The Delusion of American Religion

Hey guys, I found this article about religion in America and the way it’s practiced and intersects with politics. Thought it’d be an interesting way to get started on this forum. Would love to hear some thoughts:

Fascinating article.


I especially liked the bit about the perfect society for religious conservatives being a cross between the Handmaids Tail and the 1950’s. It’s a nice sound bite, but not sure how factual…

The article makes some interesting observations and claims, which may have elements of truth. Sounds true to me that the religious right have an inordinate amount of influence in American life. I think that influence was a lot stronger while I was growing up, in the late 50’s and early 60’s. At that time, America seemed to me to be a very puritanical society, more so than Oz, which was pretty conservative.

Not sure how much was due to the conservatism of all churches at that time, and the massive social changes all over the world after WW2.

As a species ,human beings resist change at the individual level. Conservatism may have more to do with the way people are hardwired than their religion. Levels of education also have a profound effect on social changes I think.

EG have a look at Islam among the poor in any country, or Hinduism among the majority of of the poor in India. Have a look at The Huff post India, fora couple of weeks. that will give you a very broad idea of the conservatism of Indian society.

See also “The Protestant Ethic And The Spirit Of Capitalism” by Max Weber

I don’t support any one model of social change. This because I think change is constant, and that there are far too many variables to draw simple conclusions.

Another point worth considering is the slow decline of religion in the US, as well as throughout western democracies. Ask: in the US ,has this decline had anything to do with the massive social changes in the second half of the twentieth century?

EG: the rise of feminism, the civil rights movement leading to vast social changes in desegregations all over the US, abolition of censorship ,legalisation of homosexual behaviour, same sex marriage and growing acceptance of a range of sexual identification. Roe vs Wade.

Negative things such as draconian drug laws, the grossly unjust ‘3 strikes’ law and the powerful gun culture. Then there was the national hysteria after 9/11, which resulted in The Patriot Act, the powerful Department Of Homeland Security, rendition, Guantanamo Bay ex judicial prison, and the current widespread bigotry against Muslims.

The above are just a few things I can think of as a non American. I’m sure some of my observations are skewed. I think though many of the negative things are possibly the result of a culture with strong aspects of puritanical christianity.

The positive things are not because of religious conservatism but in spite of it. IE because religion is slowly losing its grip on US society.

The Delusion of American Religion - Although the 1802 letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association is often quoted, it is the best example of what our forefathers wanted in relation to how religion and religious belief should be kept out of affairs of government. Thomas Jefferson believed that an individual’s religious beliefs should be kept private. As a result, he believed there should be a separation of church and state.

(… to how religion and religious belief should be kept out of affairs of government. Thomas Jefferson believed that an individual’s religious beliefs should be kept private. As a result, he believed there should be a separation of church and state.) I think this part is not historically correct. It is my belief that the system our forefathers were implementing never got complete. If it had been completed, we would not be having the trouble we are having today with our government.

It is my view that Jefferson is telling the Danbury Baptists that there is no place in the government’s religion for a “Deity”.

My understanding is that Jefferson understood that America needed religion. Jefferson, I think wanted to implement Hellenistic religion that was being fine-tuned to deal with the caste system by Jesus. Jesus was a Sadducees. The Jewish Sadducees form of the Hellenistic religion that controlled Judah and Israel at the time of Jesus was deist. It was more about the structure of the civilization than about any god. Deist is very close to being atheist. What the Deist religions offered was a religion based upon morals. If your civilization is based upon the Law of Nature (God (Knowledge)). Then your Rules of Law are no better than your civilizations’ morals. Most gods were used to keep the civilizations stable and moral.

Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were a few of the founding fathers that were Deists. The Jefferson Bible, or The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth as it is formally titled, was a book constructed by Thomas Jefferson. There were no deities in the Jefferson Bible.

Pretty decent overview of recent history. I don’t care for the final question/suggestion though. There is no monolithic “Modern Church” today. There is a broad spectrum, not just of denominations, but of people and their beliefs. Polling groups are finally catching up with this idea and asking questions beyond belief or not belief. Also working from the other end, they are looking at how secular people are beginning to organize and celebrate life’s milestones without religion.

A more important next step to me is for those who call themselves progressive to truly progress. They hit a sort of limit in recent decades, where they will speak out any number of liberal ideals, regardless of what their Bible says, but they keep trying to cram those values back in to the Bible. That’s not even how it’s done. The gospels and epistles show them that you challenge the authorities, you argue through your stories, you use your traditions to show you’re right. Most important, you alter the story slightly to bring your new idea into the fold.