The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘nontheist’

Non-Religious on the Rise… In Congress!

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 7, 2013

If you’ve followed the blog for any amount of time, then you know that I’ve touched on the topic of a rising secular and non-religious demographic in the United States; in fact, now 1-in-5 Americans label themselves as non-religious.  I also wrote about Kyrsten Sinema, a newly elected Congresswoman who has openly identified herself as atheist.  Well, it seems that there is now a convergence between these two things emerging, because this new Congress now contains the highest number of openly non-religious members in history!

US-Congress

It’s not just for religious fundamentalists anymore :)

This Politico story has more details:

Non-believers on rise in Congress

By CHARLES MAHTESIAN | 1/5/13 2:34 PM EST

The number of members of Congress who don’t identify with any particular religion is on the rise, according to an analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

In the 96th Congress (1979-80), not a single member of the House or Senate said they didn’t belong to any particular faith, didn’t know or refused to disclose their religion. But in the new 113th Congress, 10 members fall under that category.

That’s twice as many as in the 111th Congress (2009-10).

Pew notes there’s still a great disparity between the percentage of U.S. adults and the percentage of members of Congress who don’t identify with any particular religion. …

… The numbers here caught my eye, not because of the disparity between non-believers in the general population and in Congress, but because I was surprised so many members actually admitted to it. … [emphasis added]

Exactly.  I, and many others, have long suspected that there are a good number of closeted “nones” in our Congress, but up until now they’ve been cautious about self-identifying as non-religious for fear of electoral backlash.  However, it seems that, slowly but surely, those days are drawing to a close :)

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The Demise of the Religious Right?

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 16, 2012

In a recent post, I outlined how secular Americans are starting to make inroads into the political process, partly due to the rise of a non-religious demographic in the United States.  On a related note, I find it worth pointing out the fact that the power and influence of the socially and religiously conservative movement known as the “religious right” seems to be on the decline.  Evidence for this can be found by looking at the results of the 2012 elections.  The following article from The Atlantic magazine goes into more detail; I shall share my thoughts on a few excerpts…

An ‘Evangelical Disaster': What Happened to the Religious Vote?

… “I think this [election] was an evangelical disaster,” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told NPR. He’s right, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

The late Falwell’s Liberty University gave former Gov. Mitt Romney its keynote spot at its 2012 commencement and backed off previous language calling Mormonism a “cult.” Billy Graham uncharacteristically threw his support behind the Republican candidate, and his evangelistic association bought full-page newspaper ads all but endorsing Romney. Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition spent tens of millions in battleground states to get out the religious vote.

As a result, 79 percent of white evangelicals voted for Romney on Tuesday. That’s the same percentage that Bush received in 2004, and more than Sen. John McCain received in 2008. The evangelical vote was 27 percent of the overall electorate — the highest it’s ever been for an election.

Their support wasn’t enough. Not only did President Obama win soundly, but four states voted to allow same-sex marriage. …

So why is it that the religiously conservative vote didn’t win out?  Here are some reasons:

… First, the size of the evangelicals’ base is a limitation. While white evangelicals comprised a quarter of the electorate, other religious groups that lean Democratic have grown substantially. Hispanic-American Catholics, African-American Protestants, and Jewish-Americans voted Democratic in overwhelming numbers. Additionally, the “nones” — those who claim no religious affiliation — are now the fastest growing “religious” group, comprising one-fifth of the population and a third of adults under 30. Seven out of 10 “nones” voted for Obama.

Second, evangelicals’ influence is waning. Conservative Christian ideas are failing to shape the broader culture. More than 3,500 churches close their doors every year, and while Americans are still overwhelmingly spiritual, the institutional church no longer holds the sway over their lives it once did. The sweeping impact of globalization and the digital age has marginalized the church and its leaders. …

… Third, evangelical leadership is wanting. A quarter-century ago, Christian mobilization efforts were rising, Christian advocacy groups were sprouting, and charismatic Christian leaders were popping up in every corner of the country. This is no longer the case.

Politically influential pastors like Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy have died, James Dobson retired, and Pat Robertson has been relegated to the fringes of his own community. By any reckoning, few charismatic figures are able or willing to fill these voids.

The leadership vacuum became painfully obvious during the Republican primaries, when 150 “high-powered” evangelical leaders, including Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer, met behind closed doors in Texas to determine which candidate should receive their endorsement. They chose Rick Santorum, but in the South Carolina primaries a week later, Newt Gingrich and Romney split two-thirds of the state’s evangelical vote.

Additionally, organizations like the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition are either defunct or defunded, while Focus on the Family has made clear its intention to move in a less political direction. The number and influence of evangelical organizations shaping the public square is greatly diminished. …

Will the religious right end up dying off?  I’m not sure, but whether or not you view this as a good thing (personally, I see it as a positive development that fundamentalist religion is having less influence on our modern society), I think it is safe to say that things are changing in the United States.

Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Kyrsten Sinema: First Open Non-Theist Elected to Congress

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 8, 2012

Wow… this was one hell of an election!  I just want to point out a couple of notable races.  In this post, I want to focus on Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat in Arizona’s 9th Congressional District who looks to be the first openly non-theistic (atheistic?) person elected to Congress!  I say “looks to be” because 1) the race hasn’t officially been concluded (votes are still being counted, but Sinema has a lead which only seems to be growing), and 2) Pete Stark, Congressman from California, is openly non-theistic, but he didn’t originally run as an out-of-the-closet non-theist.  Here’s more on Kyrsten Sinema:

Kyrsten Sinema: ‘We’re Optimistic’ in Arizona

… Election for Sinema would be no small feat in the state that produced U.S. senator and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain and Gov. Jan Brewer, whose exceptionally conservative immigration policies have regularly made national news. In many ways, Sinema, who is also an open nontheist and was raised Mormon and attended Brigham Young University, is an anomaly in Arizona politics. But she’s ahead in some polls in the final stages of her race against Parker, though it’s one of Congress’s tightest races. …

As I’ve stated before, this is the wave of the future, folks.  With the rise of a more openly secular demographic in the United States, coupled with the inevitable decline (read: dying off) of the most religious demographic, the good ol’ U.S. of A. will move towards more diversity in both popular culture and political representation.  And that includes non-theists :)

Posted in politics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Center For Inquiry Chicago Event: “On Deities, Doctrines, Superstitions and Other Things to Die For”

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 12, 2010

Anyone involved in skepticism in and around the Chicago area no doubt knows that one of the key organizations in the local skeptic/freethought movement is the Center For Inquiry Chicago. They have an upcoming event that I would like to pass along to you all in case anyone’s interested in attending…

The Center For Inquiry/Chicago invites you to our multi-media, participatory, Fall extravaganza!

On Deities, Doctrines, Superstitions
and Other Things to Die For

In Wicker Park at “St. Paul’s” Cultural Center – 2215 W. North Ave. – Chicago
Saturday, September 18th 2010, from
7:00 pm – 11:00 pm

The program includes:

  • Mark Twain “in person”Warren Brown, a nationally renowned Twain scholar, will perform as Twain, Huck, and Jim, the runaway slave, and will illuminate their views on science, humanism and slavery. A Q&A discussion will follow the performance.
  • Davis Schneiderman, a thought provoking multimedia author, college professor, and editor will read sections from his new book: “Drain.
  • Miki Greenberg of “It’s A Girl” will mobilize us with his satirical songs.
  • Poetry Slam! Write your own verse and then sign in with Davis Schneiderman, the host! Be ready to present! As always with a Slam, everything goes: reading, reciting or singing your poem/song, in costume or in plain clothes. Use your creativity, but stay with the theme, “On Deities, Doctrines, Superstitions and Other Things to Die For.” Be prepared—in keeping with the Slam tradition, the audience will express its admiration or disapproval of your wordsmithing!
  • Art exhibit by three CFI/Chicago members—Ayala Leyser, Eric Wall and Ivan Phillips—on the theme “Not What Meets the Eye: On Deities, Doctrines, Superstitions and Other Things to Die For”

Throughout the evening:

  • Food and snacks included with your admission. Cash bar is available for very reasonably priced drinks and soft drinks.

Free street parking, public transportation is nearby, and bike stands are available.

Click here to register online! Don’t miss this one!

Admission:

If you’ve never before been a Friend of the Center, become a Friend at $60 and pay only $7 more for this event—over half off!

Price if purchased online by Sept. 11th (one week before):

Regular: $15
Current Friend of Center: $12
Student: $8

Price if purchased online after Sept. 11th, or at the door (if at door, cash is much preferred):

Regular: $18
Current Friend of Center: $15
Student: $10

See below for performers’ bios:

Warren Brown, a nationally known Illinois Humanities Council “Roads Scholar,” presents a first-person Chautauqua-style program as Mark Twain. Twain will take us on a journey on water, land, and air, sharing insights from the “Diaries of Adam and Eve” and thoughts about Galileo and Newton. Mark Twain is claimed by freethinkers as one of our own for his still remarkably contemporary, funny and humanist viewpoints on religion, hypocrisy, and the straight-laced Victorian “virtues” of Then and Now.  Brown received the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award for his Chautauqua-style portrayal of Samuel Clemens, “bridging the lessons of history with the demands of contemporary living.”

A multimedia artist and writer, Davis Schneiderman is the author and editor of eight books, including the novels Drain, Abecedarium, and the forthcoming blank novel, Blank: a novel. He co-edited the collections Retaking the Universe: Williams S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization and The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism’s Parlor Game; as well as the audio collage Memorials to Future Catastrophes. His creative work has appeared in numerous publications. He is Chair of the English Department, and Director of Press/&NOW Books, at Lake Forest College.

As a pianist, composer and arranger for Maestro Subgum & the Whole, Miki Greenberg has been making music on Chicago’s underground scene since 1986. He co-founded the Lunar Cabaret in 1994 and is currently with the group “It’s A Girl,” working on his 16th album. Superstition, religion and things people die for were his obsession while working with his previous band, “Fetal Position,” as he continues to mix good entertainment with wit and critical thinking.

For more information, please visit centerforinquiry.net/chicago or email chicago@centerforinquiry.net.

Posted in religion, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Freedom From Religion Foundation Bus Ad Campaign Hits Chicago

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 18, 2010

I’m just tooting my own horn a bit because apparently I’m achieving a measure of notoriety on the Internet (especially over at The Friendly Atheist blog) for some comments I recently made for a Chicago Tribune article on the new Freedom From Religion Foundation’s bus ad campaign in the Windy City…

Secularists spreading the word

When the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign and American Humanist Association wanted to spark a public conversation last spring about the origin of religion, they plastered Chicago’s buses with a provocative twist on Genesis: “In the beginning, man created God.”

When the Chicago Coalition of Reason wanted to proclaim that no one needs God to be good, they posted a billboard a few months later above a LaSalle Street sandwich shop in Chicago’s Loop.

So when the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation took its controversial slogan touting the benefits of sleeping in on Sundays to honor the day of rest, they came to Chicago first, a city where they knew they would be welcome.

After awhile, the article gets to me and my epic quote…

Matt Lowry, 37, a science teacher in Vernon Hills and the organizer of the North Suburban Chicago Freethinkers, said he never wore his beliefs, or lack thereof, on his sleeve. But the more it came up in conversation, the more he realized how the collective silence has caused atheists and agnostics to be misunderstood.

“Just because you’re a nonbeliever does not mean you’re kicking little old ladies down the stairs or eating babies,” Lowry said. “There’s this common misperception. For too long, the nonbelieving community in this country has basically allowed religious fundamentalists to define them that way.”

Yeah, that was all me – it was my humorous & snarky way of basically saying: hey, nonbelievers are good and moral people, too. Now that I see how much people like the quote, I’m considering having T-shirts made up :)

Posted in religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Chicago Coalition of Reason puts up “Good Without God” billboard

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 20, 2009

Whew! I had a hard time keeping a lid on this one :)

I’m part of a coalition of folks who have been working to bring this billboard to downtown Chicago…

Godless Billboard Appears in the Chicago Loop

“Are you good without God? Millions are.”

These words are part of a coordinated multi-organizational advertising campaign designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god. It fits into a nationwide effort that has now come to the Chicago area. The prominent ad appears on a downtown billboard at LaSalle Boulevard and Grand Avenue and can be read by those traveling north who will see it on their left. Placed by the Chicago Coalition of Reason, with funding from the United Coalition of Reason, the billboard features an image of blue sky and clouds with the words superimposed over.

“The point of our national billboard campaign is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists and agnostics living in the United States,” explained Fred Edwords, head of the United Coalition of Reason. “Nontheists sometimes don’t realize there’s a community out there for them because they’re inundated with religious messages at every turn. So we hope this will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren’t alone.”

Reaching out to nontheists isn’t the only goal of the campaign. “We want people to know they can be good without belief in a god,” said Hemant Mehta, coordinator of the Chicago Coalition of Reason. “There is a lot of misinformation out there about us. But we humanists, agnostics and atheists are as normal as anyone else. We’re your friends, neighbors and family members. We care about our communities and are true to our values.”

The Chicago billboard officially launches Chicago CoR. It is also timed to coordinate with the launch of a new book called “Good Without God” by Greg Epstein, which is being released by William Morrow. Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard University, is giving talks and holding a book signing the afternoon of October 26 at the Interfaith Youth Core Biannual Conference, Center for Civic Engagement, at Northwestern University in Evanston. The next day he will speak at the University of Chicago Hillel lunch at 12:00 Noon. At 5:30 PM that evening he will speak at the Harvard Club of Chicago. From 8:00 to 10:00 PM he will lead a discussion at the University of Chicago Chaplains Office, Divinity School.

The billboard is one of many that have appeared around the country this year. Billboards and transit system ads funded by the United Coalition of Reason have gone up in places as far flung as Charleston, South Carolina; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Morgantown, West Virginia; Phoenix, Arizona, and New Orleans, Louisiana. Subway ads will appear next week in New York City and a billboard will go up in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In a month, more are slated for California and elsewhere.

Of course, this advertising campaign is an excellent example of fighting a common logical fallacy (called a false dichotomy) posed by far too many ultra-religious believers: that without a belief in the supernatural or a god, one cannot be a good person.  One can be “good without god”, but I should also point out to my fellow atheists & skeptics that just because someone is religious doesn’t mean they also cannot be a good person.  I know plenty of good people, both religious & non-religious, and I don’t think that painting with a wide brush by labeling one side or the other as morally inferior is conducive to critical thinking when dealing with such issues.

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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