World Net Daily has the headline (here’s the DoNotLink if you want to see it): “These are the most godless cities in America,” and I was a bit disappointed to find that my beloved home, Seattle was merely tied for second, falling behind Portland, Oregon. The World Net Daily and the American Family Association has made the determination of godlessness based primarily on the percentage of inhabitants who describe themselves as “religiously unaffiliated” in a recent survey. A whopping 42% of Portland residents say they are religiously unaffiliated, with Seattle and San Francisco tied for second at 33%, followed by Denver at 32% and Phoenix at 26%.
I have a few quibbles. At several points the original AFA press release and WND story conflate “religiously unaffiliated” with atheist. Even though other parts of the story make the distinction that only about 15% of of the nation’s population identifies as atheist. Conflating unaffiliated with atheist is simply wrong. I, for example, am not atheist—I’m taoist. But on a survey like this, depending on exactly how the question was phrased, I would almost certainly pick the religiously unaffiliated option because I don’t belong to any church or temple or similar organized religious institution.
I realize, since I’m:
- a big homo,
- have been a firm believer in the separation of church and state since at least the age of 10,
- believe in science,
- usually vote Democrat,
- support pro-choice candidates and policies,
…et cetera—that the AFA would of course classify me as godless. But I suspect they would classify my queer friends who regularly attend Christian churches (decidedly liberal ones) as godless, as well.
My point, however, is that there are people who believe in god, and even believe in the same god the AFA claims to believe in, who would describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated because people like the AFA have done everything in their power to redefine Christianity to mean hating gays and people who support them to the point that they’re driving people from their congregations.
The original article also asserts as one of the harms of all this godlessness the following: “religious groups, spiritual environmentalists, and secularists… sometimes must cooperate with each other to address the region’s pressing economic, environmental and social issues.”
Horrors! People must cooperate with other people who may not agree with them on some other things to get things done? Say it ain’t so! Too bad we have all this cooperation going on! If we didn’t, we might have the insanely high infant mortality rates, childhood poverty, and teen pregnancy rates like the more godly cities in the Bible belt have. You just gotta love that strong religious culture, right?
I’ve known plenty of misogynist, racist, and/or homophobic atheists, just as I know a lot of Christians who are feminist, pro-queer, pro-equality, and otherwise in favor of most of the things of which scolds like the AFA disapprove. So we can’t use religious affiliation to unerringly predict someone’s stance on public policy issues. And as I observed a couple weeks ago (Confesses of a recovering evangelical), most of the religious right isn’t terribly devout. They’re far more motivated by their conservatism, which manifests as a reactionary opposition to change. And they don’t really pay that much attention to anything that the Jesus actually said, as evidenced by their breathless enthusiasm for military intervention, condemnation of any unarmed people of color who have the audacity to get wrongfully killed by police, and so on.
It’s why Bill O’Reilly was able to say with a straight face that Jesus promoted charity, but not to the point of self-destruction. Except, of course, since Jesus’ whole reason for coming to earth was to get killed on the cross for the sake of imperfect humans, he was indeed promoting charity not just to self destruction, but to literal self sacrifice.
The World Net Daily story is also interesting in that the comment sections is overflowing with homophobic comments, because of course no place can be godless without us homos there egging the nonbelievers on, apparently. Just like Pastor Manning who is insisting today that the foreclosure auction ordered on his church building because of more than one million dollars in unpaid utility bills has nothing to do with money. No, he claims, it’s an illegal plot of the sodomites to silence him. (By the way, the Ali Forney Center has raised more than 58% of their goal to attempt to participate in that foreclosure auction. If you can donate to this opportunity to turn hate into love, please do!)
Amazingly, New York City doesn’t make it onto the AFA’s list of cities with a higher unaffiliated percentage than the national average of 22%. I guess “New York Values” aren’t completely unholy, after all. Equally amazing, Las Vegas barely exceeds the national average of godlessness! Who knew?