October 14, 2011

Five signs that Americans are moving away from religion

Tana Ganeva points to various data that support this idea.

  1. American religious belief is becoming more fractured.
  2. Non-belief -- and acceptance of non-belief -- on the rise
  3. Growing numbers of young people who do not identify as religious
  4. Hate group that exploited religion to bash gays hemorrhaging funds
  5. Getting married by friends

What the last item refers to is that more and more people are not getting married with the trappings of religion, choosing instead more informal, secular wedding ceremonies.


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I am an agnostic (Fence sitter!). I don't understand why religious belief/non belief in America seems to be a central theme in this blog. Yes, religion, or practice of it seems to be on the wane in the US. Even if it is a very important issue, why is it so America centric. Is it because Mano does not wish entertain the fact that Religion seems to be flourishing in many under developed countries?

Posted by Manik on October 14, 2011 10:11 PM

Manik, are you new to this blog? I think that Mano has given ample explanation as to why religion flourishes in under developed countries.

Posted by James on October 14, 2011 10:40 PM

James, I am not new to this blog. I read it practically everyday. My memory is failing rapidly. In fact I got myself tested a few months ago. Nevertheless, my comment was based on the following. If on the one hand Mano admits that religion flourishes in many under-developed countries, the following prediction seems to be unlikely to materialize.

"Religion is more tenacious but even there I think that the switch to largely disbelief will occur within a couple of generations (maybe an extra generation in the Islamic world) as people realize that religion is little more than superstition and lies at the heart of many problems" Mano's Web Journal. 17 March 2011.

In fact I wonder whether this will occur even in America.

One objection I do have against this blog is the sense of superiority it conveys and the derision with which it refers to the religious. Atheism somehow seems to bring out the not so nice qualities of its adherents. A great pity. In my experience, being an agnostic among Atheists is more daunting than being one among the religious.

Posted by Manik on October 15, 2011 08:07 AM


I spoke about religion in other countries somewhat in my series Why atheism is winning.

It is true that this blog is US-centric and Christianity-centric but the reasons should be quite obvious. I am from a Christian background, living in the US which is a majority-Christian country, and the news that surrounds me is what I respond to. A blog is not a news service that tries to exhaustively cover every side of an issue. It is something that people do on the side and so I talk about the things that interest me and that I know something about. I am sure that there are many other bloggers who deal with the topics you are looking for.

As for the tone of superiority, I believe that there is no god, no afterlife, no disembodied soul, and no heaven or hell and hence that people who believe in such things are deluding themselves, just like people who think the Earth is 6,000 years old. I also think that agnosticism on these particular topics is untenable, as my New Humanist article argues. I suspect that there is no way of saying any of these things without religious people and agnostics being offended.

Posted by Mano on October 15, 2011 08:55 AM

Mano, It is not what you say, but how you say it. I as an agnostic, don't feel offended. Many folks genuinely believe in a creationist, merciful god who works in mysterious ways. You, I and many think that they are deluded. Would you write about or treat persons who are suffering from some genuine mental illness in the same manner. I think they deserve our sympathy, or at least demonstrate a sense of empathy, which is largely missing from your blogs. If not for the havoc religions create, it could very well be considered a quaint superstition.

You completely miss the point when you say that you offend people by merely stating your disbelief in god, afterlife etc. This too does happen, but I was referring to persons you seem to be ridiculing. At least as far as I am concerned your sense of superiority comes through although you may not mean to.

Posted by Manik on October 15, 2011 11:21 PM


It is hard to respond to such a general criticism without concrete examples of the behavior you refer to. If you can point to specific examples of things I have said, either in the past or as they occur in future posts, I can better judge what you mean and whether it warrants rectification.

Posted by Mano on October 16, 2011 12:04 PM


you said "You, I and many think that they are deluded. Would you write about or treat persons who are suffering from some genuine mental illness in the same manner. I think they deserve our sympathy, or at least demonstrate a sense of empathy, which is largely missing from your blogs."

I can think of nothing more arrogant than treating someone who I think is wrong as if they have a genuine mental illness.


Posted by Jared A on October 17, 2011 02:09 PM

Jared, I am afraid you have taken my statement too literally. Basically what I wanted to say was that "believers" should not be subject to ridicule, joked about and patronized, even if you think they are wrong.

Mano, Quote "At Cambridge University I was taught a laudable method of argument: you never personalize, but you have absolutely no respect for people's opinions. You are never rude to the person, but you can be savagely rude about what the person thinks. That seems to me a crucial distinction: You cannot ring-fence their ideas. The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it's a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible" Unquote. By Salman Rushdie, quoted in one of your blogs says it all. Several of your blogs or comments on them, espouse similar views. I don't agree with his attitude or his logic. Nevertheless, I am not interested in entering into an argument, which I think will be pointless. I think this world needs a more tolerant, understanding and caring citizenry, irrespective of whether they be believers, atheists, agnostics etc., etc. More importantly an eye for an eye, makes for more blind people.

Posted by Manik on October 19, 2011 06:53 AM


That quote by Rushdie applies to ALL opinions and ideas, not just religious ones. So are you in favor of your policy for all opinions (which will kill all forms of political and other forms of satire) or are you only asking for special protection for religious views? If the latter, why do you feel that religion needs or deserves special protection?

Posted by Mano on October 20, 2011 01:41 PM

The answer to your first question is a qualified no, because I don't think that one should ever be "Savagely Rude" to what someone thinks. I cannot say the same about contempt, derision or satire. However, Rudshdie makes an important point, which is, that he says he's never rude to the person, but only to what he thinks. In religion, a person and his religion may be so intertwined that it is difficult to separate the two. Hence I think religion should have special protection or at least be subject to more sensitivity. As an aside, is it necessary of be contemptuous or insulting of religious thought and/or belief, knowing very well that it would be very offensive to many. The world has enough problems as it is, why attract more? Do you want the good natured, caring, tolerant, kind, helpful person go the way of the dodo?

Posted by Manik on October 22, 2011 06:36 AM


" Hence I think religion should have special protection or at least be subject to more sensitivity."

Do you think abusive priests should be given more protection or should the victims be protected?

Do you think pro-life whackos should be given more protection or should the rights of victims of rape or incest be more protected?

When reliionists start behaving rationally, maybe they'll be treated rationally.

Faith Divides, Reason Unites.

Posted by Jack on October 23, 2011 12:08 PM

Jack,Sorry I seem to have offended your sensibilities. This discussion was not about people per se. It was about rudeness, contempt, derision, satire etc. with regard to religious beliefs which were offensive to 'believers'. Many religious beliefs are not rational and hence religionists in matters of religion are not rational. A very Vital part of a religion is Faith eg. Resurrection, hell, heaven, original sin etc. (I have referred to Christian beliefs because that's what I know best)

Posted by Manik on October 23, 2011 10:09 PM