About 110,000,000 Americans choose to reject organized religion and question the existence of a God. That statistic reveals what many have known as the demographics changed in the United States. However, they try to become more spiritual every day. They try to believe God is inside everyone. Most know right from wrong, and they constantly strive to become better.
Throughout recorded history, more innocent lives were lost in the name of religion than any other reason. Christians and Muslims share a history of violence, although both basic concepts are peace and love. Neither Jesus Christ, in the Bible’s New Testament nor the Prophet Mohammad in the Quran encouraged their follower to act violently — not once. However, religions are controlled by men, and all men are flawed. Wealthy individuals seek more wealth, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
A recent Pew Research poll offers a very interesting fact: approximately 29% of all Americans have no religious affiliation, compared to 23% in 2016. Most importantly, those who identify themselves as “Christian” in 2021 fell to 63%, down from 75% just a decade ago. The benefit of this is that the Christian Religious Right lobby is losing its power over an entire political party in Washington. With that change, the First Amendment will likely regain its strength.
My personal choice about religion is based on several facts. Born into a Catholic family, I once considered joining the priesthood. However, I was also captivated with the gentler sex, and priests in the Catholic Church cannot marry. By the time I was in high school in 1960, I had begun to question everything, including my religion. Questions were left unanswered, and I eventually realized that I did not need another man’s instruction about living my life as a good and caring man.
Please do not mistake thinking that my beliefs pose a threat to any devoutly religious American. On the contrary, I admire them for following their path and am happy for the strength they receive from their faith. Unfortunately, however, most people who call themselves Christians that I meet are judgmental and ignore the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Instead, they use religion to justify their personal beliefs, racism, and bigotry. They are often vile people who are against the golden rule. I despise right-wing Republicans who bow to the Christian Religious Right, claiming to be good Christians, but refuse to serve or care for the majority of the American people.
Members of the Religious Right have conveniently forgotten that they were elected to “do the right thing.” On the contrary, they are only interested in money and power.
Regardless of your chosen faith, if you are a true believer, you are a good and loving person. Therefore, I admire every devout Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, or other religion who is a true believer. Getting to know members of each of them was an honor and a privilege.
But I also have enormous respect for atheists and non-believers who have reasons for renouncing organized religion. This growing number of Americans contribute equally to the positive future of our nation, contrary to the claims of some politicians and religious extremists.
I cannot count the number of choices I had to make in my 75 years. Some I am proud of and some not so much. However, the biggest mistake is not to be decisive; refusing to decide. Religion is part of that category. Whatever your choice, do not waver. Whatever decision you make, support it without hesitation. You are right, and never allow anyone to tell you otherwise.
No one has more value than you on this planet: not the Pope, the President, or the wealthiest man in the world. You affect every life you contact in a small or big way. You are valuable, and you are relevant. The world needs more good and caring people like you.
If there is a God, I hope he heaps blessings upon you and yours.
Op-ed by James Turnage
Pew Research Center: About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated; by Gregory A. Smith
Daily Kos: Pew Poll Shows 29% of Americans Have No Religious Affiliations, an Increase from 23% in 2016; by mastergardener2k
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