By James A. Haught
A right-wing Internet outfit called Newsmax is buying full-page newspaper ads to promote a book claiming that liberals are conspiring to “create a godless, heathen American society.”
The ads offer free copies of the book, Dark Agenda: The War to Destroy Christian America, by conservative crusader David Horowitz.
The author contends that “Barack Obama has become the hero of the anti-God, anti-religious left.” The full-page ads say the book gives “vital insights into the war against Christianity and names the global radicals, leftist Democrats and fat-cats of Hollywood and Wall Street responsible for it.”
Wow! It sounds like a sinister conspiracy secretly is warping America. But I think the book and Newsmax are off-base: Religion is dying because it’s untrue – because educated modern people no longer swallow supernatural claims about gods, devils, heavens, hells, visions, prophecies and the like. No conspiracy is needed to push mysticism to a well-deserved death.
There’s no doubt that a profound transformation is happening. Religion is disappearing among intelligent Western people. The culture shift is so swift that it stuns sociologists.
The latest Pew Research report is titled: “In the United States, Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace.” It says the number of Americans who call themselves Christian has fallen 12 percent in the past decade – while those who say their faith is “none” has climbed to 26 percent, up from 17 percent in 2009. That’s remarkably quick change.
Currently, 43 percent of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51 percent in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20 percent) are Catholic, down from 23 percent in 2009…. Self-described atheists now account for 4 percent of U.S, adults, up modestly but significantly from 2 percent in 2009; agnostics make up 5 percent of U.S. adults, up from 3 percent a decade ago; and 17 percent of Americans now describe their religion as ‘nothing in particular,’ up from 12 percent in 2009.
Further, whatever their labels, fewer Americans go to church. Pew says: “Over the last decade, the share of Americans who say they attend religious services at least once or twice a month dropped by 7 percentage points.”
A recent Gallup poll found that U.S. church membership fell 20 percent in the past 20 years, while population increased.
Researchers find that religious doubters are more intelligent than believers. Further, the “Flynn effect” shows that average I.Q.s rise three points per decade. Americans are growing smarter, as well as more educated – and smart, scientific-minded people don’t believe supernatural stuff.
That’s the reason religion is dying. No left-wing conspiracy is needed to dig its grave.
(Haught, longtime editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail, is a weekly contributor to Daylight Atheism.)