U.S. politicians increasingly unaffiliated with organized religion

Can’t say I’m upset! Let the increasing “nones” have the day for a change. Other than a brief period when I became a born-again, I’ve been a “none” since I emancipated myself from church when I was 12. That’s decades ago, so I guess I’m ahead of the curve, influenced at a young age by the secular American Founding Fathers such as Jefferson, Franklin and Paine (the “forgotten” FF).

As many have told me who have felt liberated after reading my work, there is nothing better mentally than being a freethinker, which means one is allowed to think freely, especially as concerns religious matters. My definition of “freethought”:

“the liberty to question and doubt unscientific and uncritical beliefs, especially as concerns religion.”

This ability to think freely, however, does not mean restricting oneself to atheistic views, as such restraint obviously would not represent freethought. In “true freethought,” so to speak, it is no one else’s business what one is thinking inside one’s own head, so long as it doesn’t spill out deleteriously onto others.

Number of Lawmakers Who Don’t Identify With a Religion Is on the Rise

The number is hardly huge but it still marks quite the change from three decades ago. In the early 1980s, not a single member of Congress publicly said he or she didn’t belong to a particular religious affiliation or refused to disclose their religion. In the 113th Congress, that number has increased to 10, according to an analysis by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.  Even though around one-in-five U.S. adults describe themselves as atheist, agnostic of “nothing in particular,” only one member of the new Congress has publicly taken on that label. But 10 other members of the 113th Congress, or around 2 percent, “do not specify a religious affiliation,” marking an increase from six members from the previous Congress.

“The numbers here caught my eye,” writes Politico’s Charles Mahtesian, “not because of the disparity between non-believers in the general population and in Congress, but because I was surprised so many members actually admitted to it.” Religious affiliation for politicians without a religion is a very sensitive issue but the Pew poll seems to show that “the taboo about religious identification is being broken and members of Congress are increasingly comfortable admitting they don’t adhere to any particular faith,” writes Mahtesian.

Further Reading

Did George Washington and Thomas Jefferson Believe Jesus was a Myth?
Separation of Religion and State (forum thread)
Study: Atheists Most Discriminated Minority
Freethought: Euphemism for Atheism?
Freethought Gear designed by D.M. Murdock/Acharya S

19 Comments

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  1. [quote]”The “nones” are comprised of: atheists (12%), agnostics (17%), and nothing in particular (71%).”

    http://secular.org/content/nation-nones%5B/quote%5D
    The mythicist position is something that atheists, agnostics (even most theists) and the “nones” could all appreciate as it offers an Occam’s razor explanation for the origins of religious concepts as being based in nature and natural phenomena and it’s absolutely the very best position I’ve ever seen:

    The Mythicist Position | What is Mythicism? ([url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63BNKhGAVRQ[/url])

    Why I Am a Mythicist ([url]http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=4344[/url])

    I look forward to the day when we have our very first Congressman & women or President who publicly admits to being a mythicist.

  2. I’m talking about not feeling compelled to think atheistically if one doesn’t wish to. I am trying to impart that it is no one else’s business if you think atheistically [i]or [/i]theistically. That’s true[i] free[/i]thought.

    I don’t think the point is difficult to understand, but it needs to be said, because the “militant atheists” do appear interested in mind control. Here is how I’ve put it elsewhere:

    If, after one hears a horrible story about a child being raped, for example, one wishes to think that there’s no good God in charge of everything, this thinking would be entirely appropriate, in my opinion.

    If, however, one wishes to climb a mountain and feel the awe and glory of the cosmos, even in religious or godly terms, that thinking would also be appropriate in the moment, in my opinion.

    I am not interested in the atheistic mind control that says one can’t go to the mountain top and have a spiritual experience if one wishes to. Nor am I interested in people feeling guilty for thinking the word “God” if they wish to.

    In this regard, my favorite freethinkers mentioned here, Jefferson, Franklin and Paine, did not deem themselves “atheists,” and I have no interest in judging them or holding that fact against them. I define myself neither as an atheist nor a theist.

    These facts are why I say that the above type of restraint is [i]not [/i]freethought.

    1. re:
      The “spiritual experiences” thing is a red herring, as atheism has nothing to do with the issue of whether or not “spiritual” things in general exist, but merely with whether or not a god or gods exist. It would in fact be possible for a “spiritual” person to be an atheist, as the only thing that defines someone as an atheist is that they don’t believe in a god or gods.

      This is also why it’s not really possible for anyone to be neither theist nor atheist.
      If one does believe in a god or gods, one is a theist regardless of what other things they do or don’t believe in.
      If someone does not believe in a god or gods, then they are an atheist, regardless of what other things they do or don’t believe in.
      Also, contrary to popular misconceptions, agnosticism is not a middle ground, as it refers to knowledge rather than belief. Thus there are both agnostic theists and agnostic atheists.

      I myself am an agnostic atheist. Agnostic because I don’t possess enough knowledge to know whether there is any god or gods. Atheist because I am unconvinced of the idea that any god or gods exist. I have yet to see even the smallest bit of evidence, so I have no reason to think any exist, but I would be willing to change my mind if I were presented with actual evidence.

      1. Fair enough, Tartarus, however there are more views about god than just that. For example, Pantheists view the cosmos itself as god:

        [quote]What is Pantheism?

        Pantheism holds that the cosmos, taken or conceived of as a whole, is synonymous with God. The Cosmos is divine, and the earth sacred. The Cosmos is divine, all share divinity. Pantheists do not propose belief in a deity; rather, they hold nature itself as a creative presence. Pantheism reconciles science and religion through ecology leading to strong environmental awareness.

        Pantheists believe in Divine Immanence. To the Pantheist, divinity does not transcend reality; it surrounds, and is within. All share divinity. This leads the pantheist to personal ethics of tolerance and understanding.

        http://www.pantheist.net[/quote%5D
        [quote]”Freethinking is better described as critical thinking or having a skeptical mind regardless of the religious topic at hand. It’s fair to point out that an overwhelming majority of Freethinkers probably are atheists but, that doesn’t mean they all are. Atheism is specifically about the absence or lack of beliefs regarding religion or gods. A Freethinker can be an atheist on one particular topic while being more agnostic or theistic or pantheistic on another subject and yet, adopt the mythicist position on another. Freethinking does not narrowly limit one into labeling oneself just an atheist. Atheism has no substance it’s not even a philosophy as exquisitely explained here by Sam Harris.

        Freethinker: “a person who forms opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition, esp. a person whose religious opinions differ from established belief.”

        Freethought: “The liberty to question and doubt unscientific and uncritical beliefs, especially as concerns religion.”

        You’ll notice that the word “atheist” is not mentioned in either definition. Being an atheist does not necessarily mean freethought, nor does it make one a Freethinker.”[/quote]
        Borrowed from: Freethought: Euphemism for Atheism? ([url]http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=19873[/url])

        The Agnostic Fallacy ([url]http://freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=376[/url])

        1. Well, theism does not mean belief in any specific sort of god or gods, but just god or gods in general. The “cosmos is god” concept is technically still a god, so pantheism would still count as a form of theism.

          I realise that one doesn’t have to be an atheist to be a freethinker. However, the point I’m trying to make is that atheism has a far broader and more simple definition than many people try to claim. It simply refers to anyone and everyone who is not a theist. That’s pretty much it.

          1. No, Tartarus, Pantheism is not the same as Theism – that’s why they call it “Pantheism.” And Atheism is not defined as “everyone who is not a theist.” Stop, PLEASE just stop.

            The only point you’ve made here is to demonstrate why so many people can’t stand atheists. All you’ve done is hi-jack this blog into an off-topic irrelevant rant.

            Proper Definition & Meaning of “Atheist” ([url]http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=2827[/url])

      2. Thanks, but I don’t engage in red herrings, which sounds like an ad hom. Methinks you’ve missed the point and are displaying the sort of restricted thinking that I’m talking about in the original post.

        I was not interested in a debate about whether or not atheism is correct. I am only concerned in conveying the idea that what one does in the privacy of one’s own mind is entirely up to them. I didn’t need an example of “militant atheism,” but this debate does illustrate what I’m trying to convey about mind control, as it seems you are attempting to badger me into a particular mental position.

        It absolutely IS possible for my thought processes to engage in either theistic or atheistic thinking at any given moment, precisely as I have illustrated.

        In the meantime, here is another illustration of what I am trying to convey, in a story about the mythical figure of “The Buddha.”

        A fervent believer goes to Buddha and says, “Please tell me about God, as I have always known He exists.”

        Buddha responds: “There is no God.”

        The believer runs away in fear.

        An atheist hears the story and comes to Buddha, saying, “I always knew there was no God.”

        Buddha responds: “There is God.”

        The atheist flees in a huff.

        Buddha’s disciple Ananda looks puzzled: “Why have you told the one that there is no God but the other that there is God?”

        Buddha replies: “Each had only one side of the coin and needed to see the other.”

        I stand by what I have said, which was worded very carefully. If you don’t agree, to each his own.

        [quote]agnosticism is not a middle ground, as it refers to knowledge rather than belief.[/quote]
        Actually, the word “agnosticism” refers to a LACK of knowledge. “Gnosticism” is knowledge.

        [quote]Definition of AGNOSTIC
        1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
        2 : a person who is unwilling to commit to an opinion about something (political agnostics)[/quote]
        In the original Greek, αγνωσια [i]agnosia[/i] means “ignorance, obscurity.”

        “Agnostic” in Greek is the same term as “ignorant” in Latin.

        [img]http://books.google.com/books?id=uLpNAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA7&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U2pvbztg2jhrWT3Se-JWAd0pwBfWw&ci=455%2C917%2C454%2C280&edge=0[/img]

        1. The mountain example did appear to be trying to set up a stereotype about atheism, in this case the classic “atheists must always be against all forms of spirituality” stereotype. Yet, there do exist atheistic forms of spirituality so that stereotype is false.
          Maybe you were only referring to some atheists, but it seemed as if you were trying to stereotype atheists in general.

          I am not trying to “badger” you into anything. I am merely clarifying what atheism actually is. And all it is is a term referring to anyone who is not a theist. That’s it.
          That something as simple as clarifying one’s position should be enough to get one unfairly labelled as “militant” is one of the reasons I’m skeptical of the whole “militant atheist” concept, as there seems to be very little anyone needs to do to be labelled as one, yet theists must do some pretty extreme things to be labelled “militant theists”.

          I am well aware of the fact that agnosticism has to with lack of knowledge. When I said it refers to knowledge I meant it did so in the same way as atheism refers to belief. I.e. that they both refer to a lack of it. I apologise if I did not formulate my words more clearly.
          Anyway, being agnostic about the god concept would mean lacking knowledge of the existence of any such being(s). Being atheistic about it means lacking belief.

          1. I’m not even bringing up “atheists” [i]per se[/i], but you seem to be taking my simple observations as personal attacks. I was simply saying that we should have the right to go to a mountain and meditate upon the nature of the cosmos – we might even want to contemplate “God” in some manner – if we so wish.

            It’s not a difficult concept to ascertain, nor is it an attack on atheists, which sounds paranoid, unfortunately.

            Again, I’m simply declaring my right to think freely as I wish, in any given moment. And my right to express that right on my own blog, without a back and forth, attempting to misconstrue my comments in a negative fashion. 😮

          2. “I’m not even bringing up “atheists” per se, but you seem to be taking my simple observations as personal attacks”

            Fair enough. It merely seemed you were making some sweeping generalisations about atheists. I’m not really sure what the mountain thing was meant for. If it was meant to refer to the small minority of atheists who would oppose it, you could have made that more clear.

            The majority of atheists really don’t care if someone else is religious or not, unless the religious practices are causing harm or invading privacy. Unfortunately, this happens quite a lot.

  3. A Republican and a Democrat Left Christianity.
    Recently I described some of my political, social and religious views to a highly educated man who wasn’t from the USA. When I told him that I usually vote Republican, he, who already knew that I was convinced that the story of Jesus is merely a myth, was confused because he seemed to think that Republicans are Evangelical Born Again Christians dedicated to Jesus. I corrected him by saying that true Republicans are more like Libertarians such as Ron Paul.

    However, I wouldn’t go as far as some Libertarians who’d like to eliminate things such as Unemployment Insurance. That’s because, when a company the size of Firestone Tire lays off 5,000 employees, it would be pretty anarchistic to leave 5,000 people wandering the streets unemployed.

    Below are two articles that discuss two Gentiles who have abandoned their Christian religions. One is a Democratic politician who left her Mormon religion and the other is a Republican politician who left his Roman Catholic religion. They currently hold office.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Halloran
    Dan Halloran

    QUOTE FROM WIKIPEDIA:
    Religion
    Halloran’s study of Norsemen and Viking archaeology and field research in Ireland led him to develop an interest in Germanic mythology and lore, and eventually to Theodism,[10] which has attracted widespread attention. He is a member of the New Normannii Reik, a branch of Heathenism.[19] The Village Voice described Halloran as “America’s First Elected Heathen”;[20] another Reconstructionist Neopagan adherent, Jessica Orsini (who is Hellenic), had previously been elected to the city council of Centralia, Missouri in 2006.[21]

    His religion became an issue during the campaign after it was revealed that he was an adherent of Theodism. On his group’s website, Halloran offered the following descriptions of his beliefs: “We believe in and honor the Gods and Goddesses of the North, spirits of the land, and the memories of our ancestors”[8] and described his group as “a cultural, religious and martial organization; dedicated to reviving the folkways of the Norman peoples of Northern Europe.”[22] Odin, Tyr and Freyr are among the deities worshipped by the group. Halloran also stated that “It is our hope to reconstruct the pre-Christian religion of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European peoples, within a cultural framework and community environment.” When asked about his beliefs, Halloran said “I was raised a Roman Catholic[19] right here in Auburndale. I was baptized into the Catholic Church and took my confirmation at 13. I attended Jesuit schools. Then and now, faith is a cornerstone of my life.” Halloran served as legal counsel and incorporating attorney for the New York City Pagan Pride Project.[19]
    END OF QUOTE.

    http://www.wnd.com/2013/01/freshmen-bring-new-faiths-to-congress/
    1st ‘pagan hippie’ in Congress? by Drew Zahn

  4. “This ability to think freely, however, does not mean restricting oneself to atheistic views, as such restraint obviously would not represent freethought.”

    How is it in any way restrictive to be skeptical of the alleged existence of a being or beings who have never left even a single trace of evidence for their existence?

    1. Tartarus, I don’t think that’s what she’s referring to. I think she’s just referring to the ‘militant atheist’ crowd which tends to be over-the-top anti-theist. I think she accepts atheism in the weak, negative sense i.e. the traditional, historical sense.

      Proper Definition & Meaning of “Atheist” ([url]http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=2827[/url])

  5. ‘No Religion’ Is World’s Third-Largest Religious G
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/unaffiliated-third-largest-religious-group-after-christians-muslims_n_2323664.html

    ‘No Religion’ Is World’s Third-Largest Religious Group After Christians, Muslims According To Pew Study

  6. Secular Coalition for America: A Nation of “Nones” ([url]http://secular.org/content/nation-nones[/url])

    On religion, Capitol freshmen are more diverse than their incumbent colleagues ([url]http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/01/04/on-religion-capitol-freshmen-are-more-diverse-than-their-incumbent-colleagues/[/url])

    Report: Atheists Suffer Persecution Around the World ([url]http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/09/atheists-humanists-suffer_n_2268681.html[/url])

    Nonbelievers in religion persecuted, executed worldwide under barbaric blasphemy laws ([url]http://www.freethoughtnation.com/contributing-writers/63-acharya-s/751-nonbelievers-in-religion-persecuted-executed-worldwide-under-barbaric-blasphemy-laws.html[/url])

  7. Would you be as kind as to tell me what makes pantheism separate from theism? As theism merely refers to god belief regardless of the nature of the god(s) involved I don’t see why pantheism should be excluded. Doesn’t a “universe as god” concept still count as a god?

    Also, the placement of an “a” in front of a term generally refers to something that is not that term. For instance, “atonal” means not tonal and “asymmetrical” means not symmetrical. Thus, it makes sense that “atheism” would mean not theism.

  8. Personally …
    My view is that we simply need to let go of these religion-based identities. People seem to either define themselves religiously or non or anti religiously. Maybe “freethinkers” is the beginning of a definition outside these millennias-old ways of looking at ourselves. It seems the further we go in time the more toxic religious views of ourselves become as can be see by the most primitive of these religious views doing every thing it possibly can to destroy the world that’s leaving it behind. Defining ourselves by the superstitions we believe in seems outright insane to me at this point in time and in my life. Maybe we just need to grow up and not need a definition about ourselves. Maybe when we’re not clinging to such limited views of life and ourselves, our live will become self defining. Didn’t Krishnamurti say to simply observe and be aware? Something like that anyway. We have to be able to live in the awe and the question and be open to new information all the time and be able to think critically about whether the new information is true, based on evidence, and life enhancing. We must be able to inform ourselves and not expect others to spoon feed us (as I see on so many posts). The moment we sit down and start whining for somebody else to spoon feed us reality, we are lost. The Internet is there, we have no excuse any longer to not be as educated as possible. Let’s clear our minds and live in that clarity.

  9. I consider myself a freethinking mythicist.

    The Mythicist Position ([url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63BNKhGAVRQ[/url])

    Why I Am a Mythicist ([url]http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=4344[/url])

  10. Religiosity Declines Worldwide
    http://www.freethoughtnation.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=4228

    The ARIS Study: Christianity On The Decline In America
    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-aris-study-christianity-on-the-decline-in-america

    Christianity on the decline
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8974759/Christianity-on-the-decline-according-to-new-survey.html

    Why Is Christianity on the Decline in America?
    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/04/09/why-is-christianity-on-the-decline-in-america/

    31% Of Adults Under 30 Doubt God Exists

    More Young Americans Doubt God Exists Than Ever Before

    Young Americans Losing Faith? New Poll Shows 31 Percent Of Adults Under 30 Doubt God Exists
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/young-adults-losing-faith-americans-under-30-doubt-god-exists_n_1627333.html

    Why Young People Are Becoming Secular
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rui-dai/why-young-people-are-beco_b_1594786.html

    American Confidence In Organized Religion At All Time Low
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/us-confidence-in-organized-religion-at-low-point_n_1669100.html

    From the Christian Science Monitor:

    Atheism on the rise around the globe

    “According to a new poll, religiosity worldwide is declining while more people say they are atheists. In the United States, a growing number consider themselves non-believers…..”

    http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Global-News/2012/0815/Atheism-on-the-rise-around-the-globe

    Atheism On The Rise In America:

    Atheism Rises, Religiosity Declines In America
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/14/atheism-rise-religiosity-decline-in-america_n_1777031.html

    American Bible Challenge Quiz
    http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/Bible/American-Bible-Challenge-Quiz.aspx

    Freethought Quizzes
    http://ffrf.org/legacy/quiz/

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