A 2006study in American Sociological Review shows that, while both divisions among American Christians and negative perceptions between people of different faiths are eroding, there is still one group that Americans don’t trust: those who choose to remain outside of communities of belief. Further research shows that atheists are perceived about as favorably as Muslims. Not believing in God constitutes a social mōs on par with one of the most maligned religious groups in the current American zeitgeist. (At least one op-ed has called for a political alliance between Muslims and atheists on the grounds that much of the current vitriol in American politics is aimed at these two groups.)
The most fascinating question here falls outside of quantitative analysis: what does an atheist look like?
The question of American identity has historically been both complex and contested. What’s more, it often yields mythic notions rooted in exceptionalist dogmas like election, commission, moral regeneracy, sacred land, and innocent past.
Embedded in religious American exceptionalism is the American Dream: if an individual works hard, perseveres, and is a good citizen, there is no limit to how far she can advance.
Analyzing the relationship between faith and the political left—its history and present condition—reveals a century filled with antagonisms. But there are also affinities and technologies for continuing rapprochement.
Historically there has been an undeniable antagonism between religion and communism.
Roughly 94 percent of black voters now vote for a candidate from the Democratic Party. This high number at the national level may be due in part to President Obama’s racial identity. In 2008 Obama surpassed even the solidification of black votes for Lyndon Baines Johnson that occurred in 1964.
Has the United States moved closer to a post-racial society?
As this campaign season reels recklessly, leaving a wake of increasing intolerance, those holding differing opinions can find little common ground. Past seasons of “come, let us reason together” have disappeared; unreasoned assertions from the chronically ignorant now dominate the increasingly purchased airwaves. Little from any side appears balanced or fair. We craft dollar-driven hegemonies of self-satisfied ignorance, cultures of the titillated and thoughtless. Where we once enshrined the ideals of freedom, we now erect a golden calf of contempt atop a tower of babble. Call it the gospel according to the uninformed.
When creed gives way to screed, who speaks into our opinionated age with a staid voice of wisdom?
Maybe it’s because I’m Japanese-American that I feel skeptical reading Western political philosophy. When were we ever born as free individuals into a state of nature, as Locke and Rousseau asserted? I’ve always believed that we’re born into families, with binding ties, benefits, and obligations.
The Bible affirms that relationships are not merely social constructs for us to make and break as we choose.
Last week, God’s Not Dead 2 hit the nation’s movie screens. The sequel to the 2014 sleeper hit tells the story of Grace Wesley, a high school teacher dragged into court for talking about Jesus in her classroom. The movie imagines a hostile government bent on rooting out any trace of religion in public life. As the prosecuting attorney threatens, “We’re going to prove once and for all that God is dead.”
The timing of this film’s release may have been intentional.
In 1963, at the height of segregation, Martin Luther King, Jr. called for creating the beloved community. He exhorted all Americans to stand for justice, not by eradicating our differences but by affirming and claiming our identity, heritage, and legacy.
His vision of the beloved community embraced principles of inclusion: sharing the rich resources of the earth; eliminating poverty, hunger, and homelessness; and combating racism and discrimination.
In recent years, debates over the appropriateness of public monuments celebrating Confederate figures have become increasingly common. Along with exposing deep racial divides, these debates have brought to light historical attitudes and structures built on enduring notions of white supremacy.
While generally taking place in local contexts, they have ramifications that concern all Americans.