An Epistle From An Apostle Of Scientism
A high priest of one religion writes to chastise a follower of a rival one:
Your Op-Ed [in today’s New York Times] leads with the observation that Donald Trump’s lock on Conservative Christian support has been virtually unaffected by how badly he and his associates behave. If ever there were an indictment of how morally out of touch Christian conservatism has become, this is surely emblematic.
You go on to bemoan the decline in Christianity in the United States – “a catastrophe for the church but also a calamity for civil society in ways secular Americans do not appreciate.”
First, Americans are falling away from the church in unprecedented numbers. According to a 2014 Pew study, more than one in three millennials refuse to identify with a religious tradition — a far higher number than among older Americans. Most of these young adults are likely to stay away from church as they age.
This generational shift is a watershed. Last year, the sociologists David Voas and Mark Chaves concluded that the United States is no longer a counterexample to the West’s secularization. America is on the same path of religious decline pioneered by Europe and Canada.
This is of course nonsense. The rejection of religion isn’t a ‘calamity’, a ‘falling away’ or a ‘decline’, but a measure of how the United States is finally on a path to growing up. Religious mythology was eclipsed by science a long time ago, and survives only through the indoctrination of young people and the manipulation of needy followers. Morality exists in spite of, not because of, organized religion. It is high time we moved beyond the ignorance, bigotry, misogyny and divisiveness that religion engenders.
Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
Palisades, New York 10964, USA
I don’t know which is more delightful: the confident parochialism displayed by this grim Apostle of Scientism, or the “cordially”.