Religiously yours

More Americans are shying away from religion than ever before.

Hemang Sharma

A Pew survey shows that now one in five Americans dissociate themselves from any religion, bringing the infidel heathen population to its highest head-count ever. This includes people that are part of American Atheists, the largest group of nonbelievers who work to spread religious skepticism. It can also include agnostics; people who believe in God but shun organized religion completely, or people who simply do not care.

One may ask, what happened? How has our “One nation under God” experienced an increase in people who don’t buy into religion? How does a group with little to no representation in the government, any big lobbying sector or giant corporate backing gather enough followers that now comprise a significant following?  There can only be one answer — people started thinking critically.

People have started to see religion as divisive, unnecessary and void of answers. They are fed up by the rules and restrictions of religion. Mormon beliefs banned blacks from entering heaven, theologically, until just about 40 years ago, except for as a slave, which isn’t really a heaven when you think about it. Scientology offers you an entire planet as part of post-marital bliss if you are a true believer. Catholicism doesn’t allow birth control, thus causing remorse in people indulging in pleasure seeking. Telling AIDS victims to not use condoms, as the Pope did in 2009, has life and death consequences. Steaks are a big no-no if you’re Hindu. Islam doesn’t allow bacon, beer, masturbation or pre-marital sex; thus being inherently against everything us Americans love. Almost all religions persecute gays and women, branding them as unequal. Almost all religions dictate their followers as superior beings to those who don’t worship the same god. It is the absolutism of religion that alienates people. Praying certain times, doing certain things, living life a certain way — Americans don’t like being told what to do. People may be open to the idea of a god, but the complications of religions can turn many believers into people who say, “I’m out”.

Dr. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the Late Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher can be credited as The Four Horsemen. These men inspired many to take a leap of faith, quite literally. These men, especially in the last decade, have criticized organized religion through television, documentaries, books, debates, densely attended lectures, critical reasoning and even scientific expertise. Dawkins, a man that lectures on the recently discovered “missing link” in evolution, just seems more impressive than religious leaders who claim they know what happens when you die. Or men who claim that promiscuous women and homosexuals cause natural disasters. 

In the last five years, the nonreligious population has seen a 33 percent growth, placing 33 million Americans in a robust category of their own. These people were, and still are, often discredited by the popular media, the right wing, churches, mosques and their powerful representation, courtesy of our elected officials who solemnly swear by God. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., remains the only openly atheist elected official in the U.S. Congress. 

This week, science, curiosity and willingness led an Austrian man to jump from space, touching 700-plus mph and landing safely on his feet. And religion helped justify the attack of a girl who wanted other girls to go to school. With the world on the brink of a religion-inspired terrorism and men who simply would ignite the world in flame without thinking twice in the name of God, I think it is great news that people are becoming secular or nonbelievers. The majority may call them infidels. I call them rationalists.