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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/24/20

Personal Freedoms Kill Religion

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Why is religion collapsing in all Western democracies - and most rapidly in the United States?

A major researcher lists multiple reasons:

-- Revulsion by young liberals against the sanctimonious partnership between bigoted white evangelicals and America's Republican Party.

-- Revulsion by nearly everyone, including Catholics, against child molesting by priests.

-- Revulsion by nearly everyone, including Muslims, against hideous massacres by volunteer suicide "martyrs."

-- Rising prosperity and better living conditions that make affluent, educated people no longer need supernatural promises of heaven.

-- And, especially, rising personal freedoms unleashed by the Sexual Revolution that discredit outdated church Puritanism.

Dr. Ronald Inglehart of the University of Michigan outlines all these causes and more in his latest book, Religion's Sudden Decline: What's Causing It and What Comes Next?, by Oxford University Press.

Repeatedly, he says all major religions spent centuries enforcing "pro-fertility norms" that require women to stay home raising babies, subservient to husbands - and also demonizing birth control, homosexuality, masturbation, divorce, abortion "and any other sexual behavior not linked with reproduction."

Churches presented these taboos as divine commands from God, with violations punishable by eternal burning in hell. But the Sexual Revolution freed billions to make their own choices, without fear. Dr. Inglehart writes:

"Since the Enlightenment, the struggle for human emancipation - from the abolition of slavery to the recognition of human rights - has been a defining feature of modernization. This struggle virtually always aroused resistance from reactionary forces".

"The recent legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage in many countries constitutes a breakthrough at society's most basic level: its ability to reproduce itself. These changes are driven by growing mass support for sexual self-determination, which is part of an even broader trend toward greater emphasis on freedom of choice in all aspects of life".

"In 1945, homosexuality was still criminal in most Western countries; it is now legal in virtually all of them. In the postwar era, both church attendance and birth rates were high; today, church attendance has declined drastically and human fertility has fallen."

Page after page, he outlines how religion has fizzled and secularism has soared - mostly since 2007 when churchless people reached a "tipping point" that guaranteed escalating change.

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James A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Mr. Haught has won two dozen national news writing awards. He has written 12 books and hundreds of magazine essays and blog posts. Around 450 of his essays are online. He is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine, a weekly blogger at Daylight Atheism, (more...)

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