By James A. Haught
Next time you pass a million-dollar church, remind yourself that it represents a goofy streak of humanity.
Christian houses of worship symbolize the claim that God impregnated a virgin to produce his son Jesus as a half-divine half-human to live among people.
But the doctrine of the trinity says God and Jesus are the same deity, which could mean that Jesus impregnated his own mother to make himself. Was that akin to divine incest?
Thomas Jefferson wrote, in an 1823 letter to John Adams:
“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”
George Carlin called religion “the greatest bullshit story ever told.”
Thomas Edison said, “Religion is all bunk.”
Religion is fading swiftly in western democracies as generations grow more intelligent and educated. Already, fewer than half of Americans belong to a church, synagogue or mosque. Younger adults especially renounce supernaturalism.
Christianity is booming in low-income regions of Africa and South America – places where faith tends to be highly emotional. Several reports say one-fourth of global Christians now “speak in tongues” at Pentecostal churches. Such worship lacks intellectual prestige. It doesn’t fit among sophisticated, thinking people.
Someday, if the West’s secular tsunami continues, it may become a social embarrassment to attend church. Families may avoid telling friends that a son or daughter has become hooked on religion – as they once did when offspring joined the Moonies or other cults.
When I was young in the 1950s, you weren’t considered respectable unless you belonged to a proper church. To doubt religion was an outrage. But now, doubting religion is common among intelligent people. The ratio of young Americans who say their faith is “none” is approaching half. They embrace the famous Beatles song:
“Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky. Imagine all the people living for today. Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.”
The Secular Age is snowballing. Irrationality is retreating from modern democracies. Hurrah.
Here’s a different sort of irrationality:
Multitudes of far-right Trump supporters are catching Covid-19 because they refuse vaccinations, often for religious reasons.
If many of them sicken and die from their stubbornness, will it be a loss to America?
(Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine.)