According to the 2019 American Values Survey, 40.5% of Americans agree that it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values. 58.8%, however, either disagree or strongly disagree.
That’s good news.
A quick note about the survey:
The American Values Survey is an annual multi-issue survey on religion, culture and public policy . . . to help journalists, scholars, pundits, thought leaders, clergy and the public better understand debates on public policy and the religious and cultural atmosphere that is shaping American politics and society.
(Suffice it to say, the survey is a good source that tackles many of the questions inquiring minds want to know about what Americans are thinking on a range of topics, including speculative questions about God and religion. Check it out if it suits your fancy.)
That said, I had one disappointment with the results. I devoured all 57 pages of the survey and didn’t find the question I want to have answered: How many Americans think that they need to discard religion altogether in order to become a more ethical person?
In other words, let’s flip the question on its head. because I think it’s imperative that people stop following organized religions if they want to become better people.
Why did you leave religion?
I still get asked this question from time to time and the answer I usually provide is that I left religion to become a better person. By better, I really do mean having a stronger and broader ethical foundation to stand on than my faith was providing for me.
You see, religion has a way of making a person focus on their own lives to the exclusion of everything else. When a person is in a religion little matters except the salvation of their soul. One is simply too preoccupied with their faults (sins) and working so hard to earn God’s favor that other concerns fade from view.
This is not my opinion insomuch as it’s based on biblical mandates. Christians believe that Jesus may come at any moment, that their faith must consume their lives, and that they might even have to forsake friends or family members to pursue their beliefs. It’s this kind of personal devotion that leads to what I call having an us and them mentality.
Having an us and them mentality is cherishing the tribal notion that only me and my people matter. It’s a contrived bias in which believers tend to think they are right and everybody else is wrong; that their people know the truth and no other faith-based group measures up; and that they are justified in saying and doing what they want because they think God is giving them their marching orders.
I saw the moral implications in this way of thinking straightaway upon my conversion, and it was an eventual deal breaker for me. I thought it wrong to think about people and to interact with them in this way. I didn’t want to feel animosity or disown family members and friends who didn’t believe as I. I couldn’t justify the level of arrogance required to think that I was better than others.
In other words, I had to leave religion because it became a moral imperative.
And when that moment arrived when I had to make my break from religion, I couldn’t wait to reengage with humanity again. To become a participant in life. To dive headlong into all the wonders of human existence—and yes, the horrors too—because this is the only way to engage in life and find ways to make a difference.
This is just one of the reasons why I left religion to become a better person. I’ve got many more, but perhaps readers have a few they’d like to share?
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