Atheists who pray

As many as 6% of atheists pray, as many non-believers seek the benefits of religion without, you know, believing in it.  Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post talks to some of them. [Read more...]

More on the salvation of non-believers

In trying to explain Pope Francis’s statement about atheists that we blogged about, a Vatican spokesman, Father Thomas Rosica wrote a piece entitled Explanatory Note on the Meaning of ‘Salvation’ in Francis’ Daily Homily of May 22:  Reflections on Atheists, Christians, and Who Will Be Saved.  He nuanced what the pope said, but he didn’t explain it away, nor did he say, as we did in our discussion, that he was referring to meeting together in the realm of civil righteousness.  Rather, Father Rosica explained the sense in which atheists and other non-believers can, in fact, be saved:

4)  The great German Jesuit theolgian, Fr. Karl Rahner introduced the idea of “anonymous Christian” into theological reflection. Through this concept, offered to Christians, Rahner said that God desires all people to be saved, and cannot possibly consign all non-Christians to hell.  Secondly, Jesus Christ is God’s only means of salvation. This must mean that the non-Christians who end up in heaven must have received the grace of Christ without their realising it.   Hence the term – ‘anonymous Christian’. [Read more...]

Atheist church

An Atheist church has opened in London:

Yesterday [January 6] saw the first ‘service’ of The Sunday Assembly, London’s first atheist church.

Priding itself on its tagline ‘live better, help often, wonder more,’ The Sunday Assembly is the brainchild of Sanderson Jones and musical comedian Pippa Evans, and aims to take the best things about religion and religious ceremonies, but to do it without all the god-talk. Or, as Sanderson himself has put it, it’s “a godless congregation that will meet on the first Sunday of every month to hear great talks, sing songs and generally celebrate the wonder of life.”

The first ‘service’ was held yesterday morning at the deconsecrated church The Nave in north London, and featured a talk by children’s author Andy Stanton and was shaped around the theme ‘Beginnings’.

via Comedian Sanderson Jones opens ‘London’s first atheist church’ – TNT Magazine.

Do atheists believe in “the wonder of life” like religious people do?  I thought atheists are scientific, materialist reductionists who think everything has a rational explanation.  Anyway, it’s touching, though somewhat inexplicable, that some people like church as long as God is left out of it. [Read more...]

Keeping Santa in Christmas but dropping Jesus

Christians typically every year take up the cause of keeping Christ in Christmas.  The American Atheists organization has taking up the cause of keeping Santa in Christmas and dropping Jesus.  Here is a sign they put up in Times Square:

atheist christmas billboard

Steadfast Lutherans » Keep the Merry…and the Myth.

Similarly, Christians regularly decry the commercialization of Christmas.  Ayn Rand,  conservatives’ favorite atheist, says commercialization is the best thing about it.  From Michael Schmitz:

 

“The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.”

-Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Calendar, December 1976

Religious retention rates

A study of religious retention rates–that is, what percentage of people raised in a particular church or religion stay with it when they are grown–is quite interesting.  Lutherans are in second place among Protestants (58%),  just after the Baptists (60%).  The group with the worst performance in transmitting their beliefs to their young people is atheists (30%).

 

Did you know that Atheists have the lowest retention rate of any “religious” group? Some interesting Data from CARA | Archdiocese of Washington.

 

HT:  Joe Carter

What the “nones” believe

Lutheran sociologist Peter Berger discusses the phenomena of the “nones,” the growing demographic–currently 19% of the American population– that is unaffiliated with any religion.  Some say this group represents the secular elite, a wave of atheism, the sexually-liberated young people reacting against the sexual restrictions of religion.  But, says Berger, the evidence suggests otherwise:

The “nones” are most strongly represented among people with an income under $30,000, with high school graduation or less, who are married but (interestingly) without children. I am enough of a sociologist to think that class comes in somewhere in this matter, but it is unlikely to be a major factor.

I find most intriguing the Pew data on the religious beliefs and behavior of the “nones”. Let us stipulate that the “nones”, especially if they are young, are repelled by the neo-Puritanism of religious conservatives. But does this mean that they have decided (in the words of the authors) “to opt out of religion altogether”? I am strongly inclined to say no. Back to Pew data: 60% of “nones” say that they believe in God, as against 22% who say not. 41% say that religion is important in their lives, a minority as against the 57% who say that religion is not important—but a minority large enough to contradict the assertion that the “nones” have turned against religion altogether. What they have clearly turned away from is participation in institutional worship: 72% say that they seldom or never attend church services.

Let me, with all due respect for Campbell and Putnam [authors of a book on the subject that Berger is reviewing], suggest a hypothesis of my own: Most “nones” have not opted out of religion as such, but have opted out of affiliation with organized religion. Among Christians (the great majority of all survey respondents) there are different reasons for this disaffection. The two authors are very probably correct that, broadly speaking, those who are turned off by Evangelicals and conservative Catholics do so because they don’t like the repressive sexual morality of those churches (the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church has not helped). But the “nones” have also exited from mainline Protestantism, which has been much more accommodating to the liberationist ethic. Here, I think, there has been frustration with what my friend and colleague Thomas Luckmann long ago called “secularization from within”—the stripping away of the transcendent dimensions of the Gospel, and its reduction to conventional good deeds, popular psychotherapy and (mostly left-of-center) political agendas. Put differently: My hypothesis implies that some “nones” are put off by churches that preach a repressive morality, some others by churches whose message is mainly secular.

What then do these people believe? There is very likely a number (in America a relatively small one) of “nones” who are really without religion—agnostics or (even fewer) outright atheists. The latter have been encouraged by the advocates of the so-called “new atheism”—which is not new at all, but rather a reiteration of a tired 19th-century rationalism, pushed by a handful of writers who have been misrepresented as an important cultural movement. Presumably it is committed atheists who spark litigation over allegations that, for instance, a Christmas tree in a public park is a violation of the constitution. The bulk of the “nones” probably consist of a mix of two categories of unaffiliated believers—in the words of the British sociologist Grace Davie, people who “believe without belonging”. There are those who have put together an idiosyncratic personal creed, putting together bits and pieces of their own tradition with other components. Robert Wuthnow, the most productive and insightful sociologist of American religion, has called this “patchwork religion”. This includes the kind of people who will say “I am Catholic, but…”, followed by a list of items where they differ from the teachings of the church. The other category are the children—by now, grandchildren—of the counter-culture. They will most often say, “I am spiritual, not religious”. The “spirituality” is typically an expression of what Colin Campbell, another British sociologist, has called “Easternization”—an invasion of Western civilization by beliefs and practices from Asia. A few of these are organized, for instance by the various Buddhist schools. But most are diffused in an informal manner—such as belief in reincarnation or the spiritual continuity between humans and nature, and practices like yoga or martial arts.

via The Religiously Unaffiliated in America | Religion and Other Curiosities.

So 60% of those who belong to no religion believe in God, and 41% say religion is important to them, even though they don’t have one.  I agree with Berger that the privatization of religion–the anti-institutionalism that rejects churches and “organized religion” and the impulse to devise one’s own personal theology–accounts for much of this.

That’s a useful term:  “secularization from within.”  That is, the way churches have embraced secular values, thus rendering themselves superfluous.

What other observations can you make about the “nones”?

Are any of you readers “nones,” and if so does any of this ring true?

HT:  Matthew Cantirino


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