Category Archives: The Atheist’s Pulpit

One believer’s view.

Thank god, religion is waning

Poll Finds Americans, Especially Millennials, Moving Away From Religion : The Two-Way : NPR

Religion is apparently weakening in America. A new report from the Pew Research Center shows that the percentage of Americans who say they believe in God, pray daily and attend church regularly is declining.

Among the findings:

  • The share of Americans who say they are “absolutely certain” that God exists has dropped 8 percentage points, from 71 percent to 63 percent, since 2007, when the last comparable study was made.
  • The percentage of adults who describe themselves as “religiously affiliated” has shrunk 6 points since 2007, from 83 percent to 77 percent.
  • The shares of the U.S. adult population who consider religion “very important” to them, pray daily and attend services at least once a month have declined between 3 and 4 percentage points over the past eight years.

The shift is small but statistically significant, according to the authors, given that the changes have taken place in a relatively short period of time, and the survey sample is large enough (about 35,000 U.S. adults) to be considered reliable.

Poll Finds Americans, Especially Millennials, Moving Away From Religion : The Two-Way : NPR

34 years ago tonight …

mjh & MR in Landmark Shopping Center photo machine, Alexandria, VA, January 1984Friday night, Halloween weekend, 1981, Robert Coontz brought someone new home for dinner (probably spaghetti). I stood in the living room to meet her and she walked around the far side of the coffee table, nose in the air. She wasn’t avoiding me (she said), just sniffing her surroundings, having been a dog in a former life. That was my introduction to Merri Rudd, my belovéd-to-be.

[photo: mjh & MR in Landmark Shopping Center photo machine, Alexandria, VA, January 1984.]

“I think your airline trouble started on 10/11/12 at 13:14:15 pm. Ack!” — MRudd to mjh

[this just bubbled up from 2012 and I like it…]

I intended to mark that numeric oddity in some way, though not with airplane problems. In fact, earlier I added an appointment to my calendar for that moment, writing only “noteworthy time.” Indeed.

When I boarded my flight out of Dallas, the slow shuffle of passengers placed me in the doorway to the plane. It occurred to me that I had a rare opportunity to lay hands on the skin of a plane and I did. I wondered if anyone would find it odd that a man paused to spread his hand flat over the outside of the airplane. Not that my personal magnetism actually had anything to do with the mechanical — and procedural — difficulties that had already begun.

I shuffled to my middle seat way back in row 30. Eventually, my row mates arrived, took their seats, and pulled out their electronic shields. On my right, the Artist (according to the tattoo across her nape) read her iPad while listening to tunes on her iPhone. On my left, the woman closer to my age pulled out a binder like those I used as a teacher but quickly replaced it with her iPad and Android phone. I would have activated the third cone of silence by pulling out my Windows 8 tablet (the only one on the plane, surely, and possibly the only one in the Dallas airport), but it was drained. We sat. Eventually, two of us snacked healthily.

The captain turned off the seatbelt sign, though most of us remained seated. The tall and lithe woman I had noticed at the gate came down the aisle towards me. She must be a dancer. She ducked into the small galley next to my row and began to stretch like an athlete or a thoroughbred horse before a race. I was alarmed as the somewhat severe-seeming flight attendant approached. What rules were broken by a passenger in the galley? Almost immediately they were both smiling and laughing. Even I laughed when the dancer looked at me and arched her eyebrows so expressively. She may be cursed with a beauty that makes her unapproachable to most men but she has the kind of heartfelt laugh I love.

I no longer remember how much time passed between the announcements that got worse. In summary, an exit sign by the door had been knocked loose, a window by the copilot was cracked, and a panel with two screws was loose under one of the wings. Good news came eventually regarding the exit sign (fraught with symbolism) and the window (probably symbolic, as well), but we were screwed regarding the panel. Unfortunately, it took two hours to realize the screws weren’t replaceable. In fact, the captain announced that corporate had been contacted to see if it is OK to fly without that panel. I do not like being reminded that my life is in the hands of a faceless corporation, our age’s golem that would crush anyone for a penny.

My neighbor on the left introduced herself as Doreen. I’ll respect her privacy here, though I absorbed some details of her life. We had a long, lively conversation over a wide range of topics as fast friends. She has no idea how rare that is for me. It was a pleasure. It was nice of the Universe to give us enough time to get it right.

Everyone recognized the implication when the captain announced the door was open and anyone was free to leave who wanted to make other arrangements. The dancer took advantage of the exit. Eventually, Doreen left, as well. We all would meet again.

A different voice came over the speaker. Had there been a coup? No, but the gatekeeper (more symbols) said a new plane had been arranged for us on the other side of the airport. We disembarked and moved as a herd to the shuttle and reunited at the other gate, where people expecting to fly to California were informed they’d been bumped to a third gate. Flying is not the fun it once was.

I saw the dancer again, long legs lotused. The Artist was near the front of the crowd, although she would leave no sooner than the last person in line. I spoke with Doreen and a few others. I saw the older woman who looks like a cancer survivor and her doting husband. The couple from the row in front of me had time to buy sandwiches and coffee. There was the very young woman whose hair was braided with yarn and held in place by numerous knitting needles. The rancher with hat, boots, jeans and the flat ass men acquire with age. Another woman announced it was her birthday and someone said she’d always remember this one.

Everyone was more tolerant and good-natured than I would expect in such circumstances.

We boarded again, perhaps unconsciously more efficiently than the first time. It was déjà vu and how are you, don’t I know you from somewhere. My mind flew with the notion of parallel universes and time loops. In another world, our plane left on time — then what happened? (Nothing of note.)

We were more than ready to go when the captain announced that a mechanic had observed five loose screws under the wing to the right. He admitted no one could make up such a story. The screws were turned and eventually we left the ground three hours late.

Doreen mentioned Groundhog Day and we talked about the ripple of effects in all the lives delayed and all the people we affected in turn. Only god or a supercomputer could follow the riplets to their ends. Or is there an end — will someone be born or die years from now because of that delay?

The Atheist’s Pope? Not really.

I’m an atheist. Not only am I certain there is no god, I’m sure we’ve outlived the usefulness of religion. I hope Pope Francis proves me wrong about religion causing more harm than good. Like much of the world, I’m touched by the things he says.


The Catholic Church is a corporation. CEOs don’t reach the top of corporations by being the nicest and kindest people. While it is clear that the Church made a huge mistake (which factions may be regretting) by elevating this pope, he’s still in the 1%. At least he remembers being in and caring for the 99%. I hope he can make a difference.

If some members of Congress were moved by the pope to behave decently, I’m happy and surprised. I question the true character of someone who goes from rejecting compromise to embracing it simply because one powerful person says they should. Small wonder such weak-willed individuals are easily bought.

Which fairy do you follow?

Although I was raised in a Mother Goose household, I am born-again Grimm. I live my life according to the tenets codified by the Good Brothers, praise their names.

During a Grimm conclave, I met a woman I was interested in until I discovered she practices Lax-Grimm, which picks and chooses which Grimm beliefs to follow. I’ll have none of that. It’s Devout Grimm for me or nothing.

My best friend from childhood remained a follower of Mother Goose until he took drugs in college and read Revelations. I can’t even talk to him anymore.

My boss is from a family that has followed Aesop for ages. How can he have faith in greedy foxes but not in the Big Bad Wolf. What a fool he is.

When I’m feeling expansive, I consider that any fairy tale is better than none. I can’t imagine going through life without magic to comfort and guide you. Atheists scare me. How can they be good people without fables to guide them?

The Silence of 911

For days after 911, most air traffic was grounded. I was acutely aware of the resulting quiet — and very appreciative of it. I think we subject ourselves to stress in countless ways every day, including noise, particularly from air traffic. We’re fools, killing ourselves with indifference to our environment. That indifference is profitable to many, so go back to sleep. Perhaps a pill will help. There’s another to perk you up in the morning.

The War on Christianity? Bullshit.

Once again, religion has so addled its followers’ brains that they cannot understand events unfolding around them. Once again, unscrupulous men use lies to rouse the rabble.

As you know, a clerk in Kentucky is in jail for failing to do her job. While that is an extreme treatment — firing or resignation would be preferable — the fact of the matter is that this woman won’t do her civic duty and she is in contempt of court. She is NOT a martyr, except to hypocrisy.

Now, Republican candidates, desperate to prove their own ignorance and insanity, aware that their base loves bigoted nonsense, have declared this as another example of “The War on Christianity.” BULLSHIT! This was an example of Christians’ War Against the Constitution. We are NOT a Christian nation. You are free to be a Christian, you are free to express your outrage at events. Don’t take a job you can’t perform. Quit a job you refuse to do.

I’m certain the world will be a much better place when all religions are equal to the other fairy tales: Interesting stories and metaphors we share but don’t take seriously. Sadly, I won’t live that long. I doubt I’ll live to see the Republican party return to sanity.