Talking about Secularism, Religion, and Atheism

English: George Jacob Holyoake in later life.
English: George Jacob Holyoake in later life. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Huffington Post had a good article a couple of months ago about the decline of religion: Religion Among Americans Hits Low Point, As More People Say They Have No Religious Affiliation: Report.

It’s important to point out, I think, that there is only a slight increase in atheism. It’s not so much that people are losing their faith, it is more that they are leaving organized religion. This is not a surprise to me based on church scandals or the change in attitude among younger generations. The old “fire and brimstone” teachings are less effective than they were during the Puritan Era. Yet spirituality is still important to most people, I believe, so you won’t see the majority of Americans abandoning the believe in God anytime soon.

What I found most interesting about the report  was that 40% of liberal respondents claimed they have no religion versus only 9% of conservatives. I believe that you would find similar results to respondents that identify themselves as secular. Secularism is too often associated with anti-religious belief systems by right-wing pundits and social conservatives. I think this does a disservice to the benefits of the secular perspective. It is not a movement of anti-religious persons, it is a movement to separate religion from government and philosophy. The founding fathers used secularism as a tool to give all Americans the freedom of religion and freedom from it. This is perhaps one of our most important freedoms and it makes sense that it is included as part of the first amendment.

The animosity between some Christians and Atheists can become too divisive. I feel that debating religion is a waste of time since in most cases there is not going to be a consensus reached or changing minds. If you believe strongly in something, it is extremely difficult for another person to change that belief. What unfortunately often results in a debate of religion versus atheism is hurt feelings and people taking offense. Either that or lots of shouting and name calling.

The problem as I see it is people who take offense to atheism or religion. I am not offended by a person who believes in God or prays. I can respect that believe just as I would hope that religious people can  respect my belief that religion is superstition. We should be able to be mature enough to acknowledge that it isn’t really important if everyone agrees with our own beliefs. It’s like being offended because someone didn’t say “Merry Christmas” during the holidays. I’m not offended when people wish me a “Merry Christmas” even though I’m not a Christian.

Secularism is something that we all should agree on no matter if you have faith or not. It inspired the concept of free religion that prevents government from imposing religion or non-religion upon us. I do think that sometimes atheists are unnecessarily mean towards religion, but it also works both ways. If you are a Christian and you really want to know what I think about religion, you may think I hold an offensive view, but do not begrudge others who are religious so long as they chose to be religious. We all have to figure out who we are and I don’t want to belittle anyone’s journey. I can respect that people find value in religion, so you should be able to respect that I do not find value in religion. Below is a short article that I believe does a good job explaining what secularism really is.

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2 thoughts on “Talking about Secularism, Religion, and Atheism

  1. I think what’s most valuable in conversation is that both sides acknowledge that they believe in something. I have found this to be true with you, in that we can converse freely since you understand atheism as a faith, itself – albeit a sort of negative-space faith, if you will :).

    Regarding those you reference, though, I recently witnessed an online conversation on reddit sparked by a Christian who believes in an old Earth (billions of years vs. thousands), and it was truly disappointing to see that many were stating that the idea of a billions-year-old Earth (and, in turn, macro-evolution) was scientific fact. In my addition to the conversation, to the original poster I made a two-fold comment:
    Primarily, that it is only through the grace of God through Jesus that we are saved, and that these particular differing beliefs ultimately do not save or condemn. Secondly, I engaged in the conversation as it had already been progressing, and stressed the idea that these events should not be discussed, scientifically, as if they are fact – from either side. That was not a popular opinion.

    I think of it in this way.. while atheism is anti-God, secularism is non-God. Obviously, from a Christian standpoint, an individual who is personally a secularist is just as bad off as an atheist, since neither acknowledge God as truth, but with indeed we should all strive for a government which is truly secular. It is the morality of the citizens, themselves, that matters… not the morality imposed upon them by their government – in either direction.

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