This past December, an advertisement on the side of a public bus in Ft. Worth, Texas stated, "Millions of Americans are Good Without God." The ad caused a furor and was later countered by Christian groups paying for ads on box trucks to shadow the four buses carrying the atheist ads. The Christian ads countered with, "God loves us, and God loves the atheists." Both sides of this controversy were practicing their right to free speech as well as freedom of religion. In this country, we are all free to believe in whatever they wish, as well as believing in nothing. We can choose any religion we want to follow, or we can follow none. Political and religios leaders in the past used religion as a form of mind control and as a way to control the masses. In all of history, most wars and genocides were caused by religions.
The four largest religious groups, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, account for between 5 and 6 billion people worldwide. Buddhism and Hinduism account for about 36 percent of the world population, while believers in the Abrahamic religions, which include Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Bahá’i Faith, account for about 53 percent. The Abrahamic religions believe they descend from the Jewish patriarch Abraham. That leaves about 11 percent of the world affiliated with other minor religions or no religion at all.
Here in the United States, Christians are 78 percent of the population, of which Protestants and Catholics comprise 75.2%. Judaism accounts for 1.7 percent of the population while Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus combined account for 1.7 percent. Unaffiliated accounts for 16.1 percent
Worldwide, Christianity is the largest religious group with 1.9 to 2.2 billion people (29 to 32 percent of world population). The Catholic Church, which includes the Western Church and 22 Eastern Catholic Churches, is the largest Christian religion. During the 16th century Reformation, the Protestants separated from the Catholics, and split into many denominations. Eastern Christianity includes Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy and the Church of the East. Islam is next with 1.3 to 1.6 billion people (19 to 21 percent of world population). Islam refers to the religion taught by the Islamic prophet Muhammad, a political and religious figure in the 7th century. Islam is the dominant religion of northern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Judaism is the oldest with about 13 million people, with 40 percent living in Israel and 40 percent living in the United States. Bahá’i Faith, founded in Iran in the 19th century, has 5 to 6 million followers in over 200 countries.
Secularism and irreligion began increasing in the 19th century as religion was increasingly seen as irrelevant in the western world. This resulted in Karl Marx's quote about religion as "the opium of the people". The term "agnostic," originated with T.H. Huxley in 1869 and later adopted by others. In 1927, Bertrand Russell published "Why I Am Not a Christian" which was listed by the New York Public Library as one of the most influential books of the 20th century. This influenced later authors to discuss moving away from their religions.
The terms "atheist" and "agnostic" do not mean the opposite of "religious". Some religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, classify some of their followers as agnostic or atheistic. The opposite of "religious" is the word "irreligious," which means an absence of religion. Antireligion is the opposition towards religions in general. In essence, the irreligious, atheists and agnostics are not against religions as such. Based on the history of how religions were formed, these non believers could be classified as a religious group.
According to a recent report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, unaffiliated or irreligious (atheists, agnostics, uncommitted, etc.) account for 16.1 percent of the United States population. In their report on the religious composition of the 112th Congress, only 6 members (about 1 percent) did not specify a religious affiliation.
According to remarks by Philip Jenkins in a talk about religion and religious wars at the Pew Research Center, "The U.S. absolutely unconsciously adopted in 1965 a Christian immigration policy. The overwhelming majority of the people who came into the United States were Christian; the overwhelming majority of people who came into Europe were Muslim. And if you want to understand future attitudes over the Middle East, look at that fact......I think that the religious gap between Europe and America represents potentially the sharpest divide now in what used to be the West and it is the key thing to watch for."
Following is a quote from an article by Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman, about Hank Davis' book, Caveman Logic, "The main thrust is that our Stone-Age minds still cling to superstitious thinking, and that in order to act more appropriately, we have a responsibility to move past those primitive impulses and cognitive mistakes that make religion feel so "natural" and appealing to the average person. Obviously, religion can easily quash critical thinking, and instead, encourage blind faith. Our minds very easily cling to a "Santa Claus" view of God, believing that if we do good things, we will be rewarded, but if we do bad things, we will be punished. That may be comforting when we are children (or even as adults!), but when are able to become more rational, we see that it's a hard belief to justify. Not only that, uncritical religious thinking can easily lead to narrow-mindedness and arrogance, and has justified wars, genocides, oppression and great injustice. So Davis argues that because of all of these reasons, it's important for human beings to move beyond religion. 'What was good enough 200,000 years ago no longer works very well.'"
Most of us were brought up in the religion of our parents. The fear of God was drilled into our minds at an age when we were too young to have formed any thoughts about religion. Some of us were fortunate enough to have developed our own beliefs without having to belong to any religion, or for that matter to not even believe in God. Everything taught us about religion comes from mythology, superstition, and fear of individual thought.
We are constantly going around and preaching freedom around the world. When are we going to wake up and allow every human being to freely develop his or her own thought processes about the supernatural? This quote, which is credited to the Jesuits, is frightening but true:
Article by Leo Touchet
Posted February 15, 2011