Wednesday, July 3, 2013
I've said it many times: I think religion is a good thing for most of the people who have it: if it's unnecessary in terms of finding a moral center and an expansive view of one's life, it serves that function for those who choose it. But as a force in American politics, no matter the denomination or category, it's become an undeniable drag on the body politic.
Whether it's rejection of reality in the form of science, like climate change, or a platform for discrimination and the fomenting of "them against us" self-pity, resentment, and undisguised hate, I see religion, as a political force, as entirely negative. It belongs in the heart, around the hearth, not in the public square. Social progress, remedies for our problems, happen in spite of religion, not because of it.
(An excellent example of religion as a clearly negative force is the correlation between climate change denialism and belief in end-times.)
It might not always have been so. And there are genuinely good-hearted people, religious people, committed to improving our society; based, no doubt, on their religion. But the public face of religion in the US, the sort that's exerting political influence in the form of today's Republican party, has become the most reactionary, the most destructive, the narrowest of mind, the least open or inclusive. The opposite kind of religion exists; but not as a public venture. Not now, not recently.
So the above graph is encouraging. I happen to think that the ability to be part of life and to do what's clearly right, independent of expectation of reward or punishment, is the highest morality of all. But if it works toward good, so be it. Assuming that those young people moving away from religion are of that sort, then only good can come of it. Maybe many of those in the "none" category consider themselves religious, but reject the churchiness as it's come to be. That'd be good, too, I'm sure.
If the corollary to those findings is that the younger generation won't be using religious belief as an excuse for denialism and hate, either because they have no religion, or because they view religion as entirely personal and not appropriate for secular law, then there might be a ray of hope after all. Assuming we can make it through the next couple of self-destructive teabagger decades, to the time when they'll assume control.
And there's the rub.
[The image came from here. You have to make the graph yourself, inserting variables. In this case it was religious preference by age, four categories, year 2012. Evidently the original link I had was to the final chart which, for some reason, you can't get to unless you set it up yourself.]
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