The Spiritual War
“We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives.” -Fight Club (movie), screenplay by Jim Uhls, directed by David Fincher, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk.
The landscape of American spirituality is undergoing a dramatic shift. Based on the American Religious Identification Survey of 2008(1), the largest religious affiliation shift has been to no organized religion, which has more than doubled in size from an estimated 14 million adults in 1990 to 34 million in 2008. This shift has enabled a litany of New York Times best sellers from the New Atheists (this list is not meant to be all inclusive):
- The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, by Sam Harris (2005)
- The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins (2006)
- Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris (2006)
- Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, by Daniel C. Dennett (2006)
- God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by Christopher Hitchens (2007)
The rhetoric is highly similar: religion is a by product of human evolution; we have evolved to a point that we no longer need religion; reason should replace religion; religion is inherently dangerous to boot. These writers, and their growing legion of followers, have been labeled as the aggressive atheists. This is hardly surprising; what minority, when speaking out against the majority, was not viewed as aggressive?
The moral majority view point is responding to this growing atheist voice with best sellers of their own:
- unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (2007);
- The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by Timothy Keller (2008)
- Why Faith Matters, by David J. Wolpe (2008)
Once again, the rhetoric is highly similar: religion is necessary for Morality™ (Morality is a trademark of Organized Religion, all rights reserved); God is truth; the Bible is the word of God so it must be true; evolution nor science nor any other man made ideas that contradict the Bible can possible be true. This deep-rooted, but eroding majority has become increasingly defensive over the last decade, even developing the intelligent design ‘theory’ in an effort to discount evolution and return theology to the realm of science.
Yet even as legions are leaving organized religion, and in spite of the high level of publicity generated around atheism, the sentiment towards this group remains decidedly negative, further agitating a growing minority. In 2007, USA Today/Gallup conducted a poll(2) to gauge the tolerance of voters towards specific minorities. The findings were startling. Pollsters were asked “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be (blank), would you vote for that person?” The table below summarizes the yes votes by qualification:
In many cases, the poll results showed the growing tolerance of America. In comparing the recent poll to responses from the 1987 poll, 15% more were accepting of a black candidate and 6% more for a woman. Since 1983, 26% more polled were accepting of a homosexual. These results represent a positive snapshot of the progress of American minorities. Accept in one case: atheism. In 1987, 44% would vote for an atheist, over twenty years later that had improved by just 1%.
The moral majority remains fervent in their worldview and distrustful of the non-religious. The growing minority, buoyed with solace that they are not alone, continues to feel the strain of being the minority. The gulf between the two remains wide, with no empathy in either side as each side sees it as a black and white issue: there is right, there is wrong, and the TRUTH tells you which is which. The TRUTH is infallible, and anyone not believing in their version of the TRUTH is horribly wrong. One side gets its TRUTH from deductive reasoning, the other gets its TRUTH from an 1,800 year old collection of fables and a ton of faith. No solution, it is war.
Irrelevance not war
Irrelevance believes in no TRUTH, and instead laughs while watching both sides butting their heads into proverbial walls. The posturing of the moral majority is unintentional comedy of the highest quality, for example: evolution is false because of "reliable eyewitness testimony", meaning the Bible! You can’t make this stuff up, I giggle every time I read “reliable eyewitness testimony”.
The new atheists are also very entertaining as they endlessly spar with religion with a conviction that you can actually spar with religion, when in reality it would be easier to logically disprove Santa to a devote 6 year old. (I understand the reason, I appreciate the effort, but come on, do you really think you are changing people’s minds? Paradigm shifts pass as generations pass; the Copernican sun-centric view only took firm hold after the last of the earth-centric holdouts passed to their graves.)
Irrelevance is content to sit back and watch the show, diligently following the latest advances science has to offer, offering its help to spiritual war survivors, yet quietly understanding the meaninglessness of the self.
- "American Religious Identification Survey (2008)," by Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, at http://americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/reports/ARIS_Report_2008.pdf
- “Some Americans Reluctant to Vote for Mormon, 72-Year-Old Presidential Candidates,” by Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup News Service, at http://www.gallup.com/poll/26611/Some-Americans-Reluctant-Vote-Mormon-72YearOld-Presidential-Candidates.aspx