John Mac Ghlionn

The myth of atheist America

The younger generation are turning away from organised religion – but not from belief

  • From Spectator Life

The American comedian Bill Maher is an intelligent man with a good sense of humour. When he’s right, he tends to be very right. However, when he’s wrong, he tends to be so wrong it leaves a person scratching their head in disbelief. He has a tendency to sometimes misrepresent the facts. This is true when it comes to weed. For the uninitiated, Maher loves weed. I mean, he really loves weed. He is forever talking about it (see herehere and here), arguing, repeatedly and unapologetically, that it’s a largely harmless drug. As I have shown elsewhere, it’s not. It robs many people of motivation and happiness. Nothing good comes from smoking weed on a regular basis. 

Maher has a reputation for being a truth teller, a voice of reason. But on a recent episode of Club Random, his new podcast, he dismissed the idea (put forward by the irrepressible Russell Brand) that millions of Americans are living lives of complete and utter despair. Maher is obviously oblivious to the fact that more than one in ten Americans have no savings, and 64 per cent of the population live paycheque to paycheque. 

A few days before this rather sizeable blunder, Maher made another gaffe on his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher. Maher argued, somewhat naively, that America is in desperate need of a National Atheist Day. According to the host, almost a third of the country’s population are atheist. In other words, well over 100 million Americans completely reject the idea that God exists. This move towards godlessness is being driven by younger generations, we’re told. It’s not. Younger Americans are not turning towards atheism en masse. They are turning away from organised religion, embracing other, esoteric types of theological doctrines. This fact is obviously lost on Maher.

Many young Americans’ religious beliefs are more nuanced and complex than the beliefs of Boomers and Gen Xers.

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