Is 2014 a Bad Year for Atheists?
by Mike Dobbins
Though a little less than 4 months remain in 2014 I suspect New Year’s Eve celebrations can’t arrive soon enough for atheists in the United States.
The U.S. Supreme Court, along with the lower courts, have repeatedly rejected high profile atheist lawsuits attempting to limit religious freedom and re-affirmed the government’s right to employ the word ‘God’. Meanwhile, mounting evidence continues to establish the social and health benefits of religious belief and the disadvantages of being non-religious. While atheists may be frustrated and resist this reality, religious believers can take solace as their values, traditions, and freedoms are, for the most part, being upheld, justified, and expanded.
In February we learned more scientists are religious than atheist, shattering the atheist myth that the study of science leads to atheism. The American Association for the Advancement of Science released preliminary findings of a survey of ‘religious communities and science’ and discovered a mere 25% of scientists consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or non-religious. An astounding 75% of scientists identify with a religious group. This continues an ongoing trend that has more and more religious people realizing science and faith are compatible.
A Pew Survey released the same month revealed a steep rise in religious affiliation after the fall of militant state atheism in the USSR. In 1991 only 31% of Russians considered themselves Orthodox Christian but in 2008 that number had climbed to 72%, with 81% of women identifying as Orthodox Christian. This has brought tens of millions of Russians, who were former atheists or non-religious, to belief in God. The trend in Russia, and officially atheist China for that matter, is towards belief in God and away from atheism. In fact, by 2030, China is projected to have the largest Christian population in the world with 250 million followers.
In early May, the Supreme Court of The United States ruled opening prayers at council meetings are constitutional. Justice Kennedy wrote “The inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers.” The Court’s decision has legalized prayer in a government setting and recognized the crucial role religion plays in lawmaker’s lives. Atheists have unwittingly opened the door to revisiting Engel v. Vitale when the Court essentially ruled prayer in school unconstitutional. Who knows, by the time today’s young atheists have kids, their children may have a moment of silence for prayer and reflection in public schools.
But a few days later the very liberal Massachusetts Supreme Court unanimously upheld the legality of “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland wrote “For those who have been attacking the pledge we would offer this: our system protects their right to remain silent, but it doesn’t give them a right to silence others.” A not so subtle reminder that the first amendment assures people have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion…
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