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Gay bashing by churches is why America is losing its religion

New poll: Record number of Americans abondoning their faith
Sunday, October 14, 2012

A new poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reveals that a record number of Americans (19.3%) have abandoned faith and now consider themselves unaffiliated with any particular religion.

According to USA Today:

“This group called ‘Nones,’ is now the nation’s second largest category after Catholics, and outnumbers the top protestant denomination, the Southern Baptists. The shift is a significant cultural, religious and even political change…Today, the Nones have leapt from 15.3% of US adults in 2007. One in three (32%) are under age 30 and unlikely to age into claiming religion, says Pew senior researcher Greg Smith. The new study points out that today’s Millennials are more unaffiliated than any young generation ever had been when they were younger.”

If you want to understand the reasons behind this trend, take a moment to read a disturbing letter that Twin Cities Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt sent to the mother of a gay son. In it, the holy man told the mother that her “eternal salvation” might depend on whether or not she embraced the anti-gay teachings of the Catholic Church, thus rejecting her own child.

Talk about family values!

Such a callous admonition might have worked in the past when people had little education. It may have resonated in bygone eras where gays and lesbians were invisible and easy to demonize as “the other.” It could have held sway had the Catholic Church’s credibility not been in tatters after spending more that $2.5 billion to help right the wreckage wrought by pedophile priests and their enablers.

While Nienstedt’s arrogance and cruelty stands out as particularly odious, it isn’t just Catholicism that is in decline. In a world that is increasingly more complicated, with infinite possibilities and pitfalls, as well as seemingly unlimited access to information, the idea that one faith owns absolute truth is a notion that is slowly becoming obsolete.

I, for one, believe that the 19.3% figure for “Nones” is too low. A substantial number of people only identify themselves in surveys as belonging to a particular faith for one of three reasons:

Habit: People over thirty were brought up in a world where everyone was presumed to have a religious affiliation as both a mark of faith and cultural identity. So, when asked whether they belong to a faith group, they reflexively check the box, with little thought to their own belief system or actual adherence to the religious convictions they claim. As the Nones make themselves more visible, it gives these folks a new box to check – and many of them will.

Fear: For centuries, it was dangerous for people to acknowledge their genuine beliefs. “Today, there’s no shame in saying you are an unbeliever,” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler complained in USA Today. With people like Mohler losing their ability to ostracize and impose social consequences, millions of people finally have the ability to “come out” and exercise their freedom from religion.

Politics: Even today, if an ambitious person wants a successful career in politics, it is easier to fake having faith, than acknowledge being a non-believer. The result is that politicians appear significantly more devout than the general population. Once this taboo falls, which is likely to occur in the next decade, it will open the door to a more honest dialogue about the role of religion in public life. Of course, this can’t happen soon enough, with the Religious Right arduously working to demolish the separation of church and state.

Religious extremists have long claimed that the acceptance of homosexuality would bring down the fundamentalist church – and they have been proven correct, albeit not for the reasons they proffered.

The downfall occurred not because gay people stopped heterosexuals from reproducing or recruited their children. Not because LGBT individuals hated families, which they had always, been a part of. Not because homosexuals despised faith – because the abundance of deeply religious gay people proves this is not true.

[ad1] The fundamentalists undermined their legitimacy by worshiping homophobia long after it had been exposed as a false God. In this unholy obsession, the sacrifices left bleeding at the altar were truth and justice.

When people see their own sons and daughters and friends and co-workers coming out, it creates a crisis of credibility for religious institutions. It leads to countless situations where mean-spirited men like Nienstedt demand blind, irrational obedience and say take it or leave it – and more people are now following their consciences and walking away.

I’ll conclude with this: The political coalition of the future is non-dogmatic mainstream people of faith and the Nones. In the coming decade these two groups will forge bonds and create a dynamic force that rivals the holy book literalists who today hold power disproportionate to their numbers. This will be a much-needed correction to the outmoded ideas and celebration of ignorance that is holding back our nation’s promise and progress.

Opinions and advice expressed in our Views & Voices columns represent the author's own views and not necessarily those of LGBTQ Nation. We welcome opposing views and diverse perspectives. To submit a article, column or video, contact us here. Due to the volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee publication.

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36 more reader comments:

  1. Hate does not ‘sell’ anymore!

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:33am
  2. I’ll admit that this is exactly why I’ve literally stopped going to church. I’m an out lesbian and I really don’t feel like going somewhere to listen to people tell me that I’m wrong and going to hell, so I just stopped going. I can’t change who I am but I can change who I am around.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:35am
  3. It is about time. That’s why I don’t go to church. I am tired of the crap. You can’t teach about God when you don’t accept everyone!!!!

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:35am
  4. I lost faith in organized religion years ago. God is about love. Jesus is about love. When you start throwing in greed and “we’re better than you “, you no longer are preaching God’s word.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:38am
  5. About time there was an article that forced them to look in the mirror..

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:40am
  6. I won’t support those greedy, homophobic and morally corrupt organizations and no self respecting gay person should!

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:41am
  7. I grew up Catholic but being gay is just one of many reasons I left the church and became an atheist. The hypocrisy of the church on women’s issues, adoption, child molestation by priest, donating money for political causes versus using the money to help needy kids and poor people have all turned me off of the Catholic Church and religion as a whole.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:41am
  8. The Dalai Lama recently indicated that religious practice & adherence to ritual may be more spiritually divisive than unifying; he therefore is lending credence to the idea of leaving spiritually bankrupt religions, which don’t strengthen their followers, but weaken them.

    & religion itself is not necessary to believing in a higher Power. Often religion can be a needless intermediary between a believer & the Divine. In the end, religion is a self-renewing human power structure whose purpose is to continue its own existence through controlling its followers & increasing their numbers.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:41am
  9. Another reason is the emergence of Scientific discovery for which replaces the need for faith in un-provable beliefs.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:42am
  10. Except concentrating on THE NEGATIVE of being GAY in this WORLD n SOCIETY, why dont these pages concentrate on THE POSITIVE n LIBERATION…Im sooo sick of the negative outlook on things, stop pissin n moaning about the world and start making a change…and im a GAY woman, GOD IS GOD not the people of the congregation…Church is a group of people thats blessed with the blood of Christ, if you dont believe and cant stand being hated for who you are, seperate yourself from the NEGATIVITY n go to God on your own…ITS A RELATIONSHIP NOT A RELIGION…and for crying out loud stop pissing n moaning…make this page more positive…im starting to think this is an anti homosexual cult thats trying to drive people that are GAY to SUICIDE…SMILE…GOD IS LOVE.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:43am
  11. “A substantial number of people only identify themselves in surveys as belonging to a particular faith for one of three reasons: Habit, Fear, Politics.”

    The figure for people with no religious affiliation can never be too high. We have to outgrow dogma and superstition.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:47am
  12. I could care less about what people choose to, or not to believe in, but I can not stress this fact enough that people need to stop blaming religion for what it’s followers do! People take their teaching in their own context and act according to they way THEY believe is right not so much their religion! I believe God loves everyone, even those who turn away from him and I also think he weeps for those who take his words and abuse them.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:48am
  13. @Meghan, I think people are pointing out why they left religion like I did. We are just stating our reasons not pissing and moaning and complaining.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:49am
  14. Dont let people of the congregations and what is spoken in a building Define who you are and your faith, goodness sake say your gay n you love who you are..then may i ask why the hell are you losing faith in GOD because the hate n misunderstanding of people?? For the bible and God saids For God so loved thE world He begotten His only Son and WHOEVER SHALL BELIEVETH shall not perish but have everlasting life JOHN 3 16…dont let anyone take that away from you

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:50am
  15. Yet catholic priests accept and keep the priests that molest young children?? Yeah, that’s not an oxy-moron at all!?!?!!!!

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:52am
  16. Well seeing that 59% of the world said that they think of themselves as religious person, this number will surely continue to drop.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:55am
  17. @Meghan Brown, I agree with you all the way! I am out and apart of a very loving church where we believe tolerance is the key!

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:57am
  18. “Ill rather stand with God and get judged by the WORLD than stand with the WORLD and get judged by GOD” … Who cares what they say? But i must say Jesus is Lord and God does exist, get your savior be the best you can be, make HIM number one, and youll see nothing but miraculous things happen

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 11:59am
  19. Spew hate and the majority will get sick of it

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:06pm
  20. Yenz…glad to hear it, thats what uniting under God is. Theres people in buildings that wear sheeps clothing has wolves

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:08pm
  21. I am certainly among the casualties of the Holy War…

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:13pm
  22. the lgbt are not the only ones

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:36pm
  23. I left organized religion because of self loathing. I did not feel good about myself. That is a very destructive feeling. I’ve become very spiritual, accepting, and loving. Towards myself first and foremost. Then towards others.
    I feel so much better about myself now. The weight of the world has lifted. Now I can finally find someone to love and share my life with!

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:36pm
  24. I cling to my faith out of a personal love of Christ and God, but the people who preach intolerance do not have a say in my life or my faith. Faith is so deeply personal that forcing it on someone, even if they agree with you, is like a violation of that person. I look at every act of hatred propogated by those who claim to love Christ and cannot help but feel pity.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:43pm
  25. It is not just gay bashing…it is the holier my God is bigger than your God cause you are wrong symdrone! That is why people are losing religion…

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:47pm
  26. Being true to yourself is the only way to happiness. We have to believe that religion does not intend for us to be unhappy.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:48pm
  27. Patsy, with organized religion’s track record, we would be lead to believe their intent IS to make us unhappy. I wish I could agree with you on your point

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:53pm
  28. I would rather humble myself and believe that I am not the total summation of existence than crown myself God and live a life devoid of purpose.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 1:00pm
  29. For all of these reasons, most traditional organized religions find every variety of LGBTQ sexuality & sexual identity particularly threatening.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 1:02pm
  30. That’s one of the reasons. Wow, there are so many more.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 1:18pm
  31. Annd its about freakin time! Organized religion is the root of all evil and hatred!

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 1:24pm
  32. To Liz, very well put. I feel it is my faith as well with God and no one has a say in how I choose to worship and is truelly personal. To Eric, I feel it’s not a ” threat” to them as much lack of intelligence and fear of the unknown. Or they think it will rub off on the and make them gay. Just my opinion.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 1:27pm
  33. all organized religion does is spread hate. That is why I’m spiritual! I believe something exists but are not to know who or what the higher power is til it is our time to go. I believe we are expected to be the best we can be. Obviously some have failed miserably at that!

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 1:45pm
  34. Good

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 2:09pm
  35. The one thing that upsets me is that in church they teach everyone to love, respect and accept others but yet they don’t do it themselfs. I say, don’t teach it if you don’t do it yourself. Church is supposed to be for everyone but some churches abuse that right and that is wrong.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 2:27pm
  36. Organized religion is scary. I went to a private christian school for eight years. I’m an atheist now. I think people can believe in a god if they want to, heck, there are several to choose from, but organized religion was designed to control the masses through fear. The bible has a couple verses against homosexuality, but even more surprising is when it condones violence against women and children, killing people who believe in other religions, and rape. I think it’s interesting that people are turning from religion in this country at the same time civil rights are being more recognized, and sought after by various groups of people.

    Posted on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 3:56pm