David Niose – Nonbeliever Nation

July 16, 2012

Can people who care about secularism take America back from the religious right?

Of all the questions that concern us on this show, this is perhaps the most important, the most central, of all.

And David Niose has an answer to it. Simply put, he thinks we can.

In his new book, Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans, Niose outlines the damage the religious right has done, and how the growing forces of secularity stand poised to finally effectively counter them.

Central to the strategy? Embracing the atheist, or at any rate, the secular identity, and wearing it proudly on one’s sleeve.

David Niose is an attorney and president of the Washington-based American Humanist Association. He has appeared widely in national and international media advocating for secularism and humanism, and serves as vice president of the Secular Coalition for America.

This is point of inquiry from Monday, July 16th, 2012. 

Welcome to Point of Inquiry. I’m Chris Mooney. Point of inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs and at the grassroots. At the start of our show, I want to remind you that point of inquiry is sponsored by Audible. Audible is the Web’s leading provider of spoken audio, entertainment, information and educational programing. The site offers thousands of books that you can download to your computer, your iPod or to a C.D.. And today it is offering you one audio download for free to participate. All you have to do is go to this Web site, audible podcast dot com slash point. Again, that is audible podcast dot com slash point. Let me make a recommendation for you. Why don’t you download a book that we just featured on the show. Chris Hayes, Twilight of the Elites America After Meritocracy. I went to Audible. I clicked through. They definitely have it. You can get it right now. So just head over to Audible podcast, dot com slash point, click a few times, just like I did. 

I think you will be glad that you did so. Can people who care about secularism take America back from the religious right? Of all the questions that concern us on this show. This one is perhaps the most important, the most central of all. And David neo-Nazi has an answer to it, simply put. He says, yes, we can. In his new book, Nonbeliever Nation The Rise of Secular Americans. Now, Yossi outlines the damage the religious right has done and explains how the growing forces of secularity stand poised to finally, finally effectively counter this negative influence on America. Central to Negocios strategy is embracing the atheist or at any rate, the secular identity. That’s the key word for him. Identity and wearing it proudly on one’s sleeve. David D.O.C. is an attorney and president of the American Humanist Association. He’s appeared widely in national international media and he serves as vice president of the Secular Coalition for America. 

David Nusi, welcome to Point of Inquiry. 

Hey, thanks for having me. 

Chris, it’s great to have you in. I really enjoyed reading your book. It’s about how we can organize secularists to fix America. I agree. It’s something that’s definitely needed. Before we get into your argument about how to do it. Let’s talk first about the reason why we have to do it. Which you spend also a lot of time on. That is the incredible damage that’s been wrought by the religious right. 

Oh, that’s for sure. I think anyone who is even marginally rational in America today has to look at what the religious right has done to this country and just almost weep. It’s really sad, the state of affairs in America right now. In fact, that’s really what got me involved in secular activism about a decade ago, is I finally realized that the religious right was not just a passing phenomenon that was just going to go away on its own, that we really needed to take action to push back against it and to take back America and to fight fight for, you know, our rational public policy. 

So there’s really a lot of work to be done. But, you know, the work is there to be done and there’s a movement now growing to do it. 

You know, we’re we’re also used to living with the religious right now that, you know, they’re everywhere. 

They’re doing everything and all kinds of levels of government in all different areas of policy. I mean, what would you pick out as sort of the most egregious things that really, really bother you? You had some surprising examples for me anyway in the book. 

Well, it’s really all over the place now. You know, in politics, you’ve got biblical literalists who are now seen as serious candidates running for high office in the 21st century. You know, we’ve got candidates who openly, proudly reject evolution. This is something, as I point out in the book, that even one hundred years ago, it was outdated. It’s it’s an embarrassment. Meanwhile, atheists are unelectable. And that’s wrong. That’s just shouldn’t be the case. Look at education. We’ve got aggressive assaults on science. We can’t teach evolution in many areas and not just in the Bible Belt either. By the way, I have a friend in Massachusetts who teaches middle school science and he is strongly encouraged by the administration to avoid use of the word evolution. 

It’s too controversial even in Massachusetts in some places anyway. He’s encouraged to use the term change over time instead. 

And, of course, sex education. They’re rewriting history as well. Really, public education is under attack in America and it’s largely because of the religious right. Then we could move on to environmental policy. 

The denial of climate change is very much underwritten by corporate interests that are utilizing the religious right as their grassroots mechanism. 

You know, somewhat amazingly, if I might add. I mean, it’s like, why is that your issue, man? You know, of all the things that you. But yeah. But no, I agree with you. You know what I think is cool about the book? I mean, again, in laying out the problem is that I think you’re quite gutsy. If I could just compliment you in Vegas, you know, all the things that you take on the religious right for. And one of them, you actually talk about social ills. And here here I didn’t completely follow you. I mean, you know, you talk about places, you know, states that have higher, you know, things like out of wedlock births or unwanted pregnancies, SDD rates. And you even talk about homicide rates and you correlate this to religiosity. And I was wondering, are you claiming that all this is causal? 

No, I’m not. But that’s not the important point. And I think that it’s very important to address that issue because the correlation between social ills and we talk about violent crime, spousal abuse, teen pregnancy, FTD, divorce, all of those things have higher rates in societies that are very religious as compared to societies that are more secular, almost across the board, have lower rates. And it’s very interesting that that happens internationally when we compare the religious United States to more secular societies, a secular developed countries that have much lower rates of all those social ills. And it applies internally within the United States. When you talk about more religious regions and less religious regions, these social ills follow the religious society everywhere. And meanwhile, in the more secular areas, you’ve got much lower rates of those problems. But we need not argue causation that religion is the cause of all these social ills. I think that’s where a secular. There is often make an erroneous turn. All we really want to argue is that, you know, correlation might not be cause, but certainly with the correlation being so strong, we can at least agree that secularity does not cause these social ills. That’s all. We don’t need to argue that religion does cause them. But we’re looking for equality here. We need not argue superiority. We’re just looking for equality. And what the correlation with with with regard to social ills and religion being so across the board and so strong. Certainly nobody can seriously argue that secularity causes social ills. 

Eleanor, remind our listeners that David Neo’s new book, Nonbeliever Nation, is available through our Web site. Point of inquiry, dot org. Just one more thing that the religious religious right does that drives me crazy. And I think you cover it well in the book is if if I could put it on my terms. 

They undermine who we are. In other words, the religious right lies about what America is, how it was founded, what is heritage is what its origins are. In other words, it was a country founded on enlightenment ideas, and they want to pretend that we didn’t come about that way. And they’ve got sort of a fairy story. So this is actually in a giant assaults on American identity. Would you agree with that? 

Definitely. And you described it very well. I think the there’s a lot of disingenuous arguments coming from the religious right. And one of them is that their attempts to insert religion into every corner of American life, whether it’s under God in the pledge or in God we trust, is the national motto. They argue that it’s not really about religion. They’re not preaching religion, although they all happen to be conservative Christians. But that’s just a coincidence. I guess what they’re really doing, they claim, is just trying to acknowledge our religious heritage. And I guess, according to them, our religious heritage really defines us as a nation, which, of course, is ridiculous. 

America, like just about every country, of course, does have a religious heritage. But one thing I point out in the book is that America’s religious heritage is really not necessarily anything to be all that proud of. We can acknowledge it and it’s there. It’s part of our history. But I mean, look at the Puritans and the pilgrims who settled in Massachusetts, for example. They are often taught in elementary school as an example of how America stands for religious freedom. But in reality, if you study these societies at all, they stood for anything but religious freedom. They they established theocracies and they were very intolerant about religion. In fact, they first went to Holland where there really was open religious freedom, relatively speaking, for the 17th century. But they fled Holland because there was too much religious freedom that they wanted to go somewhere where they could establish an intolerant theocracy. And they found Massachusetts to do it. You know, they were very quickly hanging religious dissenters, even very mild religious dissenters, Quakers. They were hanging Quakers on Boston Common. Very shortly after they landed on their boats there. There’s so much about America’s religious heritage that’s really an embarrassment to the country. Look at the great revivals. You know, certainly the religious revivals of the 19th century are indeed part of America’s religious heritage that we can’t deny that. But are they anything to be proud of? These are periods in American history where people seriously thought the second coming was imminent. They were selling their personal property and then, you know, abandoning real life, thinking that Jesus was going to be coming over the horizon any moment. I mean, this is really nothing to be proud of. Anti Catholic bigotry is an extremely strong part of America’s religious heritage. So I question the religious right when they say that their effort to efforts to insert religion into public life are for the purpose of acknowledging our religious heritage. But I also question whether our religious heritage is really anything to be exalted anyway. I mean, compare it to our secular heritage. You could run down a laundry list of things about America’s secular heritage that are truly things to be proud of, nothing and embarrass. Nothing that would be considered an embarrassment at all. 

But there’s no talk about acknowledging our secular heritage, and that’s unfortunate. 

Well, let’s talk about let’s take the turn and talk about, you know, the agenda you lay out to sort of do something about this. One reason the religious right has gotten so much done in, let’s say, the past three or four decades is that basically it sort of operates like an army. I mean, and you talk about how powerful it is within the military in this. That’s no accident that it’s the case because the characteristics that make the religious right good at getting stuff done are, you know, the fact that these people possess a high degree of certainty about the way they think that the world works. 

And they’re tribal, they’re group oriented. They’re authoritarian. They follow leaders. These are all the things that we lack by definition. 

So how on earth are you going to organize us? 

Well, you know, it’s the old herding cats problem, isn’t it? And if you circulate in secular circles at all, it’s a problem that does come up. And I don’t suggest that there’s really any easy solution to it, but I would suggest that we’ve got some things going right now, a days. 

And that is, you know, we’ve really discovered the importance of identity politics, of standing up and being proud about who we are and what we believe and what our life stance is. 

I suggest in the book, and I’m not the first one to suggest this either, but that the LGBT movement, the gay rights movement, is really something to model. I think it’s amazing the progress that gays and lesbians have made in America over the last few decades. And it’s really a movement that can be modeled. Now, every analogy breaks down sooner or later. And I’m not suggesting that everything about the gay rights movement is analogous to the secular movement. But there’s a lot of commonality that there’s a lot we can learn from from what they did and the successes they’ve had. 

Keep in mind of the gay rights movement is probably the only area that the religious right has been truly unsuccessful in in the last few decades. 

Point to another major area of public policy where the religious right has clearly lost in the last few decades. I can’t think of another major area, but in the area of gay rights, you’d really have to assess it and say, wow, you know, that’s one area where the religious conservatives have not won and, you know, so why is that? In other words, the reason is the gay rights movements, very effective use of identity politics and, you know, getting their members to come out and to show the rest of America that they’re good, decent people. 

And I think we can learn a lot from that. 

Well, I want to actually, one of things I wanted to do in this interview is unpack that analogy. But before we before we even do it, let let let’s go a little bit further into the sort of the demographic argument that you make, if you don’t mind. 

I mean, because you talk about the data and we’ve had very Cosmina on this show, the data on the nuns, the non religiously affiliated Americans, they’re growing. They’re clearly a potential counterweight to the Christian right. But one of the most striking statistics in your book is how unorganized they are. I mean, it’s it’s a very, very small percentage of them that even call themselves atheists are agnostics. Right. So, I mean, why are we missing so many of them? 

That’s true. And I think the main reason for that is the fact that atheist as a as an identity is very much vilified in America. 

It’s an identity that people run from, even if it’s accurate. You know, the American Religious Identification Survey, everyone likes to talk about these nones, the 15 percent who identify as non. 

I think the more interesting statistic is the one talking about religious belief rather than religious identity. If you look at the belief statistics, only about 81 percent of Americans actually affirmatively state that they believe in God. And that would be 69 percent saying they believe in a personal god and about 12 percent saying that they believe in, you know, some kind of more vague higher power. But that adds up to about 81 percent. That means 19 percent of Americans do not a firm belief in a god. And, you know, that breaks down also. It could break it down further. But we don’t have time for that. But, you know, why do only one or two percent of that segment identify as atheist? Well, I think clearly it’s because the atheist identity is just so demonized. And that’s something we’re working to change. And I think we are changing it. By the way, even the most recent Gallup poll seems to suggest that Americans, especially young Americans, don’t have such an unfavorable view of atheists anymore. 

And the trend is clearly going in our direction. 

Let me remind our listeners again that David Neo’s his new book, Nonbeliever Nation, is available through our Web site Point of inquiry dot org. So let’s talk then about the identity oriented strategy, which is the centerpiece of your book. 

You do not mean converting people. I take it you do not mean trying to bring an end to religion. So what you know, what is the definition of the identity that you would that you would use? 

I don’t think we should be using just one identity. I think anyone who tries to do that is just setting themselves up for failure. I’m not going to tell every single person out there who doesn’t believe in a divinity that they should identify as an atheist. I do think it’s great when people do identify as atheist, because I think the more people who do, the less that that identity gets demonized. But if someone prefers humanist and myself personally, I prefer humanist. I think that better, better describes my world view. But I will quickly identify as an atheist if it’s ever brought up as an issue. 

Yes, I am an atheist and I think it’s unfortunate that for many years, many people who didn’t believe it just really shunned the atheist identity. 

And but I think, well, we should put all of these identities forward and there’s probably about a dozen of them. Right. I mean, we’ve got atheist, agnostic, humanist, secular, humanist, freethinker, and, you know, the whole laundry list. I don’t think we should say that any one of them is the must identity that we all need to flock around. I use the term nonbeliever kind of generically as an umbrella term. And I also use the term secular American, because I think that’s a great demographic wrap up, if you will, if you. 

And it would be nice if we could get the media talking about what secular Americans think about this legislation or that legislation just the same way they talk about, you know, what religious conservatives might think about this legislation or that legislation. But we’re not going to get everyone to agree on any one identity. I think we should just push them all forward and get them all flowing in the public dialog much more frequently than they have been. 

One thing about, you know, in terms of identity politics is I think that that is important and maybe it’s helped me with this. I mean, you want you want people that you can associate with that. You can look up to that. That sort of epitomizes the identity in the mass media. So, you know, if you’re gay, there is Ellen the generous. There is Anderson Cooper. Who is it for us? I’m not really sure. 

Right. And that is a problem, especially in the area of politics. 

I would point out it’s not so much a problem once you leave the realm of politics, which is very interesting to me, because if you think about it, I mean that in the area of entertainment, for example, there are numerous actors and actresses and writers who are very high profile public figures in America and they’re atheists. Pop culture is full of references to Athie ism and nonbelief. Religious skepticism is really a pretty strong current in American culture. I mean, look at the popularity of Bill Marr. His movie religionless the Monty Python movies, things like that. I mean, religious skepticism is not something that is taboo in America except when you enter the realm of politics for some reason. There’s this feeling that, well, once we get there, you know, America’s a very religious country and we need to, you know, keep everything on a certain religious plain. So I think the real key is getting politicians to identify as secular Americans. I think that is really the breakthrough issue once we get there. I think the religious right just necessarily loses power. Right now, the religious right is able to dominate the public dialog because on a political governmental level, it appears that the spectrum of acceptable views is between religious conservatives and religious liberals. That’s the spectrum. We need to change that so that the spectrum is, you know, religious conservatives on one end and secular Americans on the other. When that happens, the religious right is necessarily moved off the center and they’re more on on an end of the spectrum instead of, you know, a major part of the spectrum. So I think we really need to create an environment where politicians can safely come out, where there’s a feeling that voting for someone who is an open atheist is something I might want to do even if I’m religious. You know, that’s the way it is. And most of the developed world. You know, Western Europe and. It’s perfectly acceptable even in developing countries. I mean that down in Chile, they elected an open agnostic a few years ago. 

What is it about America that that makes us think that our political leaders need to be wrapping themselves in God? 

Well, let’s let’s talk about politicians, because you talk about Pete Stark being the one who has actually been willing to admit. As you say in the book and I circled it, you say that you know of several dozen others in Congress who are not going to to do so. I mean, but but here’s my question. I mean, even supposing they did. Let me just take a random guess here. I bet they’re all Democrats. So how does that actually help undermine the religious right? It’s it’s actually just gonna help them say, you know, those secular people are all liberals and that’s what we’ve been telling you you need to be afraid of. 

Well, first of all, secular people are not all liberals, I’d have to say from my own experience, I think secular people tend to lean left overall. 

But it certainly would not be an accurate statement to say that, you know, all all non believing politicians are liberal. 

In fact, you know, there are very there are high profile conservatives who have recently joined the secular movement. I’m sure you’re familiar with the new executive director of the Secular Coalition for America at Winter Rogers. 

Well, there was a lot of controversy around that because you got to admit that the Republican Party is the party that made the religious right powerful in L.A. It used them to gain power. So it’s kind of a tough relationship. 

Oh, it certainly is. But I think what we can’t deny also, though, that many non believing Americans are moderate or conservative in their political views. 

When I say conservative, I mean mainly on economic issues. You know, cutting taxes. Keep in mind, just a generation ago, even the Republican Party had a very important wing that was called the liberal wing of the Republican Party. You know, they weren’t you know, they weren’t socialists by any means, but they were liberal in terms of on social issues. They felt that the party should stand for libertarian values, you know, reproductive rights and and whatnot, that government should not be sticking its nose into our personal lives. That would be blasphemy. And the Republican Party today, I think we all agree on that. But I think with the successful emergence of the secular demographic, what we would probably find is that the Republican Party would become more like the old Republican Party, where there would be a significant segment of it dominated by people who think that government should stay out of the bedroom. 

That birth control and reproductive rights and things like that are not issues where the government should be dictating morality. And, you know, there is a tradition of that within the Republican Party. It’s only since the emergence of the religious right in the 1980s that the Republican Party has drifted in the direction of religious fundamentalism. 

OK, fair enough. Well, let me go to the the LGBT analogy, so somehow I’ve always been for years uncomfortable with the analogy. In other words, and I’m trying to figure out why, and I think I might have figured it out. So I want I want to see what you think of this. You know, if you take LGBT folks, I mean, they want to they want to live their lives in peace. They want the same chance as everybody else. They want to be treated fairly. They’re being very successful now. Getting that a lot of seculars want that, too. But insofar as secularists are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as wanting to convert others, then the identity isn’t just about getting to live your own way anymore and getting to have equal rights. At that point, your identity threatens somebody else’s identity because you know, the LGBT orgo is never. You need to be gay, too. 

So I think that to me, that feels like a problem and that feels like a difference. What do you think? 

Well, I think your point is valid, that certainly the secular movement has a certain element of it. And I wouldn’t say it’s the dominant element, but there certainly are many seculars who feel that their world view should come, that that they should be out there looking for converts, so to speak, and that they should be trying to impeach the credibility of traditional religion. 

And that’s one of the areas where, as I said, the analogy is not a perfect analogy, but I think there’s a lot about the two movements that really are analogies. 

You know, most seculars are not interested in going out, trying to convert believers. I think most seculars just want to be able to live their life in a way that their life stance is respected and that they’re not vilified or discriminated against. And, you know, it’s the type of thing where seculars, if they want to, can keep their secularity hidden. They can go about life in the closet, so to speak. And that’s an area where it’s analogies to the gay rights movement where gay people could live their lives in the closet and not let anyone in their family or in the public know that they’re gay. 

Now, the analogy, there’s many areas where the analogy can only be taken so far, because I would argue for one thing, that living life in the closet as a gay person is much more of an inconvenience than it is, for the most part, living life in the closet as a secular person. I mean, when you’re living life in the closet as a gay person, you’re really suppressing, if you will. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but you’re you’re hiding a very important aspect, a, you know, you’re you’re hiding your lover from from public view. You’re you’re really leading the most intimate part of your life in the closet. Whereas with secularity, I mean, our views on religion are very important. And it’s you know, it’s a core philosophy, but it’s still fall somewhat short of having to hide the person you love from public view. So I don’t suggest for a moment that the analogy should be taken all the way and that everything about being secular is the same as being gay. But there is much that is common between the two. 

And one of the commonalities gets to what would be your legal strategy. You talk about this in the book and you say you want to stop all this First Amendment Establishment Clause. I want you to stop it. You in a lesson in litigation over all the traditional issues like, you know, under God in the pledge and start using equal protection kind of cases, which is also, you know, something that’s been used when it comes to discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation. 

Right. I wouldn’t say that we’d want to forget about the First Amendment at all, of course. 

I mean, the First Amendment is absolutely critical. But I think the reality on the ground today, anyone who looks at the situation objectively would have to say that the federal courts and the establishment clause are not real welcoming areas for secular Americans seeking to litigate and seeking to enforce their rights these days. There certainly are still many Establishment Clause disputes that should be taken to court and that that should be fought. But we’re finding increasingly that it’s difficult to do that at the federal courts of the last 30 years have been filled up with us, with many conservative Republican judges, Federalist Society members, who really take a very limited view of the establishment clause and whatnot. So we have noticed that one area that has been. Underutilized is the area of equal protection. Every minority out there asserts their rights. Pretty much through equal protection when they’re discriminated against in America, racial minorities, women, ethnic minorities. For some reason, when it comes to the question of religion, religious minorities have not really sought recourse through equal protection. And we think that’s unfortunate because equal rights nondiscrimination is a concept that I think everyone agrees should carry over to discrimination based on religion. In fact, in many jurisdictions, when the equal protection language is written in to either their state constitutions or state nondiscrimination law, the area of religious discrimination is expressly listed as one of the areas where discrimination is wrong. And even in the federal courts, although the 14th Amendment, which is the amendment that addresses equal protection, does not expressly talk about religious discrimination. 

There is a lot of opinion out there that points to the notion of religious discrimination being covered by the 14th Amendment. 

So you don’t. So this is not a stretch. In other words, you think that this is a pretty open door? 

It’s not a stretch at all. It’s just an underutilized area simply because the First Amendment, with all of its religious language, you know, the free exercise clause and the establishment clause, that language is so prominent that religious litigation has always drifted in that direction. But the reality is that equal protection is definitely a concept that is out there waiting to be utilized by religious minorities, including atheist humanists. 

One thing that I’ve talked about several times on episodes, this show, most recently with Ed Braiden, previously with Sean Faircloth, always talking in this area is about I have a view that some of the Establishment Clause cases are too symbolic and don’t enough involve, you know, actual human suffering. And this is something that I really much agree with Faircloth on. Do you think that equal protection cases would more bring out that emotional side, which is what you need to get the public to sympathize with you? 

I think that’s an important part of it, yes. You need to remember with the Establishment Clause that identity and discrimination really are not necessarily important elements of the case. Even a conservative Christian can bring an Establishment Clause case as a plaintiff to remove a Christian cross from a public park. In fact, that was more or less the case with the Mojave Desert cross case. The plaintiff in that Buono, the case was Salazar vs. Buono. The the complaining party was a Catholic, I believe, or he was definitely a Christian. Anyway, he said he wanted the Christian cross in his home and in his church, but he wanted it removed from a public park. Well, that really points to the nature of Establishment Clause litigation, which is you’re really asking the government to look at a technical rule. 

You know, there’s a technical rule out there that says government and religion can’t the can’t overlap incorrectly. There’s a line and the government can’t cross that line. And it’s very technical. It’s not identity oriented at all. 

Whereas with equal protection, the plaintiff by definition, by going into court is saying, I’m a member of a class of people who are traditionally discriminated against in our culture and I’m being discriminated against now and the government needs to stop it. So that entire question of historic discrimination and the just wrongfulness of isolating a minority group through governmental action has brought right into question. So you can see how the emotional aspect and the just the drama of discrimination is brought right to the forefront. 

Well, I actually it’s it sounds like a good idea to me. Me, you know, let me close here with a couple questions about the future or maybe just maybe we’ll need one. I mean, in the book, you you talk about reasons for hope. You call it reasons were open up for reason. 

We know. What are they? People. People, I think listening to this show, they always they always want hope. And sometimes it’s hard to find. 

Well, you know, it almost sounds like a cliche, but it really is true in this case. Children are our future and the younger generation is the reason for hope. Younger people have so much less baggage when it comes to religious hang ups. They recognize that a secular world view is a respectable world view that it makes. Sense in light of the religious conservatism that dominates American culture. They’re turned off by the religious right. They’re smart. They’re educated. 

They understand that critical thinking is lacking in American culture and that they just have much less of the baggage that that the older generation has. You know, when younger people hear the word atheist, they don’t immediately think of communists. And, you know, the Cold War and all that stuff that was so dominant in American culture through much of the 20th century that they just think of it as well. 

You know, it’s the 21st century and traditional religion is pretty outdated. And, you know, they met many young Americans still identify as religious, but they recognize that those who don’t identify as religious or who don’t believe are just as decent as anyone else. 

And now that organized secular groups and humanist groups are much more visible and that they’re emphasizing the, you know, identity politics and visibility and respectability in their activism and in their online activism especially, which really brings the secular world into into everyone’s view. 

There’s there’s just much less inclination among younger people to view atheists and humanists and free thinkers as people who should be outside the margins in American society. 

Well, I think that this I think you’re right to see the hope in the youth. 

One thing that I just happen to know from other research, though, that maybe all of the conflicts with this. 

But but, yeah, you know, if you take the millennials, they’re they’re pretty secular bunch. But on the other hand, they’re really into this whole you know, I’m spiritual but not a religious thing. And whatever that means to them, I don’t know. It means all kinds of different things to them. I mean, are those people that we want to include within the kind of secular movement that you’re talking about? 

Well, you know, the spectrum of religious belief and identity is filled with nuance. And it’s almost disrespectful to categorize people too quickly and say he’s one of those and she’s one of these. You know, I think people are people and there are gonna be some people who don’t quite fit neatly into any category and a lot of people who identify as spiritual but not religious, even within that group. 

Many of them are going to differ among, you know, just how spiritual and how they are spiritual and what not. So I’m not going to just say as a blanket statement that they either belong in or out of the secular mode. But I think some of them are probably sufficiently naturalistic, if you will, to belong within the movement. Some of them are probably really just a step or two from traditional religion and, you know, and don’t belong in the secular movement. But I think we just need to think in with the big picture in mind of, you know, pushing the secular agenda and and raising the visibility of secularity as much as we can. You know, I’m not so concerned with whether somebody who identifies as spiritual but not religious is in the movement or is not in the movement. What’s important to me is whether they are or aren’t, that they view secular Americans as people who deserve respect. That’s what we’re shooting for. 

It’s not so much who’s in the movement and who’s out, but how all of society sees the movement and sees the people who who are in it. 

Well, I think that’s a good note to end on, so David Newsie, thank you so much for being with us on point of inquiry and best of luck with the book. 

Hey, thank you, Chris. Thanks for having me. 

Thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry to join the discussion about this show. Please visit point of inquiry, dawg. You can also send questions and comments to feedback at point of inquiry dot org. You can find us on Twitter at point of inquiry. And we’re also on Facebook at slash point of inquiry. The views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor of its affiliated organizations. Point of inquiry is produced by atomizing and amrs New York, and our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Wayland. 

Today’s intro featured Debbie Goddard. I’m your host Chris Mooney. 

Chris Mooney