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Time to believe,
This review is from: Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans (Hardcover)
If, as Bertrand Russell said, religion was something `left over from the infancy of our intelligence' and will fade as we `adopt reason and science as our guidelines', why has this not taken place - at least in America? That religion sustains the poorer and less developed nations might be understandable, but what accounts for its growth in America? Part of Niose's book explains the phenomenon. Much of it had to do with politics. The clever strategy of using religion to gain and galvanize supporters of the Bible-wielding politicians, starting with Jerry Falwell's `The Moral Majority' (which Norman Lear said was `neither moral nor the majority') to `The Christian Coalition', ensnared their secular opponents into speaking `the God language'. The result was the pervasive thinking that `only fringe characters reject religion and theism outright'.
Niose's book seeks to advance the position of secular America and halt the advance of the Religious Right. He acknowledges the strength of the strategies and tactics that worked for the Religious Right, and explains why secular America failed to appreciate the movement until the hitherto fringe group grew to be the behemoth it is today. He points out that it is incorrect to assume that secular activism equates religion bashing. That assumption, he believes, has caused many religious Americans as well as those who are religious skeptics from opposing the Religious Right. Noise writes: `The vast majority of Americans, religious and secular, have great distaste for anyone who engages in attacking the deeply held personal convictions of others, particularly when those convictions are not infringing on anyone's rights. Most of us realize that life is hard, and if you have found a religious view that brings you personal peace of mind and helps you maintain a healthy outlook, that's probably a good thing. Whether you worship Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, or no god at all, and whether you pray all the time, once a week, or never, few of your neighbors, religious or secular, are going to care. Your religious views only become relevant to me when they encroach into my life, and vice versa. When you insist that government should be used as a means of promoting your religious views, then of course I become concerned and your religion becomes relevant to me.'
Niose writes about the meaning of `a religious people' and the fact of America being more secular than many other countries (though not the developed countries), the secular heritage of America - the building of `a wall of separation between church and state' as Thomas Jefferson described it. He draws attention to the intolerance of the Religious Right exemplified by people such as David Barton who wrote against having a Muslim (Keith Ellison) serving in Congress. Worse, Barton objects to secular Americans serving too: `Members of Congress who refuse to swear an oath on any religious book represent a greater threat to American faith and culture than those who swear on the Koran.'
`Nonbeliever Nation' is not just an historical account of the rise of the Religious Right but it sets out in some detail the reason for hope for a secular America and the action plan that can be implemented. The aim and the hope expressed by Niose are that secular Americans will no longer be marginalized by having patriotism being equated with religion as the Religious Right had been doing for some time. The greater scope of that is the breaking down of tribalism.