Why the U.S. is heading toward nonbelief

Why the U.S. is heading toward nonbelief July 22, 2020

By James A. Haught

The Secular Age is snowballing in America, as in other Western democracies. Year after year, reports show church membership and attendance slip-slidin’ away.

Church leaders agonize over this ominous erosion. Endlessly, they call for more prayer, more proselytizing and other tactics to entice believers. They ask why the relentless loss is happening.

Sociologists too analyze the cultural shift and offer various explanations. Many concur that Western life is becoming more prosperous and secure, so people no longer feel an urge to pray for divine help. That makes sense.

While experts search for answers, I want to employ Occam’s Razor, the philosophical axiom that says the simplest, most straightforward explanation is the best. Tens of millions of Americans have turned away from supernatural religion for an obvious reason, in my view: They see that it’s untrue. Intelligent, educated, modern people perceive that magical dogmas are a bunch of hooey — just fairy tales with no factual reality. Gods and devils, heavens and hells, angels and demons, miracles and messiahs, prophecies and divine visitations, visions and other such stuff, are fiction.

Researchers generally accept the Flynn Effect, which says average IQs have been continuously rising over the past many decades. Better-educated Americans are smarter than they were in the 1960s. They can detect nonsense more easily. Further, researchers find that doubters have higher IQ than believers do. As the West grows more intelligent, the brightest reject supernatural claims.

Ever since Ancient Greece, brave thinkers have doubted holy hokum. Among the wildest was the late comedian George Carlin, who proclaimed:

When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims: religion. No contest. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of 10 things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these 10 things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit! … There is no God. None, not one, no God, never was.

Right before our eyes, supernatural faith is dying in America. Using Occam’s Razor, we can conclude that it is happening because magical dogmas no longer are believable.


FFRF Member James A. Haught, syndicated by PeaceVoice, was the longtime editor at the Charleston Gazette and has been the editor emeritus since 2015. He has won two dozen national newswriting awards and is author of 12 books and 150 magazine essays. He also is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine and was writer-in-residence for the United Coalition of Reason.

This piece is adapted from a Jan. 9, 2019, column for Daylight Atheism at Patheos.

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