This column, on the whole, is a downer. Let's take a break from all that, and today we'll look on the bright side: Religion really is losing its influence. If you head over to the archive at Gallup.com and take a stroll through their “religion” section, you'll see that when those comically sweaty preachers bemoan the fact that the American people are losing their religious beliefs, they're not making shit up: We really are. While it hasn't yet hit the tipping point where non-believing goes viral and becomes the majority, if you look at the long view of those stats, it's hard to come to any conclusion other than that we're becoming a less religious folk.
- To the question “What is your religion?” 6% of respondents in 1998 selected “None.” That number's now more than doubled to 13%.
- To the question “How important in religion in your life?” 12% of respondents answered “Not Very Important.” That's up to 19% now.
- To the question “Do you think religion is losing its influence?” 38% of people answered “Yes” in 2001. That's up now all the way to 71%.
- “Are you a member of a church or synagogue?” which was a “Yes” answer for 70% of the respondents in 1999 is now down to 59%.
It's small increments, sure. But there's not a place in any of the polls where religion is not trending downward. Less people believe that religion is a worthwhile institution today that ever before. That is fact. Now for the bummer: how religion still has its hold and is doing bad things everywhere.
- Greg Gutfield, a “comic” for Fox News, made the shit-stirring-on-purpose joke that the difference between Catholics and Muslims is that “Catholics write letters, Muslims stab you with letter openers.”
- One Million Moms, the terrible organization that just a few weeks back called on J.C. Penney to fire Ellen DeGeneres as their spokesperson because she's gay, is now calling on all good Christian soldiers to boycott Toys R Us because they're selling an Archie comic book with a same-sex wedding displayed on the cover.
- When this video by the American Life League surfaced, everyone thought it was a biting satire on religious-based, anti-contraception idiots of the world. Turns out, it's not.
- Larry Doyle, a former writer for The Simpsons, wrote this anti-Rick Santorum/anti-Catholic Church satirical column for The Huffington Post's Comedy section. As you'd imagine, conservatives went nuts and called for Arianna Huffington to apologize. The most over-the-top response, though, was by Bill Donohue from The Catholic League, who offered “These people may be threatened by Catholicism, but what really gives them the chills is babies. And they really flip over couples like the Santorums and the Palins who don't abort their disabled children.”
- Rick Santroum stepped in it last week when he took uber-Catholic (except for the whole pesky “adultering” rule) JFK to task for trying to keep church and state separate.
- Newt Gingrich, still trying to maintain relevance, held a conference call with leaders of a faith coalition and basically said the government needs to end gay marriage and teachers should bully gay teenagers more often.
- A “faith healing” TV channel in the UK was fined 25,000 pounds for a series of illegal activities, among which was broadcasting shows of a televangelist claiming he could help people with serious illnesses if they use his “miracle olive oil soap.”
- A group of Sunni gunmen in Pakistan shot up a bus and killed 18 members of the Shi'ite faith.
- Later in the week, Taliban in Pakistan had a bit of a skirmish with local soldiers, leaving 33 dead total.
- While the culprit's still unconfirmed, looks like nebulous “Islamist militants” are also responsible for remote-control bombing a bus in Turkey, injuring at least 15.
- Not exactly bad news as much as disgusting news: A thief in Dublin broke into the Christ Church Cathedral and took a wooden container that contained the preserved heart of St. Laurence O'Toole.
- Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, took to his pulpit and did what religious leaders do nowadays, claiming that gay marriage is “a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.” But then he went the extra yard and said legalizing it would, somehow, be like legalizing slavery.
- In Sweden, a father and stepmother have been charged with, well, being awful parents, after repeatedly burning and torturing their 14-year-old daughter in attempts to exorcise a whole bunch of demons out of her.
- Speaking of Sweden—which, who knew things were so wacky up there?—a pastor already on probation for having sex with a teen girl is now being investigated for diddling other young girls and, best/worst of all, is apparently planning to write a tell-all book about the whole thing.
- The American Midwest and South were just decimated this week by tornados, leaving at least 38 dead and causing untold amounts of damage. And, as you'd imagine, a lot of people turned to the Lord Above during those windy and apocalyptic nights. But there was nothing as insane and creepy as this video from a woman calling on God to take away the tornado, in between seemingly reciting lines from Evil Dead II.
- And then there was that whole mess with Rush Limbaugh calling a Georgetown grad student a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she was denied access to debate birth control for the House Oversight Committee. Sure, this comes from the misogynist gutter, but there are plenty of overlaps with religion.
- Daniel Pearl, the Jewish journalist who died in Pakistan in 2002, is now a Mormon. Thanks, posthumous baptisms!
- In West Tennessee, a high school principal was forced to resign after he told kids in his school that if they were gay, they were going to hell.
- And finally, our Hero of the Week goes to: The African-Americans for Humanism society, who spent Black History Month trying to promote the role that African-American atheists had during the Civil Rights movement.
Previously - Burning for You