As Long As…

My last article posed a question: Can Christians and Atheists Find a Common Ground?  The article was shared in several discussion forums and based on the comments provided, the prognosis is not encouraging.

There is a line in the proverbial sand for both theists and nontheists.  While both groups seem to embrace the idea of “people can believe whatever they’d like to believe as long as”As long as appears to be the line where common ground falls apart.

For nontheists, that as long as normally applies to theist intervention into public education and attempts to impart religiously-influenced morality on public policy.  From the concerted attempts by religious groups to include Intelligent Design in the science curricula of public schools to the continued exclusion of marriage equality for homosexualsare just two examples that nontheists see a Biblically-influenced intrusion into the public forum.

Conversely, theists see secularism as a growing threat to the American Experiment.  Based on their understanding of the founding of the nation on Judeo-Christian principles, they see secularism as eroding the moral fabric of the country.   

Former House Speaker and would-be presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaking last month at the Cornerstone Church said: “I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9, I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” Source

Interestingly, Gingrich is hardly alone in his concern.  On a new blog featuring an atheist and a theist exploring different points of view on various subjects, the theist contributor expressed that she feels oppressed by secularism in America – this despite 78 per cent of Americans identifying themselves as Christian as of 2009. 
Perhaps this “oppression” is attributed to the perception among conservatives that activist courts too often interpret laws based on secularist principles and do not reflect the will of the majority?  As long as activist courts support the majority view and not protect the minority?

Nontheists are obviously a minority in America – but a growing minority!  By percentage, nontheists outnumber African Americans, Jews, and Mormons combined.  According to the most recent polls, one out of every six Americans reportedly lack faith in or affiliation with a religion. 

An American Religious Identification Survey conducted in 2008 found that “the challenge to Christianity in the U.S. does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion.” And while roughly 16 per cent of Americans consider themselves Nones (No Religion), the ARIS report highlighted that “one sign of the lack of attachment of Americans to religion is that 27% do not expect a religious funeral at their death.” Source

Even as religion in America slowly wanes, we are still viewed by our European cousins as an intensely religious nation.  Europeans have, by and large, rejected organized religions, yet maintain a belief in a higher spirit or power.  A 2005 barometer of the countries that comprise the European Union found nearly half of Europeans do not believe in a god and that number rises with each younger generation.

Scandinavian countries appear to lead the way in the rejection of theology.

This erosion of religious beliefs has, expectedly, brought about a backlash from theists against nonbelievers as atheists are more and more seen as an internal threat to the American way of life.  

The vast majority of theist Americans would not consider voting for an atheist for president. 53 percent of all Americans, according to a 2007 Gallop poll, would not vote for an atheist. A University of Minnesota survey conducted in 2006 found that nearly 40 per cent of those surveyed felt atheists did not share their vision of American society.   

According to Penny Edgell, the study’s lead researcher, atheists seem to be outside the limits of American morality, which has largely been defined by religion. Many of those interviewed saw atheists as cultural elitists, amoral materialists, or given to criminal behavior or drugs. She states, “Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.”  Source
Given this animosity between theists and nontheists, as long as appears to be an unbridgeable chasm.  Despite successful interpersonal relationships, where mutual respect for the other’s beliefs or lack thereof is applied, the collectiveoutlooks and worldviews would appear to be well anchored and only slowly movable, making common ground an almost impossible goal.

As atheists develop a louder and more outspoken voice in the public sphere, the resulting backlash will be just as loud.  More and more, on billboards and buses, atheist organizations are taking out advertising to challenge the religious.  While it is too early to tell if the advertisements are effective or just a publicity stunt, one thing is certain, religious and political leaders are heeding the message and responding to the threat posed by secularists.   

Another presidential candidate, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, in a speech to a conservative organization last month flat out stated thatI almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced — forced at gunpoint no less — to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it. I wish it’d happen.”

Perhaps there is hope on the horizon!  This divide between theists and nontheists could quickly come to an end in less than a month.  As long as the prediction of Harold Camping, the Chief Executive of Family Radio, that the Rapture will occur on 21 May is correct.  As many know, the Rapture is the moment prior to the end of times when God will magically make the faithful disappear from the earth, sparing them from the horrors he will be inflicting on the unfaithful prior to Armageddon.  As a friendly reminder to readers there is a countdown clock in the upper right corner of this blog.  As of today there are only 25 days left to get your spiritual affairs in order.

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10 Responses to As Long As…

  1. Neece says:

    Great article, Sean. As long as I am still cognizant I will be both an atheist and a humanist. While I agree that it doesn't really look good for us all sitting around holding hands and singing camp songs together, I'd say it's worth it to keep trying to find common ground.By no stretch of the imagination am I an accommodationist, though. I'm most definitely not. But that doesn't mean that we can't work for a humane good for everyone together. Now get out your banjos and start singing while I make smores!

  2. Frans says:

    Wait a second, that advertisement originated in the US? Hardly the point of this post, I know, but I recently saw this adjustments on a Dutch site…

  3. Sean Asbury says:

    Neece – love your work and appreciate you taking the time to read my stuff. I think you and Roxane are putting into practice what I originally wrote of – finding common ground. While I think it's possible at the micro, interpersonal level, once it goes macro positions are so hardened it's impossible to maintain that common ground. At least that was my takeaway and analysis, but you never know, times do change… :)Frans – I have no idea where that advertisement originated. I was looking for atheist advertising images, and, yes I admit, I prefer the soft-pedal approach to the in your face – so I settled on that one 🙂

  4. Steve says:

    Sean, the thing that i find troubling in alot of your writings is this. The morals, and values, set for to govern and guide this country. Are the very things that keep you and your family safe, and able to believe what ever you want. And you are free to disagree and decent etc. These are the things the founders gleened from the Bible. The ten commandments, Jesus, etc. We, are not your enemy. WE, have hope for you. We,, want great things for you. And we, , know you can choose to ignore us. WE,, are fine with that my friend. But,, what WE, put together here. Protects YOU and your lovely family from the evil of the world. Like the Nazi's, or communist, or dictators etc. This thinking, of moral value. This is why we are great. And, safe. So far that is. You unknowningly, are helping the enemys of America.

  5. Steve says:

    We must find common ground. Or we will fall to either the tyranny of communist China, or of Islam."A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South." Abraham Lincoln

  6. Sean Asbury says:

    Steve – As always, I appreciate the time you take to comment on my writing.That said, I have to acknowledge that you and I have such incredibly differing world views and ideas toward making America a great country.I have to make two points very clear for you so that they are not lost.1. I wish you loved the Constitution and most especially the 1st Amendment as much as you love the 2nd Amendment. 2. Part of what makes America an amazing country is our ability to openly debate and express differing points of view. In your ideal country, debate and thinking would cease to be. You would love a country, based on how you've expressed yourself, where everyone conformed to a point of view that matches that of your own. You bad mouth liberals simply because they think differently than you do.I understand your passion for your position – but your position is not all encompassing. Just because you believe in it with all your might, does not make your worldview correct. Additionally, you have no ability to accommodate an alternative view.That said, while I respect your right to your opinions, I will tell you that McCarthyism tactics are out of fashion. To suggest that my offering of opinions is akin to endangering our national security is simply beyond the pale and you should be ashamed for making such a statement. I've spent my entire adult life – 24 years and counting working for the defense of this country and to have you make a statement as such is reviling to me.While I may not like the vision for America you have and yes, I will work vociferously to combat your American theocratic vision, I would not dream of accusing you of being a threat to our nation. Respectfully, Sean

  7. The Mrs. says:

    Steve,While I know that Sean does not need for me to fight his battles, I have to say that I am highly offended that you would even consider that ANYTHING Sean does runs counter to the security and the well-being of this nation, He spent 9+ years in the Army and since that time worked for the defense of this country in the DOD. He's thinking about the safety of this country at 2am while the rest of us are sound asleep. How in the world can you pervert the idea of free thinking and atheism into a foray of aiding our enemies? Are you saying that to be a true American you have to subscribe to the morals dictated by the Christian testaments? Are you saying that my "lovely family" is without morals or ethics because we do not believe in a Christian diety? If this is the case, then you are truly missing the point of what Sean has been saying in these last two blogs. Okay, I've said my piece. Curious as to the answers!

  8. Mr. Dillon says:

    Sean, we are once again aligned on this one… I remember the first time I saw a "coexist" bumpersticker. you know the one; a cross, star of David, crescent, etc…I wanted to nod in agreement but naturally couldn't bring myself to nod… I knew in my heart of hearts tba to do so would be incredibly naive. Every organization and organism must seek to propagate itself… at some point resources become scarce and ultimately conflict arises as parties compete for those means of reproduction.

  9. steve says:

    Sean and Ellen,my sincerest appology for offending you and your family. I have great respect for what you have done, and you are doing for our nation. A courageous man. I did not meen to hurt, or attack you personally. I am not a skilled writer, and could have been more carefull in my wording, etc. Please forgive a friend, who likes to read your blog, and likes to voice my sometimes poorly written opinion. Steve

  10. steve says:

    Also, please read my comment above with the Abe quote in it. I think it most clearly states my view that we must find common, American, patriotic ground.

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