It was a long slog from my indoctrination as a child. A combination of Star Trek, Monty Python, honest answers from pastors (e.g. I don't know...), general education and curiosity, little pressure from my parents after their assigned duties during my childhood (Confirmation), college and military life, and some innate cynicism and my sarcastic bent finally got me there.

Unwinding childhood belief is difficult. But it can be done.

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I wonder how much of the belief in angels and devil/demons come from the church and how much from watching TV shows/movies with theses tropes ?

"It suggests many Americans take a cafeteria-style approach to religion, picking and choosing the parts they like instead of purchasing the entire package."

Isn't it what christian religious leaders already do ?

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I have felt for some time now, that organized religion is going to have a very difficult time surviving the internet with its influence intact. There is just too much easily accessible, good information out there. For the first time people all across the free thought spectrum are realizing they are not as alone as they once thought, and networking. The staggering number of Christian sects does not bolster the argument for Christianity. It speaks directly to a divine being who could will the universe into existence, but when it came to the most important message imaginable, could not make himself understood and chose to rely on faith rather than objective evidence.

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Hi There - Over the years I have shared these quotes many times with many people. I thought it would be interesting in this context of examining what people believe in. Enjoy.

"Let's take, for example, the word "God."

In our research we queried thousands of people, using a variety of surveys and questionnaires, and discovered that 90 percent of the respondents had definitions that differed significantly from everyone else. EVEN people who came from the same religious or spiritual background had fundamentally unique concepts of what this word means. And for the most part, they never realized that the person they were talking to about God had something entirely different in mind." - Andrew Newberg, M.D. - research neuro-scientist

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick

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Three comments:

I note that Jews and other non-christians aren't included in the survey. Given the considerable number of "secular Jews," I'd suggest that including them would skew the numbers even more to our side of the discussion. Thant may even be why Gallup didn't include them.

"There are a lot of Americans in this survey who say they believe in God but reject the concepts of Heaven, Hell, or the beings that supposedly live in them." Sounds like they believe in a Deist God which, while still problematic and unprovable, at least makes more sense than the traditional, i.e. biblical God.

And finally there's this: "belief in the devil saw a slight rise during the George W. Bush administration" Would it be terribly unbecoming of me to say that can't be a coincidence?

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Come on. No one made the obvious joke about belief in the devil going up during W's administration?

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Growing up my parents only ever made me go to mass on special occasions and we didn’t talk about god all that much outside of church. So it was pretty easy for me to slip out of the belief in god. What we did hear a lot from my parents was things like “someone was watching over us during this dangerous moment.” They spoke of guardian angels or grandpa looking down on us and even the idea that when we die we will see our lost loved ones. None of that talk was really tied to god though, no caveats that we needed to be good or believe really hard in god to get these blessings. Which I’m sure is probably unique to my immediate family. Dropping the guardian angels and comforting thoughts of seeing grandpa and grandma again took a bit longer to shed for me because they weren’t tied to religion in my mind.

The parts of the religion my family chose were the really feel good parts and left the rest out to dry. My parents had an issue with the churches and mass, being told they couldn’t help in our time of need while the church became more grand and I have a feeling that my father might have been exposed to the rot in the Catholic Church (I don’t think as a victim but I have reason to think he knew a victim.) So I think they believe in god but the human structures and rules are not necessary. Folks will accept the parts that comfort them the most. Angels to watch over us, devils to blame our so called sins on, a god who cares, a heaven to reunite with dead family, and a hell to punish evil. Even though none of that is truly supported in the Bible. These religions are unique to each individual and we can see what those people value by the type of church they attend and dogma they enforce.

It’s good to see the belief in all of it slipping, it’s slow but steady. Now if we could convince the politicians to protect the whole population we can speed up the process. Poor and underprivileged folks won’t be a target when their needs start being met without the chains of religion attached.

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Wonder how many people were non-believers in 2001 but afraid to 'come out of the closet'?

Now that there are so many outspoken atheists, it is not as daunting.

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That much decline in 20 years is significant. I'm wondering how many reporting nonbelief now also didn't believe in 2001 but weren't comfortable saying it, even to an anonymous survey? It's good to see people more and more willing to express their non-belief.

LOL to the increase in belief in the devil during Bush's term.

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Jul 20, 2023·edited Aug 4, 2023

I'll say it one more time, and this time with a metaphor.

Religions see their membership numbers dropping, and they run around trying to fix whatever is wrong, such as their anti-science attitudes, their bigotries, their right-wing politics, their greed, and their sexual and financial abuses to name but a few. Often their remedies just make the decline worse.

All those things have been driving people out, BUT even if they cleaned up all of that, they'd still be shrinking. They're ignoring one foundational cause of their decline because they can't do anything about it.

Magic is going out of style.

Magic is just the more honest term for the euphemism "supernaturalism." Long ago, belief in the supernatural was ubiquitous and constant. Today it's still widespread, but it's subject to regions and to time. It's thin or even nonexistent in some places, and its strength changes up and down over time, but the very long-term trend is toward thinner and weaker.

Here's the metaphor: The religions are a group of boats on a placid lake. The boat captains notice that they seem to be moving down, so they panic, thinking that they must be sinking. Some do find leaks and struggle to patch them, others toss out excess ballast, still others concentrate on changing their courses. A few actually do sink because of problems with their boats, but they're all missing the bigger picture:

The lake is drying up.

The lake is belief in supernaturalism. Belief in magical beings and magical powers is what keeps all religions afloat. The boats might be decrepit or in good shape, but they'll all eventually settle on the dry lake bed, turn to dust, and blow away. Our species is very, very slowly growing up and leaving belief in magic behind. It will take another century or so.

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I believe in Heaven and Hell...

...as the best Black Sabbath album.


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Okay, so we see here that more people without college degrees, republicans and the economically challenged are believers.

Now look at the Republican efforts to degrade and dumb down education, and you no longer have to ask yourself, "Why?" The answer is obvious. Keep 'em poor, uneducated, and Republican.

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It took me a long time to get to my non religious self as well. I started questioning at age 9 when my belief in Santa, Easter Bunny, etc. no longer seemed they could possibly be real. I then started wondering that if these unseen entities that parents had maintained were real, how could the god they spoke of could be real as well. But I was assured that they absolutely were real as was all the dogma that went along with this myth. All through my pre-teen and teen years I had periods of real belief interspaced with huge questions. I even joined the "God Squad" club in high school. Into my 20s god belief, and all that comes with it, waned even more until, finally by the time I was in my mid-30s to early 40s I just rejected the whole thing as ridiculous and just as silly as belief in a tooth fairy. I've been a proud atheist since then. (I'm in my mid 70's)

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More than half of all Americans still believe in those 5 entities into the 21st Century. I rejected all 5 back in the 20th Century.

And I was a KID when I did it. I just shake my head at grown adults. What's THEIR excuse to continue clinging to these faerie tales?

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How many Christians who strongly aver that they are true believers continue to violate their scripture by eating cheeseburgers (mixing meat and dairy is a no-no)? Or bacon (BIG no-no)? Mix wool and linen together? Tattoo themselves? Criticize others believers? Say they love their god yet hate a fellow believer? And on and on and on.

Even the supposedly "devout" aren't very devout at all.

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The demographic breakdown supports the idea that poverty, lack of education, and a rigid hierarchy are what keeps people believing. We already knew this, now there is more data to support that. The NSGOP knows this too, it is no wonder that they oppose anti poverty measures and education.

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