Why the U.S. is heading toward nonbelief

By James A. Haught | 22 July 2020
Freethought Now

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The U.S. is heading toward nonbelief. The Secular Age is snowballing in America, as in other Western democracies. Year after year, reports show church membership and attendance slip-slidin’ away.

Church leaders agonize over this ominous erosion. Endlessly, they call for more prayer, more proselytizing and other tactics to entice believers. They ask why the relentless loss is happening.

Sociologists too analyze the cultural shift and offer various explanations. Many concur that Western life is becoming more prosperous and secure, so people no longer feel an urge to pray for divine help. That makes sense.

While experts search for answers, I want to employ Occam’s Razor, the philosophical axiom that says the simplest, most straightforward explanation is the best. Tens of millions of Americans have turned away from supernatural religion for an obvious reason, in my view: They see that it’s untrue. Intelligent, educated, modern people perceive that magical dogmas are a bunch of hooey — just fairy tales with no factual reality. Gods and devils, heavens and hells, angels and demons, miracles and messiahs, prophecies and divine visitations, visions and other such stuff, are fiction.

Researchers generally accept the Flynn Effect, which says average IQs have been continuously rising over the past many decades. Better-educated Americans are smarter than they were in the 1960s. They can detect nonsense more easily. Further, researchers find that doubters have higher IQ than believers do. As the West grows more intelligent, the brightest reject supernatural claims.

Ever since Ancient Greece, brave thinkers have doubted holy hokum. Among the wildest was the late comedian George Carlin, who proclaimed:

When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims: religion. No contest. Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of 10 things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these 10 things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit! … There is no God. None, not one, no God, never was.

Right before our eyes, supernatural faith is dying in America. Using Occam’s Razor, we can conclude that it is happening because magical dogmas no longer are believable.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

James A. HaughtJames A. Haught died on 23 July 2023. He was editor emeritus of West Virginia’s The Charleston Gazette-Mail and was a senior editor of the Free Inquiry magazine. He was also the author of numerous books and articles; his most recent book was Religion is Dying: Soaring Secularism in America and the West (Gustav Broukal Press, 2010). Haught won 21 national newswriting awards and thirty of his columns were distributed by national syndicates. He was in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the World, Contemporary Authors, and 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century.

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