News and Opinion Based on Facts

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Obama Administration Stands with Israel in UNSC against Unilateral Palestinian State Declaration

By Jason Attermann

U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo delivered remarks to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) during its monthly Middle East session. 
DiCarlo outlined President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies, specifically and emphatically urging the other UNSC member states to reject any Palestinian effort to unilaterally declare a state.   DiCarlo reiterated the Obama Administration’s firm opposition to any Palestinian attempt to unilaterally seek statehood:
“Let there be no doubt: symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September will not create an independent Palestinian state. The United States will not support unilateral campaigns at the United Nations in September or any other time.
A viable and sustainable peace agreement can only be achieved by mutual agreement of the parties themselves. Only through serious and responsible negotiations can the parties achieve the shared goal of two states for two peoples, with a secure, Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with an independent, contiguous, and viable state of Palestine.
This is the goal. This is the vision. But there are no short-cuts. We call again on all member states to encourage the parties to take the constructive actions to promote peace-and to avoid actions that could undermine trust, prejudge negotiations, or place the temptations of symbolism over the hard work of reaching agreement.”
DiCarlo also condemned Hamas’ “path of terror and rejection” and urged for captured soldier Gilad Shalit to be freed:
“As President Obama has made clear, Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity for their people if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. Palestinian leaders must also take further steps to combat incitement to violence. And Hamas must immediately and unconditionally release Gilad Shalit, who has now suffered in captivity for more than five years.”

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Another example of Arab child abuse

PA kindergarten teaches children to die fighting Israel in the name of Islam. Class play involves soldiers, death.
by Maayana Miskin
Published: 16/08/11, 7:54 PM

A Palestinian Authority kindergarten showed off what its young students had learned over the past year by having the five-year-olds act out scenes of terror and death for their families. The parents were moved to tears upon seeing their children pretend to die as “martyrs, ”Palestinian Media Watch reported reported.

During the graduation ceremony two plays were performed – one based on “Little Red Riding Hood,” the second, “The Martyr's Wedding,” a story glorifying death in battle with Israel for the sake of Islam.

“Another performance named 'The Martyr's Wedding' delighted the audience due to the role-play of the children, whose acting depicted the reality of roadblocks, children, occupation, soldiers, and the children's death as Martyrs,” wrote the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, in a report picked up and translated by Palestinian Media Watch.

The performance was accompanied by “nationalistic” songs, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported. Many such songs encourage “martyrdom” and bloodshed for the sake of “freeing the land of Palestine” - a land which, according to the PA, includes all of Israel.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Rick Perry was named as one of the worst governors in the nation for his history of ethical problems by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Along with his contention that Social Security, Medicare and most other entitlements are Unconstitutional, he thinks as well that the earth is 6,000 years old.. that women were created out of Adams rib... that the Statue of Liberty is part of an evil, secular, French Freemason agenda.... oh, and he feels that Constitution is in line with the notion that this is a "Christian Nation".
His dogmatic devotion to these "Christian" ideals didn't seem to have been sullied when, after inheriting a ten BILLION dollar deficit from George W Bush (who was quoted as saying as he left office, "I'm glad I'm not the one to have to clean this mess up") immediately threw 161,000 children off of the "S-Chip" Program.. an insurance initiatlve that covered disadvantaged and handicapped kids... causing most of them to suffer even more, leaving many thousands of them hungry, hopeless and hundreds more of them to just lay down and die.
He also thinks that it's OK to execute people even after their innocence was proven... and didn't blink an eye when, days before an expert was to give testimony, he rearranged the board at the Texas Forensic Science Commission to appoint one of his top lieutenants, John Bradley, as the new Chair.  Bradley immediately canceled a hearing on the death of Cameron Todd Willingham, a man who was executed without having committed the crime he was accused of.  There were at least 3 others who suffered the same fate.
I'm sure the 'merciful Jesus' he prays to would be thrilled that he (and his cadre of 'Banana Republicans') hijacked millions of dollars from Texas' Electric Bill Assistance Fund.. money set aside to help pay summer electric bills for low-income residents... during the worst drought and heat wave in memory.
And.. as Jesus healed the sick, Perry feels it is his righteous duty to 'lay hands' on every 6th Grade girl in Texas to begin undergoing a Gardasil vaccination series for the sexually-transmitted HPV virus... in fact, he issued an Executive Order in 2007 mandating just that... except it turned out to be a brother-in-law deal with his Merck lobbyist friends and former Chiefs of Staff.
He also enacted a mandatory-sonogram-for-abortions law in Texas.... even for victims of rape and incest. This procedure must be accomplished via a procedure called a  "Transvaginal Probe", in which a large "device" is wrapped in a condom and inserted into the vagina... basically a second rape, and it costs the patient between $100 - $400 to boot.
I'm sure the Lord is reserving a special place in Heaven for his assistance.
He seems to think it's perfectly fine that friends and donors whom he appointed to the Texas Teacher Retirement System Board (TRS) steered hundreds of millions of dollars set aside for educators -- and millions in fees -- right back to the firms run by his campaign donors.
It seems that 'lying' is in sync with his embrace of the Ten Commandments as well.
In 2007, Texans learned of of a massive sex abuse scandal at the Texas Youth Commission. When news of the scandal broke, Perry claimed he knew nothing about the abuse until he saw it in the paper.  In fact, he and his office were informed of a stalled investigation into the abuse as early as February 2005, two years before news reports first came out.
He didn't question any issues of "Constitutionality" when he coordinated with two business partners to flip land he had purchased and sold in order to profit more than $500,000. He covered-up this scandal by refusing to release the public listing agreement, attempting to hide the identity of the land buyer and hiding the fact that the buyer was a business partner with the original seller.
He had no problem as he handed out $16 million in taxpayer dollars from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to companies tied to his top political contributors... the public corruption scandal showed that he gave his “close friend” and campaign contributor David Nance a $4.5 million handout, despite the fact that Nance side-stepped two review boards to receive it.
He feels that it was absolutely fine when he covered-up and refused to answer ethics complaints involving more than $1 million in potentially illegal state expenditures. One complaint zeroed in on the $816,000 in campaign dollars, reported in lump sums, for what Perry calls "mansion expenses." For months, Perry reported a flat monthly expense ranging from $3,000 or $6,500 as "mansion expenses" without any supporting detail -- a violation of campaign disclosure laws. The expenses were for Perry’s $10,000-a-month taxpayer funded rental mansion. Additionally, Perry failed to disclose $204,400 in debt on his College Station home from 2007-2009.
He had no compunction in covering up Texas’ dropout crisis, pushing false dropout numbers to hide the fact that at least 4 in 10 Texas high school students do not graduate from high school or get a GED in four years.
The Governor was just fine with his refusal to come to grips and be honest about the $27 billion budget shortfall facing the state of Texas.... a budget crisis which is devastating their economy (and will for many years).... a shortfall which is now “proportionately larger” than California’s.
His ability to lie even about the "Texas Jobs Miracle" is unsurpassed....
After belching out the old meme that "Government doesn't create jobs"... most that he touted were (you guessed it) Government jobs... but due to his 'brilliance', layoffs are looming.State budget cuts, championed by Mr. Perry to address a big budget shortfall, are prompting school districts around the state to lay off hundreds of teachers and other workers going into the school year starting next month.  
Those jobs seem to be expendable.
What is not expendable, it seems, is the $25 Million in State funds so that Rick and his pal BJ "Red" McCombs (co-founder of the ultra-conservative, quasi-evangelical Clear Channel Communications) wants to build a (get this) Formula One Racetrack in Austin.. an additional $4 Million possibly coughed up by the city itself while "Formula One" is promoted nationwide.
$25 Million could pay for 500 teachers at an annual salary of  $48,000.00
It stands to reason that a swaggering Texan would know that it is a good idea to look a gift horse in the mouth. Rick Perry rejected $555 million in unemployment insurance from the federal government, only to accept $14 billion in other federal stimulus dollars (directed at his friends and donors in business... the "job creators").
It seems that the closeted secessionist didn't mind the Federal Government stuffing his cronies' pockets... hypocrisy  being the least of his shortcomings.
The truth of the matter is that Texas actually lost 352,500 non-farm jobs since 2008 according to seasonally adjusted data over the past three years... and they lost 61,600 additional since March 2011 alone according to the Texas Workforce Commission.
The only "Miracle" is that this degenerate hasn't yet been struck by lightning.
Texas standings against all 50 states on a variety of issues (1st means highest ranking, 50th means lowest ranking).
• State Aid Per Pupil in Average Daily Attendance – 47th
• Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) Scores – 45th
• % of Population 25 and Older with High School Diploma – 50th
• High School Graduation Rate – 43rd
• Per Capita State Spending on State Arts Agencies – 43rd
• Birth Rate – 2nd
• Percent of Uninsured Children – 1st
• Percent of Children Living in Poverty – 4th
• Percent of Population Uninsured – 1st
• Percent of Non-Elderly Uninsured – 1st
• Percent of Low Income Population Covered by Medicaid – 49th
• Percent of Population with Employer-Based Health Insurance – 48th
• Total Health Expenditures as % of the Gross State Product – 43rd
• Per Capita State Spending on Mental Health – 50th
• Per Capita State Spending on Medicaid – 49th
• Health Care Expenditures per Capita – 44th
• Physicians per Capita – 42nd
• Registered Nurses per Capita – 44th
• Average Monthly Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) Benefits per Person – 47th
• Percent of Population Who Visit the Dentist – 46th
• Overall Birth Rate – 2nd
• Teenage Birth Rate – 7th
• Births to Unmarried Mothers – 17th
• Percent of Women with Pre-Term Birth – 9th
• Percent of Non-Elderly Women with Health Insurance – 50th
• Rate of Women Aged 40+ Who Receive Mammograms – 40th
• Cervical Cancer Rate – 11th
• Percent of Women with High Blood Pressure – 16th
• Percent of Pregnant Women Receiving Prenatal Care in First Trimester – 50th
• Women’s Voter Registration – 45th
• Women’s Voter Turnout – 49th
• Percent of Women Living in Poverty – 6th
• Mortgage Debt as Percent of Home Value – 47th
• Foreclosure Rates – 10th
• Median Net Worth of Households – 47th
• Average Credit Score – 49th
• Retirement Plan Participation – 47th
• Amount of Carbon Dioxide Emissions – 1st
• Amount of Volatile Organic Compounds Released into Air – 1st
• Amount of Toxic Chemicals Released into Water – 1st
• Amount of Recognized Cancer-Causing Carcinogens Released into Air – 1st
• Amount of Hazardous Waste Generated – 1st
• Amount of Toxic Chemicals Released into Air – 5th
• Amount of Recognized Cancer-Causing Carcinogens Released into Water – 7th
• Number of Hazardous Waste Sites on National Priority List – 7th
• Consumption of Energy per Capita – 5th
• Workers’ Compensation Coverage – 50th
• Income Inequality Between the Rich and the Poor – 9th
• Income Inequality Between the Rich and the Middle Class – 5th
• Homeowner’s Insurance Affordability – 46th
• Number of Executions – 1st

Republicans directly to blame for S&P credit downgrade

Republicans directly to blame for S&P credit downgrade
This should be highlighted again and again, because it is very simple, very logical and very, very damning:
A Standard & Poor’s director said for the first time Thursday that one reason the United States lost its triple-A credit rating was that several lawmakers expressed skepticism about the serious consequences of a credit default — a position put forth by some Republicans.
Without specifically mentioning Republicans, S&P senior director Joydeep Mukherji said the stability and effectiveness of American political institutions were undermined by the fact that “people in the political arena were even talking about a potential default,” Mukherji said.
“That a country even has such voices, albeit a minority, is something notable,” he added. “This kind of rhetoric is not common amongst AAA sovereigns.”
These statements have caused tea party Republicans to bleat, but, notably, it apparently hasn't caused any of them to reflect on their positions. What the S&P director is saying here makes perfect sense. If the government of a nation publicly questions whether its debts should be paid, then it stands to reason that investors should be more cautious about presuming those debts should be paid. If politicians begin to mutter that perhaps those debts should be "ransomed" for political favors, then by definition those debts are less safe than they were before.
This is really so ridiculously obvious that it feels embarrassing to even have to explain it. Yes, threatening the integrity of U.S. credit will have the direct result of ... threatening the integrity of U.S. credit. That was the precise point all along. It was the very reason why the hostage-taking was deemed so dangerous and so exquisitely vile.
Some Republican politicians and pundits have countered that well, they never really meantdefault when they said default, because creditors would be paid; it was just the rest of the government that would shut down in order to pay for it. That's not appreciably better, though: a shutdown of that magnitude would itself have severe economic repercussions, which would in turn further weaken the U.S. government's fiscal positions. And it still shows a direct willingness to ransom the nation's debt for political gain, which is precisely the fear cited in the S&P downgrade statement.
The credit rating of a country or company is supposed to reflect the risk involved in investing in that entity. Mind you, that doesn't always work out very well in practice, as we've seen in recent history, but that's the premise. So yes, it is riskier to invest in a nation whose politicians are openly contemplating default than it is to invest in others. Given that, a less-than-AAA rating would indeed seem sensible.
That this is all so very obvious, but still hasn't managed to trickle into the decidedly thick heads of tea party-styled Republicans, is yet another demonstration of their complete and utter ignorance as to the actual effects of their own positions. Most of the people cheering for default had little idea of what the word meant, much less what they meant by it, much less what the impact might be on, say, checks going out, or the markets, or businesses: all they knew is that it was supposed to be a political position that they were supposed to have, and to hell with anything else.
During the Iowa debate, every Republican candidate claimed they would not support even a10 to one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. Which tax increases? Didn't matter. Which spending cuts? Didn't matter. The ideological has so vastly outstripped the rational that national economic policy is being treated more as a religious test than a duty of government. The devotion to a ridiculous, completely self-contradictory set of supposed ideals takes precedence even when the practitioners are confronted with direct evidence, as with the various S&P statements, that those actions had and/or are having a negative effect.
I am not sure it is dishonesty: I rather think it is full-on stupidity. I question whether presidential candidates like Michele Bachmann or obstinate, self-aggrandizing figures like Eric Cantor or Paul Ryan even know what it is they are proposing when they propose it, or have the mental capacity to understand any of the counterarguments. This is largely what happens when a party devolves into ideological cultism, and devalues even their own prior intellectual voices in favor of conspiracy theories and persecution complexes.
At any event, it is now becoming readily apparent that yes, rational policy makers, economists, and business leaders do very much resent the moronic stances of the current Republican Party, and have no particular interest in seeing them continue. Whether that will lead to any change in outcome, I have no idea; it largely depends on whether Republican donor businesses think that personal favors that the GOP might do for them outweigh the larger dragging effects of a national economy held hostage by outright morons.

New York Times: Republicans Have No Idea What They're Doing

 Journalistic standards and modern political norms place some restrictions on what a reporter can and will say in a news article. It’s what too often leads to unhelpful he-said-she-said reporting (“Eric Cantor today said two plus two equals five; Democrats and mathematicians disagreed”).
But the New York Times’ Jackie Calmes has a terrific piece in which she comes very close — as close as is possible in our contemporary media construct — to simply drawing the public a picture the country urgently needs to see, but usually doesn’t. In a measured tone, the NYT article effectively makes clear that when it comes to economic policy, Republicans plainly have no idea what they’re talking about.
The boasts of Congressional Republicans about their cost-cutting victories are ringing hollow to some well-known economists, financial analysts and corporate leaders, including some Republicans, who are expressing increasing alarm over Washington’s new austerity and antitax orthodoxy.
Their critiques have grown sharper since last week, when President Obama signed his deficit reduction deal with Republicans and, a few days later, when Standard & Poor’s downgraded the credit rating of the United States.
But even before that, macroeconomists and private sector forecasters were warning that the direction in which the new House Republican majority had pushed the White House and Congress this year — for immediate spending cuts, no further stimulus measures and no tax increases, ever — was wrong for addressing the nation’s two main ills, a weak economy now and projections of unsustainably high federal debt in coming years.
Instead, these critics say, Washington should be focusing on stimulating the economy in the near term to induce people to spend money and create jobs, while settling on a long-term plan for spending cuts and tax increases to take effect only after the economy recovers.

Republicans respond to all of this by … not caring at all. Some may want a weaker economy on purpose, some are too blinded by ideology to consider objective information, some aren’t terribly bright, and some, as David Brooks recently noted, simply “do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities.”
But the bottom line remains the same: nearly everyone who understands economic policy at any level is convinced Republicans — in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail — are spewing gibberish. And in this case, “nearly everyone” includes veterans of the Reagan and Bush administrations, making opposition to right-wing Tea Party nonsense bipartisan.
Also note the scope of the concerns. Current GOP officials aren’t just wrong about stimulus, the timing of budget cuts, taxes, debt reduction, or monetary policy — they’re wrong about all of them at the same time.
By Steve Benen | Sourced from Washington Monthly 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Goodbye Religion? How Godlessness Is Increasing With Each New Generation

This demographic transformation has been in progress ever since World War II, but in recent years it's begun to seriously pick up steam.
Photo Credit: apdk via flickr
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Something strange is happening to American teenagers. If you believe popular wisdom, young people are apathetic, cynical and jaded; or, they're supposed to be conformists whose overriding desire is to fit in and be popular. But if you've been paying close attention over the past decade, you might have seen any of a growing number of cases that conspicuously defy these stereotypes: stories of teenagers who have strong principles they're unashamed to display and which they're committed to defending, even at great personal cost, against the bullying of a hostile establishment.
For example, in 2002, an Eagle Scout named Darrell Lambert was threatened with expulsion from the Boy Scouts, despite his having earned dozens of merit badges and having held literally every leadership position in his troop. His crime? He's an outspoken atheist. When the news of his beliefs reached scouting officials, they demanded that he change his mind. He was given a week to think it over. All he had to do was lie, but if he did that, he said, "I wouldn't be a good Scout then, would I?" For his honesty, he was kicked out of the organization he'd devoted his life to.
In New Jersey in 2006, a public high school teacher named David Paskiewicz was openly preaching Christianity in the classroom, advocating creationism and telling a Muslim student she would burn in hell if she didn't convert. A junior named Matt LaClair reported this illegal government preaching to the school administration. In a meeting with the principal, Paskiewicz denied everything -- whereupon LaClair produced audio recordings of him saying the things he specifically denied having said.
In Indiana in 2009, the senior class at a public school was asked to vote on whether to have a prayer as part of their graduation ceremony. A senior named Eric Workman, knowing full well that school-sponsored prayer is illegal even if a majority votes for it, filed a lawsuit and won an injunction against the prayer. The school administration responded by announcing it wouldn't review graduation speeches in advance, clearly hoping that some student would use the opportunity to say the same prayer -- except that the class valedictorian was Eric Workman, and he used his graduation speech to explain why the school's actions were unconstitutional and to explain the importance of the First Amendment.
Stories like these are multiplying all over the nation. In South Carolina just this year, a graduating senior named Harrison Hopkins put a stop to school prayer with help from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. In Louisiana, a senior named Damon Fowler fought against similar school-sponsored prayers at his graduation. In Rhode Island, an amazing sophomore named Jessica Ahlquist is leading the fight to get an illegal "School Prayer" banner removed from her school's auditorium.
Granted, stories like these aren't entirely a new phenomenon. There have always been brave young free thinkers who dared to stand up for their rights, and there has always been a hostile, prejudiced religious majority that's tried to silence them with bullying, persecution and harassment.
For instance, when church-state hero Ellery Schempp prevailed in a landmark First Amendment case against school-sponsored Bible reading, his principal wrote to the colleges he had applied to and asked them not to admit him. (It didn't work: Ellery was accepted to Tufts University, graduated with honors and became a successful scientist.) Likewise, when Jim McCollum and his mother Vashti challenged their school over a released-time program, raving bigots assaulted him, got her fired from her job, pelted their home with rotten fruit and killed their cat. (The McCollums didn't relent, and won a precedent-setting Supreme Court decision striking down religious instruction on public school time.)
Regrettably, this hasn't changed as much as I'd like. Most of the student activists I named earlier have faced harassment, some from peers, some from the teachers and authority figures who are supposed to be the responsible ones. Damon Fowler was demeaned by a teacher and disowned by his own parents for opposing prayer at his graduation. But what's different now is that young people who speak out aren't left to face the mob alone. Now more than ever before, there's a thriving, growing secular community that's becoming increasingly confident, assertive, and capable of looking out for its own.
When Fowler was kicked out of his house, a fundraiser on Friendly Atheist netted over $30,000 in donations to pay for his living expenses and college tuition. The Secular Student Alliance, a national organization that supports student atheist and freethought clubs, is growing by leaps and bounds in colleges and high schools. (This is especially important in the light of psychological experiments which find that it's much easier to resist peer pressure if you have even one other person standing with you.) Student activists like the ones I've mentioned are no longer just scattered voices in the crowd; they're the leading edge of a wave.
All these individual facts add up to a larger picture, which is confirmed by statistical evidence: Americans are becoming less religious, with rates of atheism and secularism increasing in each new generation. This demographic transformation has been in progress ever since World War II, but in recent years it's begun to seriously pick up steam. In the generation born since 1982, variously referred to as Generation Y, the Millennials, or Generation Next, one in five peopleidentify as nonreligious, atheist, or agnostic. In the youngest cohort, the trend is even more dramatic: as many as 30% of those born since 1990 are nonbelievers. Another study, this one by a Christian polling firm, found that people are leaving Christianity at four times the rate that new members are joining.
What could be causing this generational shift towards godlessness? There are multiple theories, but only one of them that I'm aware of both makes good sense and is corroborated by the facts.
Over the last few decades, society in general, and young people in particular, have become increasingly tolerant of gays and other minorities. For the most part, this is a predictable result of familiarity: people who've grown up in an increasingly multicultural society see less problem with interracial relationships (89% of Generation Nexters approve of interracial marriage, compared to 70% of older age groups) and same-sex marriage (47% in favor among Nexters, compared to 30% in older groups). When it comes to issues like whether gays and lesbians should be protected from job discrimination or allowed to adopt, the age gap in support is even more dramatic (71% vs. 59% and 61% vs. 44%, respectively).
But while American society is moving forward on all these fronts, many churches not only refuse to go along, they're actively moving backward. Most large Christian sects, both Catholic and Protestant, have made fighting against gay rights and women's rights their all-consuming crusade. And young people have gotten this message loud and clear: polls find that the most common impressions of Christianity are that it's hostile, judgmental and hypocritical. In particular, an incredible 91% of young non-Christians say that Christianity is "anti-homosexual", and significant majorities say that Christianity treats being gay as a bigger sin than anything else. (When right-wing politicians thunder that same-sex marriage is worse than terrorism, it's not hard to see where people have gotten this impression.)
On other social issues as well, the gap between Gen Nexters and the church looms increasingly wide. Younger folks favor full access to the morning-after pill by a larger margin than older generations (59% vs. 46%). They reject the notion that women should return to "traditional roles" -- already a minority position, but they disagree with it even more strongly than others. And they're by far the least likely of all age groups to say that they have "old-fashioned" values about family and marriage (67% say this, as compared to 85% of other age groups).
In a society that's increasingly tolerant and enlightened, the big churches remain stubbornly entrenched in the past, clinging to medieval dogmas about gay people and women, presuming to lecture their members about how they should vote, whom they should love, how they should live. It's no surprise that people who've grown up in this tolerant age find it absurd when they're told that their family and friends don't deserve civil rights, and it's even less of a surprise that, when they're told they must believe this to be good Christians, they simply walk away. This trend is reflected in the steadily rising percentages of Americans who say that religion is "old-fashioned and out of date" and can't speak to today's social problems.
The Roman Catholic church in particular has been hit hard by this. According to a 2009 Pew study, "Faith in Flux," one in ten American adults is a former Catholic, and a majority of ex-Catholics cite unhappiness with the church's archaic stance on abortion, homosexuality, birth control or the treatment of women as a major factor in their departure. But evangelical and other Protestant denominations are feeling the same sting. According to a survey by the sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, moderates and progressives are heading for the exits as the churches increasingly become the domain of conservatives:
From the early 1970s to the late 1980s the fraction of Americans age 18 to 29 who identified with evangelical Protestantism rose to 25% from 20%, but since 1990, that fraction has fallen back to about 17%.
...Today, 17% of Americans say they have no religion, and these new "nones" are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25% and 30% of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation -- roughly four times higher than in any previous generation.
Even the mainstream, relatively liberal Protestant churches are dwindling and dying at an astonishing rate: collateral damage, perhaps, in a political war that's led young people to view them as guilty by association. As the journal First Thingsobserves in an article titled "The Death of Protestant America," the mainline churches have fallen from more than 50% of the American population in 1965 to less than 8% today.
What all this means is that the rise of atheism as a political force is an effect, rather than a cause, of the churches' hard right turn towards fundamentalism. I admit that this conclusion is a little damaging to my ego. I'd love to say that we atheists did it all ourselves; I'd love to be able to say that our dazzling wit and slashing rhetorical attacks are persuading people to abandon organized religion in droves. But the truth is that the churches' wounds are largely self-inflicted. By obstinately clinging to prejudices that the rest of society is moving beyond, they're in the process of making themselves irrelevant. In fact, there are indications that it's a vicious circle: as churches become less tolerant and more conservative, their younger and more progressive members depart, which makes their average membership still more conservative, which accelerates the progressive exodus still further, and so on. (A similar dynamic is at work in the Republican party, which explains their increasing levels of insanity over the past two or three decades.)
That doesn't mean, however, that that there's nothing we freethinkers can contribute. On the contrary, there's a virtuous circle that we can take advantage of: the more we speak out and the more visible we are, the more familiar atheism will become, and the more it will be seen as a viable alternative, which will encourage still more people to join us and speak out. This is exactly the same strategy that's been used successfully by trailblazers in the gay-rights movement and other social reform efforts.
At the same time, the churches aren't entirely oblivious to what's happening. The rising secular tide of Generation Next hasn't gone unfelt or unnoticed, but is increasingly being reflected in dwindling donations, graying congregations, and empty churches across the land. As John Avant, a vice president for evangelization of the Southern Baptist Conference, lamented:
A study by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health showed that only 11 percent of SBC churches are healthy and growing... And we are doing worse with young people, with 39 percent of Southern Baptist churches in 2005 reporting baptizing no teens. (source)
The Catholic church is experiencing a similar slow fade, with declining Mass attendance and a crippling shortage of priests worldwide. Land once owned by religious orders is being sold off for conservation or public use, turned into schools or nature preserves. The Pope's response, meanwhile, is to accelerate the decline by ordering bishops not even to discuss the possibility of ordaining women or married men, even as he welcomes Holocaust deniers and ex-Angelican misogynists.
And religious giving has declined as well, leaving shrinking churches grappling with layoffs and angry creditors. The recession has worsened this trend, but didn't create it; like all the other patterns, it's generational, with each increasingly secular age group giving less than the last. As one conservative rabbi says, the dip in giving stems from a "growing disinterest in organized religion."
Of course, Christianity is still by far the largest religious affiliation in America, and likely will be for some time. But the numbers don't lie, and the trends of the last several decades show more and more evidence of the same secularizing wave that's overtaking most countries in Europe. The major churches, clinging to the inferior morality of long-gone ages, are increasingly out of step with a world that's more enlightened, rational and tolerant than it once was. And the more they dig in their heels, the more we can expect this process to accelerate. I, for one, can't wait to see the young atheist activists who will emerge in the next few decades.
Adam Lee is the author and creator of Daylight Atheism, one of the largest and most popular weblogs on the Internet whose primary focus is on atheism. His original essays written for the site explore issues in politics, science, history, philosophy, and popular culture. Lee is the author of a forthcoming book, also titled Daylight Atheism, which advances the atheist viewpoint and argues that lack of religious belief is a positive liberation and the gateway to a moral life filled with purpose and joy.
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