Reflection on an Atlantic Article that Discusses how Religion Declined in the United States and how the Nones Grew

Recently a new article came out at The Atlantic that looked at the rise of the nones and examined why America was becoming more secular. What contributed to the decline of religion is the marrying of politics and he Republican Party, the end of the Cold War and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The rise of the internet also has played a role. Today you can Google yourself into atheism which previously was not possible. 

“The master key of knowledge is, indeed, a persistent and frequent questioning.”

Peter Abelard 

“The power to question is the basis of all human progress.”

Indira Gandhi 

Ferry Terminal in San Francisco, California 

Coverage of the north tower being attacked on Tuesday September 11, 2001. 

Derek Thompson wrote an article for The Atlantic that explored the reasons for the rise of the nones in the United States. The article is called, “Three Decades Ago, America Lost Its Religion. Why?”  This country is becoming more secular and its growth took off around 1990. There are three major reasons as to why the United States became more secular, plus we also need to reflect on what the internet has done for religion. 

 

Republican Party Joining with Evangelicals 

In the 1980’s evangelicals cemented themselves with the Republican Party. The face of evangelicalism became people like Jerry Falwell Sr, James Dobson and more. The culture wars became an issue that drove politics with the hope of driving policy. Over the next three decades the association of faith and politics would be poison for those of faith. We went from hearing that the purple Tele Tubby is gay to declaring “spiritual war” to save the Supreme Court. For me exhaustion over the culture wars is part of the reason why I pushed back from evangelicalism. 

 

The End of the Cold War 

The Cold War was a classic stand off of East vs. West, and God vs. Atheists. The Soviets were personified to be the evil empire. During the Cold War the West was promoted for its faith. For example during the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower,   t he slogan “In God we Trust” was added to coins. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 it became a game changer in more ways than one. People like Joseph Stalin were used to explain atheism, and that atheists committed mass atrocities. Now people began to see that atheists didn’t have to commit genocide or war crimes. A new kind of atheist was possible that wasn’t tied to what the Soviet Union believed. This influenced a lot of thinking. 

 

September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks

Then there was another factor that needs to be raised. That is the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. On a Tuesday morning many people saw what those who clung to doctrine and faith are capable of. Radical Islamic extremists killed almost 3,000 between New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. People saw what religion could do and how it could be harmful. That is another significant factor to consider. 

 

The Growth of the Internet  

Another point to raise is that the growth of the internet also had a factor in changing how people think about religion. I have heard that the internet is the place where religion goes to die. The internet allows for people of like minded and secular thinking to meet and talk. Now you can bypass a pastor or person in church. The internet allows the formation and growth of blogs like this one which chronicles and reports on religion. It seems as if everyday I am writing about corruption, sex abuse, problems and much more. In a way you can almost say that people Googled themselves into atheism or being a part of the nones. 

It will be interesting to see what happens. I wrote more about what the article says because The Atlantic is now using pay walls. So some may have limited access to the article. The nones phenomena I think is a good development for the United States. I think it will help the country and religion as well. Currently you are seeing some corrupt churches and ministries gasping for breath as they fight to stay alive. I welcome the demise of many of these entities as from my perspective they cause more harm than good. This will also force other Christians to do some well deserved soul searching about what they believe. Do you need God or a church to find community? Nope. Do you need God to build your life and be moral? Nope. Do you need God to become sober or break free from an addiction? Honestly I think that is over played. The rise of the nones will force many Christians to find something deeper. The question is will many be able to do that? Honestly..I have my doubts. 

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