Trigger Warning: Snark ahead. Lots and lots of it. In fact, this entire entry will be chock-full of all of your daily allowances of snarky, sarcastic wit for the next month. Oh, and it's about religion in America... so yeah, you've been warned!

So, today Pew released their newest religion poll. It's amazing! It's New! It's Improved! We can hardly believe it!

Yes, for the fourth, or fifth time this year, another poll has come out that tells us what we already know: One in Five Americans is religiously unaffiliated...

Now, my husband sent me the CNN link this morning from work. The Slate link, I found myself, as I read news there, too. I was already familiar with the 20% number, because I distinctly remember reading this before-- not that long ago. Where? I can't remember, but I do remember the "1 in 5" and thinking, "huh, that many?"

I want to explore that, though, just a little. What does unaffiliated mean, and why is it really such a big deal? It's easy, really, according to Pew, it means those who don't really call themselves anything, religiously-- it also includes those of us who are Atheists, Agnostics and often "New Age/Pagan" is thrown in there too, because we don't have churches. As to why it's a big deal, that's a little bit harder to be pithy about. I can't tell you why it didn't get more press the last half-dozen times these sorts of polls have gone out, though. I have no idea.

When I was a kid we were still dealing with Red Panic. Granted, it was coming to the dying says of the USSR, but the "Commies" were evil, and godless and we Americans had to prove we weren't such horrible things as Communists, by being godly, and religious and Christian (TM)... we haven't accomplished this very well, but I guess the Congress should get points for trying.

To prove the US was christian, and therefore the anti-communist, we changed pledge of Allegiance! It was pretty simple, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

That's how our grandparents learned it. I did too, when I was in Kindergarten, although later I heard I was "taught wrong." See, I was... in 1954 Congress changed it. They realised it was missing something vitally important! Oh My Gods! There was no God in there!!!

So they shoe-horned it in, making it "...One nation, under God, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." You know, just in case you didn't know that the 1950's was when American went all god-birthed and stuff. Some time in that decade my parents were born, the Red Menace was alive and well, and God created the United States of America-- something like that.

Suddenly the US went from being a relatively secular country, to being the one and only true christian (TM) nation in the world. I'm sure the Puritans were thrilled, and finally stopped spinning in their graves. Those top-impressions must have made their corpses dizzy, what with all the pants, and free-thinking, and Catholics and Baptists all getting along and stuff, without state-sanctioned busybodies all over the place!

There, that pledge change cemented the US as the Number One God-Bothering Nation on Earth!!  See, see, see, we even out God-Bothered the Vatican...

Wait, that didn't work, we got McCarthy and his hearings, with his paranoia sitting wingman. There were Communists Everywhere! Didn't you see McCarthy's Paper Stack Of Known Communists (tm)! It got bigger every day! Something Must be Done about this travesty! Something to prove the US was special, that God loved us so much he gave his own son to make the United States for us...

Lemme see, let's change our motto-- yeah yeah, that's it, that'll do it! It had been, unofficially anyway, E pluribus unum, Out of Many, One. That didn't show our christian-heritage well enough, though, so Congress changed it in 1956 to "In God We Trust." We should have changed it to, "In Money We Trust" or "In Our Own Hubris, We Trust" but no, Congress used the national boogey-man, God, as the wellspring of our trust...

That proved, without a doubt, that American was not some heathen, godless nation, but we were true christians (TM)!!

Oh, no, then we got Sputnik, and Yuri Gagarin, with his "I see no God here*".... uh oh, America was slipping from their god-ordained Number One Nation spot. How else could we explain how the Soviets were able to not only send satellites, but an actual person, into orbit! And of course he didn't see God there, everyone knows God hid from the Ruskies, I mean, how else would Americans know God loved them, only Americans get to see God's face in space! (I'm sure you can hear the collective "duh!!" right?)

Well, Congress thought they'd better do something else, to prove how awesomely Christian the US was...So we poured a bazillion dollars into NASA (a very good thing) and even more bazillions into proxy wars (a very, very bad thing). We had the Cuban Revolution, the Bay of Pigs, and Vietnam. We got to encourage murder from Guatemala to Afghanistan, all in the name of God, I mean, the supremacy of the Democratic-Republic of the USA versus the Communist USSR. This went on for decades. Because everyone knows that the only good communist, is a dead one, right? So, the US helped guerrilla fighters, we armed them, trained them, our CIA helped fight with them, all against the Red Menace... now, the grandchildren of those CIA agents are fighting the grandchildren of the men they trained. They're still called mujahideen, and they're still fighting for freedom-- just not in the way that the Americans thought they would, and not in a way we approve of, officially. The war in Afghanistan is something I'll cover later, just remember that we created the Taliban in our over-zealous attempt to eliminate the USSR. [A good list, while probably not exhaustive, is here at Wikipedia.]

These actions have had wide-reaching consequences over the years. Without even touching the scorched earth policies we've implemented across the globe, without describing the wars we made, the people we killed, and the hatred we fostered-- because Congress and the vocal religious majority of the country are god-bothering fucks, just here in the US we have to fight again and again so women can have bodily autonomy. Today... in 2012. This was dealt with in the 60's during the sexual revolution.

Anyway, every time the US as a people took a step forward with science and technology, the Congress and religious people pulled us three steps back. Take a look at all the shit women are dealing with, in 2012, because we want to be on birth control without paying extra insurance premiums... look at the USCCB and evangelicals who claim we want it free-- while we're actually paying twice for it; look at the anti-abortion backlash that has led to Congressionally-approved rape with trans-vaginal ultrasound probes, and the "let women die" laws.

I didn't even go into the institutionalised racism that the Southern States embraced in the 60's and 70's-- see "southern strategy". That's why they all have the Confederate Battle Flag all over-- it's pride and history, or something, it's totally not racism, y'all... they're not racists, but you know about "those people"...
Times, as they say, they are a-changin', and it's for the better. While we're still fighting the freedom from religion fight, more and more people seem to be walking away from organised faiths entirely.

Now, this poll that I noted earlier. It says that a good portion of the non-affiliated are actually religious-- they just don't go to church. Which makes me wonder how many are really atheists or agnostic, but afraid to admit it, even to a stranger taking a poll.

Many of the newly minted not-religiously attending, are the so-called Millennial Generation, or GenY. These kids were born roughly 1983 to 2001. They're a relatively large generation, and I've seen them referred to as the New Boomers-- probably based both on their number, and the fact that they are the kids of the Baby Boomer generation (46-64). These kids are not all special snowflakes, and they do tend to be more tolerant than their parents, so I'm sure that a good reason for their leaving religion is because they can't imagine rejecting their friends or family for being LGBT or being different. See, when you know "the other" you can't pathologise them any more... they're someone you know! Not someone other there being evil.

My own generation, GenerationX has been losing our religion for years now. We aren't as big as the snowflakes in Y, and I think most of us are the kids of parents who had us too young. Yuppies had us as fashion accessories as they found themselves in the 70's and 80's... leaving us to raise ourselves. Hence our lack of religion**. It's not nearly as big a deal, demographically, though, as the Y's admitting they're not all that into God, anyway. Especially considering that it is their parents who are leading the morality charge and gave us the NOM people (amongst other, equally evil and nasty groups).

So, is this lack of religious affiliation rebellion against parents? No, I don't think so. I think it's a natural progression. More and more religious groups are grappling with becoming more and more irrelevant-- we have science to explain, and explore the mysteries of life with, we don't need some guy in a suit, or pretty dress and hat, or awesomely epic beard, or whatever, telling us the meaning of life. As we become more and more scientifically savvy, as we stretch out understanding further and further into the unknown and make it known, we are shining the light of truth upon the darkness of ignorance in a way that religion can't.

This isn't to say that everyone should immediately go atheist-- religion is a deeply personal decision, and I mean it when I say deeply personal. It's between you and your conscience, no one else. It means that relying on church to give morals and structure to society is going away, and I say good riddance!

I don't need a book to make me behave, and if you do, you need to see a therapist right now. You should know it's wrong to harm another person, without a book, or man, telling you so. Those of us who are atheists, agnostics, free-thinkers and Pagans, know this. Hindus and Buddhists, do too... most Aboriginal and First Nations' faiths and belief systems teach the same thing, it's just the couple larger, louder religions that seem to nee to be constantly told what to do.

I say let your Free-Thinking Flag Fly! Be out and proud of your Non-Affiliation. If you're Pagan, be happy! If you're Atheist, be happy! Don't let some asshole in a suit get you down, because he's afraid his religious privilege is going away, and he's losing power over others and their actions because societal shame isn't working any more. Let's push that power back, further, and take even more of it away. Give it back to those who were dis-empowered, to those dispossessed, and harmed by religious actions, and groups.

I'm not afraid of a secular society, I'm looking forward to it!

* It has been stated that Gagarin was actually baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church, and that he never said the above quote attributed to him. However, the reason I included it, was because whether he said it, or not meant nothing to the Americans who used the idea as fodder to create a more theocratic nation in the 50's and 60's.

**Generation X is the generational name given to those of us born between 1964 and 1982, sorta. The years tend to be pretty fluid, and I've even seen the year spread as small as 64-72-- which is stupidly small, generations are supposed to be something like 20 years, not 12. But, there aren't as many of us as the generations before and after-- so demographically we seem to be treated as an afterthought. Right now, demographers care about the Y 's, as they're the ones coming into maturity, and getting on 30.


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