The Beast is weakening!

10 Signs Religious Fundamentalism Is in Decline, by Valeria Tarico, via Alternet.
If you are a nonbeliever in the mood for a party, here are 10reason v faith reasons to celebrate.

Days may be dark right now—after all, as the memes proclaim, axial tilt is the reason for the season. But things are looking bright for those who would like to see humanity more grounded in science and reason. If you are a nonbeliever in the mood for a party, here are 10 reasons to celebrate.

1. Coming out atheist is up and coming. In May 2013, after a deadly tornado destroyed her home, young mother Rebecca Vitsmun gave anunexpected answer when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked whether she thanked the Lord for her decision to flee. Vitsmun tells the story in a sometimes-tearfulinterview with Seth Andrews, host of the Thinking Atheist. “I had this moment in which I realized you either lie or tell the truth, and I’m not a liar.” In that moment, Vitsmun outed herself not only to a national media audience but also to her Christian parents and friends.

Vitsmun’s situation was extraordinary, but candor about nonbelief is becoming more and more commonplace. From Hollywood celebs like Angelina Jolie to high school students, skeptics are opening up about their beliefs and values—or simply declining to lie when asked. (A quick-read book, Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist, offers tips for those who are contemplating when, where and how best to come out.)

[The Seth Andrews' video about Vitsun's reply to CNN-uber-hack Wolff Blitzer is worth viewing.  Why he still has a job is a mystery!]

2. The cutting edge of freethought is less cutting and edgy. In generations past, coming out as an atheist required a devil-may-care attitude. The social and even financial costs were so high that most admitted atheists were also unflinching social activists, people who had a high degree of zeal and high tolerance for conflict. Most were also white males who were comparatively safe taking on the religious establishment. Until recently, then, atheism was virtually synonymous with anti-theism, and even today people complain that pioneers of the New Atheist movement like DawkinsHarris, Dennett, and the late great Hitchens are unnecessarily antagonistic.

But thanks in part to their courage and flame-throwing, a new generation is emerging, one that sees atheism not as an end point, but as a beginning. Alain de Botton’s TED talk and book, Atheism 2.0, simply posits the nonexistence of God and then goes on to discuss what humanity can glean from the rubble of religious traditions. Many younger people are casting aside labels and adopting what fits from religious holidays and traditions, in the same way that they mix and match cultural, racial or sexual identities. As boundaries soften, more women, Hispanics and blacks are joining or even leading the conversations.

3. Biblical sexuality is getting binned. Finally. In the last part of December, marriage equality became law in two more states: New Mexico and—drumroll—Utah! Even more exciting is the fact that legal changes can barely keep up with shifting attitudes about queer sexuality. Things are changing when it comes to straight sex, too, and not in keeping with biblical priorities. Perhaps the most consistent sexual theme in the Bible is that a woman’s consent is not needed or even preferred before sex. By demanding an end to rape culture, today’s young women and men are making the Bible writers look as if they were members of a tribal, Iron Age culture in which women were property like livestock and children—to be traded, sold and won in battle. Small wonder the culture warriors have ramped up their fight against contraception and abortion. Imagine if, on top of everything else, all women got access to expensive top-tier contraceptives and the power to end ill-conceived childbearing.

4. Recovering believers are reclaiming their lives. Most atheists and agnostics are former believers, which means that many carry old psychological baggage from childhood beliefs or some post-childhood cycle of conversion and deconversion. While many former believers slip out of religion unscathed, some do not, and believers in recovery now have a name: reclaimers. A small but growing number of cognitive scientists are exploring the relationship between religion and mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorders and panic. Marlene Winell, a California consultant who works full time with recovering fundamentalists, has brought attention to a pattern she calls Religious Trauma Syndrome. Darrel Ray has created a matching service for secular clients and therapists, while Kathleen Taylor at Oxford has raised the question of whether religious fundamentalism itself may one day be treatable.

5. Communities are coming together. When two British comedians, Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones, launched a “sort-of church” for nonbelievers last January, their Sunday Assembly got media attention around the world. By December, they were on a 40-day tour of 40 cities from Auckland to Portland helping local groups launch assemblies of their own.

Their quirky effort is part of a much broader movement among atheists who are exploring how to build communities that provide mutual assistance, outlets for wonder and delight, rituals to mark holidays, and organized volunteering. Some, like the Sunday Assembly or Jerry DeWitt’s Community Mission Chapel, deliberately draw on the structure of the traditional church service, with music and a brief lecture followed by tea and coffee. Others, like Seattle Atheists, use social media to organize a broad array of lectures, community service opportunities and recreation. Harvard’s Humanist Community opened doors on a new Humanist Hub for both students and locals on December 8. Even clergy who have lost their faith are banding together for mutual support and friendship.

6. Secular giving is growing. In times of crisis, faith communities often step in to provide emergency assistance or to help those who are most poor and desperate. Proselytizing aside, churches are able to provide real service because they have both the will and the necessary infrastructure. Increasingly, atheists and humanists are saying, we need to do the same. Since 2010, the Foundation Beyond Belief has given away almost $1.5 million raised from nonbelievers who can give as little as $5 a month, and is now turning attention to building a corps of humanist volunteers, which is also a focus of the Harvard community. In July, the Foundation Beyond Belief will host its first conference, Humanism at Work.

7. The Religious Right is licking wounds. Bets are still out on whether the Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptists are retreating or simply rebranding, but either one is good for people who care about science, reason, compassion, or the common good. What’s clear is that the two most powerful hierarchies in the Religious Right have realized that they can’t simply seize the reins of power and remake secular institutions along theological lines. Pope Francis has given a mixture of signals on how much evidence and compassion will guide church priorities—mostly along the lines of yes if you’re poor, no if you’re female. Russell Moore, new head of the Southern Baptist Convention, has warned that Baptists shouldn’t be “mascots for any political faction.” The takeaway for all of us? Fearful, authoritarian conservatives have been smacked back in their patriarchal power plays, and they know it. Shining a light on cruelty, bigotry and ignorance works.

8. Texas is evolving! The State of Texas is such a large textbook market that Texas standards can influence content across the nation. This means that a handful of well-placed wingnuts in Texas can reshape the next generation’s understanding of science or history. Thanks to the hard work of the Texas Freedom Network and young activists, public school texts in Texas will be teaching biological science rather than creationism. This fall, reviewers appointed by the Texas Board of Education pushed to include creationism in the texts, but publishers pushed back. Acceptance of evolution is growingacross the country. As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Ultimately, the review panel itself rejected creationist arguments. Now that’s evolution!

9. Millennials are taking up the torch. When it comes to separation of church and state, young people are teaming up with established players like the Freedom From Religion Foundation for some real wins. Many of the most hopeful, inspiring freethought stories of 2013 had young protagonists, and we can expect more of the same moving forward. Zack Kopplin was still in high school when he took on the state of Louisiana over creationism in schools. Now he is a full-time science advocate and columnist for the Guardian. “Evil little thing” Jessica Ahlquist, whose lawsuit forced removal of a prayer banner at her high school in 2012, has continued a path of secular activism. Inspiring stories of other young church-state activists can be found here.

10. Rebuilding the wall of separation isn’t the only place Millennials are leading the way. Young adults who grew up isolated in abusive homeschooling situations have created a network, Homeschoolers Anonymous, so that they can lend each other support and fight for change. When a Catholic school in Bellevue, Washington fired a gay teacher, hundreds of students walked out chanting, “Change the church.” Their protest was picked up by students at other schools and Catholic alumni. A new documentary movie with a millennial production crew, The Unbelievers, has been described as a rock concert love-fest between biologist Richard Dawkins and physicist Larry Krause and their young fan base of science lovers.

For those who want to find secular inspiration rather than to join a fight for rights and reason, young photographer Chris Johnson has created a coffee table book that challenges readers to grab hold of this one precious life: A Better Life—100 Atheists Speak Out About Joy and Meaning in a World Without GodThe title says it all.

This entry was posted in Atheism, Crazy fundies, Creationism, Education, Evolution, Free speech, Marriage, Mythology, Politics, Religion, Science, Separation of church and state, Sexuality. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Beast is weakening!

  1. ChuckA says:

    Thanks, Naomi, for your excellent Post.
    Indeed, my brain & skull needed some…erm…“rationally warming thoughts”…with all this extremely frigid weather we’re having in the Chicago area.
    What!…a sort of personal “Global Warming”? :shock:
    Seriously, a great job, with many lesser known, ‘cutting edge’, encouraging & very informative links…to boot.
    Personally, after my habitual, and rather brief, daily checking of my Yahoo mail, and even briefer perusal of the (“YIKES”?) News, my followup daily visit to AO, if nothing else, helps to remind me that there ARE rational humans still thriving…amongst us.
    Stay warm; and…”Keep on Truckin’!”…?
    Oh wait!…I’ve (all-too understandably?) lost track…are you still “on the road”? ;)

  2. Naomi says:

    You are correct: I have left the road behind me and retired.. In May, I realized that the “good money” I was making was a bad excuse for neglecting my health. Since then, I have lost 51 pounds and no longer need my blood pressure Rx, nor my cholesterol meds.

    I also convinced my husband that Tennessee was just as toxic as the money, at least to my mental health. Looking for a place that wasn’t too hot (and humid) and not too cold (winter…BRRR) AND wasn’t overly religious nor hyper-Conservative, I studied a map of America. Somewhere temperate. Hmmm. Strike the Upper Tiers. Strike the Lower Tiers. Strike the Rocky Mountains. Strike the hurricane-prone Eastern Seaboard. Strike all of Tornado Alley. Strike Utah!!!!!

    That left ONLY Oregon. (I am one of a small handful of people who have never cared to visit Hawaii, although the Marianna Islands sound intriguing — and it’s still a part of the United States.)

    The Governor, both my Senators and my Representative (Pete DeFazio) PLUS most of my legislature are Democrats, so — eh, voila! — Oregon! The largest growing state for Craft Beers! Unlike Nashville (which is rumored to have 700 churches!) Fifty miles from the State Capital. Sixty-four miles from Newport and the Pacific Ocean.Fifteen miles from the Cascade Mountains. Very few super-hot days (almost no house has central-air!) and a temperate winter (I don’t need a show shovel for the little snowfall we’ve had). I have, quite literally, fallen in love with this place! And I feel a genuine relief to be able to be Myself, to say “I’m an atheist” to people who get too carried away. And no one gets huffy, or screams, or condemns me to hell. How sweet it is!

    I’ve hooked up with DrinkingLiberally again. And I’m the newest member of Oregon Dems. Chuck, it is such a good feeling to be in the majority, for a change.

  3. JTD says:

    Well, at least this isn’t another doom-and-gloom one, but I just can’t buy into it…
    You see I was only Severely persecuted within the last decade for being an Atheist (as in losing my job) and I see more and more Jesus loons (to say nothing of Mooslims!) all over the place…
    They’re all curiously supported by the Very Rich Right Wingers who have moved from being millionaires into Billionaires, thanks to George W. Bush and Friends! They in turn are all a part of the Mafia/Catholic Church club which isn’t going anywhere soon… I should know, since I’m surrounded by these people here in Northern NJ who’ve driven out the working class folks, torn down their homes, and replaced them with lavish McMansions of 24/7 waste and pretentiousness!
    Need I also remind people of how this all ties into the disintegration of the Middle Class in America? I really don’t think it exists anymore beyond an illusion in feature films…and people who Think they’re a part of it but are not…

    Texas Evolving? Why do we keep hearing crazier and Crazier shit coming from those people then? They’re the ones who wanted to Leave the U.S. not too long ago!

    I think this article is cherry-picking the good bits…

  4. ChuckA says:

    @Naomi…
    Thanks for sharing your personal info. Sounds like you’ve found a rather nice “retirement niche”…?

    @JTD et.al…
    In my ever advancing old age, and recently stumbling on & sorting through some very old Income Tax forms, I finally realized that, as a ‘professional jobbing musician/ private music teacher’, I never even made it into the “Middle Class”.
    Just as a reminder…here’s comic genius (& IMO, “PROPHETIC atheist”) George Carlin (5/12/37 to 6/22/08) on “the American Dream”; and notice when this particular version of the HBO video was uploaded: April 8, 2007; when George was still with us, and WAY BEFORE the ’08 economy crash. I can only imagine what he’d be saying THESE days!
    [Come to think of it...looking in my mirror...and the older I get...the more I resemble him in this video. (W/O the goatee) ;) ]

  5. Naomi says:

    I am no Little Mary Sunshine, thanks to a penchant for cynicism and skepticism, so I will say this: Let us hope that my optimism beats your pessimism.

    And I believe that the weaker their movement becomes, based on attrition alone, the louder they will express themselves. Their desperation will be manifest. Of course, some will crumble quicker than others; only a handful will linger. But the “tipping-point” is coming. Soon.

    Remember Elizabeth Kubler:Ross’ definition of the stages of grief:
    Denial
    Anger
    Bargaining
    Depression
    Acceptance.
    I would say they are in “Denial” now, closing in on “Anger”. That’s when the Beast will begin to thrash and howl, While more and more young people turn away (and those adults who are not fully-engaged), Religion will begin to beg and bargain. The descent will be steep and inevitable.

    I hope to see it through.

  6. ChuckA says:

    @Naomi…
    Your referencing Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, of whom I was a HUGE fan, back in the late ’70s through the ’80s, etc. reminds me of the reason I and my “late” companion, Nikki, first got together…in particular the long held concept of Reincarnation.
    Call me a sort of closet Buddhist; but whilst not believing in any god notion, and being totally anti-religion(s)…especially the Western Abrahamic Variety…I still keep an open mind when it comes to the possibility of the survival of “Consciousness”…and…even SOME possible form of non-religious-based “Reincarnation”. IOW…the old Brain/Consciousness conundrum has evolved into the cutting edge of certain Scientific debates; as yet unresolved, for obvious reasons.
    Anyway…not to go TOO much further; but in going through some books & old stuff of Nikki’s, I came upon a (previously unknown to me) “Dream Diary” of hers; which had one, in particular, VERY interesting descriptive passage; which was dated 11/20/76; when we were still living in a North Side Chicago apartment. Basically, she describes a kind of “Remote Viewing” episode; in which she accurately describes my playing a musical demo on the Stereo in our apartment [we moved in 1978 to Niles, IL; 1st to a rented Townhouse, & later, to a nearby Des Plaines apartment.]…20 years in the future; in which she had also made a reference about feeling she was experiencing a ca. 20 year time gap. As it turns out; the one demo, which she describes, as she’s “sitting at a typewriter” (which actually would be our Amiga 500 computer keyboard, in an adjoining dining area. Like…who even THOUGHT of a personal computer in 1976?)…and understandably reacts with some amazement at hearing APPLAUSE at the end of the rather involved vocal & multi-instrumental Orchestrated tune…the ONLY demo that I did that on. In 1996 & ’97 I was, indeed, working in our apartment on various Demo tunes for a potential performing “Duo” with a gal singer (I eventually dropped the idea in late 1998); and the last tune on the Demo cassette was the old standard tune: “Day By Day”; which, after my vocal, ended with my “tongue-in-cheek” comments, accompanied by electronically produced audience applause. Coincidence? Certainly not proof…but, perhaps…somewhat evidential (Psychically?). It made me think of the movie: “The Men Who Stare At Goats”! :shock:
    [Too bad we can't upload Photos and/or MP3s, here on AO.]

    Anyway…just thought (with some trepidation) I’d pass that shtick on to you guys.
    ["Please don't hurt me!...? ;) ]
    I guess I’m just an old (atheistic) fool who’s still open-minded, yet very skeptical. It’s also rather hard to bring that kind of shtick up with MOST atheists; whom, in my opinion, so often react very much like the fundie-style believers; perhaps understandable, because that’s the way they were before they gave up their childhood indoctrinated and all-too closed-minded religious beliefs…especially Christianity(?). IOW…many former closed-minded Fundamentalist oriented religious believers turn into equally closed-minded, somewhat similarly oriented, atheists; which, of course, they’ll vehemently deny…?
    Yada-Zama?
    Anyway…and, pardon me for so much blabbing…
    Speaking of Kubler-Ross’s “Five stages of Death & Dying”…
    From an all-time favorite Film: “All That Jazz”:

    AND…here’s a short YouTube interview containing some of her various views:

  7. JTD says:

    I taped all of George Carlin’s stuff off the air years ago, maybe I should go back and watch it sometime to cheer me up…

    But I can’t help being a pessimist because, well, in this society pessimism tends to be Truth… So my mind kind of works like this (here comes a long babbling of mine, but I’ve got the time)…

    When someone tells me “I’ll pray for you” I hear this as “I have magical mind-powers which tune me into the Creator of the Universe who Might take pity on you!” (To say nothing of the fact that 99 percent of the time they’re Just Saying This and Never do any actual Praying for me, nor ever even Intended to do any actual praying. I consider it seriously frustrating and hypocritical when they use this as an Excuse to disaster victims who could use food, shelter, and clothing rather than Prayer – which won’t do jack shit for them.). When spoken directly to an Atheist, it’s a rather demaning statement whether they intend it to be so or not, because they’re basically saying that they’re a part of the One True belief system and they’re looking down at a hopeless radical element who’s missing out on the Great Truth of the universe.
    When some woman says “I like to laugh and smile and make others laugh!” I hear that as “I’m a little girl trapped in a grownup’s body! Will somebody play with me?” Shallow. Very shallow.
    Simple-minded, obviously. The real crying shame here though is that it’s all too common on dating profiles! Do women have nothing better to say about themselves? Are they That much a part of the collective system?

    When I read advertisements which use prefixes like “free” “guaranteed” “only” – My mind tells me this is a scam or near-scam. I’m sure this one others can probably more readily identify with. Or at least I hope so. The thing is, you’ve grown so used to Capitalism that it comes natural for you to accept these lies everyday everywhere. It’s funny though how That’s acceptable to reject but other “unpleasant truths” are considered “Negative”–like denying god and saying religion is total BS…

    The thing is that people these days aren’t even Trying to think, they’re just following the “path of least resistance” or non-thinking, which is what Religion is all about… You just blindly Accept. Now Why are people doing this more and more often today than ever before?
    I’ve ranted about this before but I’ll do it once again, since I’m chatty: Electropollution… Microwaves everywhere, more and more of them from masts going up everywhere! Not just cell phones but WiFi and these “hot spots” people are brainwashing into thinking they “need” so damned much and “can’t live without.”–but they’re killing themselves from the cellular level on up… Cells can’t be 100% healthy in a microwave-saturated environment! Doctors won’t tell you this because they’re not taught or trained in this field–likewise, electronic engineering don’t know jackshit about cells–they’re two different fields and both people are just going to do what they’ve been trained to do, no more and no less, and nothing is ever solved this way. That’s also the way the trillion dollar telecom industry likes it, too. There Is s cover-up and I’m not a frigging paranoid conspiracy loon either–this shit is documented and goes back to Russia in the 1960s where it was called “radio frequency sickness”–so what’s this got to do with Religion? Think malfunctioning cells as in Brain Cells and people not using Reason and Logic but thinking on Simple Impulse and you’ve got the cause of, well, Increasing religious fanaticism…to the latest school or mall shooter! It’s easier Not to think than To think and brain cells “under attack” won’t be particularly beneficial to living and breathing people… Of course it doesn’t always produce shooters but the Symptoms which lead up to it like ADD, hyperactivity, and more basic physiological effects like high blood pressure and cancer…

  8. Naomi says:

    Jay, I worry more about China’s exports to us all containing a more-than-obsolesence program but one that takes down our country. But that is not something that I dwell on or bring to a casual discussion. I can’t stop it. I can only have my mind ready. Call it TheOtherShoe mind-protection.
    …the wisdom to know difference.

    Serenity Prayer…which is rather elegant and not really religious at all. Although, xians believe that it is god-centric. Fuck ‘em. All you need to do is delete “od, g” and you are left with Grant me…”, not “God, grant me…” But the last line is so important. And has been sucked dry by the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” crowd.

    Just remember that death takes us all. Including the TeaParty Praetorian Guard. Not even the CockBros can live forever. Even Senator SoundsLikeAnEunuch Reid and Senator IsTheRealEunuch McConnell will be gone. Possibly I, as well.

    Chuck, I am an Atheist.Until.I.Have.Better.Info. Two illustrations: A lovely couple from NewJersey was lost in Tennessee. I got them sorted out with their map. When they said, “Thank the Lord that you were here to help us!” in that cloying manner, I said that I don’t believe. They did not turn ugly (the biggest difference between NorthXians and SouthXians is that the NXs don’t usually behave like the SXs who set their hair on fire over the least little perceived insult to jeebus). I posited that I believe that IF THERE REALLY IS A GOD, he and heaven are more awesome than any human can cope with. That our piddling imagination wastes too much time selling a vision that keeps us small.

    Second: If String Theory is true, it could encompass all sorts of unimagined-as-yet wonders. ‘Branes? Explain DarkMater? Alter the thinking about black hole’s EventHorizon? Oops, Stephen Hawking just did that… There’s probably room for ghosts and “heaven”. But (BigBut!!!), I still believe that we and our planet are just anomalies; that there is the chance that there MIGHT be advanced societies and cultures that wouldn’t kill us. What we would do to them is another matter, especially if their planet has…erm…assets.

  9. JTD says:

    Statistically speaking there’s got to be other civilizations out there somewhere…but chances are they’re of an entirely different order (like being based on a different element than carbon) from us and would be incomprehensible… A far leap from guys walking around with funny-looking heads in any case!

  10. ChuckA says:

    After watching, last night, the Republican response to the President’s SOTU speech; what, in particular, jumped out at me was the following segment of Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ speech:

    “Like all parents, we have high hopes and dreams for our children. But we also know what it’s like to face challenges. Three days after our son was born, Cole, we got news no parent expects. Cole was diagnosed with Down syndrome. The doctors told us he could have endless complications, heart defects, even early Alzheimer’s. They told us all the problems.
    But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities. We saw A GIFT FROM GOD”

    My personal (Here on AO, only, of course!) response:
    “That’s all well and good, Representative; but WHY, given that we all, according to your dogmatic Christian belief, only have ONE life, and come into Eternal Existence, in that life…for the 1st time EVER…
    WHY…would an Almighty Deity (in his so-called “perfect Plan”) subject ANYONE to a whole lifetime of extraordinary disadvantage and resulting Societal dependency?”
    [And, of course, I might follow that up with:
    "Why all the friggin' diseases...and asshole Satan...and all 'his' nasty minions; who...SOMEHOW...VERY MYSTERIOUSLY...got out of "Jail".(Hell).
    Like..."Who let the dogs out?" ] :roll:
    My original question, of course, applies to any ‘god’ belief system; and for us non-believing anti-religion-style atheists it remains more like an unfortunate sort of…”luck of the draw”…or, perhaps, an unfortunate evolutionary mistake (or “Very Annoying Existential Evolutionary Glitch”?). ???

    Anyway…I just thought I’d comment on that particular, IMO, rather odd-ball item; which I thought was rather strange for her to insert into her response.
    (Then again, of course…if nothing else…she was, obviously, emphasizing her typical bull-shit Republican “Faith-based” oriented stance in opposition to all the “heathen-oriented” Democrats!)
    [Anybody else notice that?] :shock:

    And now…
    For something “NOT completely” different…
    Here’s some atheist, albeit, “A Blast From the Past” humor…in a YouTube sequential format; which starts off with (the now, apparently & sadly defunct?) hilarious “Landover Baptist Pastor; Deacon Fred”…
    from WAY back in 2007, no less:

  11. ChuckA says:

    ^ Make that 2006…in front of Congress…at the Godless March on Washington; followed by other hilarity…(and that 2007 video). ;)

  12. JTD says:

    I guess a “Gift from God” could be applied to anyone or anything… Like I see a pile of dog shit over there–that’s a Gift from God!

    Downs Syndrome seems more like a curse from Satan–but don’t let ‘em know that…

    The Landover Baptist Church was one hell of a website… When I first found that place I used to believe those people were Real, because reality has become so unhinged lately it’s difficult to tell them apart…

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