What Kind of ‘None’ Are You?

NonesThe Recent Pew Research Center’s recent findings that “Nones” comprise nearly 23 percent of America’s adult population reminded me of how often Nones are misunderstood and misrepresented in this country, and how labels can be tricky little fellows.

As a writer, I have grappled repeatedly with how best to reach my intended audience; should I use secular, non-religiousunaffiliatednon-traditionalprogressive? I’ve settled on non-religious or secular in most cases, but even those can be misleading. Does a non-religious parent refer to only an individual who does not have a religion, or does it refer to anyone who has chosen to raise children outside the restraints of one specific religious doctrine?

The difference may seem academic, but these slight variations make huge differences to demographers like those at Pew, who are trying to assess people’s beliefs, and to authors like me, who are trying to get their books in front of the people who might benefit from them.

So what is a None exactly? The following is a list of the most common labels that fall in the catchall category. (There are many others.) You’ll notice that most of the terms are not mutually exclusive.

Which labels describe you? Anything missing from this list?

Apatheists: Those who are indifferent to belief/disbelief or consider the subject meaningless.

Agnostics: Those who believe that the existence of God is unknown and unknowable.

Atheists (Positive): Those who assert that no gods exist.

Atheists (Negative): Those who lack belief in any god.

Brights: Those who belong to a socio-cultural movement promoting a “naturalistic” world-view — based in nature with no supernatural forces.

Deists: Those who believe in the existence of a god as creator of the universe but reject all organized religion and super-natural events. [Read more...]

‘This American Life’ Reporter Tackles Anti-Semitism With Her 3-Year-Old

If you’re a parent and a This American Life fan, be sure to check out the latest episode — titled “Birds & Bees” — which tackles three subjects that parents often have a hard time discussing with their children: race, death and sex.

Here’s the teaser:

Some information is so big and so complicated that it seems impossible to talk to kids about. This week, stories about the vague and not-so-vague ways to teach children about race, death and sex – including a story about colleges responding to sexual assault by trying to teach students how to ask for consent. Also, a story about how and when to teach kids about the horrors of slavery and oppression in America.

Chana Joffe-WaltIn the show’s opener, reporter Chana Joffe-Walt shares a situation she has been dealing with herself with her own small children: religion. Chana is Jewish, but her 3-year-old son (who has picked up on some religious terminology) is making her uncomfortable, to say the least, with some of his comments of late. She shares one particular recording that she made of an adorably hilarious (and, yes, a tiny bit heartbreaking) conversation the two had during bath time.

First, she sets up the scene. Her son, Jacob, is playing “restaurant” and is giving out cups and little animals to customers — but only, he explains, to Christian customers.

Jacob: Is your family Christian?

Chana: No

Jacob: Is your mom or your dad Christian?

Chana: No

Jacob: Is your brother or your sister Christian?

Chana: No. They’re all Jewish.

[Jacob snatches the animal and says, "Sorry."] [Read more...]

‘Mommy, Can I Draw Muhammad?’ Patheos Writers Weigh In

IMG_0135-1Occasionally this blog features a series called “Mommy, What’s That?” — aimed at giving secular parents some simple, straightforward and open-minded ways to describe religious concepts. We’ve covered Satan, souls, the Bible — you know, run-of-the-mill Judeo-Christian stuff.

But a couple of months ago, I began thinking about a particularly tricky (and uniquely Islamic) concept that seems to be ever-present in our public dialogue right now — the controversy over drawing Muhammad.

I sat down and typed “Mommy, Can I Draw Muhammad?” but then I stopped.

I found myself struggling — primarily because this wasn’t solely a religious concept in my mind; it was a political concept. And while I’m highly tolerant of people’s religious beliefs, I’m not at all tolerant of civil rights abuses, religious discrimination, gender inequality or shooting cartoonists who are exercising their freedom of speech.

So I decided to step aside and ask some of my fellow bloggers here at Patheos what they would say to their own kids. The result is a rather wonderful “virtual roundtable” discussion on the issue of drawing Muhammad. I’m immensely proud of the wisdom these writers have shared with me, and I hope you enjoy it, too.

To keep the piece as brief as possible, I’ve categorized the comments into five main pieces of advice — a step-by-step guide, if you will, to discussing Muhammad with kids. It should be noted that some writers emphasized sensitivity and respect, while others emphasized free speech — but all of them, without exception, indicated that the real question isn’t whether children can draw Muhammad, but whether they should — and why they would want to.

Members of the roundtable are as follows: Dilshad Ali (Muslima Next Door), Ryan Bell (Year Without God), Neil Carter (Godless in Dixie), Dale McGowan (Secular Spectrum), Kaveh Mousavi (On the Margin of Error) and Qasim Rashid (Islam Ahmadiyya).

Here we go: [Read more...]

Must-Watch Friday: Kids React to Gay Marriage

Happy Friday, everyone!

Apparently I’ve been watching a lot of videos this week because here comes another at you. This one is part of the “Kids React” YouTube series, which my 9-year-old daughter loves.

Have you seen any of these things? They are clips of kids watching and responding to various videos and memes. I had been rather meh on them myself, honestly, until this week. That’s when Maxine and I watched this one together — kids reacting to gay marriage.

Now I think they’re genius.

[Read more...]

Indian Children Talk Religion (And Lack Thereof)

Just stumbled across this little gem of a video, posted earlier today on the Being Indian YouTube channel as part of a series called “Kids Speak Out.” And DAMN is it compelling.

According to a story about the video that ran on on NDTV in India:

Being Indian collaborated with ad filmmaker N Padmakumar on this five-minute long video in which Indian children between the ages of seven and 12 were asked what religion means to them. Their responses are both heart-warming and thought-provoking. The video has got over 300 views.

Of course, now the video is up to 56,000 views.

Let’s help get that even higher, shall we?


What You Should Know About Pew’s New Religion Study

Sun Through the TreesThe Pew Research Center’s second U.S. Religious Landscape Study, released today, is well worth reading. In a report called “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” Pew contends that Christianity has dropped from 78 percent of the American population to 70 percent within the last seven years.

Some predict that the new numbers may signal a dramatic shift in American politics. Printed in USA Today:

Politicians should take note, said Mike Hout, a sociologist and demographer at New York University who is also a co-director of the General Social Survey.

“Traditionally, we thought religion was the mover and politics were the consequence,” he said. Today, it’s the opposite.

Over the same seven-years time period — between 2007 and 2014 — those unaffiliated with any religious tradition has jumped almost seven points, from 16% to almost 23%, Pew found. (Often called Nones, the unaffiliated include atheists, agnostics, deists and “nothing in particular.”) This particular spike is not quite as shocking, given that other major studies conducted in 2012 put the number of Nones in the 20% range. Still, the heathens are creeping. Hide your children!

The other net increases in religiosity occurred among Muslims (.5% increase) and Hindus (.3% increase.) So, yeah, all that Christian hate-mongering* of Muslims? Not really working.

A couple of other things that I found of particular interest in the study:

• Evangelicals are going strong. Most of Christianity’s losses were visited upon Catholicism and mainline Christianity. Evangelical Christianity stayed pretty consistent — at 25% of the total.

• Intermarriage is seriously on the rise, especially among Nones. Nearly one-in-five people surveyed who got married since 2010 were either Nones who married Christians or Christians who married Nones. [Read more...]

A Catholic Kid and a Freethinking Kid Walk Into a Bar…

2 Gals TalkingA Pittsburgh dad and longtime Natural Wonderers reader submitted the following transcript for inclusion in a little series I like to call “God, That’s Funny!” It’s a recent interaction between his 9-year-old daughter (we’ll call her by her first initial, “E”) and an 8-year-old neighbor girl (“T”).

Somehow, the topic of conversation turned to religion; E is being raised a freethinker, T a Catholic. Here’s how it went. Kudos to Dad for writing it all down. And kudos to little E for being generally freaking awesome.

T: So you don’t believe in God?
E: No.
T: But he made the whole world!  Everything!
E: …
T: You don’t believe that? That’s sad.
E: No, I don’t believe that. It’s not sad. I don’t think God exists, so he couldn’t have made everything.
T: I think that’s sad.
E: Different people believe different things, [T].  And that’s OK. It’s OK for people to believe different things.
T: Are you Catholic?
E: I don’t know what that is.
T: Are you Christian? I’m Catholic and Christian. Are you Christian?
E: We don’t go to church…
T: You’ve never been to church?!?
E: We go sometimes with family, like at Easter when we’re with my grandparents.
T: Well, I’m Catholic and Christian.  So are you Catholic and just not Christian? 
E: [T]…
T: I was baptized. Were you baptized?
E: No.
T: Do you think you ever will?  Will you get baptized someday?
E: I don’t know, [T].  But, if I do, it will be my own decision.

[Read more...]

Dear Evangelical Friend — Would You Rather Fail At Being My Savior, Or Succeed at Being My Friend?

A certain someone in my life recently reached out to tell me he’d pray for me.

It was a simple gesture and one that would have been most welcome had I been going through a tough time — facing a serious illness, perhaps, or coping with the loss of a loved one. But this was different. This “I’ll pray for you” was not a synonym for “I’m thinking of you” or “I love you,” but, rather, a synonym for “Something is terribly wrong with you” and “May God forgive you.” This was not a message of love — but a pointed criticism veiled as prayer.

woman prayingI suppose I should have seen in it coming.

Before I decided to write a book for non-religious parents, I was one of American’s “quiet disbelievers.”
That is, I didn’t share my views publicly. I knew atheism and agnosticism were roundly misunderstood, and I didn’t want my religious friends and family to think poorly of me — or to try to convince me I was wrong.

But I truly felt that my message, which involves raising children free of bigotry and indoctrination, was worth sharing. I wanted nonreligious Americans, like myself, to teach their children to judge people on what they do in life — not what they believe. I wanted parents to encourage their kids to choose their own spiritual or non-spiritual paths — wherever those may lead. But to write this book, I had to take a stand. And that meant outing myself as an atheist.

Now, a certain evangelical someone from my past — someone I genuinely like and admire — has emerged with “prayers” for me.

So what do I do now? How can I respond in a way that stays true to myself but does not send our friendship into the past tense? My sense is that a simple “Thank you” is the best course. Or may be a joke: “It’s too late for me, friend. Save yourself!” But what if that doesn’t suffice? What if, instead of dropping it, he just, you know, keeps on praying?

Here is what I want to say:

Dear friend, [Read more...]

Producer Seeking Subjects for Documentary About Belief

Image-1Belief is an endlessly fascinating subject.

We all live in the same world, are made up of the same matter and have access to the same set of facts and evidence. So why do some of us believe things that others don’t? What makes the difference? And why is it all so goddamn important to us?

That’s what a documentary film crew wants to find out. And they want your help.

Candor Entertainment in Los Angeles is working with director Dr. Joe Sorge to produce a documentary called Belief. The filmmakers tell me they are looking to touch on a range of different beliefs — religion, spirituality, extreme superstition, nutrition, diet, vaccines, politics and philosophy. And they are particularly interested in “human stories, change-of-belief stories and impending-conflict stories.”

It seems a worthy endeavor so I agreed to pass it on to you.

Here are some examples they provided. [Read more...]

Critical Thinking Doesn’t Mean Criticizing Others’ Beliefs

Elsa Cape When Maxine was 8 years old, she started getting the hang of basic logic: If A is true, then B must be true. If you believe A, you must believe B. If A doesn’t exist… you get the drift.

Around this time, Maxine’s 4-year-old cousin, Jack, was very into the movie Frozen — particularly the character of Elsa, the snow queen. One day, his mom called me up and told me that, during a conversation about beliefs, Jack had said: “I believe in Elsa.” Sweet, right?

So I shared the conversation with Maxine. But, to my surprise, she couldn’t see the sweetness at all — only the wrongness.

“Jack can’t believe in Elsa,” she said emphatically.

If Jack believes in Elsa, she explained, he has to believe in Olaf (the snowman friend) and Sven (the reindeer friend). This was clearly illogical — snowman aren’t alive and reindeer can’t talk — and the whole thing bothered her in the extreme. You could tell she wanted to call Jack up right that instant and give him an earful.

CharactersNow, Maxine is not “above” irrational beliefs. Believe me, at that time (just like today), she carries around her fair share of them. But, for the first time, she was beginning to make logical arguments on her own and experience a very strong desire to set people straight when it came to “wrong” conclusions.” [Read more...]