Are you frightened by the rise of active Atheism among us? As one of the rising — and yet delighted by discussing any and all religious beliefs — I am thrilled to see in America that it becoming easier, and more accepted, to stand up and say: “I do not believe as you; but that does not mean I am not as moral as you.”
In the unfortunate, and preternatural mixing of religion and politics, testing belief in the singular Christian God had become a public corporal punishment instead of a private morality covenant.
That sort of madding moral majority rule left many people cold and secretive and resentful — however, their views and values did not change, their totems of disbelief were merely repressed and hidden away for future explosion and expansion when the time was right.
The right time is now.
Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.
Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the “nones” are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters.
Local and national atheist organizations have flourished in recent years, fed by outrage over the Bush administration’s embrace of the religious right. A spate of best-selling books on atheism also popularized the notion that nonbelief is not just an argument but a cause, like environmentalism or muscular dystrophy.
Can America survive as an Atheist state?
Or are we forever now bound by God and enraptured by the ideal of religious suffering in order to know our place and definition in an ever-changing and dangerous world?