As someone who isn’t particularly religious, I find polls about the religiosity of Americans to be fascinating. Especially so because I live in the midwest, where “Do I know you from church?” is an appropriate pickup line. True story.
Gallup has recently released another of these polls, and not much has changed since last year. Almost 30 percent of respondents said that religion isn’t important to them and didn’t play a big role in their daily lives. That’s roughly what it’s been since 2008 when Gallup started keeping track. The percentage who are very and somewhat religious also didn’t change much.
The Atlantic had a write up of the poll, and the author seemed surprised that “only” a third of respondents said that religion played little or no role in their lives. I’m surprised the number was that high.
Not because I think atheists/agnostics/”nones” are waning, but because religion permeates everything.
Think about it. There was just a high-profile debate between my childhood hero Bill Nye and purveyor of malarkey Ken Ham over whether “creation science” (i.e., religious dogma pretending to be substantive science) is a viable alternate to the theory of evolution. (In case you were wondering, it really, truly isn’t.) But this isn’t isolated to entertaining intellectual discussions. It’s playing out in statehouses across the country. A one sentence bill in South Dakota would allow the teaching of creationism in public schools. Luckily, that bill was killed.
But the issue isn’t dead elsewhere. The Virginia legislature is considering a bill that would “explore controversial scientific topics,” that is, a free pass to contradict scientific facts like evolution and climate change. A similar bill was enacted in Tennessee in 2012 and in Louisiana in 2008. (The latter is in the middle of a legal battle.) And while we’re at it, let’s add Colorado to that list. And Missouri. And Oklahoma. There is nothing intellectually honest about these pieces of legislation. They are all attempts to insert a Biblical telling of the origin of life into science classrooms.
This is bad, but it’s not all. Recently a Kansas House of Representatives panel approved a bill that would allow for the discrimination against LGBT people, as long as the people doing the discriminating really believed it. Apparently, this is what passes for religious liberty.
The bill goes further than most, giving not only government employees but also private citizens the right to refuse any service to LGBT people. If this passes, government officials and private employers would not have to recognize any valid marriage, civil union, domestic partnership or other similar arrangement. Because I guess if you close your eyes tight and wish really hard, everyone will just magically become a good, hetero, Christian soldier.
And do I even need to mention the extensive attacks on reproductive rights? According to NPR, 22 states restricted abortion access in 2013. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback even went out of his way to write “JESUS + Mary“ on a page of notes about an anti-choice bill.
Do you see now what I mean when I say that religion permeates everything? It affects a gay couple’s rights to have their relationship recognized. It affects a child’s education and ability to compete on the competitive world stage. It affects a woman’s right to control her body.
I’m jealous of those atheists/agnostics/”nones” who say religion has little or no effect on their lives. Or maybe we shouldn’t be conflating a disbelief in God and not feeling religion’s influence. Regardless of beliefs, it’s clear that religion forces itself into the lives of people who would rather it stay out.
Photo Credit: Ian Sane