Friday, March 20, 2009

One Nation Under No God?

America, One Nation Under No God?
The number of secular Americans is rising faster than any other religious group. But faith will continue to influence politics
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I am thrilled to see a measurable shift in attitudes of the people. It is good to see the realization of diversity in belief, and people beginning to accept you as an individual whether you believe in No God, God or Gods.

If God were to mean an energy that guides or prompts us to restore the inner balance and balance with what surrounds us, then our atheist friends may not have much of a problem in accepting that version. Every element of matter seeks self balance, so do the life forms. We can call that proclivity for self balancing an act of nature or an act of God.

For nearly a decade I could not join the Thanksgiving square since I did not want to be labeled with a particular religion, memberships required that I had a pigeon hole to sit in. Thank God for the leadership, finally, it is opened up now and I am a member.

I had the same chances of being a Hindu, Jew, Christian, Wicca or a Bahai and I would have had no problem being any. All are beautiful paths, and would have given me the same serenity. I chose to be labeled as a Muslim, particularly after the neocon (1) attacks on that faith after 9/11. There are no facts to back up their claims (2) about the hate propaganda they run and continue to do.

I am deeply committed to Pluralism since my college days; and as a Muslim, I state that my faith is dear to me and works for me as your faith is dear to you and works for you. Furthermore, I declare that my faith is not superior to any other faith, as all faiths are valid paths, God has not signed a deal with any one behind other's back to claim that theirs is the right one. It would be arrogance to believe that other faiths are negated by one's faith. Arrogance and religiosity are inversly proportional to each other. The inspiration for my Pluralism comes from Qur'aan -

I am pleased to share a tremendous amount of research done on my faith by World Muslim Congress through its websites and several of its blogs to deal with different topics. God willing, a book is on the horizon to learn about basics of Islam. No one needs to convert to any other faith other than what they are conditioned to, but learning about others removes the myths, prejudices, animosities and hate which drains one's soul. Loving others for who they are is an act of purifying oneself.

At this time, the Abrahamic faiths self appointed guardians have come to broadly accept a monotheistic concept of God, but are still working on understanding the Hindu, Buddhist, Wicca, Jain, Zoroastrian and other concepts, just as the others have difficulty in grasping the need for the Abrahmic faiths to emphasize on Oneness of God. It is ok to believe what you believe, after all it is your faith, but extrapolating the thought that other versions of belief have to be wrong for yours to be right is immature and arrogant. All are valid paths and give solace to the follower.

I hope that someday, we may come to accept that there is an undefined energy that causes creation, sustains and recycles it. And that you can call that energy any name you want, believe that is it is involved with your every breath and also believe that is automated and does not involve in every moment of our lives.

You may come with a better analogy than this, but the idea makes a point; If you enjoy peach cobbler and your friend enjoys Apple pie - no scientist, dietician, nutritionist, connosieur or any one can prove to each of you that the other item is better. You may be inclined to say to them, go to hell, I love my peach cobbler. Religion is your peach cobbler or Apple pie.

I say, as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, faith is in the heart of the believer.
What is your take?

(1) -
(2) -

Mike Ghouse
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America, One Nation Under No God?
The number of secular Americans is rising faster than any other religious group. But faith will continue to influence politics

by Michelle Goldberg
Monday 16 March 2009

In recent years, non-religious Americans have won a modicum of public acknowledgment. Not long ago, politicians insulted them with impunity or at best simply overlooked them. But the heightened public religious fervour of the Bush years led the country's infidels to organise as never before, turning atheist authors like Sam Harris into celebrities and opening lobbying offices in Washington, DC, just like religious interest groups do.

Politicians have responded. In his inaugural address, Barack Obama – doubtlessly realising that secularists constitute a big part of his base – described America as a "nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus ... and non-believers." Even Mitt Romney came to express second thoughts about leaving atheists and agnostics out of his high-profile campaign speech on faith. The United States is not Europe – it will likely be a long time before we have a publicly agnostic president – but it is becoming more tolerant of the godless.

It has to be: no religious group in the United States is growing as fast as those who profess no religion at all. The latest American Religious Identification Survey, which Trinity College published last week, shows that the number of non-religious Americans has nearly doubled since 1990, while the number of people who specifically self-identity as atheists or agnostics has more than tripled. An astonishing 30% of married Americans weren't wed in religious ceremonies, and 27% don't expect to have religious funerals. This suggests whole swaths of the culture are becoming secular, since one can assume that non-believers in religious families often acquiesce to traditional marriage rites and expect to be prayed over when they're dead.

The irony, though, is that even as the country becomes more secular, American politics are likely to remain shot through with aggressive piety. What we're seeing is not a northern European-style mellowing, but an increasing polarisation. In his recent book Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment, the sociologist Phil Zuckerman described the secularised countries of Scandinavia as places where religion is regarded with "benign indifference". There's consensus instead of culture war. That's not what's happening in the United States. Instead, the centre is falling out.

According to the American Religious Identification Survey, Christianity is losing ground in the United States, but evangelical Christianity is not. Just over a third of Americans are still born-again. Meanwhile, the mainline churches, beacons of progressive, rationalistic faith – the kind that could potentially act as a bridge between religious and non-religious Americans – are shrinking. "These trends … suggest a movement towards more conservative beliefs and particularly to a more 'evangelical' outlook among Christians," write the report's authors.

In some ways, there's a symbiotic relationship between evangelicals and secularists. The religious right emerged in response to a widespread sense of cultural grievance stemming from the social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. Today's newly organised atheists and agnostics were mobilised by the theocratic bombast of Bush-era Republicans. More than ever, one's religion is tied up with one's political choices rather than family history.

That means faith won't fade into the background. If European secularism is defined by disinterest in organised religion, American secularism is largely defined by opposition to it. Thus non-believers in the United States are increasingly becoming an organised interest group, demanding their share of civic respect. The more they want to escape organised religion, the less they can ignore it.

Michelle Goldberg is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism".

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