Young people becoming less religious

The evidence that religion is losing the battle of ideas keeps coming in from all sides. A new Pew survey compares the attitudes of the various generational age cohorts that it identifies by the years in which they were born and labels as the Greatest (before 1926), the Silents (1927-1944), the Baby Boomers (1945-1964), the Gen Xers (1965-1979), and the Millennials (1980-1992), and finds that:

Younger generations also are significantly less likely than older ones to affiliate with a religious tradition. This pattern began in the 1970s when 13% of Baby Boomers were unaffiliated with any particular religion, according to the General Social Survey. That compared with just 6% among the Silent generation and 3% among the Greatest generation.

In the most recent General Social Survey, 26% of Millennial generation respondents said they were unaffiliated, as did 21% of Gen Xers. Among Baby Boomers, 15% were unaffiliated – not significantly different from when they were first measured in the 1970s. And just 10% of the Silent Generation said that they were unaffiliated.

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The report goes on to say that “Fewer than half of Millennials (46%) say religious faith and values have been very important in America’s success. This compares with 64% of Xers, 69% of Boomers and 78% of Silents.”

Meanwhile the Barna group, an outfit that regularly conducts religious surveys, finds six reasons “why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.”

  1. Churches seem overprotective

  2. Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow
  3. Churches come across as antagonistic to science
  4. Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental
  5. They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity
  6. The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt

I found items #3 and #6 particularly interesting. On item #3, the report found:

One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%). Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%). Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%). And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.

As regards item #6, the report said:

Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%).

It should be clear that this survey looked at disengagement from church life, not necessarily from belief in god. But once people get disengaged from the groupthink of their churches that gives them the illusion that believing in fantasies is reasonable since everyone around them believes in the same fantasies, many of them will shift to unbelief.

What this survey reinforces is what I have been saying for some time, that the forces of modernity are in opposition to those of religion. Religion is backward looking and opposed to the growth of knowledge in general, science in particular, and to increasingly liberal attitudes towards sexuality. Modernity is an unstoppable force and religion cannot hold it back.

Invoking the mercy rule on Herman Cain

Herman Cain is continuing in full gaffe form suggesting, in response to a question about the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, that he thinks the president can overturn US Supreme Court rulings.

Elsewhere, Cain said that the Taliban are in the new Libyan government, perhaps because he thinks that Libya and Afghanistan share a common border.

In some sports one has the ‘mercy rule’ in which teams, once they are sure of victory, deliberately hold back from further scoring in order to avoid embarrassing their opponents. It is time to for me to do that for Herman Cain. He has become such an easy target, such a laughing stock, and so obviously inept that it seems no longer worthwhile to comment on any more of his absurdities.

So Herman, gaffe away. I am done with you. Unless it is really, really funny.

Clever UC Davis students

Here is another view of the long silent walk of UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi to her car after the contentious press conference on Friday after the pepper-spraying atrocity.

I have to hand it to the students. This was one of the most effective strategies they could have adopted. The dead silence with which they watch her walk was far more effective at showing her impotence than her being jeered or yelled at.

A rally is being planned at noon today (Pacific time) on the UC Davis campus.

How Iowans are choosing

Over the weekend, there was yet another Republican debate set in an Iowa church and organized by a group that opposes abortion and gay marriage. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman did not attend so with the two Mormons out of the way, the stage was set for some heavy-duty pandering to right-wing Christian evangelicals, with three of the candidates even crying during the event.

It is getting close to the time when Iowans will have to choose in their primary and you can’t say that they don’t have very clear choices before them.

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The creeping paramilitarization of the police

The government response to the Occupy Wall Street movement has been to unleash the police to forcibly clear the protestors from various sites. The crackdown has many of the signs of paramilitary actions: dark uniforms and hard enveloping black helmets with visors that hide the faces, brandishing large truncheons, with tasers and guns on their hips, widespread use of pepper spray and tear gas, rough treatment of peaceful protestors irrespective of age and whether they are resisting.

Here are some photos of recent events, where the police look like the storm troopers from Star Wars. We should note that this look by the police is deliberately created. It is not merely meant for their own protection but also to intimidate people, not just the protestors they are confronting but anyone who sees the events in newspapers and on TV and on the web who might think twice before joining the protests and having to personally confront storm troopers.

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Up to now, the fact that the police still have visible names and numbers on their uniforms act as a restraint on the brutality, since they can be singled out and punished, however mildly, for excesses. The real danger comes when even those identifiers are covered up, because then there will be little restraint. This may well happen since some of the more aggressive police have already been identified for shaming and police chiefs may say they need the anonymity to ‘protect’ their people from retribution.

The next stage in paramilitary actions come when the uniforms become generic and the vehicles unmarked, preventing identification of even the police units involved let along individual officers. Then we are approaching the stage of the death squads that operate with impunity in so many countries and where people that are perceived as opponents of the government simply ‘disappear’, to be never seen again. We are not there yet, but vigilance is required to make sure we do not.

The Egyptian military government has recently been cracking down hard on demonstrators there, causing many deaths and using the police tactics in the US as justification. Gawker comments that when watching the video footage of police beating protestors with sticks and dragging them by the hair, it is hard to tell if we are seeing events in Egypt or in the US, except that the chyrons are in Arabic.

Yes, we have become the model for the Egyptian military junta.

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UC Davis chancellor faces backlash

This video of students massively protesting being excluded from a media press conference by the university chancellor Linda Katehi, who is facing demands from her own faculty to resign, is gripping. Using the ‘mic check’ technique that is one of the great innovations of the Occupy movement, they get their voices heard.

The last minute of the video, where the chancellor walks a silent gauntlet of students to her car, is striking and should give pause to other officials who think about using the police to brutally suppress peaceful protestors.

Here’s an interview with one of the students who were pepper-sprayed who describes what happened in the time leading to the police action and afterward.

Which side are you on?

From reader Tim, I received this animation from The Guardian that explains the growth of inequality in the US.

The reason I back the Occupy movement is not because they have specific demands that I agree with. Long time readers of this blog know that I, along with scattered others, have been railing against the increasing power of the oligarchy for years with little or no effect. But thanks to the heroic actions of the people in the Occupy movement, within the space of just two months that topic is now front and center, with even the mainstream media forced to discuss it.

The Occupy movement is not asking for this or that specific demand. It is a bit much to ask the movement to provide solutions to the problems facing the global economy. That is the proper role of governments. But the way the government goes about suggesting solutions depends upon the way they view the problem. And their current perspective is that of the oligarchy.

The Occupy movement is saying that the system is corrupt to the core and that the perspective that should be adopted is that of ordinary people. It is only when the oligarchy and their political and media allies are frightened of our numbers that we will see any fundamental change in perspective. That is why the oligarchy will try to crush the Occupy movement before it can gain further strength. Those who ask for specific demands or quibble about whether a march or setting up a protest line or a tent is legal are not only missing the point, they are actually diverting attention from the more important question of for whose benefit the government is working.

In an earlier age, the oligarchy unleashed similar attacks on another people’s movement, the unions, which were also seen as a threat. This famous union song by the great Pete Seeger is from that time.

The Occupy movement is forcing all of us to confront the same question again: Which side are you on?

Confrontation with police at UC Davis

In a further example of the growth of paramilitary practices in the US, watch a policeman walk up and down a line of sitting students at Occupy UC Davis and squirt pepper spray directly into their faces, as if they were a row of weeds.

After some initial confusion, the other students react, chanting “Shame on you!” and massing and surrounding the police and advancing on them as they slowly back away. At some point, using the effective ‘open mic’ technique that has become ubiquitous as a result of the Occupy movement, the students offer the police the chance to take their weapons and leave, which they do amidst chants of “You can go!”, averting further confrontation.

It is clear from the coordinated efforts to forcibly uproot the Occupy movement that the oligarchy views it as a threat, not major one at the moment, but with the potential to become so if not crushed quickly. Chris Hayes uncovers a story in which a lobbying group warns the American Bankers Association of the danger and offers to help them counter the movement.

If South American countries prosecute their war criminals, why don’t we?

Latin American countries used to be notorious for having dictators who ruthlessly repressed their own people, used death squads and torture indiscriminately, and demanded and received immunity for their acts. The rest of the world looked down at them for their lawlessness. Almost all of those dictators were strongly supported by the US.

But things are different now. In this interview, Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive, talks about the changes, how those countries are opening up the dark past and revealing the details of the abuses. One country Uruguay has even revoked the amnesty that was once granted to the perpetrators and says that it will treat all the abuses as crimes against humanity.

The vaults of the CIA, FBI, National Security Council, and the State Department contain documentation that would, if released, prove invaluable in tracking down and prosecuting those criminals. But since the US is fully engaged in the same kinds of lawless practices, such as torture, murder, and self-immunity that those countries used to indulge in, it is unlikely that they will release the documents.

While the Latin American countries are trying to write their past wrongs, many of their past excesses can be seen in current practices in the US, such as the use of paramilitary tactics on the Occupy Wall Street protestors. When you see police in riot gear with batons and gases strong-arming unarmed protestors, irrespective of age or whether they are even resisting, it is eerily reminiscent of what used to be commonplace on the streets of Buenos Aires or Montevideo. We do not have (as far as I know) death squads acting within the US killing off the enemies of the government, though they do act overseas with drones being the weapon of choice.