COMMENTARY: The rise of the diminished, ordinary God

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NEW YORK (RNS) God is not, to borrow Friedrich Nietzsche’s image from 1882, dead. And neither is religion approaching extinction. But outside of some lingering loud pockets of orthodoxy, we have witnessed the arrival of a less mighty, increasingly inconsequential version of God.

  • Atheist Max

    Such beautiful, wonderful, awesome news.

    Thanks for the uplifting story. May the trend continue unabated.
    There are still so many danger signs in America with Creationist nonsense in schools, shunning atheists in the Bible belt and repression of women’s rights.
    I can’t wait to see it all fade away even more.
    The cruelty and bullying must end. Can’t happen soon enough.

  • Earold Gunter

    If you haven’t looked at the global survey (author provides link) you are definitely missing something. I found the layout of the charts somewhat concerning, with the religious on the top of the pages, characterized by a yellow, angel winged, golden haloed, blue eyed icon, with large eyes seemingly looking up for their god, and a great big smile. However the less religious were characterized by a yellow, dimly haloed, white eyed icon, with half closed droopy eyes and a “sort of” smile.

    A few other things I took note of were that the method most often used to ask questions were face to face. I’m not a sociologist, but it seems that people can be under social pressure when in a face to face situation, to give an answer that is in line with what the majority believes, so that my influences their answer.

    Also, what is a “committed atheist”? I’m an atheist, and am only committed to the fact that their is not enough evidence to prove to me their is a god. However, if one would show up, and prove it by evidence, I’m honest enough to say I would change my opinion, but would have a whole bunch of questions.;-)

    Finally, if people believed in a “natural” god, one that has no interaction with humans, but is responsible for the creation of life, which I think would be more in line with what the founding fathers believed, it would probably not be accompanied by the dogma religions have, and so therefore would not seek to control everyone. Not a perfect situation for sure, much better than today, because.

    Religion is poison!!

  • Anton

    Since the dawn of science, the null “intercessory God hypothesis” has been extensively tested and in every instance it has failed to be rejected. The accumulation of these results is inversely proportional to belief in an intercessory God. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people do not understand the fundamentals of science, which could account for the disproportionate persistence of belief.

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  • Doc Anthony

    In other words, atheism is winning, America is losing. Thanks for the heads-up.

    Let’s just hope and pray America survives the decade. Given our nation’s spiritual altimeter readings (the needle is spinning counterclockwise very fast), I’m not putting any money on the proposition. But let’s hope for it anyway.

  • Anton

    Doc, Why are you so afraid of atheists? Has an atheist hurt you some way? If so, this atheist would never condone it. Atheists still constitute a vast minority of people. Do you really think that such a small group is responsible for all of the changes in society that you think are bad, many of which, we may well agree on? Do you think we could possibly have *any* shared ideals?

  • Sensitive atheist

    Fear of atheism is unfounded. Atheism is just the natural state of a person. We don’t need any priests or coercion or gatherings to convince us that god does not probably exist. We just are.
    And you are surrounded by them every day – you just don’t know it.
    Many are in church. I was one of those once.

  • Ann

    God helpless on the cross is the centerpiece of Christianity — but it is the way to life.

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  • Doc Anthony

    What “afraid”, sir? I’ve been dialoging, debating, and discombulating with atheists since I was a teenager (and THAT was a very long time ago. Everybody needs a hobby.

    But having said that, atheism (and legalized gay marriage) is a good way to kill a nation, and we honestly can’t be having any dead America’s around here. So, no-good atheism gotta go!

    By the way, to answer your last question, there’s generally three items:

    1–freedom of speech
    2–freedom of religion
    3–natural curiosity about science matters

    So there is never a shortage of conversation!

  • Atheist Max

    You said “atheism is a good way to kill a country.” Nonsense.

    Holland is an Atheist country. Is it dead?
    Iran is a Religious country. Is it better?

    Which country would you rather live in?
    Be serious.

  • Anton

    Doc, “Afraid” was definitely a poor choice of words on my part and I meant no disrespect. It seems you provided at least a few examples of the “concerns” I was really looking for. I am happy we have at least those three ideals in common, because they are surely important to both of us.

  • Doc Anthony

    We don’t live in either Holland or Iran. We live in America. A far different country with a far different history.

    ” In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor.”

    “And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance?”

    –Benjamin Franklin

    It’s not about singling out atheists or any other people-group, but it IS about taking a strong stand against movements that take us down the wrong roads, roads that great men like Ben Franklin and Abe Lincoln warned us to stay away from. Atheism and “Atheism-Lite movements are among those roads.

  • Immolate

    There is nothing ordinary about God or his son, Jesus Christ. That the world is going to hell in a hand basket is not more proof of God’s demise than the Jews enslavement by Egypt, which started out in a rather positive light. We know that things will get a lot worse. It is not only inevitable: it is necessary. It is written.

  • Jonathan J. Turner

    From Isaac Newton, “A Short Schem of the True Religion”:

    “Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.”

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  • Atheist Max

    That you would invoke the name of a scientist is progress of a kind.
    Isaac Newton was famously a believer in the supernatural, stupidly so.

    “…religion punishes questioning and rewards gullibility. Faith is not a function of stupidity but a frequent cause of it.”
    – Wendy Kaminer

    “Our ignorance is God; what we know is science.” – Robert Green Ingersoll

  • Atheist Max

    Where is the Evidence that says abandoning God beleifs is bad for a country?

    All of the evidence shows the opposite. Abandoning belief in Jesus Christ didn’t seem to hurt anyone.

    “I have found Christianity unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.”- Benjamin Franklin

    Where would you rather live? Atheist Holland where crime is almost zero and everyone lives in peace?
    or Religious Iran which hasn’t known peace in centuries?

  • Those who believe in an “ordinary” god don’t know Him.

  • Earold Gunter

    Effects of a concussion from a cranial apple collision?

    Religion poisons the mind!

  • dumb ox

    Well said!

  • dumb ox

    I believe an objectified god – the talisman of cultural warriors and the tool of pragmatic, seeker-sensitive, self-help moralistic/therapeutic deists – is a far greater cause of the irrelevance of religion. The god of your cause, your team, or your patriotism quickly becomes an idol and a mere defender of what we truly worship.

  • Hello,
    Where can we get a hold of Mitchell Stephens? I can’t find his contact info.