21 August 2007

The Hitchens book tour

Some good news from a front-line warrior in the struggle against religion. Samples:

People seem to be lying to the opinion polls, as well. They claim to go to church in much larger numbers than they actually do (there aren't enough churches in the country to hold the hordes who boast of attending), and they sometimes seem to believe more in Satan and in the Virgin Birth than in the theory of evolution. But every single time that the teaching of "intelligent design" has actually been proposed in conservative districts, it has been defeated overwhelmingly by both courts and school boards.

Could there be a change in the Zeitgeist coming on? I think it's possible. A 2001 study found that those without religious affiliation are the fastest-growing minority in the United States. A generation ago the words "American atheist" conjured the image of the slightly cultish and loopy Madalyn Murray O'Hair. But in the last two years there have been five atheist best-sellers, one each from Professors Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett and two from the neuroscientist Sam Harris.

Many southerners are annoyed by the presumption that they are all snake handlers and shout-and-holler artists, and the most critical questions all go to Dr. English, who has unwisely told the local paper that he'll win the argument because god is on his team. Again I notice two things: the religious types are unused to debate and are surprised at how many people are impatient with them, or even scornful.

The more I learn, the more convinced I become that (outside of the fundamentalist hard core) most Americans are not nearly as religious as they are generally held to be. And the one thing pretty much everyone agrees on is that the country is becoming steadily more secular with time.



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