It’s funny how being an atheist gets you cut out of the secret handshake club in the “sociology” of religion. Especially since I know damned good and well that most are just hypocrites who won’t admit in public (certainly not around anyone from Lilly, Pew, or Templeton!) that they no more believe in sky fairies than I do. A heated exchange with a Templeton hooker at a recent conference led me to thinking about which “camp” I’m in…and I quickly realized that I’m not in a camp. I’m a social scientist who studies religion and happens to not believe in gods, fairies, angels or even a “divine force” or karma or any of that supernatural gibberish. But, just because I don’t believe doesn’t mean that I think my view will become the only game in town.
Further, unlike the “accommodationists” I believe that people who don’t believe in gods need to be confrontational against religious bigotry and hegemony. No, I don’t have to respect stupid fucking beliefs.Religious horseshit holds no inkling of truth, and provides limited and often perverse moral guidance. It is important to advocate for removing religion from the public sphere in civil society. Religious folk from all traditions believe in nonsense, and they are responsible for fucking up the planet. Greed and religion are responsible for all of the problems of human life, and they often mix together to really fuck things up. By confronting religion, it will recede. We can remove religion from its place in the public sphere—you should be ashamed to even suggest that we be forced to pray to your gods before graduation, or at the installation of political representatives. You should hide your personal religion under a bushel; and, maybe in your shame–maybe–you’ll see the unwisdom of your beliefs. And, most civil societies will eventually do this, and many have already. But none attain complete secularization.
But, unlike the Gnu Atheists I don’t believe in the secularization thesis, never have, never will. Religion is not going away, ever. Religion is declining in importance for individuals in the United States (finally following Europe and developed Asia), but this will not be a linear decrease into oblivion. I find it fascinating that people who are professional educators believe that we can simply teach religion out of existence. Yes, religion is wrong. Yes, all religious traditions are based on flimsy myth, recently rehashed in each generation to fit the current social circumstances. No person in their right mind would still believe this crap if they had an elementary understanding of accurate scholarship in religious studies—we don’t even need to go into the bullshit truth claims about miracles and creation myths. Yet, hardly anyone bothers. Study the Q project (with a critical eye to the pie-eyed believers in the group)? HA!!! I can hardly get students to understand the basic premise of Weber’s Protestant Ethic—and to maybe write in complete sentences! What on earth would make anyone think that we could eliminate religion? Based on what science? Notably, we have had several “social experiments” attempting to eliminate religion–China, Cambodia, the Soviet Union…None worked, and the mechanisms to attempt to achieve pure secularism were taken from the book of religion! Let’s replicate the inquisition! Great idea, dumbfucks!
I guess when you study jellyfish and fruit flies and shit, the world seems pretty malleable. But, human societies are complicated…which is another good reason to pay attention to the scientific studies in religion rather than dream of an irreligious utopia.