Category: atheism

Increased Wellbeing from Social Interaction in a Secular Congregation

By Michael E. Price and Jacques Launay

Abstract

Religiosity appears to benefit wellbeing, potentially due to social support offered by religious communities. However, rising secularism implies that fewer people have access to these benefits. To address this problem, we investigated whether these benefits could also be obtained from membership in a secular, quasi-religious community. We conducted a longitudinal study among 92 members of the Sunday Assembly (SA), an international organization of secular congregations. SA members assemble in large services and in smaller interest groups that offer more face-to-face interaction. Once a month for six months, participants completed a questionnaire measuring wellbeing and participation in both SA and non-SA social activities. Panel analysis of longitudinal data revealed that participation in SA small-group activities positively influenced wellbeing over the six-month period, particularly among males. Participation in non-SA social activities, in contrast, had no effect on wellbeing. Aspects of the Sunday service that members perceived as most important, both for creating a sense of community and for friendship formation, were the informal socialising and cooperating that occurs before and after the service itself. Secular congregations may be a viable alternative for non-religious people (and perhaps especially men) who seek the health benefits that religious communities have traditionally offered.

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Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion

By Becka A. Alper

growing share of Americans are religiously unaffiliated. We recently asked a representative sample of more than 1,300 of these “nones” why they choose not to identify with a religion. Out of several options included in the survey, the most common reason they give is that they question a lot of religious teachings.

Six-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Americans – adults who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – say the questioning of religious teachings is a very important reason for their lack of affiliation. The second-most-common reason is opposition to the positions taken by churches on social and political issues, cited by 49% of respondents (the survey asked about each of the six options separately). Smaller, but still substantial, shares say they dislike religious organizations (41%), don’t believe in God (37%), consider religion irrelevant to them (36%) or dislike religious leaders (34%).

Those who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” tend to give different reasons for their lack of affiliation, showing that “nones” are far from a monolithic group. For example, about nine-in-ten self-described atheists (89%) say their lack of belief in God is a very important reason for their religious identity, compared with 37% of agnostics and 21% of those in the “nothing in particular” category. Atheists also are more likely than other “nones” to say religion is simply “irrelevant” to them (63% of atheists vs. 40% of agnostics and 26% of adults with no particular religion).

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Losing Faith: Why South Carolina is abandoning its churches

By Sarah Ellis

South Carolina churches are shedding thousands of members a year, even as the state’s population grows by tens of thousands.

In the place we call the Bible Belt, where generations have hung their hats on their church-going nature and faithful traditions, an increasing trend of shrinking church attendance — and increasing church closings — signals a fundamental culture shift in South Carolina.

At least 97 Protestant churches across South Carolina have closed since 2011, according to data from the Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist and Southern Baptist denominations. An untold number of other closings, certainly, are not captured by these statistics.

Many churches are dying slow deaths, stuck in stagnation if not decline. And if they don’t do something, anything, in their near future, they’ll share the fate of Cedar Creek United Methodist, a 274-year-old Richland County congregation that dissolved last year; Resurrection Lutheran, a church near downtown Columbia that will hold its last service on Sept. 2; and the dozens of churches that sit shuttered and empty around the state.

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Why Are Many Americans Abandoning Religion? A Lot of the Credit Goes to Pastors

By Hemant Mehta

Why are you an atheist or agnostic?

The obvious answer might be because you don’t believe in God. Or maybe you don’t think anyone can know if God exists.

Becka A. Alper of the Pew Research Center, using data obtained late last year, just published an analysis looking specifically at the reasons “Nones” gave for why they don’t belong to an organized religion… and the responses are all over the place.

The first question gave everyone a list of options for why they were “unaffiliated,” and they could pick from several options.

First, let’s just look at the atheists. No surprise here: 89% of them said that their disbelief in God was an important reason they weren’t part of any organized religion. That was followed by 77% of atheists who said they “question a lot of religious teachings” and 63% who said “religion is irrelevant to me.”

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Tallahassee Atheists group responds to ‘In God We Trust’ law

By: WCTV Eyewitness News, Associated Press

The Tallahassee Atheists group has responded to the new “In God We Trust” law, which states every school and school administrative building in Florida must display those words prominently.

Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat and sponsor of the bill, cited the recent shootings at a Florida high school during her closing speech on the bill during this past legislative session. Seventeen people were killed in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Daniels said that God is the “light” and “our schools need light in them like never before.”

But not everyone is on board with the new law. Opponents are calling it a clear conflict with the separation of church and state.

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Atheist Group Sues WV City Council for Reciting Lord’s Prayer at Meetings

By Hemant Mehta

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the city of Parkersburg, West Virginia for reciting a Christian prayer at the beginning of all city council meetings. The lawsuit notes that council members say the Lord’s Prayer to open each session and audience members are encouraged to stand.

The plaintiffs include Parkersburg resident and atheist Daryl Cobranchi who attended council meetings but stopped because “the Council treat[ed] him like a second-class citizen” as a result of his dissent over the prayers. Another plaintiff is resident Eric Engle, a self-described “agnostic atheist” who felt “negatively singled out” for similar reasons.

This prayer practice has been going on for years, according to the complaint. The published minutes for the meetings say that the prayer dates back at least to the beginning of 2016, though it probably stretches back longer than that.

And it wasn’t like government officials just said the prayer and moved on.

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18 Secular Groups Sign Letter Opposing Confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to SCOTUS

By Hemant Mehta

A coalition of 18 secular organizations have signed onto a letter opposing the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, because his “speeches and writings reveal a level of biased, ideological fervor” that shouldn’t be rewarded with a lifetime appointment.

The letter was sent to Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

While there are many reasons to oppose his confirmation, like his almost certain vote against legal abortions, this letter focuses on Kavanaugh’s beliefs that religion always trumps non-religion even during secular events.

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Atheist Groups Urge Senate to Reject Anti-Gay Adoption Amendment in House Bill

By Hemant Mehta

As we posted about last week, the House Appropriations Committee recently voted on an amendment, introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), to withhold funds from any state requiring taxpayer-funded adoption agencies to serve all clients.

It’s essentially a punishment for any state that doesn’t support faith-based adoption agencies that discriminate against gay clients.

In theory, those agencies could also discriminate against interfaith couples, single parents, divorced people, or [insert your reason here].

This is nothing more than taxpayer-funded bigotry.

Now a coalition of atheist organizations has written a letter to the senators in charge of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Their version of the bill doesn’t include this amendment, and the groups want to make sure that’s the case when everyone votes on the final version of the bill.

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The Libertarian Party Now Has a Secular Caucus Led by an Atheist State Rep.

By Hemant Mehta

Earlier this month, during the Libertarian Party’s national convention, a Secular Caucus was formed, led by New Hampshire State Rep. Brandon Phinney — one of only a handful of openly non-theistic state officials in the country.

The Secular Coalition for America helped launched the caucus, after doing something similar in 2016 and 2018 at the Texas Democratic Convention, and celebrated its formation:

“We would like to applaud the Libertarian Party for being the first political party in U.S. history to establish a Secular Caucus at its national convention,” said Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “This caucus is a milestone in our push to be recognized as a constituency with our own unique set of interests, issues, and secular values. The nonreligious are a rapidly growing demographic that make up an increasingly large share of every political party. It is our hope that the Democratic, Republican, and Green parties will take notice and follow in the Libertarian Party’s footsteps. Nonreligious voters of every political affiliation deserve to have their values respected and their voices heard.”

Phinney told me he began this group because “as someone who is openly atheist, I wanted to give Libertarian Party members a place to discuss secular values and how to take the LP platform, apply it to public policy solutions all while defending the separation of church and state.”

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Two Notable South Asian Atheists Face Blasphemy Charges in Their Countries

By Hemant Mehta

Two activists are facing separate charges of blasphemy for calling into question harmful religious traditions and superstitious thinking.

Babu Gogineni, a former director of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), is kind of like India’s James Randi. He’s known for appearing in the media and debunking charlatans. Last year, in a clip that went viral, he debunked two “pranic healers” who said energy could heal your body and that they could cure your problems over the phone.

So what did he do that was so awful?

Petitioner Veera Narayana Chowdary said he was watching Gogineni’s speeches online… and that’s literally it.

He filed this unbelievable litany of charges against Gogineni that include obscenity, insulting religion, and “public mischief.”

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