Monday, May 25, 2015

Critiques of Pure Arrogance Intellectual or Political?

by Gary Berg-Cross

Disciplined insincerity & confident ignorance are already evident in this spectacle we call the primary season.  Well it’s still the money primary I guess, but there is a steady effort to test market ideas for the later campaigns. It’s already evidenced an unhealthy dose of arrogance to go along with the insincerity & ignorance (not to mention those flashes & dashes of egoism, conceit, intolerance, sub-surface anger, quarter truths, & light, gossipy slanders.  

I’m thinking of, for example, of Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s sharp-tongued & perhaps dimmer-witted comments.  These started at the winter meeting of the free market Club for Growth winter economic conference in February.  It was a good time to be Palm Beach, but perhaps too comfy an environment for well-reasoned arguments. I’m already tired of people who want-to-be-in-charge of things saying “I’m not a scientist” followed by an awkward opinion that back hands real scientific understanding out of the conversation. In Jeb’s case it was his opinion about climate change, an important topic for Florida and the rest of the world.  Ok, so you are not a scientist or an economist but why not get informed?  There are advisors.

Perhaps we can be disappointed but not surprised with the opinion, since he is very much a politician fitting George Bernard Shaw comment in Major Barbara :

“He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points
 clearly to a political career.” 

But it gets worse, because Jeb was just starting on the not-being-humble path. More recently in New Hanpshire he upped the attack as one sees from the headlines:

It is one thing to be “not a scientist” (Re climate change.) and another to attack scientists for their inconvenient evidence, if not a good approximation of reality.  Why are they not to be believed?  Well their explanations are too complicated – he used the more manipulative work “convoluted” in comments reported by CNN.  Then we have the pithy punch:

“For the people to say the science is decided on this is really arrogant, to be honest with you,” ... “It’s this intellectual arrogance that now you can’t have a conversation about it, even.”

Well I think that was a swing at President Obama as much as at Science. He’s speaking up.  But it is easy to believe that the arrogance (perhaps anti-intellectual arrogance in this case) really dwells in those politically conservative people.  Sure, one can perceive strength as arrogance in fact-based people, who are right but the not believed. They have a lot to go on. Evidence-based belief comes from the various climate scientists who actively publish research, 97 percent agree that humans cause climate change. Further the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
leveraging research  from ~ 800 climate experts across the globe,  concludes that  it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities are the main cause of atmospheric and ocean warming since the 1950s. Scientists speak in probabilities, how’s that for arrogance?  Well pulling math on you seems arrogant to some, I guess.

I think that the more dangerous arrogance is this.  It is the acted upon and emotion-centered belief of people who are wrong on the evidence (see above), don’t like testing evidence (what is the trend for the next decade?) and for one reason or another can't face this reality and projected reality.  This type of arrogance is manifested in Jeb's attack on the evidence based community and is especially true of political leaders who need to comfort the flock.

Unfortunately, this is just an early, primary season example of the attack on intellect, facts and critical thinking. We are likely to have more as part of 2015-16 silly season. I know that I will still be upset when I see  how many hands get raised this year when the candidates are asked about their belief/non-belief in evolution. Sort of a reverse American Exceptionalism demonstration.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Leo Koch - a well known Humanist

Edd Doerr (Silver Spring, MD) had a  letter  published in The Nation for June 1, 2015. Leo Koch was  a well known Humanist back then.

In “The New Thought Police,” [May 4, Joan] Scott mentions the case of Leo Koch, a biology professor at the University of Illinois who lost his job for suggesting in the student newspaper that there should be “greater freedom in the conduct of sexual relations.” I knew Koch back in 1963. His letters published in the student newspaper did not result in a ruckus as long as they were simply signed “Leo Koch.” The ruckus  started only when the editors violated Koch’s trust by identifying him as a faculty member.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Historical credit vs. Ready Made Explanations

by Gary Berg-Cross

 penned a WaPo article called The violent narrative of religious rivalry (aka Love Thy Neighbor)

Gerson, "the guy who is credited with penning the "smoking gun/mushroom cloud" lie line that helped enable the Iraq war", wanders around the topic of the narrative of the West vs. Islam and ideological containment. He uses a very broad brush with a bit of historical interpretation for the reason that our favored "Westernized" religions are better than the more recent creation  - Islam:

When monotheism is tied to dualism — the belief that history is a cosmic conflict between the children of light and the children of darkness — it becomes “the most dangerous doctrine ever invented,” allowing people to “commit evil with a clean conscience.”
Both Judaism and Christianity have made progress over the centuries in weeding out dualism — reinterpreting their violent scriptural texts and finding resources of “respect for the other.” For Christianity, this transition wasn’t easy, involving the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War. But this bloody, chaotic process eventually produced a flowering of powerful ideas in the 17th century: the social contract, human rights and liberty of conscience."
There are any number of arguments in here that one may dispute, but a central one is, "what caused this flowering in the 17th century that we are so proud of?"
An insightful view on this, I think, was penned in a letter response in the Post by Elliot Wilner of Bethesda, who wrote:
"In his May 12 op-ed column, “Love thy neighbor,” Michael Gerson provided an intelligent argument for preserving the American tenet of religious tolerance. Curiously, however, he credited the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War with having eventually created the “flowering of powerful ideas in the 17th century: the social contract, human rights and liberty of conscience.” Those ideas should be credited mainly to a succession of secular humanists, opponents of organized religion, such as Baruch Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine and John Stuart Mill. “Love thy neighbor” was preached and practiced as much, if not more, by these secular humanists as by religious sectarians."
Right on as an additional step to understanding what it takes to move a culture.  The follies of war and the ideologies that birth them and give them sustenance provides teachable moments when we may move ahead, if we listen to the best among us.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Twenty-first century solutions for age-old problems

Edd Doerr (
 Wash Post. May 13. Page 1. “Toyota’s bet on hydrogen: The future or an eco-dream?” Here’s the response I posted on line. Comments?   ---

Toyota, Hyundai and Honda are to be commended for introducing hydrogen powered cars. But if hydrogen can power cars, it can also power trains and ships and electric power generation. With coal, oil and natural gas all contributing to climate change and resource depletion, hydrogen could go far in replacing those dirty fuels. Environmentalist Lester Brown's new book, The Great Transition, makes the case for shifting from fossil fuels to solar, wind and geothermal energy, but notes that solar and wind are variable. OK, well, hydrogen power could solve that problem. Of course it takes energy to break water down to hydrogen and oxygen, but that could be done using solar, wind and geothermal, thus evening out energy availability.

What about all the people working in the coal and oil industries? Retrain them to work with solar, wind, geothermal and hydrogen energy production.

Twenty-first century solutions for age-old problems. And this is not rocket science.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Numbing Ideas to Destroy Public Education

A review by Edd Doerr

A Democratic Constitution for Public Education, by Paul T. Hill and Ashley E. Jochim. University of Chicago Press, 2015, 152 pp, $22.50.

This strange book, paradoxically, is at once mind-numbingly simplistic and almost infinitely complex. While purporting to “reform” American K-12 education inside-and-out, top-to-bottom, it actually makes anarchy look well organized by comparison. Fortunately, this vehicle is so Cloud-Nine Twilight-Zone weird that its proposal is unlikely to get off the ground, except maybe in places like Louisiana. One clue to its far-out-ness is its paying respect to such as Chester Finn, Bruno Manno, Milton Friedman, Joel  Klein, and Chubb and Moe while ignoring educators like Diane Ravitch, David Berliner, Mercedes Schneider, and the Lubienskis.

While the book does  not overtly plug vouchers, charters, online teaching for children, and similar bad ideas, Hill is a long time avid promoter of such devices for undermining public education and the teaching profession, while blithely oblivious to state constitutions and well established laws and institutions. He has even gone so far as to propose coalitions of religious groups to start tax-supported schools. Nowhere in this awful opus do the authors demonstrate the slightest concern that their bizarre scheme would do other than fragment our school population and society along religious, ideological, class, ethnic, linguistic, ability level, and other lines; create logistical, financial and traffic nightmares; and siphon public funds to rapacious private pockets while reducing teachers to the level of transient hamburger flippers.

The University of Chicago Press would do well to disown this clunker and avoid further embarrassment.

(Edd Doerr, a former history and Spanish teacher, is president of Americans for Religious Liberty.)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Godless environments & sweeping tax-credit school voucher bill

Edd Doerr, president, Americans for Religious Liberty, Silver Spring, Md.

Texas Republicans are trying to push a sweeping tax-credit school voucher bill through the legislature. As part of the plot the lieutenant governor’s hand-picked advisory board issued a letter calling every public school “a Godless environment.” The May 1  Ft Worth Star-Telegram ran a long comment by a group of ministers (Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Christian, Presbyterian) slamming the letter, defending the public schools, and defending church-state separation  and religious liberty. Below is my letter that was published in the Star-Telegram on May 7. – Edd

The pastors who signed the commentary opposing the diversion of public funds to private schools through vouchers or tax credits are in the very best tradition of religious leadership in America.
They see, as did Founders Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, that religious liberty for all requires that government refrain from forcing all citizens to support religious institutions, either directly or indirectly.
This church-state separation principle is enshrined in the Texas Constitution in Article I, Section 7 and Article VII, Section 5.
Religious freedom and our heritage of free public schools should not be tossed away by politicians in Austin or Washington.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Krauthammer's "Wolf Howl"

by Edd Doerr (

Far right whacko columnist Charles Krauthammer devoted his May 1 Wash Post column, “God, man and Henry VIII”, to a vicious attack on the Masterpiece/PBS series “Wolf Hall”, based on Hilary Mantel’s award winning novels about Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More. Below are the comments I posted on line in the Post. By the way, an excellent review of the “Wolf Hall” series is Emily Nessbaum’s column “Queens Boulevard” in the May 4 New Yorker, -- Edd

Krauthammer, as usual, gets it all wrong. Yes, 16th century politics in England (and the rest of Europe) was a bloody mess. But were it not for Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell breaking up the powerful monolithic church there would be no United States as we know if today, a prosperous pluralistic democratic republic with religious freedom and separation of church and state. Instead, we would probably have from the Arctic Circle to Patagonia a vast banana republic or something resembling Franco's Spain.

As usual, Krauthammer is shilling for the conservative zillionaires and theocrats who would take our country back the the Middle Ages.

Several comments [posted here] refer appropriately to Krauthammer's admiration for Pinochet and Milton Friedman, which backs what I wrote above. Sadly, today's Republicans are following Friedman's adviceand are pushing to undermine our public schools by diverting public funds to selective private schools that fragment our school population along religious, ideological, class, ethnic and other lines. -- Edd Doerr

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

by Edd Doerr

A new study from the U of Michigan finds that Catholic women in the US “support mandated health coverage of contraception” under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). 

The poll results for women in the study are: Protestant, 66%; Catholic, 63%; Non-Christian, 59%; Nonreligious, 59%; Baptist, 48%; Other Christian. 45%. 

Only 23% said “that religious hospitals and colleges should not be required to cover contraceptives.” 
A Public Religion Research Institute study shows that “similar percentages agreed that contraception is critical for a woman’s financial security,” with religiously unaffiliated at 76%.

(Source: National Catholic Reporter, April 24/May7.)

An Orwellian “selective manipulation of history”

by Edd Doerr

The Vatican announced on May 6 that Pope Francis has approved the decision to canonize Junipero Serra as a “saint”.  This move is viewed by many Native Americans and others as approval of Spanish colonialism and the mistreatment of Native Americans. Francis should give this further thought before proceeding.

And California politicians are part of the problem. Each state is allowed two statues in the US capitol. Theirs until rather recently were those of missionary Junipero Serra and Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King, who was credited by Abraham Lincoln for keeping California in the Union during the Civil War. But when California politicians decided to put Ronald Reagan’s statue in the capitol, they removed the one of Starr King and left the one of Serra, who never lived in the US and who died before California was even part of the US.

All this seems to be part of an Orwellian “selective manipulation of history”. Shame. Americans should speak out on this.

A brief comment on "Zombies of 2016"

by Edd Doerr (

Paul Krugman’s column in the April 24 NY Times, “Zombies of 2016”, chops up Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and other Repubs who would like to infest the White House. Below is the comment I posted in the Times on lone. -- Edd

Excellent column, as usual. Christie, of course, is toast. But Jeb Bush agreeing with Christie on raising the Social Security age? Equally out of step with the American people. And not only on that issue. Jeb also has little respect for women's rights of conscience and religious freedom, and he made an utter fool of himself in the Terry Schiavo case.

As for education, Jeb is no friend of our public schools. His school voucher plan for diverting public funds to private schools, especially the divisive sectarian ones run by his own church, was so bad that Florida voters rejected it in the 2012 election by 55% to 45%.

A third Bush in the White House would turn the Oval Office into the Offal Office.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Why is supernaturalism not found within science?

By Mathew Goldstein

Science restricts itself to naturalistic conclusions and methods because those are the conclusions and methods that are successful. This result leaves us with a question to answer: Why are supernatural conclusions and methods unsuccessful in science? There are at least three commonly proposed answers, but only one of the answers is arguably correct.

One proposed answer is that imagined supernatural explanations automatically convert to natural explanations the moment they are determined to be true. In other words, everything that is true is ipso-facto natural. To demonstrate that this answer is wrong all we need to do is give an example of something that could be both true and supernatural. For example, if stars gave off light energy without consuming any energy then we would discover this fact. Having discovered that no physical, material, or mechanical process is involved in the production of star light we would be justified in concluding that star light is a supernatural phenomena.

Another proposed answer is that naturalism is intrinsic to science. Under this scenario, science presupposes naturalism and is incapable of obtaining knowledge via supernatural methods. To demonstrate that this answer is wrong all we need to do is give an example of obtaining knowledge via a supernatural method. For example, if the previously unknown answers to any question in mathematics were magically revealed to worshippers of Jupiter then we would be justified in concluding that Jupiter may be a supernatural God. 

The one good answer is that science restricts itself to natural methods and conclusions because our universe is strictly naturalistic. People ask atheists for evidence that there are no gods. Here is the evidence: The monopoly of naturalistic methods and conclusions in science is substantial positive evidence that we live in a strictly naturalistic universe.

School Choice Works, Privatization Won't

by Jack Markell
forwarded by Edd Doerr from   Education Week
With the next presidential campaign getting under way, pundits have quickly focused more on the horse race than on where the candidates stand on important issues like improving public education.
One area that deserves far more attention is the array of proposals to divert public spending on education into private school vouchers or "education savings accounts" that can be used for private and parochial schools, home schooling, and other programs that aren't part of the public education system.
These policies, already enacted in several states and proposed in several more, are a reminder that privatization is not a ready-made solution for every government problem.
Here's why these programs don't produce results for our students.
Everyone agrees that solid academics are the foundation for career and college readiness. Yet, according to a review by the Center on Education Policy, numerous studies have concluded that vouchers, the prime example of privatization, "don't have a strong effect on students' academic achievement." If voucher programs are motivated by a desire to improve educational outcomes for our young people, and not simply to divert public spending to private education, then their unsettled and uneven history does not support continuing them.

—Nip Rogers for Education Week
Compounding this problem is that the private and parochial schools that receive tax dollars are, in many cases, not accountable for providing a quality education to young people, particularly those most at risk of falling behind.
In the public school system, states are required to establish baseline expectations of accountability through standards and testing. Although hardly beloved, standardized-test scores are the most effective method we have to identify which students need our help, which is why civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the United Negro College Fund have been among the most vocal advocates for statewide assessments. They know it is most often poor, minority students—those who most need our help—who most often don't receive the education they need. When we don't provide a valid way to measure students' achievement and hold educators and schools accountable for their academic growth, those students are too easily forgotten.
Children in home, parochial, and private schools aren't required to take state assessments. State officials can't track these students' growth to make sure they don't fall behind. Private school teachers and home-schooling parents aren't required to teach to the state's educational standards; and they don't have to be rigorously licensed or certified like public school educators.

Voucher systems also divert millions of taxpayer dollars out of our public schools. While we should respect and encourage parental engagement and choice of schools—including private, parochial, and home schools—for their children, it is not acceptable to divert limited public education funding at the cost of the public schools that serve our communities.
Public funding for these voucher programs also presents significant policy issues because so many schools affected include a religious component in their curriculum. In general, the government should not be in the business of funding programs or institutions that promote one religion over all others.
But being against vouchers for these reasons isn't enough. Political leaders have a responsibility to articulate a clear vision for what an improved public school system looks like.
That means using parent choice among traditional, charter, and magnet schools to foster innovative instruction, and hold public schools accountable for giving students the best opportunities possible.
It means demanding more rigorous college and career standards like the common core.
It means providing better support for our teachers, including training them to use data about student achievement effectively, and evaluating them appropriately.
It means more dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement courses to challenge students and reduce the cost of college.
It means investing in high-quality early-childhood programs so all kids enter kindergarten ready to learn.
And it means recognizing that too many of our students arrive at school hungry and from traumatic family situations. Serving these children effectively requires different types of training and community resources.
I agree with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush that policymakers should be "more daring" when it comes to education policy. But that must mean pushing the public school system to improve, not following the suggestions of a number of candidates for president and state lawmakers who would use taxpayer money on unaccountable programs that ultimately cut funding from public schools.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt

a review by Edd Doerr

Yaakov Malkin’s 2007 book Epicurus & Apikorsim (which I reviewed in ARL’s Voice of Reason No. 128, page 15, at tells the fascinating story of how Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BCE) and his Roman poet/”publicist”  Lucretius (95-50 BCE) vastly influenced thought in the Greco-Roman empire and may be considered the forerunners of today’s naturalistic humanism. Epicurus was so influential that Jewish religious leaders of the period used his name in Hebrew, Apikoros, to mean “heretic” (plural “apikorsim”) to this day. Malkin then showed that Epicurus and Lucretius, author of the long Epicurean poem “De rerum natura” (On the Nature of Things), influenced such influential post-Renaissance thinkers as Spinoza, Locke and Thomas Jefferson.

However, even before the collapse of the Roman empire in the late fifth century the recently “established” Christian church began extirpating Epicureanism wherever it possibly could. After the empire’s collapse all that was left of the work of Epicurus and Lucretius were references to their work buried in various Greek and Latin texts. For all practical purposes the two philosophers’ thought and writing were blanked out for a thousand years, an entire millennium. So, how did their work come to influence the modern world?

That is the story that Harvard humanities prof Stephen Greenblatt tells in The Swerve, the story of  Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459), Florentine scribe, scholar of Greek and Latin literature, “book hunter”, and lay (emphasis on “lay”) aide to several popes. In 1417, after his boss, Pope John XXIII, was deposed by the Council of Constance, Bracciolini took the time to search through German monasteries for ancient Greek and Latin books written on papyrus or vellum or whatever he could find, books that were endlessly and mindlessly copied for centuries by monks who paid no attention to the content of what they were copying. The Florentine, who knew of Epicurus and Lucretius from their frequent mentions in classical literature but had never actually seen De rerum natura, was elated when he actually found a copy of it. He had  the it copied and sent off to Italy, where more copies were hand reproduced. After Gutenberg invented the printing press in mid-century the book “went viral”, as we would say today, in Latin and in French, German, English and other languages.

Try as it might, the church was unable to dam the flood, and Epicurean/Lucretian thought spread unstoppably. And that, writes Greenblatt, is what stimulated the Enlightenment, modern thought, science, and political and philosophical thinking and writing. Greenblatt  refers frequently to Bracciolini and other scholars of the period as “humanists”, defined as “the scholars in the Renaissance who pursued and promoted the study of the ancient Greek and Roman cultures, and emphasized secular, individualistic, and critical thought.” Not once, though, does he refer to what today we call naturalistic humanism. In the book’s very last paragraph, however, he does write this: “’I am,” Jefferson wrote to a correspondent who wanted to know his philosophy of life, “an Epicurean.”

While we can be thankful to the monasteries for preserving many ancient books that time, chemistry and “bookworms” (literally) would not have allowed to survive, however unintentionally, the church itself does not come off looking good at all. Greenblatt does not hesitate to air a great deal of very dirty laundry.

The Swerve is  a great read, a book one can’t easily put down, with little sparkles of wit and a wealth of historical knowledge. Let’s give it five stars.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Separation Of Church & State: A Challenged Principle

Allan Powell, Professor Emeritus, Philosophy, HCC

Separation Of Church & State: A Challenged Principle

          American political values rest on several fundamental principles clearly stated by the founders of our republic. We do not debate the separation of powers or the supremacy of civilian dominance of military forces. Strangely however, there is an open and active resistance to the concept of a separation of church and state. Yet, this idea should be a most natural policy when it is remembered that most European settlers came here to escape tyrannies where church and state were combined. They were keenly aware of the abuse of power when two of the most conservative social forces conjoin.
          Separation is imperative because of the potential for religion to sanctify evil and claim divine approval for misdeeds. However, while it is important and necessary to keep a constant vigil to block the collusion of church and state, the task is difficult because of public apathy and a shortage of funds.
          There are, nonetheless, a number of religious denominations which are active in supporting the separation principle. They support organizations that monitor the many attempts to breach the wall of separation. It is costly to hire lawyers to bring the cases into court, support the publication of journals and maintain a speaker’s bureau to hold meetings for public education.
          The most durable and powerful source of support are the words of those who wrote the original documents such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Also useful, are the opinions given in Supreme Court decisions. Former President, James Madison declared that, “The number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, and the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State”. This should carry special weight since Madison was regarded as “the Father of the Constitution”.
          Thomas Jefferson made a direct connection between the principle of separation and the Constitution (1st Amendment) in a letter to the Danbury Baptist Church in 1802. Jefferson writes, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state”.
          A recent issue of one of these journals gives a list of the kinds of actions they expect from the new members of Congress. It will be evident that there will be no rest for those who struggle to keep a “wall of separation” between church and state. First will be a new effort to advance “voucher schemes” that John Boehner (House) and Mitch McConnell (Senate) call “school choice expansion”. They are actually referring to charter schools. Others (e.g. Ted Cruz), have vouchers in mind. These “schemes” are a way to funnel taxpayer money to sectarian schools.
          Analysts are expecting an increase in what is called “religious freedom exemptions” made possible as a consequence of the Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. It will be recalled, that in this case certain employers could now, on the grounds of religious freedom, make medical decisions effecting employees. It is supposed that the door has been opened for more extensions of religious liberty. It is likely that there will be attempts to expand the teaching of creationism and to restore prayer in public schools.
          There is some concern about the increase in the practice of some churches to abuse their tax exempt status by becoming involved in partisan elections. A study of voting turnout of the 2014 election shows that the religious right had a much larger voter turnout while there was a notable decline in other voter categories. Ralph Reed is reported to have openly stated that his group distributed 20 million voter guides in 117,000 churches. These guides were claimed to have been given to Republican voters.
          On my desk are two journals that I have supported for 30 and 40 years respectively. Both have been reporters of the whole range of issues involving the separation of church and state. It is saddening to conclude that there is little improvement in maintaining the “wall of separation” from abuse. Our efforts appear to be somewhat like those who fight forest fires. After you have struggled painfully and get out that fire, you get word that there are two more up the road.

Allan Powell, Professor Emeritus, Philosophy, HCC

‘Religious Right’ are politically stronger than ever

by Edd Doerr, presidentAmericans for Religious Liberty

 ‘Religious Right’ are politically stronger than ever

James Haught’s March 22 article, “Cultural change is slow but deep,” accurately reported demographic shifts in religion in America, but that’s not the whole story. The “nones” or religiously unaffiliated may be 20 percent of our population now, but in the November 2014 elections — in which only 36 percent of eligibles bothered to vote — exit surveys showed that only 12 percent of voters were “nones.”
Further, while very conservative churchgoers, usually labeled the “Religious Right,” are diminishing somewhat in numbers, they are politically stronger than ever. They and their political allies nationwide have:

1. Advanced their agenda of diverting public funds to faith-based private schools through vouchers and tax credits, even though American voters between 1966 and 2014 have rejected such measures by an average 2-to-1 margin in 28 state referendum elections from coast to coast; and this is damaging the public schools serving 90 percent of our kids.

2. Increased restrictions on women exercising their rights of conscience and religious freedom when deciding to terminate problem pregnancies for medical or other serious reasons.

3. Denied climate change – involving carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, resource depletion, toxic waste accumulation, deforestation, desertification, soil erosion and nutrient loss, rising sea levels (40 percent of world population lives in coastal areas), shrinking biodiversity, and increasing sociopolitical instability and violence, all of which is fueled by human overpopulation – thus endangering our whole planet.

4. Increased federal and state court rulings that undermine the constitutional church-state separation that protects the religious freedom of each and every one of us.

There is indeed a culture shift, but our country is not out of the woods by a long shot. Americans of all persuasions — Protestants, Catholics, Jews, the “nones” and others — need to work together to stop the erosion of our basic values before it is too late.

(Note: Jim Haught is editor of the Gazette, and he and I are both columnists in Free Inquiry.)