facts.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Exactly. While many of the nothing-in-particular NIPpers still hold to an amazing array of muzzy-headed thinking, they’ve at least gotten away from the socially predominant strain. Losing the erroneous dogma makes for an incremental improvement.

        Unfortunately, the marginal improvements seem more to accumulate over successive generations. Even the one step remains progress in the desired direction, though.

    • Russian Alex

      While abandoning evangelical Christianity because of rejection of unethical dogma is not the same as acceptance of naturalism, it is a first step towards atheism and “personal relationship with reality.” Some people stop after taking that step and simply become liberal cafeteria Christians that don’t subscribe to organized religion, and some keep moving and perhaps eventually realize that they don’t believe in gods anymore: they are what you call atheists. Yours truly is just one example of the latter.

      • C Peterson

        While abandoning evangelical Christianity because of rejection of unethical dogma is not the same as acceptance of naturalism, it is a
        first step towards atheism and “personal relationship with reality.”

        I pray it is so! :)

  • Phil

    It’s a  cyclical thing.  The fourth “Great  Awakening”  in American history is coming to a long overdue close, thankfully.  This one was notable for the rise of megachurches, due to the availability of new mass media, had its roots in the turmoil of the late 1960′s, peaked  in the late 1980′s or early 1990′s and has been in decline since about  1999/2000.  See link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Awakening.  It was also one that saw an unprecedented rise in the involvement of religion in politics.   We  survived  it though.

     Hopefully, common sense will prevail for the next few decades.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Compare Strauss-Howe generational theory; what you think of the megachurch “fourth” might not have been so much an Awakening, as the backlash Unravelling against the mysticist “Age of Aquarius” — the actual Awakening of this Seculum. The Southern epicenter would again have more in common with prior Unravellings (or for the Civil War Seculum, the full Crisis that pre-empted the Unravelling).

      We now appear to be in the era of Crisis, and (if the theory holds) probably will remain so until the mid 2020s… about when the first projected majority-None cohort is due to reach adulthood. The real fun, however, won’t start until after the High ends in the mid-to-late-2040s, when the demographic trends point to the US population as a whole becoming minority white ethnically and majority “None” religiously… and the next Awakening is due. Given such demographics, and the Aquarian Awakening being non-Christian (verging on “None”-like), points to the possibility that the next Great Awakening may instead be of Atheism Awakening.

      YMMV.

  • JBC

    Christ was mocked even as he was executed; that is the giveaway distinction between doubters and seekers on the on hand, and people of ill will on the other…and that is the laters reliance on ridicule and mockery. 

    Mehta’s blog was interesting when it first appeared, but even he has admitted that the tittle “the Friendly Atheist” is not accurate.

    I think it is willfully dishonest to continue under that logo, but that again is a giveaway as to your motives.

    • Carmelita Spats

      Any god who slaughters his own kid (a 33-year-old virgin carpenter) is a sociopath who is two sandwiches short of a picnic and as crazy as an acre of snakes. Worshiping a sociopath triggers the gag reflex, like watching flies feed. Period. It is even more willfully dishonest for Evangelical Christianity to continue under the creepy logo, “Loving-You- to-Heaven-Whether -You-Want-Us-To-Or-Not”, but that again is a giveaway as to Evangelical Christianity’s curdled motives.

      • YouBetcha

         He did not slaughter his kid.

        His kid was murdered.

        And Christians are still being killed, all around the world.

        By the way, you anti Jewish jab about the virgin capenter is noted.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/AMNLPDE6FXKEQQ3GVHCCSRZD54 Dave Littler

          She didn’t even mention Judaism, nor yet allude to it. You’re just inventing stuff to get offended about here.

        • Baby_Raptor

          You know…That *should* make you idiots think. People around the world are being MURDERED for your god. 

          But you have to live in a country where people who don’t believe the same way you do get their rights respected. You have to live in a country where the law doesn’t enforce your particular morals. You have to live in a country where you don’t get to force everyone to adhere to your beliefs. And you think *this* is persecution? 

          People are out there dying for your god, and you sit around whining about how persecuted you are that the law won’t let you discriminate against gays, or force your employees to adhere to your preferences for their healthcare, or that the government isn’t allowed to cheerlead your beliefs?

          Seriously. Get over yourselves and come back to reality. realize how Fucking good you have it.

        • Dan

           So he WASN’T a virgen carpenter? It’s not a slure just because it sounds (and is) outlandish.

        • Dan

           Oops, virgin, not virgen, “that typo” could have gone anywhere.

        • Thackerie

           “His kid was murdered.”

          The way I heard it, his kid committed suicide by cop and spent the next 2000+ years trying to make everyone feel sorry for him.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/AMNLPDE6FXKEQQ3GVHCCSRZD54 Dave Littler

      Well, he was written as being mocked when the author of that myth came up with the story, and that was a fairly clever move on his part; it provided a convenient point of reference for the intended believers (such as yourself) to refer back to when they faced the inevitable mockery that he knew would be coming their way. By writing stoic resolve in the face of mockery as a religious virtue, he ensured that you would do what you’re doing now.

      You’re obeying the program well. The software designer who was the author of that myth would be proud.

    • Brian Scott

      Is it always wrong to ridicule something? I prefer not to, but I will criticise harshly, and some will see that as mocking.

      If you only include “doubters” as those who do not hold ill will, you have argued yourself out of relevance of this conversation because you have deliberately framed the argument so as not to allow actual dissent, rather than a weaker uncertainty.

      So if you want to talk about wilful dishonesty, consider the intellectual dishonesty of kafkatrapping people because you get upset when someone makes fun of you.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    Religion in America is on a long slow retreat. Unless there is a total societal breakdown, religiosity will become an oddity.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Neil DeGrasse Tyson said something along the lines of “God is an ever-shrinking pocket of ignorance besieged on all sides as our understanding of science grows.”

      LOVE it. :-)

    • Brian Scott

      I don’t think it will become an oddity, though it will have significantly fewer percent of the population. The Nones increase, but a lot of those Nones are still “spiritual” and interested in religion, just not in a traditionally structured way, and the non-evangelical section of Christianity will be far more accommodating of that.

  • the moother

    It makes me warm all over watching superstition suffer and die.

  • Greg

    My favorite part:  “We cannot change ancient doctrines to adapt to the currents of the day.” 

    Yeah, right, like they’ve never done that.  That’s why marriage is still between one man and as many wives as he can afford.  That’s why slaves are still obeying their masters.  That’s why women are still not allowed to vote. 

    • Baal

       Yes, I wish the bronze age goat herders cared about pollution.  Would it have killed them to throw in a verse on not putting waste into water supplies?

      • Greg

        Ha ha!  Very good.  Don’t poop in your well…or something along those lines.

      • Russian Alex

        No use; just look at the dietary laws. Were they to put a verse to that extent into their holy text, present-day right-wingers would be claiming that it’s all about natural excrement, and nothing is said of modern industrial chemicals. So, dump away all the radioactive, carcinogenic, poisonous, teratogenic waste into our rivers and groundwater, because that’s the way God likes it!

  • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

    Atheism and its weak cousin “spiritual-but-not-religious” are no longer unfavorable options like they used to be. You’re no longer as isolated or shunned if you say you don’t believe that churches or any one religious faith has all the answers. Emphasizing “free forgiveness” won’t help when the idea that the death of someone two thousand years ago cleanses you of your sins is laughable from the get-go.

    Even members of religions push back against that. It might be the result of living in a pluralistic society, but polls show that many non-evangelicals are willing to grant their positive afterlife to people of different religions or no religion. People who belong to other faiths are more inclined to be inclusive, and plenty of them don’t believe in nonsense like “original sin.” They’re just going along with religion for the warm fuzzies. I think evangelicals are also losing the culture war because their religion is so harsh and exclusive, and they won’t let go of the dogma that claims people are inherently bad and that only members of the “right” group are going to be saved.

  • advancedatheist

    This shows what christians really mean when they talk about the rapture: They fear that all the christians will disappear, but through natural attrition over several generations, not because some spooky supernatural evacuation happens to them out of the blue

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    “evangelicals aren’t the only people who think homosexuality is a sin. Muslims and Catholics feel the same way. So what’s the difference? Probably that no other group has tried as hard as evangelicals to force their views upon the population through legislative actions or ballot measures.”

    I have to disagree. The Catholic Church was very much involved in the latest contraception round of the war on women and same sex marriage fights of this last election. Here in Washington the Catholic Church was all over the fight, from gathering the signatures to get the referendum on the ballot to putting out ads to the Archbishop instructing priests to tell their congregations to vote against same sex marriage.

    The difference is that Muslims are a small and much despised minority that has no significant political power and catholics feel much freer to ignore their church hierarchy and come to their own independent moral conclusions than evangelicals do.

  • Baby_Raptor

    My last name is Dickerson. Wonder if I’m related to this guy. 

  • dantresomi

    Ironically, Dickerson demonstrates the problem with the evangelical leaders: while they realize they are losing ground, they refuse to acknowledge that it has anything to do with their doctrine. They assume that its just on how they present their beliefs. So they just have to learn how to say “gay folks are going to hell” in a nicer way? This is ridiculous.  

  • DougI

    Neither candidate focuses intently on promoting themselves as the most religious candidate this year.  In the swing states Obama lost the Catholic and Protestant vote to Romney but won the states with overwhelming support from the “nones”.

    In America the conservative Christians have become intertwined with the unpopular Republican party.  The overly vocal face of Christianity is becoming associated with greed, hatred, intolerance and failure.  It’s no surprise people want to distance themselves from it.

    Another interesting note is in this month’s issue of Mother Jones linking the removal of lead from gasoline to lower crime rates.  Since lead impairs mental function I wonder if the removal of lead from our environment is contributing to the rise of irreligion.  The reddest states have the most religion and the fewest pollution controls.

    So my suggestion, vote Democratic and support a cleaner environment to make fundamentalists less relevant and smaller in number.  Even if I’m wrong it will result in fewer Republicans in office and cleaner air.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lettersfromthetop.davidhull David Hull

    I wanted to interact with a comment you made, “If evangelical Christians believe they’re a beacon of moral goodness, and we know they’re not, we also know not to take them seriously on everything else they say. Why would they be right on anything else?”

    Why would they be right on anything else? If I hear you correctly, what you are saying is that if evangelical Christians are wrong about being “a beacon of moral goodness”, then they are wrong about everything else that comes out of their mouths.

    That seems to be a rather obscurantist, prejudiced, and bigoted statement. How is this different than the logic that you are suggesting that “evangelical Christians” employ? Why does error about one thing by necessity equate to error about all things?

    Your immediately preceding statement noted, “Thankfully, the rest of us have a better sense of decency.” This statement seems to include yourself and the language inherent seems to be advocating that you and the “rest of us” are the beacons of moral goodness rather than evangelical Christians.

    If that statement is proved to be false… would you and the “rest of us” therefore be wrong about everything else? 

    Just curious if I am reading you right…

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      Why does error about one thing by necessity equate to error about all things?

      Evangelicals claim they have the truth, the whole truth, and the only truth. But if their “truth” isn’t true, why should we take them seriously? It’s not that they’re automatically wrong about everything, but their belief system doesn’t make sense, and it’s also actively harmful. There’s no reason to take their claims of moral superiority any more seriously than their truth claims. They don’t show any signs of being a beacon of “moral goodness,” and they don’t show any signs of being right about their supernatural claims.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vinimarques Vini Marques

    Decided to comment just to applaude your line about the swan song. Priceless. *clap clap clap*

  • Aspieguy

    I believe the fatal flaw in evangelical christianity is its involvement in partisan politics. Not only are they aligned with the Republican Party, but they actively lobby their congressmen to implement their religious beliefs. The past election is showing their waning influence. 


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