Steven Wells says more Americans are abandoning religion -- and thank God for that.
If the antichrist were elected U.S. president, the first thing he’d probably do (after legalizing stem cell research and nationalizing the banks) is secretly kill American Christians and then try to brainwash their children into not believing the literal truth of all that stupid, made-up bollocks in the Bible. I bring this up because a shocking recent opinion poll revealed that nearly 12 percent of Americans are functional atheists while another 12 percent share the same religion as many of the Founding Fathers: deism. Which is to say that the latter 12 percent sort of believe in a higher power but think all that stupid, made-up bollocks in the Bible and the Torah and the Koran is a load of stupid, made-up bollocks.
If we add to these free-thinkers all the Americans who’ll tick the God box but really only identify with a religion out of some vague tribal allegiance—even though they know deep down that it’s all a load of stupid, made-up bollocks (which probably describes the vast majority of educated American Catholics, Muslims, Protestants and Jews)—then I reckon we’re already looking at a clear majority of non-believers in the U.S. And Obama hasn’t even been in power more for more than two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Well done, handsome young antichrist. Well done.
This week I’m reading The Last Witchfinder by Philly author (and in-your-face atheist) James Morrow. The novel starts in a 17th-century England just starting to throw off the shackles of superstition and embrace science, truth, democracy and the Enlightenment. A female “natural philosopher” seeks advice from Sir Isaac Newton as to how his newly discovered scientific principles might be used to explain the mysteries of witchcraft (in which she has a particular interest as her brother-in-law is England’s last professional witch hunter). Newton writes back stating that witches and demons and devils are a load of old fanny, and that no self-respecting scientist has any business believing in them.
And he is, of course, right. The fact is that science—whether it's the geology that proves the earth to be millions of years old or the theory of evolution that reveals Genesis to be a pile of wank—has exposed religion for what it is. Which is to say childish silliness.
Of course one day soon the few remaining religions (there used to be tens of thousands, now only the really hardy viruses survive) will wither away and the human race will at last achieve adulthood. But the receding tide continues to throw up some hideous oddities. Take, for instance, Republican activist and Texas judge Sharon Keller, who stands accused of fighting to have a mentally retarded man executed, even though DNA evidence proved his innocence.
“We can’t give new trials to everyone who establishes, after conviction, that they might be innocent,” said Keller. “We would have no finality in the criminal justice system, and finality is important.”
Total fucking nutter, right? According to the New York Times, Keller is a “devout” Roman Catholic, which presumably means she regards every act of male masturbation that ends in ejaculation as a mini-holocaust. And that she also believes she’s actually eating the human flesh and drinking the human blood of Jesus Christ when she takes communion. In other words—like all devout Roman Catholics (and Protestants and Jews and Muslims, etc.), she’s fucking nuts. Which provokes the obvious question—given the barbaric nature of most religious founding texts, and given the sheer, bigoted stupidity of most religious dogma—is anyone who self-defines as “devout” really fit to hold public office? Especially an office like that of judge, in which their dementia can be inflicted on others?
Also on my bedside table is Jerry A. Coyne’s recently published Why Evolution Is True, which might just as well be subtitled And Why the Bible Is Therefore Absolute Bollocks.
During the infamous courtroom battle over the religious idiocy of “intelligent design” being taught in schools in Dover, Pa., militant atheist and genius scientist Richard Dawkins repeatedly stated that he didn’t want to appear as a witness because he’d be forced to agree with the Christian bigots who argued that if one accepts the scientifically proven truth of Darwin’s theory, this cannot help but totally undermine any literal reading of the Bible. And of course he was right.
There are, meanwhile, numerous liberal Christian scientists who (kinda like the 17th-century natural philosopher seeking to use Newtonian physics to explain how witches fly) seek to yoke evolution and Christianity together, and who vomit forth unreadable and largely unread books arguing that Darwinism actually illuminates God’s wondrous creation. It doesn’t.
Darwinism reveals the creation myth as a tawdry, one-dimensional, cheap, vulgar and stultifying unimaginative narrative—utterly lacking in any real poetry, wonder and mystery. And it replaces this desiccated fairy tale with a truly awesome universe throbbing with a complexity and a diversity that would’ve blown the tiny minds of the Bronze Age gibberers who concocted the feeble lie about Noah’s ark.
But despite Darwin and the Enlightenment. millions are still hobbled by religion’s shackles, just as millions still starve or suffer from malnutrition or die from totally curable and preventable diseases in a world where there’s no actual physical shortage of anything. It’s almost as if intellectually the human race is marking time—waiting for its collective brain to catch up with its destiny.
In the 19th century, two stout bearded dudes—one English, the other German—gave the human race all the tools they needed to lift themselves out of servitude and superstition. The German gentleman was of course Karl Marx, now once again (and not for the first or the last time) proved right by current events and once again being hailed as the wisest man and the greatest prophet in human history.
Marx and Darwin are the gay granddads of human liberation. It’s no wonder they’re so hated by the dumb-as-fuck defenders of selfishness and superstition.
Savage Love: Sondheim is solace