Cats can be stubborn.

balletcat

Christians are in decline while Unaffiliated are rising fast.

goodnewseveryoneThe folks at the Pew Research Center are back with another study of the religious landscape in the United States and it’s not looking good for Christians

America’s Changing Religious Landscape | Pew Research Center.

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

Specifically speaking, since the last time they came out with this report in 2007 the percentage of Americans identifying as Christian has dropped nearly 8 percentage points from 78.4% to 70.6% in 2014. That’s still a majority of Americans, but if this trend continues it won’t be that long before that’s no longer the case. Meanwhile, the Unaffiliated — a combination of atheist, agnostic, and “nothing in particular” — has jumped from 16.1% to 22.8% making it the fastest growing group. That works out to around 56 million people.

PF_15.05.05_RLS2_1_310pxthis group — sometimes called religious “nones” — is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to the new survey. Indeed, the unaffiliated are now second in size only to evangelical Protestants among major religious groups in the U.S.

The number of people self-identifying as Atheists has doubled from 1.6%  to 3.1% and Agnostics are another 4%. That may not sound like much, but there are now more atheists in America than there are Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, or Jews.

PR_15.05.12_RLS-00

While it’s true that the “nothing in particular” folks make up a majority of the Unaffiliated and many of them still consider themselves spiritual in some way, they’re on the decline as more and more of them come to accept the designation of Atheist or Agnostic.

As the unaffiliated have grown, the internal composition of the religious “nones” has changed. Most unaffiliated people continue to describe themselves as having no particular religion (rather than as being atheists or agnostics), but the “nones” appear to be growing more secular. Atheists and agnostics now account for 31% of all religious “nones,” up from 25% in 2007.

The main driving force in the increase of the Unaffiliated is generational replacement. Older religious folks are dying off while the younger generations just aren’t taking up religion like their parents did, but it’s not the only factor in play.

In addition, people in older generations are increasingly disavowing association with organized religion. About a third of older Millennials (adults currently in their late 20s and early 30s) now say they have no religion, up nine percentage points among this cohort since 2007, when the same group was between ages 18 and 26. Nearly a quarter of Generation Xers now say they have no particular religion or describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up four points in seven years. Baby Boomers also have become slightly but noticeably more likely to identify as religious “nones” in recent years.

As the shifting religious profiles of these generational cohorts suggest, switching religion is a common occurrence in the United States. If all Protestants were treated as a single religious group, then fully 34% of American adults currently have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. This is up six points since 2007, when 28% of adults identified with a religion different from their childhood faith. If switching among the three Protestant traditions (e.g., from mainline Protestantism to the evangelical tradition, or from evangelicalism to a historically black Protestant denomination) is added to the total, then the share of Americans who currently have a different religion than they did in childhood rises to 42%.

By a wide margin, religious “nones” have experienced larger gains through religious switching than any other group. Nearly one-in-five U.S. adults (18%) were raised in a religious faith and now identify with no religion. Some switching also has occurred in the other direction: 9% of American adults say they were raised with no religious affiliation, and almost half of them (4.3% of all U.S. adults) now identify with some religion. But for every person who has joined a religion after having been raised unaffiliated, there are more than four people who have become religious “nones” after having been raised in some religion. This 1:4 ratio is an important factor in the growth of the unaffiliated population.

The study goes on to mention that interfaith marriages are more common now than they ever have been before and a large part of that is because there’s plenty of Christians out there who are marrying people in the Unaffiliated group.

There’s a lot more detail in the full report which is worth reading, but the upshot of it is that this is an ongoing trend for the better part of a decade that shows no signs of slowing. Given the huge number of Christians out there making an ass of themselves over things such as gay marriage — or making wedding cakes for gays — I fully expect the trend to continue.

Here’s a few more highlights that made me smile:

  • Although it is low relative to other religious groups, the retention rate of the unaffiliated has increased. In the current survey, 53% of those raised as religiously unaffiliated still identify as “nones” in adulthood, up seven points since 2007. And among Millennials, “nones” actually have one of the highest retention rates of all the religious categories that are large enough to analyze in the survey.
  • The percentage of college graduates who identify with Christianity has declined by nine percentage points since 2007 (from 73% to 64%). The Christian share of the population has declined by a similar amount among those with less than a college education (from 81% to 73%). Religious “nones” now constitute 24% of all college graduates (up from 17%) and 22% of those with less than a college degree (up from 16%).
  • The Christian share of the population is declining and the religiously unaffiliated share is growing in all four major geographic regions of the country. Religious “nones” now constitute 19% of the adult population in the South (up from 13% in 2007), 22% of the population in the Midwest (up from 16%), 25% of the population in the Northeast (up from 16%) and 28% of the population in the West (up from 21%). In the West, the religiously unaffiliated are more numerous than Catholics (23%), evangelicals (22%) and every other religious group.
  • More than a quarter of men (27%) now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 20% in 2007. Fewer women are religious “nones,” but the religiously unaffiliated are growing among women at about the same rate as among men. Nearly one-in-five women (19%) now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 13% in 2007.

One thing that’s clear is that the increase in the number of atheists and agnostics who are speaking up about their lack of belief is having an impact in changing minds. I suspect that our numbers are actually higher than this study says as a lot of the “no particulars” are probably atheists or agnostics who are “in the closet” for whatever reason. Hell, I’m willing to bet there’s more than a few self-identifying Christians/Muslims/Jews/etc. who are really closeted atheists and agnostics. That makes standing up all the more important.

So keep up the good work,everyone. We’re making a difference!

Mom gets free tech support for life.

Truth.

momstechsupport

Rev. Eric Strachan wonders why atheists don’t believe in God.

evangelical-giraffeOver at the Pembroke Daily Observer there’s an article by one Reverend Eric Strachan in which he ponders how it’s possible that an atheist doesn’t believe in God. He starts his column by naming a number of prominent atheists such as billionaire Warren Buffet, Mick Jagger, Mark Zuckerburg, Bruce Lee, Gloria Steinem, and “Jim Gibson, the mayor of Head, Clara and Maria who sits on the Renfrew County council” who is apparently the person that started Strachan’s pondering in the first place.

It seems Strachan hasn’t bothered to find any atheists to answer his burning question, but he doesn’t let that stop him from telling us what he thinks are the reasons we don’t believe:

How come some don’t believe there is a God? | Pembroke Daily Observer.

I’ve discovered throughout the years that there are many reasons why many men and women today align themselves with people like Mark Zuckerburg and Ron Reagan Jr. I think there are many people who are atheists today because they’ve experienced human tragedy, painful traumatic events in their lives, wars, rapes, a dysfunctional childhood, abuse, the tragic loss of a loved one and they’ve simply not been able to come to a satisfactory answer to the perennial perplexing question, “If there is a loving, all-powerful God, then why would He allow this to happen to me?”

Outside of their own personal traumas, many embrace atheism today because they read of the Jewish Holocaust, see and witness human tragedies on a widespread scale, famines, genocides, ethnic cleansings and they ask themselves despairingly, “If there is a God, why would He allow such atrocities?” Together with that, there are many who fly under the banner of atheism today because at some memorable junction in their lives they have been desperately hurt, wounded and scarred by someone who professed to be a believer. Tragically the messenger has discredited the message by his/her inappropriate behaviour and the wounded one has committed the classic error that all of us are inclined to do, of throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

If I had a dime for every time someone told me I’m only an atheist because something bad happened to me I’d be able to retire. Obviously I can’t speak for all atheists and it’s entirely possible that there are some out there for whom one or more of the reasons cited above is indeed why they are atheists, but for a lot of us the reason is simple: There’s no substantial evidence that any kind of God exists.

I’ve had my fair share of trauma and loss in my life. Moments of great despair when I felt hopeless and shattered, but none of that had any bearing on my beliefs in God. Back when I was a believer I attributed all sorts of things to God, but as I grew and learned I realized I had no real reasons for doing so. Near as I can tell God has never spoken to me even at the height of my belief and certainly not as I started to develop doubts.

In his article, Strachan talks of newborn twins as proof of God using the following argument:

I don’t know about you, but a few weeks ago I stood in the Maternity Ward of our local hospital and looked at a pair of newborn twins, and then the other day I held them. It was an awesome moment for me, I was in absolute awe, strangely and mutely silenced as I touched tiny fingers, beheld tiny eyes, felt skin as soft as velvet and pondered to think that what I now held in my arms, these beautiful babies, had their mysterious beginnings in a microscopic cell. Who, I ask you, but a Supreme Omnipotent Creator could engineer such a marvel? You simply cannot look into the face of a newborn and declare “There is no God!”

Sure I can. I’ve held plenty of babies in my time, not the least of which was my own daughter, and as amazing as they can be I don’t see in them any proof of God. In part because I understand how biological reproduction works and that there is no engineering involved in the process. Perhaps the Reverend would do better to study a few biology books from time to time.

I can recall someone once asking me how I could look at trees and not believe in God. I still don’t understand why they thought trees were a convincing proof. If it’s not trees then it’s rainbows or sunsets or the night sky or some other aspect of reality that they clearly don’t have a strong understanding of and thus have to resort to ‘Goddidit’ to explain the awe they feel about whatever random thing they’re awed by. The fact that you don’t understand something doesn’t mean the only answer to how it could exist is God.

If you really want to know why any particular atheist is an atheist, try asking them. Most will probably be happy to tell you and most won’t say it’s because something bad happened to them.

 

Christian Pastor has the cure for AIDS.

Baptist Pastor Steven Anderson wonders why we’re wasting so much money on research to find a cure for AIDS when he already knows how we can have an AIDS-free world by Christmas. It’s really quite simple and he found it right there in the Bible. Kill all the gays. No gays, no AIDS.

No, he really said that:

And Christians sometimes wonder why so many folks think they’re the bad guys.

This isn’t the first time Anderson has said something like this — I’m sure I’ve blogged about him before — so this isn’t really news, but it’s important to remind folks that there are people like him out there saying things like this. His brain is so damaged he thinks this simplistic (if horrible) approach would work. Apparently ignorant of the fact that you don’t have to be gay, or even sexually active, to contract AIDS.

I have no doubt that should Anderson’s dreams of a Christian Theocracy in America ever come to pass that he would have no trouble sleeping at night after following through on his suggested solution. Too much religion will make you crazy and Anderson’s a good example of that fact.

A quick roundup of stuff.

wellshitSo I see the blog is getting dusty again. Here’s what I’ve been up to instead of writing stuff.

Mostly it’s been looking for a new place to live. Our lease on our apartment here in Ann Arbor is up at the end of May and, much like the last several years, the folks at Village Green are asking for a huge jump in rent for us to stay another year (from $1,010 to $1,145). We’re living hand to mouth as it is already and so we’re on the hunt for someplace new which, unfortunately, means leaving Ann Arbor. We thought we’d found a place in Whitmore Lake, but the guy they thought was leaving in May has opted to stay another year and so they don’t have any units that’ll be available before we have to move.

Now we’re looking at possible renting a manufactured house in Novi which would put me within 15 minutes of work, but they’re already finding it hard to just show us the unit we’d be renting and that makes me wonder if moving there would be a mistake. We saw a unit that someone else is renting last Thursday and they promised we could see the one we were being offered either Monday or Tuesday, but here is is Wednesday and I actually had to take the day off tomorrow to maybe see it because reasons. They have an move-in incentive of getting the first month for free, but that promotion ends tomorrow if we don’t sign up and I’m not signing up until I see exactly what it is I’m signing up for. So depending on how things go tomorrow my hunt may or may not be over.

The SEB Podcast revival is still going to happen, but I’m not sure exactly when. Dave has been busy with remodeling his kitchen out in Denver and the month of May will have Anne and I packing for the move to wherever at the end of the month. So maybe we’ll squeeze it in and maybe it’ll be June. Still, Dave and I totally plan on doing it and we may re-ask about topics depending on how long it takes us to get our shit together.

Beyond that, the weather has improved a bit as of late, but I’m still not back to walking as often as I should. I’ve made it out a couple of times with my buddy Greg, but it’s still not a routine. My weight is hovering right in the mid-280’s so at least I haven’t put back on all that I’ve lost. I thought my Fitbit had crapped out on me as it stopped syncing for several days and I got on Twitter to moan about it and the FitBit folks responded with the secret of how to do a reset on the device. It’s back to working again and reminding me that I am one lazy motherfucker.

If you stopped by SEB today you may have found it unresponsive. Seems the Varnish cache that Dreamhost puts on the account needed to have its memory settings tweaked and was killing the site for several hours. Alas, the couple of posts I had intended to write (other than this one) have since withered and died. I’ll try to post something in the next day or so.

The latest trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has hit the net.

And suddenly I’m 9 years-old all over again. For all I know the movie might be as bad as the prequels, but for the moment I couldn’t be more excited.

The three questions I try to live my life by.

ferguson1

ferguson2

ferguson3It’s actually surprising how often the answer to all three questions is “Yes! Yes, goddammit, yes!”

 

My brother-in-law is in a movie.

Aral on the red carpet at the premiere!

Aral on the red carpet at the premiere!

I married into a wonderful family that included at least one aspiring actor in the form of Aral Basil Gribble II. For years I teased him about how I was listed in the Internet Movie Database and he wasn’t. I can’t tease him about that anymore as not only is he listed (and has been for years), but he’s in a real movie with other known actors. The movie is called Dial-A-Prayer and stars Brittany Snow and William H. Macy. It’s a small independent film that was shot here in Michigan and it may just be the break Aral’s been working so hard for.

Here’s a small clip that he’s in rather prominently.

This sort of movie isn’t my normal fare as there aren’t enough explosions and car chases, but I’m happy to read from some of the initial reviews that it isn’t your typical cheesy “faith based” movie either. Reviewer Roger Moore says of it:

“Dial a Prayer” doesn’t tread the straight and narrow and reaches few predictable conclusions about Cora’s journey. But Kiley has created a pretty engrossing and somewhat moving story of a selfish, self-destructive drunk who finds, if not faith, at least the willingness to look outside of herself to try and help others and the chance to actually join the human race.

Being an indie, it’ll see limited theatrical release, but it is available on iTunes as of tomorrow. Alas, I don’t use iTunes, but I’m sure it’ll show up on one of the services I do use soon at which point I’ll be checking it out. If it shows up at a local theater I’ll have to go see it there just for the weird experience of seeing my brother-in-law on the literal big screen.

At last, my plans of achieving fame and fortune by riding on the coattails of a more successful family member are close to being achieved!

John Oliver interview with Edward Snowden.

John Oliver has been knocking it out of the park ever since he left The Daily Show to start his own comedy news show on HBO. Last Week Tonight manages to both entertain and inform and, in some ways, is a better show than TDS. Best of all, HBO and Oliver makes full length segments of the show available on YouTube so you don’t have to pay for HBO to see it.

Each week Oliver picks a topic and does a deep dive on it and this week he’s tackling surveillance and Section 215 of the Patriot Act and how we’re not having the debate we should be about the NSA and domestic spying. It’s a great segment, but it’s even better because he managed to score an interview with the man who arguably made it possible to have this debate, Edward Snowden, and he doesn’t pull any punches with his questions:

Once again I have to marvel at how a comedy news program manages to do better journalism than the supposed news channels. It also breaks things down into a context that is not only funny, but which the average person can comprehend.

As Oliver points out, part of the reason we’re not having this debate is because the subject matter is so highly technical and hard to understand for most folks. It’s doesn’t help that too many people barely pay attention to what’s going on around them. Ask them who Taylor Swift is and they can recite lyrics from her latest single, but ask who Edward Snowden is and too many don’t have a clue. These programs need to be seriously revised and given more transparency, but that’s not going to happen so long as we don’t bother to talk about them.

Finally, this gives me a chance to make use of this:

Would've been funnier back when it was still winter, but fuck it.

Would’ve been funnier back when it was still winter, but fuck it.