Young, critical thinkers have no use for religion and its many myths
Re Viewpoint writer Daniel Weaver’s June 30 lament of the decline in religiosity in American life, he cites a survey by the Barna Group that provides statistics showing just how large this departure is. And while the Barna Group feels the change is the result of the rise in atheism and agnosticism, Weaver believes the real cause is that people are replacing religion with “the god of consumption.” Several letters supporting that thesis have been published by the Gazette, and a common thread is that the real problem is very deep and difficult to identify.
I disagree. The real cause is quite obvious. The Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life is another group that studies these issues, and a very detailed summary of their results can be found at http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx. Most relevant to this discussion is their identification of the very sharp rise in non-religious affiliation as related to age group. In the 65-plus group, only 9 percent are unaffiliated. In the 18-29 group, 32 percent are unaffiliated!
The Barna Group is right to identify the departure from religion as being the result of a turn toward atheism and agnosticism. Mr. Weaver has chosen to ignore this, but even he cites a book by John Adams (not the president) published in 1900 that gives us a strong clue as to what is happening.
He refers to a chapter called the “Virgin and the Dynamo,” in which the author laments how faith in such things as the holiness of the Virgin Mary was being replaced by the practical preoccupation with modernizing our industrial base (in other words, the manufacture and consumption of goods). Implied is that the emphasis on rational thinking and critical analysis required to modernize a country, tend to give rise to a drifting away from the irrational and uncritical thinking that is required by virtually all religious teaching. The dogma of virgin birth just happens to be a case in point used by the author.
So what it comes down to is that younger people are increasingly finding religious teaching irrelevant to the real world. Stories about talking snakes (with no legs, no less), punishment for being curious (the “Fall”), rising from the dead, a god coming down from heaven to impregnate a mortal (straight out of Greek mythology) and a myriad of other myths just aren’t believable when placed under the light of critical thinking. (Our much-maligned education system is actually doing a very good job of teaching critical thinking.) More and more young people have little patience with being told they have to accept such stories as truth, and this includes the existence of God itself.
The drift away from religion is not that difficult to understand after all.
Neighbors’ trees gone, and beauty with them
What is a tree? A beautiful, majestic, living thing that cools us in the summer, with shady leaves and long branches.
I love trees. There make me smile. I have lots of trees around me, or I used to.
I have lived in Schenectady County all of my life. I have admired the many tree-lined avenues in the city and actually live on one, or at least I did until recently. My new neighbor had two beautiful trees removed from his property this year. They weren’t sick; they were beautiful and healthy and they complemented the neighborhood.
I am devastated and sad. It looks like a war zone in the yard next to my house. The shade is gone, the beautiful trees are no longer home to birds, squirrels and other animals. The sun is blazing down on their home as well as mine.
Why? What did those trees ever do to my new neighbors? They weren’t hurting anything around us. They were just doing what trees do and they destroyed them with the swing of a huge power saw.
I must admit, I cried. I hate to even look out my windows and see what used to be so pleasant and comforting gone.
Obama showed us the way to go after Martin case
President Obama deserves our utmost respect for the very measured remarks he offered after the George Zimmerman verdict. While sharing with the nation his own personal life experience as a black male in this country, he appealed to us all to turn this tragic event into a time of self-examination to bring about positive change for more equality and justice for all.
In addition to taking a hard, honest look at how far we have really come in terms of accepting others of different races, ethnicity, creeds or sexual status, this unfortunate incident should also reinforce our efforts to look at gun control laws and the implications of “stand your ground” statutes that encourage behavior to take the law into our own hands.
In the Trayvon Martin case, the jury based its decision within the realm of “reasonable doubt,” but many people question whether the outcome had been the same if the defendant had been black and the victim white.
The president encourages us all to move beyond our divisions and bitterness towards more constructive efforts on all sides to accept each other as fellow human beings. Dr. Martin Luther King once said that, “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
Helga Asquith Schroeter
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