Atheism and liberal Christianity alliances

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In terms of politics, most atheists lean to the left politically (see: Atheism and politics and Secular left).

Liberal Christianity or Theological Modernism is a broad term which essentially refers to a movement within American Protestant denominations to stress the social role of Christianity, as in the Social Gospel of the early 20th century. This movement is characterized by a lack of emphasis on or denial of the plenary Divine inspiration and authority of the Bible, and commitment to doctrinal purity. It often takes an anti-supernaturalism approach on various matters.

Decline of liberal Christianity

See also: Growth of evangelical Christianity

Michael Brown wrote:

Several decades ago, church statistician and demographer David Barrett began to report the surprising news that around the world, the most rapidly growing faith was Spirit-empowered Christianity, marked by clear gospel preaching, belief in the literal truth of the Scriptures, and the reality of God’s presence. (The data were compiled in the prestigious “World Christian Encyclopedia,” published by Oxford University Press.)...

This is confirmed in the new Pew Forum report, which showed that evangelical Protestant churches in America grew by 2 million from 2007 to 2014 whereas the so-called mainline (liberal) Protestant churches declined by 5 million, meaning that evangelical Protestants now make up the largest religious group in the nation. Although this is not part of the Pew Forum survey, my surmise is that the evangelical churches that are most Bible-based and make the most serious, grace-empowered demands on their congregants are, generally speaking, the ones that are growing rather than declining.[1]

In their 2010 journal article entitled, Secularism, Fundamentalism or Catholicism? The Religious Composition of the United States to 2043 published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vegard Skirbekk and Anne Goujon wrote that the "prevailing view ...envisions the continued growth of “strong religion” (Stark and Iannaccone 1994a)."[2] See also: Baylor University researchers on American Christianity

The British academic Eric Kaufmann, who specializes in the area of how demographic affect religion/politics and is an agnostic, wrote about the higher rate of religious fundamentalists causing society to adopt more religious conservative values:

Seculars should be worried for the long-term since this argument raises question marks over the assumed “inevitability” of the story of liberal secular progress... It questions what modernity now means. Religious fundamentalists will certainly be cheered, but the mushy middle of religious moderates should be concerned, since they may wind up the biggest losers – caught between the rock of fundamentalism and hard place of secularism.

The paradigm cases are closed sects like the Amish and Hutterites, or ultra-Orthodox Jews, who have 3 to 4 times the birthrates of their co-religionists. Conservative evangelicals and Mormons have 50 per cent more children than liberal/moderate Protestants.[3]

Atheists and liberal Christianity alliances

Sikivu Hutchinson speaking at a women's conference. See also: Atheism and women

According to atheist Sikivu Hutchinson, there is a "vacuum in secular social justice leadership" and that is why she and other skeptics founded the People of Color Beyond Faith network.[4] Hutchinson says about the network, "We’re not only interested in working with nonbelievers and secularists of color, but also with progressive faith organizations that share a similar vision."[5] See: Atheism and social justice

In June 2014, Sikivu Hutchinson wrote in the Washington Post that atheist organizations generally focus on church/state separation and creationism issues and not the concerns the less affluent African-American population faces.[6] Hutchinson also mentioned that church organizations do offer significant help to poor African-Americans.[7] See also: Atheism and uncharitableness and Western atheism and race

The atheist Adam Lee wrote in Salon:

I believe that American atheists can and should make alliances with religious progressives to advance causes on which we agree (and we’ve done just that, such as with the secular charity Foundation Beyond Belief’s “Challenge the Gap” program). But we can do that without surrendering our right to criticize them in areas where we disagree. To insist on anything else is to insist that any alliance between us must be founded on religious supremacy and atheist subservience. Given the numbers that atheists can bring to the table, this would be foolish and arrogant.[8]

Lee also wrote:

Here are ...the biggest mistakes the atheist movement has made, and what we can do better to fix them...

Take diversity and inclusion seriously. The atheist movement's roots in mostly white, mostly male, mostly upper-class people show all too clearly in its tendency to parade the same faces over and over, on the boards of influential secular organizations, on the speaker lineups of major atheist conferences and in the news stories that get written about the movement. Too often, an all-white or all-male slate is seen as the unremarkable norm.

Pay more attention to issues of justice. Atheist organizations have traditionally focused on a narrowly defined set of causes: countering religious apologetics, debunking supernatural claims, defending separation of church and state...[9]

Atheism and liberal Christianity alliance related to evolutionism

See also: Atheism and evolution and Evolution and liberalism

evolution darwin theory
Late in Charles Darwin's life, Darwin told the Duke of Argyll that he frequently had overwhelming thoughts that the natural world was the result of design.[10]

Since World War II a majority of the most prominent and vocal defenders of the evolutionary position which employs methodological naturalism have been atheists and agnostics.[11] See also: Atheism and evolution

Liberal Christianity adherents believe in theistic evolution and non-theistic evolution.

Concerning the evolutionary paradigm and liberalism, in the United States, CBS News reported in October 2005 that the Americans most likely to believe only in the theory of evolution are liberals.[12]

CBS News reported:

Americans most likely to believe in only evolution are liberals (36 percent), those who rarely or never attend religious services (25 percent), and those with a college degree or higher (24 percent).

White evangelicals (77 percent), weekly churchgoers (74 percent) and conservatives (64 percent), are mostly likely to say God created humans in their present form.[13]

The atheist Eugenie C. Scott served as an Executive Director of the pro-evolution organization National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and considerable amount of her time was spent working with liberal Christians as far as supporting the teaching of evolution in public schools.

At the same time, the atheist and evolutionist PZ Myers wrote about NCSE favoring liberal Christianity:

It’s still going on. Jerry Coyne repeated our common criticism that the NCSE spends too much effort promoting Christianity; then Richard Hoppe fires back, complaining that his comment was held in moderation (Coyne has been sick for a while, you know…I wish people would have more patience), and then repeating the common and misguided defense that NCSE is not an atheist organization. We know. We’ve both agreed on multiple occasions that the NCSE should not be an atheist organization. But still we get this same tiresome objection.
NCSE’s main remit is defending the teaching of evolution in the public schools. That defense is both legal (think Kitzmiller) and political (think the Dover PA school board election after that trial but before the verdict was in). One cannot win political battles without accepting alliances with groups with whom one does not agree on all aspects of all issues. To imagine otherwise is to live in dreamland.

Yes? Please look in a mirror, Richard!

As I’ve said before, said just above, am saying again, and will no doubt have to say a hundred times more, no one is asking the NCSE to become an atheist organization, and no one is saying that the NCSE shouldn’t make strategic alliances with religious organizations. I’d put it in 72 point type if I thought it would help, but I doubt that anything will.

The problem is that the NCSE is not neutral on atheism vs. religion, but has clearly taken a side in preferring one particularly fuzzy, liberal, soft version of Christianity as its ‘acceptable’ religious belief.[14]

Friction between atheists and liberal Christianity

New Atheism and atheism vs. liberal Christianity friction

New Atheism is form of militant atheism which began in the period between 2004-2008.

Adam Lee also writes:

Nevertheless, some religious progressives have greeted the New Atheism with less than open arms. For instance, this recent column by James Rohrer inveighs against “militant secularists” who “employ derogatory language” to talk about religion. Like many liberal critics, he accuses the New Atheists of being too sweeping and too indiscriminate in our attacks, and chides us that we should learn to cooperate with moderate religious people rather than arguing against them.[15]

New Atheism has seen a major decline.

Friction between anti-feminist atheists and liberal Christianity

See also: Atheist factions

Within atheism there is a large segment of anti-femnists/men's right activists. Prominent YouTube, atheist anti-feminists are Thunderf00t and TheAmazingAtheist. New atheists Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are often criticized for their statements relating to women.

The feminist atheist PZ Myers said about this situation, "I despair over atheism, as I watch it burn away allies and embrace the default attitude of patronizing bro-ness."[16]

For additional information, please see:

Theistic evolutionists vs. atheistic evolutionist friction

See also: Theory of evolution and little consensus

As noted above, theistic evolutionism is advocated by liberals/liberal Christianity. It is also advocated by the Roman Catholic Church.

Although they are both evolutionists, historically there has been some friction between theistic evolutionists and atheistic/non-theistic evolutionists .[17]

Atheist Jerry Coyne and Templeton Foundation friction related to revamping evolutionary ideology

The atheist Jerry Coyne speaking at a 2013 atheist meeting entitled The Amazing Meeting (TAM). TAM is an annual meeting.

Jerry Coyne is an evolutionary biology professor and atheist who runs a leading pro-evolution blog.

In terms of its ideology the Templeton Foundation is non-profit foundation which espouses both conservative and liberal positions (As far as conservatism, it promotes theism and capitalism. In terms of liberal ideology, it supports theistic evolution.).

In terms of liberal ideology, the Templeton Foundation helps fund the Biologos Foundation which promotes theistic evolution. Dr. Francis Collins, an ex-atheist who became a Roman Catholic heads the Biologos Foundation. Pope Benedict XVI has also appointed Collins to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Collins has been criticized by pro-life advocates for some for his views on aborting babies with learning disabilities.[18]

CNS News reported:

Don't let anyone tell you the evolutionary paradigm isn't in serious turmoil. Just in time for DNA Day today, Science Magazine announced on Friday an $8.7 million project by the Templeton Foundation seeking an “evolution rethink." I'm trying to think of the last time I heard Science reporting on support for a "gravity rethink," or a "heliocentrism rethink." The gist of it:
“For many evolutionary biologists, nothing gets their dander up faster than proposing that evolution is anything other than the process of natural selection, acting on random mutations. Suggestions that something is missing from that picture – for example, that evolution is somehow directed or that genetic changes can't fully explain it – play into the hands of creationists, who leap on them as evidence against evolution itself.”

Oh, those dreaded "creationists" and evolution deniers.

“No wonder some evolutionary biologists are uneasy with an $8.7 million grant to U.K., Swedish, and U.S. researchers for experimental and theoretical work intended to put a revisionist view of evolution, the so-called extended evolutionary synthesis, on a sounder footing. Using a variety of plants, animals, and microbes, the researchers will study the possibility that organisms can influence their own evolution and that inheritance can take place through routes other than the genetic material.”

Whatever the outcome, the news has yanked Jerry Coyne's chain. He complains in the article:

“Evolutionary biologists shouldn't accept its money, says Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois, who has been a persistent critic of the foundation for linking science and religion. ‘It really slants the way science is done,’ he told Science.”...

The scope is impressive – "49 researchers from different fields and ... 22 interconnected projects across eight institutions." Coyne's dyspeptic reaction gives you an idea of what a huge deal this is.

Oh, so you want to dismiss Templeton because its perspective isn't rigidly materialist enough? They aren’t the only ones “rethinking” Neo-Darwinism. This coming November, the Royal Society plans a conference on "New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives." Despite the subdued title – reflecting British understatement, perhaps – this is more big news, a gathering of major mainstream voices from the world of biology and other fields to hash out the merits of the call for a Third Way for evolution – not classic Darwinism, not intelligent design, but something ... else:

“Scientific discussion meeting organised in partnership with the British Academy by Professor Denis Noble CBE FMedSci FRS, Professor Nancy Cartwright, Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, Professor John Dupré and Professor Kevin Laland.
“Developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, although the issues involved remain hotly contested. This meeting will present these developments and arguments in a form that will encourage cross-disciplinary discussion and, in particular, involve the humanities and social sciences in order to provide further analytical perspectives and explore the social and philosophical implications.”

When it comes to "hotly contesting" the "standard theory of evolution," the timing couldn't be better. Today we are celebrating two significant anniversaries – that of the description of the structure of the DNA molecule by Watson and Crick (DNA Day 2016) (they published on April 25, 1953), and the fiftieth anniversary of the Wistar Institute conference on "Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution."...

If you'll forgive a morbid metaphor, Wistar was like the ominous spot first seen on the X-ray of a vital organ – the beginning of the end for unguided Darwinian processes as the sole, satisfactory explanation of how complex biological features evolve.

Intelligent design, obviously, is one source of the current challenge to Darwinism, but it's only one source. You could erase ID advocates entirely from the battle map, and Darwinian theory would still be under siege. Evolution's smug cultists are in denial about that, but it's true.[19]

Most of the Templeton Foundation funds for the evolutionary rethink appears to be going to the University of St. Francis which is a Roman Catholic University.[20]

Previously, creationists have exploited significant differences among evolutionists and the punctuated equilibrium vs. neo-darwinian gradualists is an example of this matter.[21]

See also:

Future of atheism and liberal Christianity alliances

Eric Kaufmann, a professor at Birkbeck College, University of London, using a wealth of demographic studies, argues that there will be a significant decline of global atheism in the 21st century which will impact the Western World.[22] See: Desecularization

Liberal Christianity churches have seen a major decline in adherents and this is trend is expected to continue. In addition, in terms of atheism, the 21st century is expected to undergo a period of desecularization and global atheism has shrunk in terms of it market share since 1970.

Michael Brown wrote:

Several decades ago, church statistician and demographer David Barrett began to report the surprising news that around the world, the most rapidly growing faith was Spirit-empowered Christianity, marked by clear gospel preaching, belief in the literal truth of the Scriptures, and the reality of God’s presence. (The data were compiled in the prestigious “World Christian Encyclopedia,” published by Oxford University Press.)...

This is confirmed in the new Pew Forum report, which showed that evangelical Protestant churches in America grew by 2 million from 2007 to 2014 whereas the so-called mainline (liberal) Protestant churches declined by 5 million, meaning that evangelical Protestants now make up the largest religious group in the nation. (Although this is not part of the Pew Forum survey, my surmise is that the evangelical churches that are most Bible-based and make the most serious, grace-empowered demands on their congregants are, generally speaking, the ones that are growing rather than declining.[23]

Greater difficulty in organizing the religious left

The American Spectator declared:

...former New York Times religion writer Peter Steinfels readily admitted that religious liberals will not necessarily outpace conservatives in American politics. He doubted religion for liberals "can play anything like the motivating, energizing, and organizing force of religion among religious conservatives.”

The head of PPRI likewise admitted that religious progressives are a more "complicated heterogeneous group of people to communicate with and organize with." They are less committed to religious institutions and less frequent attenders of places of worship than are religious conservatives.[24]

As American liberal churches decline/vanish, the secular left may have greater difficulty forming alliances with the religious left.

Furthermore, the American Spectator declares about American religious leftists hopes for being dominant in the future:

Their hopes will likely be disappointed. Many Millennials will become more religious and conservative as they age, especially if they marry and have children. And the subsequent generation almost certainly will rebel against their predecessor's hipster outlook, just as diligent Generation Xers reacted against the soaring hippy activism of their Baby Boomer predecessors. Religious conservatives also have more children than religious liberals or secularists.[25]

American leftism and conservative Christian backlash

See also: Growth of global desecularization and Culture war and American atheism

After the prayer-in-school decision in 1962 and particularly after Rowe vs. Wade in 1973 desecularization accelerated rapidly and seriously impacted the national political arena in a divisive fashion pitting a secular-liberal humanism against a conservative moralism, pitting Darwin against “intelligent Design”.[26]

According to the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS), the number of atheists and agnostics in the United States has remained relatively stable in the past 23 years. In 1991, 2% of Americans identified as atheist, and 4% identified as agnostic. In 2014, 3% of Americans identified as atheists, and 5% identified as agnostics.[27] See also: American atheism

In the United States, in the latter part of the 20th century, political victories by the secular left/liberal Christianity/liberal theists helped cause a rise in the political influence of the religious right.[28]

Recently, the secular left has shifted many universities politically to the left and instituted practices such as political correctness and a greater degree of discrimination in the hiring of conservative professors.[29] For example, in 2013, an study found that academia was less likely to hire evangelical Christians due to discriminatory attitudes.[30] In addition, same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States in 2015 and some Christian businesses which deal with weddings such as bakers have been fined for refusing service to homosexuals who wanted their services related to weddings. Historically, biblical Christianity has often thrived during periods of increased persecution/discrimination.

The academic article The Nation with the Soul of a Church declared:

After the foundation of a secular republic a process of reactive desecularization has set in, first regionally and then, in fits and starts, also nationally. Animated by the First Amendment’s “free exercise” and protected by the “anti-establishment clause” there have been a series of popular religious reactions to the separation of church and state, commonly called awakenings. From the 18th to the early 20th century most of these remained politically inconsequential. However, the liberal revolution of the 1960s provoked a string of popular political responses. Since then the formerly “silent minorities” morphed into “moral majorities” and became a new political force. After the prayer-in-school decision in 1962 and particularly after Rowe vs. Wade in 1973 desecularization accelerated rapidly and seriously impacted the national political arena in a divisive fashion pitting a secular-liberal humanism against a conservative moralism, pitting Darwin against “intelligent Design”. In order to combat excessive secularization and moral relativism the crisis management of the religious right called for simple answers, for so-called fundamentals. The born again experience of the evangelicals favored private instead of state-managed solutions. The new litmus test of moral authority became “Have you chosen Jesus as your personal saviour?”[31]

American culture war, demographics and expected tipping point after 2020

By the end of the 21st century, three quarters of America may be pro-life.[32]

See also: Growth of global desecularization

Eric Kaufmann wrote in his 2010 book Shall the Righteous Inherit the Earth? concerning America:

High evangelical fertility rates more than compensated for losses to liberal Protestant sects during the twentieth century. In recent decades, white secularism has surged, but Latino and Asian religious immigration has taken up the slack, keeping secularism at bay. Across denominations, the fertility advantage of religious fundamentalists of all colours is significant and growing. After 2020, their demographic weight will begin to tip the balance in the culture wars towards the conservative side, ramping up pressure on hot-button issues such as abortion. By the end of the century, three quarters of America may be pro-life. Their activism will leap over the borders of the 'Redeemer Nation' to evangelize the world. Already, the rise of the World Congress of Families has launched a global religious right, its arms stretching across the bloody lines of the War on Terror to embrace the entire Abrahamic family.[33]

If Christian political backlash does not materialize to a significant degree due to recent secular leftist political victories, American secularism is still expected to stabilize in the 21st century before 2043 due to demographic forces such as religious/irreligious fertility rates and religious immigration (see: American rate of secularization stabilization in 21st century).

Atheist anger over conservative Christianity in America

See also: Causes of the New Atheism movement

New Atheists were especially angered by the dominance of the Christian right in America (see: Causes of the New Atheism movement#New Atheism as a reaction to the religious right in the United States).

Newsbusters reported in 2009:

Newsweek tantalizingly proclaimed on its cover “The Decline and Fall of Christian America,” and Meacham's article was titled, “The End of Christian America,” (during Holy Week, no less) Meacham himself stated, “rumors of the death of Christianity are greatly exaggerated” and that “there is no doubt that the nation remains vibrantly religious – far more so, for instance than Europe."[34]

Atheists grudgingly admiring religious fundamentalists more than liberal Christians

Steven Weinberg is a Nobel prize winning physicist who is an atheist.[35]

A writer at the website Atheist Revolution wrote:

I found myself again reflecting on how I have more respect for fundamentalist Christians than the so called liberal Christians. Of course, I realize that "respect" isn't the best word here because religious fundamentalists are hardly worthy of respect. I recognize that the fundamentalist forms of any religion are far more dangerous than the liberal to moderate forms. Still, there is something a bit more admirable about someone who tells us what he or she believes and then acts in accordance with it versus someone who does not.

How can I possible have more respect for the fundamentalist Christian than the liberal Christian, especially when my worldview is so much more similar to that of the liberal Christian?...

While watching The Atheism Tapes recently, I was overjoyed to see this very question come up in one of the interviews. Nobel Prize-wining American physicist Steven Weinberg tackled this one, and I finally heard an explanation for what I have felt but not adequately understood. Even if the rest of the interviews weren't as excellent as they were, this part would have made the whole collection worthwhile.

What Weinberg said, and I am paraphrasing greatly here, is that religious fundamentalists have a coherent worldview while religious liberals do not. What makes the fundamentalists more appealing to some of us is that they possess a theory of the world that we can examine, comprehend, and even test. Weinberg said that this appeals to him as a scientist, and I think he's absolutely right.

Religious liberals, as compared with fundamentalists, have no coherent theory or worldview. They are all over the place in picking various bits they like while ignoring the parts they don't care for. This results in an incoherent mosaic of ideas slapped together without any sort of unifying principles. Much like the "New Age" perspectives many Christians love to criticize, liberal religion offers no theory to understand or evaluate.[36]

See also

Notes

  1. Why conservative churches are still growing
  2. Secularism, Fundamentalism or Catholicism? The Religious Composition of the United States to 2043, Journal for the Sientific Study of Religion, vol. 49, no. 2 (June) 2010, Vegard Skirbekk and Anne Goujon,
  3. Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century by Eric Kaufmann
  4. [Atheism and social justice: Sikivu Hutchinson on the first People of Color Beyond Faith conference - See more at: http://chrisstedman.religionnews.com/2014/10/09/atheism-social-justice-sikivu-hutchinson-first-people-color-beyond-faith-conference Atheism and social justice: Sikivu Hutchinson on the first People of Color Beyond Faith conference], Chris Stedman, 2014
  5. [Atheism and social justice: Sikivu Hutchinson on the first People of Color Beyond Faith conference - See more at: http://chrisstedman.religionnews.com/2014/10/09/atheism-social-justice-sikivu-hutchinson-first-people-color-beyond-faith-conference Atheism and social justice: Sikivu Hutchinson on the first People of Color Beyond Faith conference], Chris Stedman, 2014
  6. Atheism has a big race problem that no one’s talking about by Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Washington Post June 16, 2014
  7. Atheism has a big race problem that no one’s talking about by Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Washington Post June 16, 2014
  8. Rise of the new atheists
  9. 4 Things the Atheist Movement Has Done Badly (and How to Do Them Better)
  10. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/teleological-arguments/notes.html
  11. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/10/22/opinion/polls/main965223.shtml
  12. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/10/22/opinion/polls/main965223.shtml
  13. battle over NCSE
  14. Rise of the new atheists
  15. Feminism isn’t a side issue, it is a central issue in any movement with a pretense to rationalism
  16. Theistic Evolution and the Creation-Evolution Controversy
  17. Francis Collins’s “Devout” Views on Abortion
  18. Darwinian Evolutionary Theory Is Under Siege, Intelligent Design Notwithstanding
  19. Templeton funds evolution rethink
  20. Punctuated equilibrium: come of age? by Dr Don Batten
  21. Eric Kaufmann: Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  22. Why conservative churches are still growing
  23. The Future Belongs to Religious Liberals?
  24. The Future Belongs to Religious Liberals?
  25. The Nation with a soul of a church
  26. Hout, Michael; Smith, Tom (March 2015). "Fewer Americans Affiliate with Organized Religions, Belief and Practice Unchanged: Key Findings from the 2014 General Social Survey" (PDF). General Social Survey. NORC
  27. The Nation with a soul of a church
  28. Suspicions Confirmed: Academia Shutting Out Conservative Professors
  29. Suspicions Confirmed: Academia Shutting Out Conservative Professors
  30. The Nation with a soul of a church
  31. Why are 2012 and 2020 key years for Christian creationists and pro-lifers?
  32. Why are 2012 and 2020 key years for Christian creationists and pro-lifers?
  33. Hitchens: America's Enemy 'Most Godly Imaginable Group', Newsbusters
  34. Weinberg, Steven (September 25, 2008). "Without God". The New York Review of Books.
  35. Fundamentalists vs. Liberal Christians