Why were there no religious wars in Poland?

Why were there no religious wars in Poland?

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During the 16th and 17th centuries, there were many religious wars in Europe. In countries, were it was very close to Rome (like Spain, Portugal, Austria, Italian states), they did not occur. In Northern Europe (Scandinavia), were it was far from Rome, or it head also political reasons (the Netherlands), the Protestantism was accepted (relatively) quickly. However, in the "middle" countries, like German states, France, in some part Bohemia and Hungary, and of course England and Scotland, the Reformation was not quickly accepted/rejected, but some wars or fightings occurred.

In Poland (and Lithuania), which is geographically in the same position as Germany, no wars happened. This is somehow strange, as many Polish people were protestant and many Catholic. Sources claim that "Poland was very tolerant", example (WHKMLA):

The majority of Poland's nobility had converted to protestantism. Poland's tolerance policy attracted those who were persecuted because of their confession, from the Netherlands, France, Silesia.

The same is on the official site of Republic of Poland (but this might be a kind of propaganda):

In the 15th and 16th centuries, Poland was a country open to new religious trends. Unlike other European countries, there were no religious wars here. Not only could heterodox religionists find sanctuary here, they were also protected by the kings and lords of Poland. As a result, culture and scholarship experienced an influx of new ideas and literary works, building up an image of Poland as a country of toleration. This was particularly true as regards the Warsaw Compact, ratified in 1573, which gave Protestants equal rights with Catholics. The last Jagiellonian monarch, Zygmunt August (Sigismundus Augustus), said in Sejm, "I do not rule your consciences." Not surprisingly contemporaries and later generations called the Jagiellonian era, especially the 16th century, their Golden Age.

And what would be a post without citing Wikipedia? Here it is:

The 16th century Commonwealth was unique in Europe, because of widespread tolerance, confirmed by the Warsaw Confederation. In 1563, the Brest Bible was published (… ). The period of tolerance ended during the reign of King Sigismund III Vasa, who was under strong influence of Piotr Skarga and other Jesuits.

The Sigismundus III Vasa's reign was also strongly influenced by his Swedish claims, and considered protestant rulers of Sweden illegal. This however had no impact on Polish common tolerance policy.

My question is where did this religious tolerance come from? Why were there no fightings in this multi-religion state?

My assumption is that the Commonwealth was since its existence multi-cultural country. There were Polish, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Germans, Jews etc. There were Catholics, Orthodox and Jews who (probably) made good businesses with one another helping them to find common factors. So when Protestants came, they were just another group of many. Or, referring to "good business", it was just not profitable for anyone

That Poland avoided internal wars of religion can indeed be attributed to the religious tolerance of the state at this time, a tolerance that stretches back a long time.

And this has to do with it's position, where many of its neighbouring countries were not Catholic. To the east the Kievan Rus adopted Orthodoxy, and further north the areas now known as Lithuania remained pagan until the end of the 14th century, by which time the pagan Lithuanian kings had expanded their rule to cover much of the Orthodox Kievan Rus. Although the Lithuanian rulers adopted Catholicism (in a failed attempt to stop the Teutonic Order "crusading" in Lithuania) much of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania remained Orthodox.

Soon after the official Christianization of Lithuania a Polish-Lithuanian Union was created. This means that the Polish kings had not only the Catholic church, but also several different Orthodox churches in their area. At that point the rulers had a choice between either trying to forcefully convert everyone to the same church (but then, which one?) or just adopt an attitude of religious tolerance.

But Poland's leaders was constantly busy fending off enemies like the Teutonic knights (early 15th century), the Bohemians (15th century), the Crimean Tatars (attacked on 75 separate occasions between 1474 and 1569) and the Grand Duchy of Moscow (pretty much all the time). That meant that it needed to concentrate on defending itself rather than bothering with religion, so the obvious solution was to just let people go to whatever church they wanted.

When the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was created in 1569, it also had a system with checks and balances on power, meaning that the King couldn't have forced a religion on the people even if he wanted to, which continued the religious tolerance, made official in the above mentioned Warsaw Confederation.

To a large extent then, the religious tolerance was to prevent internal religious wars, due to having many churches. This tolerance then paved the way for other religions. The tolerance may also have had some source in the relatively large Jewish population living in Poland since the 10th century. This population seems to have been tolerated by polish kings and princes for economic reasons. But the question then arises why this happened in Poland and not in other places, and I suspect that once again the answer is that the Polish was dealing and trading with both Orthodox and pagans anyway.

If this is multi-culturalism that creates tolerance, or tolerance that creates multi-culturalism, depends entirely on your definition of multi-cultural. But I would say that with normal definitions it's not multi-cultural to have several different churches in a country, but it is multi-cultural to have many ethnic groups and religions. And with that definition it is the tolerance that creates the multi-culturalism, and not the other way.

Further reading:

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Confederation

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish%E2%80%93Lithuanian_Commonwealth

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianization_of_Lithuania

  • God's playground - A history of Poland - Norman Davies

Poland was indeed involved in the 30 Years War, sending death squads to aid Habsburg allies in Bohemia and getting decked when Bohemia sicced the Ottoman Empire on them.

At this time, Poland-Lithuania was far more unified politically under the Magnates and royalty than the Holy Roman Empire… and nobody kid themselves, the 30 Years War was a political as well as a religious war. Rising European powers sought to solidify their power into what we know now as a nation-state, and the implosion of the Holy Roman Empire gave them the opportunity they needed. Distance from Rome was not as much of a factor as the political landscape - Ireland remained Catholic, mostly to spite their regional rival, England, and they were a very long way from Rome - and many Swiss cantons became protestant, despite bordering on what's now Italy.

The strong leadership in Poland-Lithuania allowed it to quell internal cultural strife with the Warsaw Confederation, which granted religious freedom to the subjects of the Commonwealth. This was something of a tradition for the area, going back to the Statute of Kalisz, which formalized tolerance for Jewish subjects, and the continuation of the toleration policies of Zygmunt II.

This dual policy - tolerating protestants at home and slaughtering them abroad - kept the peace without endangering Catholic rule.

In fact, Poland had at least one internal religious war, namely, the Khmelnytsky Uprising in 1648-1657, right at the end of the 30 year war in Central Europe.

Religion, ethnicity, and economics factored into this discontent. While the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth remained a union of nations, a sizable population of Orthodox Ruthenians were ignored. Oppressed by the Polish magnates, they took their wrath out on Poles, as well as the Jews, who often managed the estates of Polish nobles. The advent of the Counter-Reformation worsened relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Many Orthodox Ukrainians considered the Union of Brest as a threat to their Orthodox faith.

You can read more in the linked wikipedia article as well as this one.

Your question identifies, and hypothesizes a correlation between distance from Rome and pro (or anti) Catholic leanings. Under this hypothesis, Poland ought to be a "conflicted" country because of its "middle" distance.

In seeking a correlation (that may be false), the hypothesis overlooks causal variables that affected other "middle distance" countries like England and Bohemia, and not Poland.

In England, for instance, the anti-Catholic spark came not from religion per se, or relations between countries, but rather King Henry VIII's desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn. The Pope, who was practically a hostage of Catherine's nephew, Charles V, couuld not allow this. That's why Henry VIII broke with the Catholic church and set up the Church of England.http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/king-henry.html

In Bohemia, anti-Catholic feeling went back to the early 15th century, to the Hussite rebellions, which were aimed against Austrian overrule. This pre-dated Martin Luther and "mainstream" Protestantism by almost a century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussite_Wars

In Poland, on the other hand, there were no anti-Catholic irritations. In fact, Poland had a history of religious tolerance going back to the 12th century, when King Boleslaus III welcomed both Jews from western Europe and Islamic Tartars from the east. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussite_Wars Thus, when it was offered the alternative of Protestantism, Poland could accomodate both (plus Russian orthodoxy and others).

The Polish political system had its roots in medieval society : the king was elected by nobles (like a tribal chief). Once nobles chose to change their religion there wasn't any absolutist monarch that could stop them. Besides people wore religion more lightly than is realised (of course history records the fanatics but most people were socially religious). It was fanatical Jesuits who forced out other faiths and changed Poland from pluralism to exclusively Catholic.

It would seem that religious toleration in Poland became a necessity because borders with Lutheran Prussia and Orthodox Russia kept changing and people had to be reabsorbed into Poland. Also people fled intolerance in Prussia and Russia going to Poland for sanctuary. Poland needed France and Austria as allies against Prussia; therefore, it was wise to remain officially Roman Catholic while allowing Protestant and Eastern Orthodox to worship freely.

Religious toleration



Cyrus was also tolerant toward the Babylonians and others. He conciliated local populations by supporting local customs and even sacrificing to local deities. The capture of Babylon delivered not only Mesopotamia into the hands of Cyrus but also Syria and Palestine, which had been conquered previously by the…

…of Cyrus in respecting native religious institutions. In Egypt he assumed an Egyptian titulary and gave active support to the cult. He built a temple to the god Amon in the Kharga oasis, endowed the temple at Edfu, and carried out restoration work in other sanctuaries. He empowered the Egyptians…

…the peasants, and he granted religious toleration. After the long period of oppression, these were hailed as beacons of light, although they did not go as far as enlightened minds expected. In fact, Joseph’s Edict of Toleration was not followed by a mass defection from the Roman Catholic Church in…

…period of state-sponsored atheism, full freedom of religion was established. There is no official religion, and the majority of religious Bulgarians are adherents of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. Minority religious groups include Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Gregorian Armenians. Within the Protestant minority are Great Commission Christians, Pentecostals,

…his reign was characterized by tolerance toward a variety of Buddhist and Hindu sects that occasionally blended into local cults honouring ancestral spirits and spirits of the soil. Indeed, for all the apparent absolutism of its kings, a consistent feature of Angkorean civilization unmatched in medieval Europe was religious toleration.

…approach to local social and religious practices. A few Hindus and Jains had held state positions under the Khaljīs under the Tughluqs the non-Muslim Indians rose to high and extremely responsible offices, including the governorships of provinces. Muḥammad ibn Tughluq was the first Muslim ruler to make planned efforts to…

…especially in Umayyad times, was tolerance, partly for fiscal reasons. In order to maintain the higher tax revenues collected from non-Muslims, the Arab governors discouraged conversion to Islam and even required those who did convert to continue paying the non-Muslim tax. New Christian churches were sometimes built, and the government…

…the Christians of Egypt with tolerance the Coptic Church thrived under the Ayyūbids, and Copts still served the government. Saladin also treated the Christians of Jerusalem with magnanimity after the conquest of that city. Under Saladin the Jewish community enjoyed protection, and such noted scholars as Moses Maimonides—who was the…

…state, even though unity meant religious toleration for the Protestant minority. In the Edict of Nantes (April 13, 1598) Henry guaranteed the Huguenots freedom of conscience and the right to practice their religion publicly in certain prescribed areas of the country. As a surety against attack, the Huguenots were granted…

…Peace of Augsburg’s provisions for religious toleration to the Reformed (Calvinist) church, thus securing toleration for the three great religious communities of the empire—Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist. Within these limits the member states of the empire were bound to allow at least private worship, liberty of conscience, and the…

In declaring the religious situation fixed as of 1624, the treaty mandated that, if a prince converted, his land no longer converted with him. Religious pluralism and—albeit grudgingly—coexistence were now the norm.

…apparent in the decline of religious resentments and discriminations. Never before had the relationship between Roman Catholics and Protestants among the well-to-do classes of central Europe been as free of rancour as on the eve of the French Revolution. It was at this time also that Jews first began to…

Transylvania was also spared internecine religious strife when, at the Diet of Torda in 1568, the Roman Catholic, Calvinist, Lutheran, and Unitarian churches agreed to coexist on a basis of equal freedom and mutual toleration. The Greek Orthodox faith of the Vlachs (later called Romanians), who constituted the rest of…

The tolerance of the Franks, noted by Arab visitors, often surprised and disturbed newcomers from the West.

Mughal society was predominantly non-Muslim. Akbar therefore had not simply to maintain his status as a Muslim ruler but also to be liberal enough to elicit active support from non-Muslims. For that purpose, he had to deal first with the Muslim theologians and…

…taxes, they deserved consideration and freedom of worship. Any Christian mission or proselytism among the Muslims, however, was considered a capital crime. In fact, Christians were formally reduced to a ghetto existence: they were the Rūm millet, or “Roman nation” conquered by Islam but enjoying a certain internal autonomy.

Under the tolerant policies of Sigismund II, to whom John Calvin dedicated one of his works, Lutheranism spread mainly in the cities and Calvinism among the nobles of Lithuania and Little Poland. The Sandomierz Agreement of 1570, which defended religious freedom, marked the cooperation of Polish Lutherans

…and accorded the Protestant Huguenots toleration within the state, together with the political and military means of defending the privileges that they had exacted. The southern Netherlands remained Catholic and Spanish, but the Dutch provinces formed an independent Protestant federation in which republican and dynastic influences were nicely balanced. Nowhere…

The great Protestant advance depended in part on the existence of the secular state and on toleration. As late as 1715 the Austrian government had denied all protection of the law to Hungarian Protestants. After the French Revolution, however, the few survivals of this…


…forefront of the struggle for religious freedom in both England and the United States. They cherished the liberty established in early Rhode Island, and they played an important role in securing the adoption of the “no religious test” clause in the U.S. Constitution and the guarantees embodied in the First…

…beginning, has tended toward an intolerance that was rooted in the understanding of itself as revelation of the divine truth that became human in Jesus Christ himself. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). To be…

…monotheistic conviction results in the rejection of all other belief systems as false religions, and this rejection partly explains the exceptionally aggressive or intolerant stance of the monotheistic religions in the history of the world. The conception of all other religions as “idolatry” (i.e., as rendering absolute devotion or trust…

…Friends’ principles, especially pacifism and religious toleration. Toleration would allow colonists of other faiths to settle freely and perhaps become a majority consistent pacifism would leave the colony without military defenses against enemies who might have been provoked by the other settlers. Penn, entangled in English affairs, spent little time…


…protector, Cromwell was much more tolerant than in his fiery Puritan youth. Once bishops were abolished and congregations allowed to choose their own ministers, he was satisfied. Outside the church he permitted all Christians to practice their own religion so long as they did not create disorder and unrest. He…

…granted a large measure of religious liberty to his Protestant subjects, the Huguenots. The edict was accompanied by Henry IV’s own conversion from Huguenot Calvinism to Roman Catholicism and brought an end to the violent Wars of Religion that began in 1562. The controversial edict was one of the

…suggest a genuine belief in religious toleration as a matter of principle others point to the establishment of Roman Catholicism as the dominant if not the exclusive religion of the state. This confusion may well reflect the state of James’s own mind, which undoubtedly deteriorated in the years 1687–88, and…

…the equality of three great religions in regard to their ethical basis, for the play celebrates man’s true religion—love, acting without prejudice and devoted to the service of mankind. Among the representatives of the three religions—Islāmic (Saladin), Christian (the Templar), and Jewish (Nathan)—only the Jew, in whose character Lessing paid…

Locke drafted papers on toleration, possibly for Ashley to use in parliamentary speeches. In his capacity as a physician, Locke was involved in a remarkable operation to insert a silver tube into a tumour on Ashley’s liver, which allowed it to be drained on a regular basis and relieved…

…he wanted in matters of religious toleration. He was offered a senior diplomatic post by William but declined. His health was rarely good, and he suffered especially in the smoky atmosphere of London. He was therefore very happy to accept the offer of his close friend Damaris Masham, herself a…

…Locke characteristically excluded atheists from religious toleration because they could be expected either not to take the original contractual oath or not to be bound by the divine sanctions invoked for its violation. For Rousseau, too, the willingness to subject oneself to the “general will” to which only the popular…

…and in the importance of toleration, especially in matters of religion. Much of what he advocated in the realm of politics was accepted in England after the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89 and in the United States after the country’s declaration of independence in 1776.

In advocating toleration in religion, he was more liberal: freedom of conscience, like property, he argued, is a natural right of all men. Within the possibilities of the time, Locke thus advocated a constitutional mixed government, limited by parliamentary control of the armed forces and of supply.…

…was as a protagonist of religious toleration that Penn would earn his prominent place in English history. In 1670 he wrote The Great Case of Liberty of Conscience Once More Debated & Defended, which was the most systematic and thorough exposition of the theory of toleration produced in Restoration England.…

…1709 nor the horrors of religious persecution. He retained, however, a degree of admiration for the sovereign, and he remained convinced that the enlightened kings are the indispensable agents of progress.

…beheaded for having insulted a religious procession and damaging a crucifix (July 1, 1766). Public opinion was distressed by such barbarity, but it was Voltaire who protested actively, suggesting that the Philosophes should leave French territory and settle in the town of Cleves offered them by Frederick II. Although he…

Religious Right Causes Church Decline?

Conventional wisdom among some liberal Christians and others is that conservative Christianity is to blame for USA church decline. Responding to the latest Gallup poll showing fewer than half of all Americans are church members, Adam Russell Taylor of Sojourners, a liberal Christian advocacy group, recently aired this view:

In reaction to Gallup’s findings, David Campbell, a professor at Notre Dame University, told The Guardian that the decline in church membership was an “allergic reaction to the religious right” and “the perception that many … American religions are hostile to LGBTQ rights.” I share Campbell’s concern. I have often wondered why many parts of the evangelical church have remained so silent about the detrimental impact of white Christian nationalism on the reputation of the church. Though these church leaders may believe they are remaining “apolitical,” by failing to challenge the unholy marriage between the church and Republican Party, these leaders have enabled destructive forces to hijack the gospel.

It’s also telling that just before Gallup’s new data was released, the governor of Arkansas signed an alarming law that allows doctors to refuse to treat someone based on religious or moral objections, a law opponents say will allow health care providers to turn away LGBTQ people similar legislation is being explored and proposed in many other states. Instead of being defined by all the things we are against and the people we want to exclude, Christians should be striving to be defined by our radical love, especially toward those who have been most excluded, as well as by our commitment to advance justice for all. This commitment does not fit neatly in the political categories of Left and Right, Democrat or Republican. Instead, the church must serve as the “conscience of the state,” transcending partisanship and holding all sides accountable to our gospel values and priorities.

Well, yes to the church “transcending partisanship” and aspiring to be the “conscience of the state.” But exclusively faulting conservative Christianity is itself rather partisan and omits a major significant fact: Liberal Christianity in America has been declining and by some measures imploding for nearly 60 years while conservative churches were often growing. Even now USA evangelicalism by some measures is retaining its share of population unlike liberal Protestantism and Catholicism. There’s little in the retreating example of liberal Protestantism over the last half century or more that offers an inspiring example for church growth.

Sixty years ago one of every 7 Americans belonged to the seven largest liberal Mainline Protestant denominations. Today it is fewer than 1 of every 15. Today all liberal denominations in America are fast declining. Some conservative denominations are also declining. But some denominations are growing, and they are all conservative. So too are nondenominational churches, which are the fastest growing part of Christianity in America. Those churches attracting immigrants, non-whites and lower income people are overwhelmingly conservative. Those few evangelical congregations that recently have gone liberal on sexuality and otherwise have usually quickly imploded.

If conservative Christianity’s politically high profile has hurt the church’s influence in America, liberal churches have had every opportunity to offer supposedly more winsome alternatives. Why are liberal churches not fully exploiting this opportunity of conservative Christianity’s supposed unpopularity to showcase their professed more inclusive policies? Shouldn’t they readily fill this vacuum and appeal to the more progressive and secular minded who are pivoting away from traditional Christianity? Why is there no revival now in the liberal Mainline Protestant world that espouses all the social and political causes that are supposedly so appealing?

Also noteworthy about these claims that conservative Christianity is smothering the church in America is the assumption that persons who have left or who were never in organized religion are culturally on the Left. Many who are post-religious or non-religious are actually on the populist Right. They like their guns, cherish property rights, home school their children and are suspicious of cultural elites. Many succumb to conspiracy theories like Q-Anon because they emphatically reject mainstream media. Such people who share these perspectives but retain no religious affiliation number in the many millions and are growing. They will never be evangelized by the Religious Left’s brand of religion. So what answer do religious liberals offer them?

Political scientist Ryan Burge recently found polling evidence that more people including non-Christians now identify as evangelical based on their rightist politics:

There’s an argument to be made here that evangelicalism is not just influencing all of American Christianity, it’s seeping into all aspects of American religion. More Catholics are evangelical today than ever before, the same is true for mainline Protestants. Many Muslims, Jews and Buddhists now take on the moniker. It’s no secret that many Americans have antipathy toward evangelicals, in no small due to their embrace of Donald Trump. But it’s surprising that all that political baggage has not made the term radioactive. In fact, that linkage between Trump, the GOP and evangelicals has actually opened up the “born-again” identity to a larger segment of American religion.

It’s not great news for Christianity that evangelical is becoming more of a political and cultural identifier than a theological term. Every branch of Christianity should aspire to stand on its own spiritual distinctives and not tribal identity. Parts of conservative Christianity may now be too identified with voting patterns and ideology. But instead conflating faith with the political Left, as some urge, is no solution. As demonstrated by liberal Protestantism, it can be demographically calamitous.

In his comments above, Adam Russell Taylor of Sojourners cited a new Arkansas law protecting conscience rights of medical personnel who decline to participate in non emergency procedures like abortion, sex change operations and assisted suicide. Such protections don’t exemplify “radical love,” he complains. In his liberal Christian view of radical love, Taylor evidently thinks Christians should reject conscience rights in favor of compulsory chaplaincy to secularism’s latest demands.

Much of conservative Christianity no doubt has failed to exemplify the Gospel and has contributed to USA church decline. But serving as “me too” echo chambers for aggressive secularism, including its attacks on any conscience-based dissent from secular shibboleths, is hardly a winsome much less faithful alternative.

Taylor wants the church to be the “conscience of the state,” transcend partisanship and hold all sides accountable to “gospel values and priorities.” Maybe such Gospel values should be rooted in ecumenical church teaching and not current USA fashion. Maybe the church should seek to protect persons who strive to uphold these teachings amid controversy. Such fidelity may not win popularity contests. But it may win converts to a faith based on sustained transcendence, not today’s fads.

Comment by Star Tripper on April 9, 2021 at 11:10 am

Any church that deviates from the Gospel will fall on hard times. I am intrigued by this desire for the church to be the “conscience of the state” which shows the confusion the public has over what is a state and what is a nation. The state is the government and like fire is a dangerous amoral entity. The nation is the identifiable people and they can exhibit either a moral or immoral character. Beware of any clergy who desires to be part of the state.

Comment by Tolerently Intolerant on April 9, 2021 at 12:56 pm

My conservative political and social views were formed and constantly self-evaluated by Scripture, prayer,and study. I am so sick and tired of being blamed for everything, especially when the majority of American problems come from deliberate ignorance of Scripture, and common sense (see Aquinas, Thomas).

These clowns get their marching orders from people like the so-called academic who showed up in Joy Reid’s MSNBC show and blamed ‘white evangelicals’ for covid, people note getting vaccinated, racism, and all the other code words.

The trend has been going on for years, I was asked by an Elder in my conference during candidacy if you would get mad and kick a pregnant women out of a church if she asked me if she should about her baby and I said no, and she did it anyway. I’m done with them.

Comment by Rick Plasterer on April 9, 2021 at 2:34 pm

God commands us to love people, but condemn and shun sin. Embracing sin is not radical love, but complicity in sin and death. Administering puberty blocking drugs to children, opposite sex hormones, and later castrations and mastectomies, is not radical love, but irretrievably harming young people’s sexual development. To require medical professionals, or anyone, but perpetrate acts that religious precepts declare to be sinful and a most basic common sense declare to be evil is not love, but a sinful and destructive state religion that denies the imperatives of conscience.

Comment by Loren J Golden on April 9, 2021 at 3:36 pm

“Adam Russell Taylor of Sojourners cited a new Arkansas law protecting conscience rights of medical personnel who decline to participate in non emergency procedures like abortion, sex change operations and assisted suicide. Such protections don’t exemplify ‘radical love,’ he complains.”

In response to a question from one of the scribes as to which commandment of the Law is the most important, the Lord Jesus answered, ”The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk. 12.39-31)

Note which of these two commandments that the Lord Jesus said is most important, and which is second in importance in regard to it. Love must first and foremost be directed toward God, and to honor what He commands, wants, and desires above all else. As the Lord Jesus elsewhere said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14.15) And again, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I till you?” (Lk. 6.46)

Now consider these two passages of Scripture: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’ … And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1.26-27,31) And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Gen. 9.5-6)

From conception to the grave, humankind—both male and female—is created in the image of God. What one does to one’s neighbor, therefore, one does to God in effigy. Thus, to deliberately take the life of human being in the womb, or to assist another human being in taking his or her own life, is to murder God in effigy, which is why He gave the commandment against it, together with its penalty, when He established His covenant with Noah after the flood. Likewise, to perform gender reassignment surgery, in order to make a man appear, in part or in whole, to be a woman, or to make a woman appear, in part or in whole, to be a man, is to deface the image of God in man, for “he who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” (Mt. 19.4)

Mr. Taylor’s definition of love is deficient. It is not love to take a human life, even if that person’s mother, or that person him or herself, wants that life to end. Neither is it love to be complicit in transforming the body of a human being, male or female, through either hormone replacement therapy or gender reassignment surgery, so as to make it appear to be the opposite gender from which God had created him or her to be, or to some unholy mockery in between. It is not love shown toward the person who is most directly affected by the abortion, the surgery, or the suicide, and it is most certainly not love shown toward the Almighty, divine Creator of that person who bears His image. In fact, it is hate—hate toward the unborn child, toward the person struggling with gender identity confusion, toward the person who despairs of life in this world and wants to end it prematurely, and most especially toward the One who created all humankind in His image.

Comment by Loren J Golden on April 9, 2021 at 3:45 pm

Typographical correction at the end of the third paragraph in the above response: “…and not do what I tell you?” (Lk. 6.46)

Correction in the fourth paragraph: …(Gen. 1.26-28,31) And…

Comment by Pat on April 9, 2021 at 5:26 pm

Thank you Loren. God’s scripture says it all and it matters not what the liberal bishops or pastors say. God’s word does not change and will never change. The devil has destroyed the Methodist church as those in leadership want power, control and do what they want not what God’s Holy Word says. Sound familiar. The pharisees and sadducees of Jesus’s day were just like today’s liberal bishops, pastors and the ruling board who refuse to enforce the Book of Discipline. That means firing those bishops, pastors and other leaders who refuse to follow those guidelines. Unless the formal split and formal formation of a traditional Methodist church happens soon, traditional Methodist will do what many already have done, left the Methodist church and moved on.

Comment by Diane on April 9, 2021 at 5:29 pm

I once thought that the institution’s discrimination toward lgbtq folks was the reason people leave the church. Not convinced of that anymore. I think many don’t buy into the literal narrative of miracles or a guy-in-the-sky who inseminates a virgin to have a son (not a daughter) in order to save all people from eternal fire (and once saved, they’re rewarded with an eternity of walking the golden streets on the other side of the clouds).

It’s a fairytale narrative steeped in literalism. I recall the exact moment when, as a six year old in Sunday School, c. 1956, I began to silently question the narrative. Our teacher was telling us all we had to do was confess our sins and we’d inherit eternal life upon our death. I’m sure I didn’t really understand death (or life) at age 6, but I remember thinking at that moment, “Well, if it’s that simple, why not live a life of sin and just before dying, accept Jesus and go to heaven?”

Religion based on fear and rules, with the promise of a fairytale mansion in the sky as a reward might have served pre-scientific minds in earlier times. It doesn’t register with a lot of folks anymore.

Comment by Thomas F Neagle on April 9, 2021 at 5:32 pm

Religious right causes church decline.

Who knew that the PCUSA, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, etc. were all part of the Religious Right? This is ever so informative.

Sarcasm aside, did these statements from Adam Russell Taylor et al. mention Jesus once? Even once?

Comment by Jeff on April 9, 2021 at 6:07 pm

Diane, forgive me for asking, but I’m curious:

Why do you waste your time commenting here?

Clearly you don’t believe in the Christ, nor do you believe in the Word of GOD. By your own words, clearly you DO believe in humanism — “good without GOD”.

Wouldn’t you derive more satisfaction and benefit working directly to advance whatever you do believe in, instead of being a you-know-what in the punchbowl here?

Please understand, I’m not trying to “cancel” you or suggest that you go away. On the contrary, please continue — considering and processing your arguments (such as they are) is valuable strength training in Christian apologetics. I just can’t figure out what you get out of it!

Comment by George Brown on April 9, 2021 at 6:30 pm

Growth of the REAL church began and has always grown the same way “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47) There are no real substitutes for scripture, prayer and the manifest power of God changing lives. Throughout history church growth and decline has varied proportionately with these. This is not hard to verify or understand. There’s no better marketing of ANYTHING than the personal testimony of a satisfied user. Living things grow and what is dead wastes away. In Christendom “dyingy” is not caused by declining membership. Membership declines because it iS dead!

Comment by td on April 9, 2021 at 7:46 pm

Decline has nothing to do with liberal, conservative, left, or right. It has to do with not being Christian. Why do these elites think anyone would want to be a part of organization that consistently speaks against its own beliefs? And why do they think anyone would even think about checking out Christianity if its supposed members do don’t share their faith?

Radical love! Radical love is loving someone even though they are sinners. Radical love is not about endorsing or celebrating sin. Love is not love no matter how much they want us to think it is.

This group just wants to reject christianity and return to paganism. I wish they would admit it and get on with it.

Comment by Bruce Atkinson on April 9, 2021 at 7:59 pm

I will listen to any Christian leader, writer, or theologian who (on the front end) takes some responsibility for the USA church decline and will blame their themselves (and their own denomination or theological orientation). This is because they have ALL failed, none of them are growing in leaps and bounds. So when I hear writers blame conservative evangelicals or leftwing Catholics or whomever, I know exactly what they are full of … and it is NOT the Holy Spirit.

Comment by Diane. on April 9, 2021 at 8:28 pm

Jeff asks with sincerity why I sometimes participate on this website…wondering what I “get out of it”.. General observation about that…must one be motivated “to get something out of it” when choosing to participate here or anywhere else? What if it’s just curiosity about how the other thinks and reasons?

For example, this site defends freedom of conscience or religious freedom of those who use those grounds to discriminate (outside of religious entities) against lgbtq folks. I think there needs to be a challenge to that. What religious doctrine compels Christian legislators in NC to propose a recent bill that would allow healthcare workers, from nursing home aides to surgeons, to refuse to provide care, information or service to anyone they believe to be LGBTQ, based on “objection of conscience”? How does that dovetail with Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan? Or the commandment to love one another as you love yourself? This proposed law reflects the belief that faith-based discrimination should be permitted, a belief expressed by those who write for this site. How is this a Christian belief?

Comment by Michael Murphy on April 9, 2021 at 8:47 pm

“…Such protections don’t exemplify “radical love,” he complains. In his liberal Christian view of radical love, Taylor evidently thinks Christians should reject conscience rights in favor of compulsory chaplaincy to secularism’s latest demands.”

Where Taylor falls down is in his understanding of “radical love”. True radical love hates the sin, but loves the sinner anyway. Have some used sin as a reasoning to ostracize and condemn? Yes, but this is not a sole trait of the religious right. That is merely people, Christian or otherwise, disliking someone that is different than they are. This is an old issue.

True “radical love” loves and includes the sinner. It does not accept the sin. Jesus himself laid out the rationale for loving our neighbor. “If your neighbor sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him.” And when Jesus was asked how many times must we forgive someone who continually sins if they also continually repent, he says “Seven times 77.” His point was clear: it is not OUR place to judge whether or not the heart is sincere. That’s his business. Our job is to love and readmit brothers and sisters who have fallen away.

HOWEVER, it comes at a cost. In John, Jesus asks the woman caught in adultery, “Woman, where are your accusers? Where are those that condemn you?” “There are none, sir.” “Then neither do I condemn you.” (there’s that radical love, and he follows it up with…) “Now go, and leave your life of sin.” (And there’s the cost.)

If that woman sins again, and repents, Jesus will forgive her again, and calls us to do so as well. However, He also directs her in the path of righteousness (go, and leave your life of sin), and He calls us to also do the same. “Therefore go and make disciples of all the world, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son, teaching them all these things I have taught you.” We, as Christians, are called to rebuke and teach those who aren’t right with God. And then love them.

Can you imagine the power that is in a love where the beloved KNOWS you don’t approve of what they are doing, but love them anyway? THIS is radical love. It’s not about accepting the sin it’s about loving the sinner despite the sin.

Taylor is completely backwards on his definition of radical love. And he certainly is not supported by scripture.

Comment by Michael Murphy on April 9, 2021 at 8:56 pm

Having a crisis of faith is normal for everyone, and it has been normal for centuries. It is sometimes difficult to reconcile what we read in the Bible with things we see in the world.

However, science does not contradict the Bible at all. SCIENTISTS sometimes do, but the evidence from which they posit their hypotheses does not. Saying that you believe in science and not God is like saying, “I believe in genetics, but not when they disagree with my preconceived notions of genetics.” God created “science” – which is merely man’s attempt to understand this world he inherited. And, as we have seen, “science” has changed its tune a great many times throughout recorded history, where God’s opinion (the Bible) has not. Skeptical? That’s OK. Take a look at Neils Bohr and Copernicus. Their scientific hypotheses were once considered canon, and now have been thoroughly debunked. Or even Charles Darwin, who changed his mind about his own posits. If you doubt this, read his 2 books, “Origin of the Species” and “Origin of the Species Revisited”.

There is way too much contradiction in the scientific community to trust it implicitly. And seeming contradictions in the Bible need to be viewed through a contextual lens, which they often are not.

If people are leaving the church because of “science”, it’s really because they have adopted a belief/faith in certain scientific opinions. It has nothing to do with the actual “science.”

Comment by Loren J Golden on April 9, 2021 at 11:16 pm

“I think many don’t buy into the literal narrative of miracles or a guy-in-the-sky who inseminates a virgin to have a son (not a daughter) in order to save all people from eternal fire (and once saved, they’re rewarded with an eternity of walking the golden streets on the other side of the clouds).”

1. God the Holy Spirit, who is everywhere present, not crassly a “guy-in-the-sky,” miraculously created a zygote in the womb of the Virgin Mary (Lk. 1.35) He did not inseminate her, as the pagan gods of the cultures around Ancient Israel purportedly did to human women on occasion.

2. The atoning death of the Lord Jesus did not save everyone, but only those who are called by God to put their trust in Him (Mt. 1.21, 20.28, 26.28, Jn. 10.11,15, Acts 13.48, 20.28, Rom. 8.32-34, Eph. 5.25-27, Heb. 2.17, 9.15,28, Rev. 5.9). Moreover, the “eternal fire” (Mt. 18.8, 25.41, Jude 7), or more accurately, “the lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (Rev. 19.20, 20.10,14-15, 21.8 i.e., Hell—Mt. 5.22,29-30, 18.9, Mk. 9.43, Jas. 3.6), probably should not be understood as a literal fire (although the possibility should certainly not be ruled out entirely, given how much emphasis the Lord Jesus put on it), but as a place that will amplify our internal torment constantly and without relief over our every wicked thought, word, or deed that brought us to that place, where we should be afflicted by our inner demons for all time, a place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 8.12, 13.42,50, 22.13, 24.51, 25.30, Lk. 13.28), with no one to comfort us or even commiserate with us.

3. The proverbial “golden street” (Rev. 21.21 found only in this passage, in the singular case, not plural) upon which the redeemed in Christ will ostensibly walk in the resurrection is in the New Jerusalem, which will be here on Earth, after God has made all things new, not “on the other side of the clouds.” It is likely that the depictions of the New Jerusalem, including the reference to “the street of the city (made) of pure gold, transparent as glass,” are not to be taken literally but rather point to a profound reality that our minds, at least on this side of eternity, cannot grasp.

Aside from these few corrections, you are quite correct: People by and large do not buy into the Christian narrative. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing.” (I Cor. 1.18) But by and large people do not take their sin seriously, far less consider how deeply offensive it is to the God who created them (Rev. 4.11) and sustains them “by the word of his power” (Heb. 1.3), “to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4.13). They do not think they need His forgiveness and salvation from sin and death, for “he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Lk. 7.47). As the Lord Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mt. 12.36-37) And if our words will be enough to condemn us, how much more the wicked deeds we have committed in the flesh? Indeed, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10.30)

You might be smug and confident in your dismissal of the Bible’s teachings on sin, judgment, justification, and salvation, but if you were six years old in 1956, you only have a few more decades at most to square things between you and your Maker before you go to meet Him. And unless you do, your meeting with Him will not go at all the way you think it will.

Comment by Donald on April 10, 2021 at 7:31 am

Anyone who is still reading Sojourners for insight into the truth about either what’s happening in the typical congregation or the Christian church generally is drinking from an empty well. It is a liberal-to-progressive echo chamber of would-be radicals who continue to look for a contested barricade where they can play at being a martyr but still go home to their cheese and whine.

Comment by Bebe Cofer on April 10, 2021 at 8:53 am

So hard to wrap my brain around Mark’s comments. I try hard to understand and appreciate comments which follow. What is there to say about the LCMS–Missouri synod?

Comment by Jeff on April 10, 2021 at 11:19 am

Michael Murphy: thank you for your two absolutely SUPERB posts.
They impart truth and I will take a lesson from them. To GOD be the glory.

Comment by Jim Radford on April 10, 2021 at 11:42 am

“Birds of a feather flock together.” People, being people, seek out others who see things as they themselves see them–socially, economically, and politically. It’s understandable. Close to 70% of the voters in my county supported Mr. Trump. There are around one hundred twenty-five churches here, and the majority are Baptists. I have lived and pastored (as a UMC pastor for 18 years) in this county for over forty years, know and love many of its residents, and I can tell you without hesitation or doubt that this one of the most racist areas I have ever been associated with. Christians who love Jesus but who don’t love People of Color. This I have found to be personally and experientially true. But speaking in a context of theology and polity, one United Methodist Church that I served for seven years has already pulled out of the denomination (presumably waiting for the official schism), and they are meeting at the home of one of its more prominent members until they conclude negotiations, currently underway, for purchasing from the denomination (it’s not at all clear if they will be successful, and it’s doubtful that the powers-that-be in the church really understand the Trust Clause of the UMC) their former property. In the meantime they have become trenchantly and recalcitrantly dogmatic not-to-mention a tad militant. One of its members that I ran into recently in passing asked me point-blank, as if to run me through her litmus-test of orthodoxy, and even somewhat as an accusation: “Do you believe in Hell?” This smug and self-righteous attitude is how I see many, at least in my area, who want to become part of the new United Methodist Reality. A UMC pastor just down the road from (in yet another church I pastored) made the comment not long ago that “All democrats are going to Hell.” Is is any wonder that conservative churches are being blamed for the snowballing demise of organized religion? Trust me on this: I have just as many examples of liberal nonsense as I do for conservative Christians. And I have no more tolerance for liberal ignorance as I do conservative. I just don’t have the time or space hear to write about the egregious and outlandish comments I have received from liberals. If you read this, you won’t believe me when I tell you that one of my more left-wing parishioners–a Masters-level retired public school teacher–said to me before church only a couple years ago that “I must give up Jesus.” That’s right. Verbatim. She said, “You must give up Jesus.” This was in response to recent sermons of mine repudiating the view expressed by many in the church that “Jesus is not the only way.” I believe that the Body of Christ should in fact be the “conscience of the State.” But not those churches that seem to me to be comprised of uninformed, undisciplined, disobedient, self-righteous, both pseudo- and anti-intellectual nay-saying “believers.” No wonder people are jumping ship.

Comment by Joan Sibbald on April 10, 2021 at 11:57 am

The Left seek to transform Western Civilization from Old Testament History and Prophecy and New Testament Christianity to “Let It All Hang Out” solipsism: the only reality is “Self” I, Me, My, Mine.

In the UK a few years ago a Christian doctor was fired by the hospital where he worked because he said he could not call a man a woman or a woman a man.

In the High Court’s ruling against the Christian doctor the Chief Justice wrote, “Biblical teachings are incompatible with humanity.”

Feminists, by definition, believe in “Self” I, Me, My, Mine!

I am a woman. I believe in God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit!

Comment by Patty Holtke on April 11, 2021 at 1:11 pm

What is causing the decline in churches is the same thing that has always caused people to not want to go to church. Church PEOPLE cause Christians and non-Christians to want to avoid church. No one has hurt me more in my 65 years than church people. I expect non-believers to sometimes be rude, thoughtless, even sometimes cruel. But church people who want to prove to God just how “righteous” they are end up being so out of touch, so indifferent about how their idiotic advice about things like marriage while giving zero concern about how their advice will affect the mental and physical health of person seeking advice, that it’s unreal!

Comment by George on April 11, 2021 at 2:41 pm

I have been seeing an ad on TV which goes like this. “When you die, are you going to Heaven or Not ?” That’s a new perspective. Must be for 6 year olds in Sunday school like Loren. Not is easier to stomach than hell, right? You can deny Heaven, hell, and the virgin birth all you want but don’t make the mistake of putting them in the same category as Santa clause and the easter bunny. It’s called Faith. You have it or you don’t..

Comment by Loren J Golden on April 11, 2021 at 3:11 pm

You are misconstruing what I said. I never said that there is no Hell. I only said that it might or might not be a literal fire. But it will most certainly be a place of eternal, unrelieved suffering, where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” a place you would not wish on even your worst enemy.

Comment by David on April 11, 2021 at 7:13 pm

Santa—he who lives forever, sees all, rewards the good, punishes the bad, and dwells in a remote place.

Comment by Loren J Golden on April 11, 2021 at 11:09 pm

What are you trying to say, David? That the Creator and Sustainer of the universe is a character from mythical folklore like Santa Claus? That the “good” can merit His favor, in contradiction to such passages as Mk. 10.18 & Rom. 3.10-18 that teach unequivocally that none is good but God alone? That He takes pleasure in the death of the wicked, in contradiction to such passages as Ezek. 18.23,31-32 & II Pet. 3.9 that plainly tell us that He does not? That He only inhabits some distant or secluded location, in contradiction to such passages as Ps. 139.7-12, Jer. 23.23-24, & Acts 17.24-28 that clearly say that He is everywhere present?

Comment by David on April 12, 2021 at 3:31 pm

I was merely describing the attributes of Santa.

Comment by Loren J Golden on April 13, 2021 at 11:37 pm

Comment by Pastor Mike on April 14, 2021 at 7:55 am

“Religion based on fear and rules, with the promise of a fairytale mansion in the sky as a reward might have served pre-scientific minds in earlier times. It doesn’t register with a lot of folks anymore” – Quote from Diane

(1.) What is the best reason to believe in God and why does that not convince you?
(2.) What would it take for you to believe in God?

Comment by Roger on April 15, 2021 at 5:27 pm

What is the Gospel? The only Gospel that is dispensationaly correct is 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 4. If we are not preaching Paul, we are accursed per Galatians 1: 8. When has this been preached in your Church? Also, how many know what Armenian – Wesleyan is? When have you heard this being preached in our Methodist Churches? People write in articles about “the Gospel” but never say exactly what it is. This is the failure of our Church and why people are leaving for one reason. If the trumpet sounds irregular, who will respond and fight. Our message has not been consistent for many years now. We need to know as Joshua said, Me and My house will follow the Lord. Paul gave us the Word of the Lord for our Salvation.

Comment by Jeff on April 15, 2021 at 9:06 pm

Thank you Roger! Great comment.

For a time our Methodist church was blessed with a Bible-believing (and preaching!) pastor who also taught us much about Wesley and his particular way of imitating CHRIST, and also about Armenianism (and Calvinism). Also history (American and Bible). Really a gifted guy who I count as my greatest spiritual mentor.

But your point stands — the Methodist tribe is falling short in supplying individuals like that to our pulpits.

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Fewer U.S. adults now identify with a specific religious affiliation than in the past. In other words, the group of “nones” is growing. whitemay/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images

It all started with a tweet.

It was March 2019, and the General Social Survey had just released its raw data, collected the previous year, on American political and religious life. For social scientists like myself, the survey is the most important instrument for analyzing changes in American society. That’s because it’s been asking the same questions on religion since its creation in 1972. If a researcher wants to know what share of Americans never attended church in the 1980s, the GSS is the place to go. As soon as I heard the latest results were in, I immediately downloaded the data file.

My primary objective was simple: I wanted to know how the seven major religious traditions in the United States had shifted over the previous two years. As soon as my boys were fed and happily playing in a bubble bath, I bounded down the stairs to my office and ran the more than 200 lines of computer code that would calculate the size of all seven religious traditions in every survey dating back to the early 1970s.

Illustration of Jesus at the Last Supper Andrew_Howe/E+ via Getty Images

For the first time, the religiously unaffiliated were the same size as both Roman Catholics and evangelical Protestants, the two largest religious groups in the United States.

I had to let the world know, but I was on a time crunch. My boys were starting to get restless in the bathtub. I quickly put together a graph, picked a premade color scheme and added the names of each religious tradition to the visualization. I wrote a quick Twitter caption, noted there was “some big news” and hit the tweet button.

I went back upstairs to get my boys ready for bed. I turned the lights out, and I looked down at my phone. The graph had already been retweeted nearly a hundred times. It was going viral.

What followed was one of the busiest periods of my life. Before this, I had spoken to two or three reporters in my entire academic career now I was fielding two or three interview requests per day. They all wanted to learn about this ascendant group of Americans — people of faith who check “none” when asked about their religious affiliation. The Nones. That one simple graph had taken on a life of its own. It was picked up by most major media outlets in the U.S. Reporters from Europe were intrigued. Journalists, podcasters and pastors were all asking me the same questions: How did this happen? And what does this mean for the future of American religion? I didn’t know it at the time, but my entire life had led me to this moment.

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While I have been a quantitative social scientist for over a decade, I have also been in Christian ministry since just after my 20th birthday. Wrestling with questions about the future of American religion is not just some cold and calculated academic exercise for me. It’s something I experience every Sunday when I get behind the pulpit.

I grew up Southern Baptist. My mother was a Sunday School teacher, and my father drove the church bus. My grandmother was the church secretary, and my grandfather was an usher. We went to church every time the doors were open. I was the kid who was there every Sunday morning and Sunday night. When I entered junior high, the youth group of First Baptist Church of Salem, Illinois, became my home away from home. I went to as many church camps, youth rallies, spaghetti fundraisers and lock-ins as I could. As I moved into high school, I began to lead Bible studies for the younger kids. I was all in.

While pursuing a graduate degree in political science, I began pastoring a small church of about 30 retirees. Thirteen years later, I’m still behind the pulpit.

During that time, I finished a master’s thesis, got married, bought a house, defended my dissertation and had two children. My church went from having about 50 people in the pews to just over 20. What was happening in American religion was also happening right in front of me.

But why? Every interview I do about American religion leads to this question. The truth is, I can’t point to just one reason why the religiously unaffiliated, the Nones, are growing astronomically, and no other academic can either. The problem with social science is that it’s the study of people. People are emotional, unpredictable and completely unintelligible most of the time.

One individual can leave a church after years of spiritual soul-searching because of a theological disagreement. Others leave because the congregation moved the Sunday service half an hour. Each person who walks away from religion has their own reasons and their own spiritual journey. However, there are large, unseen forces in American society that may make the decision to change religious affiliation easier or more difficult. Those invisible factors can be cultural, political, theological or just the spirit of the times.

On the European continent, where dozens of religious wars have been fought over the past several hundred years, very few people actually attend church with any regularity. Poland and Ireland have high levels of religious attendance — but those are outliers. In Italy, the center of Catholicism, religious adherence matches that of the U.S., with just 1 in 4 attending services once a week. Other populous European countries like Spain and Great Britain have attendance rates in the low teens, while in Germany and France, fewer than 1 in 10 of their citizens attend church once a week or more. While there are no reliable measures of European religiosity before the 1970s, the hundreds of vacant churches that exist across the continent bear witness to the reality that Europe has become an overwhelmingly secular continent since World War II.

Yet despite all the evidence that developed democracies have cast off religion as they have gained higher levels of educational and economic advancement, one case is clearly an outlier from this trend: the United States.

There are several explanations for why secularization theory — which contends that higher levels of educational achievement and economic prosperity results in a gradual move away from religion — doesn’t work in the case of the U.S. One argues that this is an exceptional country, so the social science theories about religion and economic advancement just don’t apply. Some have argued that American society is a decidedly individualistic one where authority is distrusted, and the low-church ethos of many Protestant churches appeals to the anti-establishment predispositions of many Americans. Another explanation comes from the French social scientist Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited the United States just a few years after its founding and was surprised by the strong separation of church and state.

In essence, American religion dodged a bullet by not being sponsored by the state. Finally, some social scientists credit the religious pluralism of the United States as the cause of American exceptionalism. The fact that no one tradition encompasses more than 30% of the American population might insulate religion from a national backlash against all expressions of faith.

Another way to think about the issue is that the United States is experiencing secularization but that it is several decades delayed in comparison to countries in Europe. The evidence suggests that the United States is seeing a wave of delayed secularization.

Illustration of Noah preparing for the flood duncan1890/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images

It’s worth noting, however, that the highly religious in America haven’t gone away. A 2017 study from Indiana University’s Landon Schnabel and Harvard’s Sean Bock suggests “intense religion” has persisted even as more “moderate religion” has seen declines. Put another way, as secularism in the United States has increased, there’s been a deepening of religious intensity among those who still go to church.

Surveys also show the highly religious have remained steady as a percentage of the population, which means that their overall numbers have grown with the population and their higher-than-average fertility patterns are one sign the trend probably won’t reverse. With these trends a full conquest of secularism in the United States is unlikely — but even more unlikely is a modern-day Great Awakening.

Maybe I am slightly biased because I am a trained political scientist, but I have always felt that the best explanation for the rapid rate of religious disaffiliation can be traced back to the recent political history of the United States. In recent years, everyone who studies religion and politics has been confronted with the same statistic: Eighty-one percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

While many political observers were quick to note that the GOP and white evangelicals have consistently had a strong relationship, many pundits viewed the 81% figure as some sort of statistical aberration when in reality it was just business as usual. In fact, 79.1% of white evangelicals voted for John McCain for president in 2008, and 77.4% cast a ballot for Mitt Romney in 2012. Outside of Black Protestants, there is no more politically homogeneous religious group than white evangelicals.

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It’s important to understand that the connection between the devoutly religious and the Republican Party hasn’t always been this strong. In fact, in 1978, half of all white weekly churchgoers identified as Democrats, while today, just one quarter do. This shift to the right among the devoutly religious may have ignited a backlash whereby political moderates and liberals fled church in droves when their political beliefs were challenged.

The other big factor in the country’s shifting landscape? The American family. It doesn’t look the same in 2018 as it did in the mid-1970s. A raft of social science research concludes that being part of a religious community is more likely when someone comes from a stable household environment. This may be because of a perceived hostility in churches toward single mothers or divorcées. It could be that people see religion as a luxury for people who have a weekly routine, something that falls out of the reach of many Americans.

In the 1970s, nearly three-quarters of all adults in the United States were married. That dropped below half in the late 1990s and has continued a downward trajectory. In 2018, just 42.5% of all Americans said they were married. Put another way, if you selected 10 random adults in 1972, seven of them would have been married. A random sample of 10 adults in 2018 would only contain four married individuals.

While marital status is an important part of the religious affiliation puzzle, it is not the only family-related variable that can drive disaffiliation. One of the most well-cited theories in the sociology of religion is called the “life-cycle effect,” which is the understanding that religious attendance waxes and wanes over a person’s lifetime. Specifically, children are often very religious, with many growing up in youth groups and attending church camps and other religious events. However, when they graduate from high school, they move into a more adventurous stage and try to find their own identity. Often, this leads to less-frequent church attendance. This disaffiliation is short-lived as many begin to settle down in their late 20s or early 30s, a life stage often characterized by marriage and child-rearing. Many want their children to grow up with a moral foundation like they did, so they regain a religious affiliation. If the life-cycle effect applies, the societal institutions of marriage and family should draw people back into the pews.

Illustration of Elijah and the widow of Serepta bauhaus1000/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images

That’s exactly what the data from the General Social Survey shows: It’s clear that the group of people who are most likely to be religiously unaffiliated — to be Nones — are people who are not married and do not have children. In fact, 35% of that group said they had no religious affiliation in 2018, which is 12 percentage points higher than the rate of the general public. It’s worthwhile to note that someone who is neither married nor a parent is twice as likely to be unaffiliated as someone who is both.

While the rate of marriage has dropped substantially in the past 40 years, the share of Americans who say they have no children has stayed remarkably stable. The data indicates that the rate of childless adults was approximately 24% in the early 1970s but rose to 28% by 1990 and has stayed at that level for the past 30 years. The issue is not necessarily fertility it’s family structure. Americans are having as many children as they did three decades ago, but a much smaller share of those children are being raised in two-parent households.

Taken together, the data paints a chilling picture. While it would be easy to say that this is largely driven by young people moving away from a religious faith, there’s also some evidence that older Americans are moving away from faith communities as they enter their twilight years. While churches used to rely on many of their young people moving back toward a religious tradition when they hit their 30s and 40s, that seems to be less and less likely with each successive generation.

The data indicates that less-educated Americans are only slightly less likely to move away from religion than those who have at least some college education, but as more and more Americans pursue coursework at the collegiate level, the likelihood of disaffiliation does increase. At the same time, many of the societal factors that used to keep women in church have begun to fade. In 2018, a woman without children was just as likely to be a “None” as a childless man. That portends a bleak future for religion, as more Americans are choosing to be child-free. Meanwhile, some of the cultural influences that surround religion among racial groups have diminished as well. Disaffiliation among Black Americans is rapid, and now there is no racial group that is not at least 30% religiously disaffiliated.

Truth is, there’s no segment of American society that has been immune to the rise of religious disaffiliation.

When it comes to understanding the rise of the Nones, I like to compare American churches to a foam cup of water. Churches have always had pinholes punched in the sides of their cups. They would lose water through the deaths of their older members, but the water kept being replenished by young families bringing their children or by members converting people from the community. For many, the water being poured in vastly exceeded the amount that was lost through the pinhole-sized leaks. Now those small drips have become gaping holes, and the water is leaving rapidly. Those holes represent a rapidly aging core demographic that is dying off, but those punctures also include those who grew up in the church but then left, never to return. At the same time, the flow of water that used to refill the cup has slowed to a trickle as churches continue to struggle to bring in new members.

If the flow of water into the cup slows down even more or the holes expand in diameter, the cup is going to run empty at some point in the near future. But all is not lost. If the church wants to increase the flow into its cup, there are potentially large reservoirs in the American population, some of which seem fairly easy to tap. If less water flows out the bottom and more pours in from the top, churches can maintain their congregations far into the future.

A Christian survival guide for a secular age

The case for hard religion

Let’s begin with the things that cannot be changed. I think that no matter how effective American churches are at evangelism or missions or community service over the past four decades, those efforts would have been only slightly effective at stopping the rise of the Nones. The best apologists, the most charismatic speakers, or the catchiest praise and worship bands would not have held secularization at bay. There’s no way to know for certain, but it’s fair to say that a significant chunk of the increase in the unaffiliated was due to shifts in American culture away from religion. It is foolhardy to think that what happened in Europe, which was also experiencing a dramatic rise in educational levels, would not, to some extent, come to American shores. The reality is simply this: Americans used to be Christians simply by default. Secularization merely gave permission for a lot of people to express who they truly are — religiously unaffiliated.

But I must make one more data-driven observation. While there are dozens of data points about the tremendous number of Americans who no longer affiliate with a religion, religious belief in this country is still surprisingly robust. In 1988, 1.8% of respondents to the General Social Survey said that God didn’t exist, and another 3.8% said that God might exist but there’s no way to find out. In 2018, just 4.7% of people said that there was no God, and 6.5% said there was no way to know for sure. While nearly 1 in 4 Americans no longer affiliates with religion, just 1 in 10 Americans does not believe God exists. The issue is not that interest in spiritual matters has declined it’s that people do not want to label themselves.

Illustration of Jesus on the way to Emmaus bauhaus1000/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images

So what gives? If almost all Americans still believe in the divine, we should not be seeing the number of Nones continue to slowly and steadily grow every passing year. But we are. So how do we respond? To start, we should listen to Nones’ stories, and understand how Christians, specifically white Protestants and Catholics, have made left-leaning believers feel more and more marginalized with every passing election.

People who grew up in faith communities but left them when they moved into adulthood all have a story to tell. Some of those stories are not that enlightening. The church just didn’t work for them and they saw no benefit in regular attendance. Others left for reasons that are much more instructive. Whatever their motives, we should be seeking out people willing to tell their stories, inviting them to tell us, and listening — really listening — to them.

What sort of stories might we hear? Many people have been abused at the hands of people who claim to act in the name of Jesus Christ. For decades, parents have told their LGBTQ children that they are no longer allowed in their house. Some have been made to feel unwelcome when they’ve asked too many questions about why God acted so terribly in the Old Testament or how an all-powerful force could allow children to die of cancer. Others have been raised in such a controlling environment that rebellion has become their motivating force in adulthood. Many have been forced to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, and church is a luxury these people feel they can’t afford. Some felt ostracized for marrying someone of a different faith or getting pregnant out of wedlock. These stories, and many more, are completely legitimate reasons to walk away from any institution — regardless of whether it embodies the truth or not.

A phrase I often repeat to my students when we talk about respecting other people’s political viewpoints is, “Your world is not their world.” I might also say, “Your story is not their story.” I think many Christians have a hard time putting themselves in the shoes of the person who left church and never came back or those who never made the connection in the first place. They don’t recognize that to belittle, minimize or try to explain away the stories of those who walked away or never connected to a church home is to fail to understand that not everyone comes to faith the same way we did.

Illustration of Jesus walking on the sea bauhaus1000/DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images

One aspect of people’s stories that we often do not attend to is their politics. I know this observation has become an overwrought cliché, but God is not a Republican or a Democrat. But if someone walked into most Christian houses of worship this upcoming weekend, they would not find much evidence to support that conclusion. In 1972, half of all white weekly churchgoers were Democrats now just a quarter are. Of the 20 largest predominantly white Protestant traditions in the United States, 16 became more Republican between 2008 and 2018. Four in 5 white evangelical Protestants voted for Donald Trump for president in 2016. The totality of that shift is absolutely staggering, and for many people whose politics lean left but who still want to be part of a Christian community, there are no options for them locally. And some churches seem to go out of their way to make that reality known.

I’m friends with a number of pastors on Facebook, acquaintances I have picked up over the past 15 years in ministry. Often, I feel like scrolling my newsfeed is a type of social science experiment. I’m just flabbergasted by how often these pastors post things that belittle, demean or misrepresent the views of their political opposition. In my mind, what they are doing is no different from placing a sign on the front door of their church every Sunday morning that says, “No Democrats Allowed.” If Christians want to seek and save the lost, why would some of them go out of their way to alienate a third of the population of the United States? There are already enough hurdles for someone who might want to come back to church. Why add another?

I have arrived at two conclusions. The first is that these pastors don’t realize there are Democrats who could potentially want to visit their church next Sunday. The second is that these pastors are convinced that no other political beliefs are compatible with the Gospel. And I see my liberal Christian friends fall into this trap as well. There are lots of people who voted for Donald Trump for well-considered reasons, and maligning these Republican voters does Christianity no favors. Either conclusion shows such an unbelievable lack of awareness and leaves no doubt in my mind as to why so many people have become or remain religiously unaffiliated.

Now, that’s not to say that all pastors engage in such behavior on social media. I know what many of them would say: I don’t preach politics on my Facebook feed or from the pulpit! I’d agree with them, and so does the data. But they need to recognize that their members are absorbing political messages from other aspects of their church involvement. They might pick up clues from a conversation they had before church about property taxes or a Wednesday evening small group discussion about abortion or gay marriage. There are no truly apolitical churches.

I understand the conundrum. Most religious leaders realize that speaking about politics from the pulpit might engender support from a majority of congregants but might drive others away, so they know it’s prudent for them to steer clear. That’s a natural response, and I think it comes from a good place. However, church members are always on the lookout for people to help them think about how to respond to current events or government policies.

When we do not apply the Gospel to the very real concerns of modern society, we’re opening the door for others to influence church members. Those “others” might be friends, family, pastors of other churches — almost anyone, really. But a pastor once mentioned to me that while he has a captive audience for one hour once a week, the cable news networks are piped into members’ homes for eight hours a day, seven days a week. That’s a sobering thought. If pastors don’t give congregations guidance on how to think about politics, then they will get it from somewhere else. And unfortunately, what drives clicks, eyeballs and ad revenue are media personalities who do their best to not only make their political party look good but make the other side of the aisle look ignorant, out of touch and immoral.

If I were a younger man, I would try to offer some sage wisdom and practical advice to fill the pews back up. However, experience tells me that there is no easy answer. I became a senior pastor at the tender age of 23. I had just started a graduate program and honestly needed to make some money to pay the rent. Luckily, the older congregants of a small church welcomed me with open arms. I thought that if I just preached really well and did a lot of visits, people would come to church. After a year, I left. I think that the church expected me to be a miracle worker, and I did nothing to downplay those expectations.

I learned that just last year, the church officially closed its doors, and the building was razed a few weeks later. The church I currently serve had 50 regular worshippers when I assumed the pulpit 13 years ago. Today, we are down to about 15 most Sundays. We’ve had weeks when the total attendance was in the single digits. Again, I thought that if I set myself on fire, people would come to watch me burn. That’s not what happened.

Illustration of Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem Andrew_Howe/E+ via Getty Images

About five years into my ministry, I became listless and angry. Why wasn’t the church growing? Why can’t we bring in some young people? I thought of myself as a failure. I felt like one of those factory workers who got laid off after 20 years of hard work and dedication, wondering why my efforts weren’t being rewarded. I kept thinking about what the church used to be — scores of members with activities almost every day of the week and a tremendous influence on the community. Now we were struggling to keep the lights on. I was no different from the guys who meet for coffee at fast-food restaurants and talk about life before the factory closed.

The word nostalgia can be translated “an ache for home.” It seems that I, the coffee-shop crew, and frankly, a lot of people are consumed by this pining for a bygone era. But after a period of wallowing, I realized that our church must move forward. So we stepped out in faith and began packing brown paper sacks filled with food for schoolchildren who were struggling with poverty in our community. We started with 30 bags per weekend. We had no idea if it would work or if we could actually afford it.

Nearly a decade later, we pack nearly 300 bags of food each weekend and serve three local schools. Every time we think that the money is going to run out, a check shows up. Like the factory worker who sees the plant closure as an opportunity to go back to school and retrain for a different career, our food program was the avenue we took to keep moving forward.

When we first started organizing our brown bag program, some members of the congregation thought that we should drop a tract into the bags, but I refused. For me, the purpose of those bags was not to try to bring people to Christ. It was to show those kids that someone they don’t even know loves them and wants to help. So we just include a simple note saying who we are and what we are doing. We make sure to let them know that if they need help, they can just give us a call.

Well, one Friday, the phone rang. It was a grandmother of one of the children who had received a bag. The temperature had begun to drop, and her grandson didn’t have a warm coat. She asked for help. It just so happened that we were having a rummage sale that weekend and had a fellowship hall full of clothes. We invited her to come down and take whatever she needed. Just an hour later, she and her grandson stuffed two armloads of clothes into her trunk and drove away.

I have no idea if that young man or his grandmother will ever come to know Christ — whether that young man will be an atheist, a churchgoer or a None. But here’s what I do know: When that young man is sitting around as an adult one day, talking about spiritual things, he might have some bad things to say about the church, but I hope that when he tells his story of faith, he at least makes mention of the one time when he needed help and a church came to his rescue.

Ryan Burge is an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University. This article is excerpted from his new book, “The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are and Where They Are Going.

9 Great Freethinkers and Religious Dissenters in History

What kind of world would we have if a majority of the human race was atheist?

To hear religious apologists tell it, the triumph of atheism would mean a swift descent into selfishness and chaos. The defenders of the faith argue that atheism inevitably leads to selfishness and nihilism, and that only religion can justify charity or compassion, bind people together in community, or inspire a lively and flourishing culture. But this assertion can only be sustained by ignoring the accomplishments of famous nonreligious people throughout history, of which there have been many.

To dispel the myth that nonbelievers have never contributed anything of worth or value to human civilization, I want to highlight some who've left their mark in the arts, the sciences, or the humanities. Demonstrating that the godless count distinguished members of the human race among our numbers is a way to fight back against this prejudice and to demonstrate that we, too, have a historical legacy we can be proud of.

Not all of the people profiled here were strict atheists, but all of them were freethinkers, a broader umbrella term that embraces a rainbow of unorthodoxy, religious dissent, skepticism, and unconventional thinking. It's no surprise that so many influential thinkers and creative types have come from the ranks of these intellectual revolutionaries. Organized religion tends to reward people not for thinking creatively or critically, but for reciting and defending the dogmas of the previous generation. Throughout human history, it's consistently been true that hidebound theocracies have been mired in poverty, backwardness and intellectual stagnation, whereas the most dramatic advances have come about in times and places where people had the freedom to think for themselves, to freely question and debate. The lives of all the men and women to be recounted here bear testimony to this.

Albert Einstein. The archetypal scientific genius, Einstein inaugurated a revolution in physics that bears fruit to this day. His theories and equations undergird the 20th century: technologies from nuclear power to GPS satellites only exist because of his discoveries. But beyond his impressive scientific contributions, he was known as a peacemaker and civil-rights advocate: he was one of the first to warn the world of the dangers of Nazism, joined anti-lynching campaigns, publicly opposed McCarthyism, and called for nuclear disarmament worldwide. Later in life, he was offered the presidency of Israel but turned it down, saying that he was unqualified.

Einstein famously made statements like "God does not play dice with the universe" that have inspired religious apologists to try to claim him as their own, but on other occasions, he made it clear that this was nothing but poetic metaphor. He made his views known in letters, writing, for example: "I do not believe in a personal god and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." On another occasion, he wrote, "the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

Robert Ingersoll. One of the most famous Americans that most people today have never heard of, Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll, known in his lifetime as the "Great Agnostic," once commanded national fame and renown. In an era before television and radio, public oratory was the leading form of entertainment, and Ingersoll set the gold standard. He was one of the most sought-after speakers in the country he drew crowds of thousands, and on one occasion, after hearing him speak, Mark Twain observed, "What an organ is human speech when it is employed by a master!"

He was a staunch abolitionist who served honorably for the Union in the Civil War, and went on to advocate progressive causes like free speech, women's rights, anti-racism and the abolition of corporal punishment. Though politicians repeatedly sought his endorsement and his rhetorical talents, the highest position that Ingersoll himself ever held was the attorney general of Illinois - due, no doubt, to his willingness to eloquently express his freethought views. In a eulogy, the New York Times observed that only his outspoken irreligious views kept him from taking "that place in the. public life of his country to which by his talents he would otherwise have been eminently entitled." Not that Ingersoll himself would have wanted it any other way: as he declared, a truly spiritual man "attacks what he believes to be wrong, though defended by the many, and he is willing to stand for the right against the world."

W.E.B. DuBois. Contrary to popular impression, the black community in America has a long tradition of involvement with freethought and secularism, as exemplified by one of its most influential racial-justice activists, W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois was the first black man to get a Ph.D. from Harvard, one of the founders of the NAACP, and a prolific and critically praised writer, educator and historian.

By DuBois' own account, he was raised religious and attended an orthodox missionary college, but his doubts on religion blossomed while studying in Europe. When he returned to America, he taught at a black Methodist college, Wilberforce University, but drew the wrath of school administrators for refusing to lead students in prayer. As Susan Jacoby quotes him in her book Freethinkers, "I flatly refused again to join any church or sign any church creed. From my 30th year on I have increasingly regarded the church as an institution which defended such evils as slavery, color caste, exploitation of labor and war." He also said that he wanted "to make the Negro church a place where colored men and women of education and energy can work for the best things regardless of their belief or disbelief in unimportant dogmas and ancient and outworn creeds."

Zora Neale Hurston. Like DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston was an influential black freethinker and an acclaimed author of the early 20th century. She attended Columbia University on a scholarship, and while living in Manhattan at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, met scholars and artists like Margaret Mead and Langston Hughes. She herself wrote both fiction and anthropological works about the black community. Her masterwork, the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, was judged one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

In her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road, Hurston makes her freethought views clear and denies that the prospect of nonexistence after death holds any fear for her:

Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness, and an attempt to avoid, by trickery, the rules of the game as laid down. I do not choose to admit weakness. I accept the challenge of responsibility. Life, as it is, does not frighten me, since I have made my peace with the universe as I find it, and bow to its laws. It seems to me that organized creeds are collections of words around a wish. I feel no need for such.

I know that nothing is destructible things merely change forms. When the consciousness we know as life ceases, I know that I shall still be part and parcel of the world. I was a part before the sun rolled into shape and burst forth in the glory of change. I was, when the earth was hurled out from its fiery rim. I shall return with the earth to Father Sun, and still exist in substance when the sun has lost its fire, and disintegrated into infinity to perhaps become a part of the whirling rubble of space. Why fear? The stuff of my being is matter, ever changing, ever moving, but never lost so what need of denominations and creeds to deny myself the comfort of all my fellow men?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Although no one person deserves sole credit for laying the groundwork for the Nineteenth Amendment, Elizabeth Cady Stanton comes close. One of the pivotal early events in the suffrage movement, the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, was organized and shepherded in large part by Stanton, and she played a key role in issuing the famous Declaration of Sentiments that first called for women's suffrage (against the wishes of other attendees, some of whom felt that demanding the vote was too radical even for them).

Despite a lifetime of organizing and lobbying for women's suffrage, Stanton was often shunted aside by her own movement for her controversial, outspoken freethought views and her attacks on religion as a major justification for the continued oppression of women, including her scathing The Woman's Bible. On one occasion, she wrote, "I have endeavoured to dissipate these religious superstitions from the minds of women, and base their faith on science and reason, where I found for myself at least that peace and comfort I could never find in the Bible and the church."

Some of Sanger's spiritual descendants in the feminist movement had similarly irreligious views. One of the most famous was Margaret Sanger, one of the founders of Planned Parenthood and a fearless crusader in the fight to make birth control available and legal to American women. Sanger's motto was "No Gods, No Masters," and her newsletter had the memorable title The Woman Rebel.

Asa Philip Randolph. The 20th-century American civil rights movement is often identified with Christianity, which is almost single-handedly due to the influence of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But there were secular humanists who played almost as important a role, one of whom was Asa Philip Randolph, a trailblazing labor organizer whose career spanned the 20th century and who was one of the pioneers of the strategy of nonviolent civil disobedience.

Randolph entered the civil-rights movement by way of the labor movement, beginning by organizing mainly black railroad workers. But he soon set its sights higher, especially as the country was drawn into World War II and the defense industry was booming. He took the lead in organizing civil-rights marches that convinced Presidents Roosevelt and Truman to issue executive orders ending segregation in defense contractors and the armed services. As his star rose, he served as vice president of the AFL-CIO and helped organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King's "I have a dream" speech was delivered.

In addition to all this, Randolph was a lifelong freethinker. He was the founder of a literary magazine, The Messenger, whose masthead declared that "Prayer is not one of our remedies. We consider prayer as nothing more than a fervent wish." He was also one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto in 1970.

Robert Frost. New England's most famous poet is justly immortalized for his poetic tributes to nature and rural life, but his religious skepticism is lesser known. Frost's views on God are complex: for much of his life, he grappled with a deep-seated superstitious fear he could never fully shake off. But after twenty years of marriage, his wife said that he was an atheist, and he didn't deny it.

What's interesting is that this comes through inadvertently in his poetry. When speaking of his fellow human beings and their relationships, Frost is warm, welcoming, thoroughly humanist. But when he turns to the subject of God, he more often than not becomes dark and terrifying, depicting the idea of a deity as a savage force of nature more than a worthy object of reverence. His famous poem "Design" calls the suffering and predation in nature a "design of darkness". The poem "Once by the Pacific," Frost's vision of the apocalypse, has the poet looking out at crashing ocean waves and envisioning them as a harbinger of doomsday. The poem "A Loose Mountain" envisions God as a cosmic destroyer waiting to hurl a meteor at the Earth, like a stone thrown from a sling, biding his time so that he can release it when it will cause the maximum amount of devastation.

Emma Lazarus. Like Robert Frost, Emma Lazarus was a poet whose words have become defining of the American experience. She may not have as many classics to her name, but her one crowning achievement may be even better-known than any of his: her poem "The New Colossus," best known as the words engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. " The statue was originally a symbol of republicanism, but it was Lazarus' poem that recast it as a beacon for immigrants from all over the world. Even when America has fallen short of this ideal, it's these words which remind us that we can do better and inspire us to work for positive change.

Lazarus came from a Jewish background, but like the others profiled here, she was known as a freethinker. As the Jewish Virtual Library records, on one occasion she told a rabbi who asked her to contribute to a hymn book, "I shall always be loyal to my race, but I feel no religious fervor in my soul."

Yip Harburg. E.Y. "Yip" Harburg isn't a household name, but some of his works are. Harburg was the Broadway lyricist who wrote the words to some of America's most memorable and culturally significant songs, including "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", "It's Only a Paper Moon", and all the music from The Wizard of Oz, including "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Harburg was known as "Broadway's social conscience" for the progressive messages of his songs and musicals, including "Bloomer Girl" and "Hooray for What," which advocated feminism and anti-war themes respectively. At one point he was blacklisted by McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee, but kept working for the stage even as he was barred from television and film. He said in a biography, "The House of God never had much appeal for me. Anyhow, I found a substitute temple - the theater."

For more famous historical freethinkers, see my series "The Contributions of Freethinkers", Susan Jacoby's excellent book, "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism", or Jennifer Michael Hecht's "Doubt: A History".

God's Playground: A History of Poland, Vol. 1: The Origins to 1795

I have been told by friends living in Warsaw that Norman Davies&apos God&aposs Playground is required reading for American diplomats employed in Poland. If this is true, Bravo for the U.S. Foreign service.

The state of historical writing in Poland is lamentable. During the 19th century when England, France and the United States were establishing their historical professions, Poland did not exist. It was divided between three empires who appeared to long-term staying power. During this time the universiti I have been told by friends living in Warsaw that Norman Davies' God's Playground is required reading for American diplomats employed in Poland. If this is true, Bravo for the U.S. Foreign service.

The state of historical writing in Poland is lamentable. During the 19th century when England, France and the United States were establishing their historical professions, Poland did not exist. It was divided between three empires who appeared to long-term staying power. During this time the universities in Poland neither taught Polish history nor recruited professors competent in the area. Poland was reconstituted in 1919 when all three of its occupiers collapsed simultaneously. Twenty years later, the Poland disappeared again to be recreated in a radically different form by the Russians five years later.

Whatever the merits of soviet style historical writing may be, it does not follow the norms that any Westerner who has ever taken a university level history course would be familiar with. Fortunately Davies arrived on the scene. We can hope that he will inspire future generations of Polish historians to write in a form that we can comprehend and accept.

Whatever the future may bring, for the present time Polish history would be largely incomprehensible to us without Davies because its institutions are so different from those of Western Europe.

For a start, the Polish Aristocracy was not structured on the Feudal model used in France and England. Even the heraldic conventions were different. Polish did not become the lingua franca of the country until the 19th Century. Prior to that time Latin was the language of the court and the language used by the German, Polish, Ukrainian and Lithuanian merchants to communicate with each other. Until the 19th century very few works of literature were written in Polish.

At the time that France and England expelled their Jews, Poland was welcoming them. For most of its history, 80% of the world's Jews lived in Poland. In Poland, the Jews had their own courts and parliaments.

There were no religious wars in Poland during the time of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Most of Poland was outside of the Hanseatic league.

Poland's experience then was radically different from the rest of Western Europe. Davies who always keeps his eye on what we know to make Poland understandable.

Volume I ends with the Partition of Poland by Russia, Austria and Prussia in 1795. Poland then begins a 126 period of non-existence that would again be incomprehensible to us without Davies' Volume II. . more

Norman Davies is an outstanding historian who is one of the world&aposs leading experts in Polish history, and the book demonstrates this. It contains a wealth of detail that paints the daily life in historic times, but also analyses long-term developments within the Polish nation as well as in international politics, of which Poland has so often and so dramatically been the victim. This is simply the best and most comprehensive book on Polish history written by a non-Pole.

There were however also a Norman Davies is an outstanding historian who is one of the world's leading experts in Polish history, and the book demonstrates this. It contains a wealth of detail that paints the daily life in historic times, but also analyses long-term developments within the Polish nation as well as in international politics, of which Poland has so often and so dramatically been the victim. This is simply the best and most comprehensive book on Polish history written by a non-Pole.

There were however also a few things I did not like about the book. The first is that Davies tends often to assume that you are already familiar with the main events. When he introduces a subject he will often already then link it up with future events, like certain risings or battles, that at that point will not have been discussed. He can also get quite academic in some parts and bother you with lots of details and academic considerations that do not really push the historic narrative forward. This makes in my opinion the book at some points a bit tedious for the enthusiastic amateur historian who is new to Polish history. . more

Let me start with a clarifying disclosure - although I have been living in Sweden since my early teens, I was born and raised in Poland and as such always regard myself as a Pole. This fact puts me in a perhaps unusual position when talking about this book. On one hand, I can’t deny that the emotional attachment to the subject of this book is definitely present and affects my opinion of it. But at the same time, I think that my personal background turns me into enough of an outsider to be able t Let me start with a clarifying disclosure - although I have been living in Sweden since my early teens, I was born and raised in Poland and as such always regard myself as a Pole. This fact puts me in a perhaps unusual position when talking about this book. On one hand, I can’t deny that the emotional attachment to the subject of this book is definitely present and affects my opinion of it. But at the same time, I think that my personal background turns me into enough of an outsider to be able to resist the worst of my patriotic passions and be able to regard this book in an objective manner.

First volume of “God’s Playground” covers the history of Poland from its origins to the third and final partition of Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth in 1795, at which time both of its parts disappeared from European maps as sovereign national entities until 1918. Structure of this volume is somewhat peculiar. Initial third of the book consists of an orthodox, chronological overview of founding dynasties of Polish kingdom - the Piasts and Jagiellons. Once the author reaches the establishment of Polish-Lithuanian Union in 1569, he changes tack and switches to a topical analysis of specific aspects of the Commonwealth. Religion. culture, economics, social structures and diplomacy are dealt with in separate chapters. The nobility of the Commonwealth, with its unique features and social standing is described and analyzed with extra attention. Once finished with this topical dissection, the author once again picks up his chronological narrative and continues, one elected monarch at the time, up until the forced abdication of Stanislaw August in 1795. Final chapters of the book retell the sad story of developments that led to three partitions and how they were accomplished by Poland-Lithuanias hostile neighbours.

As a factual source of information on Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, its social and political inner workings, its many unique features, peculiarities and faults (at least when regarded from Western perspective), there is no doubt that this volume is most probably the best work on this topic currently available in English language. However, having said that, I am sincerely perplexed over the status of this book as the seminal work on the history of Poland. When regarded as such, this first volume has pretty serious flaws, first and foremost of them being that its focus is squarely set on the period between 1569 and 1795. Compared with the author’s dedication and attention to detail of the analysis of that period, the Piast and Jagellonian dynasties are in my opinion handled by Davis in rudimentary and frankly, dismissive manner.

Piasts and Jagiellonians aren’t the only ones given the short shrift by professor Davies. In his depiction of international relations between Poland and its neighbours, a lot of attention is (deservingly so) paid to the Teutonic Order. The Golden Horde, on the other hand, is mysteriously missing pretty much altogether. Granted, the Mongol invasions, due to the devastation they caused, cannot be ignored by the good professor but once Subutai turns back east, they pretty much disappear from the scene. Perhaps the Tatars are too exotic and hard to grasp subject for English-speaking audience this book is intended for, but make no mistake - the Golden Horde and the Khanates it later transformed into, they all played an extremely vital role in the history of both Poland and Lithuania. And yet, in “God’s Playground”, they simply don’t exist and thus, the Polish-Lithuanian expansion into Belorus and Ukraine. just happens all on its own.

Omissions like those I mention above can be annoying, but at the same time I do realize that the author, even with best intentions, could not cover all of Poland’s history. Something I’ve had much harder time tolerating was the negativity of the author consistently displayed throughout this book when dealing with the period of the Republic. If one were to rely on the narrative provided in this book, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that Commonwealth’s period of greatness and dominance was achieved despite the stupidity and selfishness of its leading classes, while the real big question to ponder over isn't why the final and complete disintegration of Poland-Lithuania took place, but rather why it didn’t happen much sooner. The bleak view of the author regarding pretty much every single aspect of the Commonwealth causes me to regard it not as a “history”, but as a dissection and post-mortem, and in my opinion bordering on being malevolent to boot.

If you think I am overreacting, imagine a book that proclaims itself as a comprehensive history of England from 1066 to the end of Stuart dynasty in 1688. As you read it, you discover that the author skimps through period of Plantagents and Tudors, spends most of his time analyzing reasons for English Civil Wars of 1642-51, dedicates final part of his work on lamentations regarding the silliness of Charles II and incompetence of Jacob II, rounding up with conclusion that the takeover by the House of Orange was nothing but just desserts for England's previous ineptitude. This is how I, as a Pole, percieve first volume of ‘God’s Playground’, if it is to be regarded as a history of my country.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had its fair share of problems and flaws. Some of them turned out to be terminal and in the end, they led to its demise. However, I fail to see how focusing almost exclusively on those faults gives a just picture of its history, especially in a work which tries to illuminate this subject to a public probably completely unfamiliar with the topic to begin with. I’m quite sure that professor Davies’ intentions were benign, but I’m afraid that his effort doesn’t do much to improve the understanding of Poland in the West. Indeed, I’m worried that this volume actually does more harm than good. . more

Nuclear Black Market and India’s Expanding Weapons Program

The threat around nuclear and radiological material has become acute in India with its expanding nuclear weapons program. There exist huge vulnerabilities at the storage, control and transport of nuclear weapons and materials in India. As India attempts to integrate with the international nuclear community, the rising and recurrent episodes of illicit uranium possession and sales in India is worrisome. This is the second such event happened within less than 30 days as on 7 th May 2021 Indian authorities had seized 7.1kg of natural uranium and arrested two persons from Nagpur. Similar theft incidents have been reported in the past as well. Such events point out that there exists a poor control in India to regulate its such facilities which do not have even satisfactory security and safety mechanism. Given the context, it is equally important to unearth the black market for nuclear material inside India.

When focusing upon security aspect, the safety of India’s nuclear and radiological materials and facilities, intensified weapons development program is also worrisome. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has produced wildly divergent estimates in its Annual Year Book-2020 while assessing the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security. The report appears to be generously misleading and politically motivated while ignoring the higher estimates of Indian nuclear stockpile, where, rapidly expanding Indian nuclear arsenal portends regional and global catastrophe.

In contrast, 5 years ago, the Institute for Science and International Security estimated that India’s stockpile of fissile material was only sufficient to make approximately 75-to-125 nuclear weapons. Whereas in 2016, a study published titled as “Indian Unsafeguarded Nuclear Program: An Assessment” specified that there existed sufficient material for New Delhi to produce between 356 and 492 plutonium-based nuclear weapons.

In May 2017, Dr. Mansoor Ahmed in his research “Indian Nuclear Exceptionalism” came up with the estimates that India has enough capacity to produce up to 2,686 nuclear weapons. Along with this, Dr. Mansoor, way back in 2013, estimated that New Delhi enjoys a huge advantage in existing stockpiles over Pakistan with a stockpile of 2.4 ± 0.9 tons of HEU (30-40 enriched=800 kg weapon-grade HEU) 750 kg of weapon-grade plutonium and 5.0 tons of weapon-usable reactor-grade plutonium produced by India’s Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors. This stockpile of reactor-grade plutonium has been designated as “strategic” and would therefore remain outside safeguards.

The 2018 arsenal of India is thought to contain 130 to 140 nuclear warheads, which may expand to 200 by 2025. Kristensen and Norris listed five locations in India where nuclear weapons may be stored, but they estimate that there are others whose physical locations have not been identified.

Interestingly, New Delhi’s expansion in fissile material production infrastructure, particularly its uranium enrichment program using gas-centrifuge technology, has been greatly facilitated with the availability of the country’s entire domestic uranium ore deposits and reserves for the nuclear weapons program. The expansion began with the signing of Indo-US nuclear deal which helped India to meet all nuclear fuel requirements. We all know that such favoritism has made South Asian region more prone to arms race and instability.

While assessing Indian nuclear motivations, the twin questions of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy have been masterfully engineered by India to further its weapons capability. Even with all this help at present and in the past, Indian Department of Atomic Energy’s (DAE) failures were stark and many. In the year 1962, Homi Bhabha the father of the Indian nuclear program predicted that by 1987 nuclear energy would constitute 20,000 to 25,000 megawatts (MW) of installed electricity generation capacity but failed in achieving these numbers. His successor as the head of DAE, like him, never came close to meeting any of these goals. Dr. M V Ramana a physicist who works at the Nuclear Futures Laboratory and the Program on Science and Global Security, both at Princeton University, explained that this history of failure explains the escalating demands from the DAE and other nuclear advocates used as a bogey to gain access to international nuclear markets.

India is expanding its uranium enrichment capacity keeping in mind the Rare Materials Plant (RMP) centrifuge facility in Rattehalli, Karnataka. This revelation in 2015 highlighted the lack of nuclear safeguards on India under new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In this research it was suggested that Rare Metals Plant would boost India’s ability to produce weapons-grade uranium to twice the amount needed for its planned nuclear-powered submarine fleet. One potential use of this facility was for development of thermonuclear weapons. Similar reports came in later years that identified Indian buildup of secret nuclear enrichment complex in Challakere, which most likely will covertly triple the number of nuclear warheads in the coming years from what India possesses today.

Historically, India has the capability to utilize reactor grade plutonium to build nuclear weapons. Dr. M V Ramana in 2005 suggested that:

“Over the years, some 8,000 kg of reactor-grade plutonium may have been produced in the power reactors not under safeguards. Only about 8 kg of such plutonium are needed to make a simple nuclear weapon. Unless this spent fuel is not put under safeguards–i.e., declared to be off-limits for military purposes, as part of the deal–India would have enough plutonium from this source alone for an arsenal of about 1,000 weapons, larger than that of all the nuclear weapons states except the United States and Russia.”

This is further evident from the study carried out by David Albright in 2015 of the Institute of Science and International Security where he stated that:

“Although generally India is not believed to use reactor-grade plutonium in nuclear weapons, Indian nuclear experts are reported to have evaluated this plutonium’s use in nuclear weapons and India may have decided to create a reserve stock of reactor-grade plutonium for possible use in nuclear weapons.”

After careful assessment one can reasonably conclude that India in the last two decades through exceptional favoritism ingeniously proliferated its weapon program vertically. These massive increments in India’s capabilities to produce weapons at a large pace are intrinsically dangerous and pose an unparallel threat to the region keeping in mind the loose state control over its nuclear facilities.

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Voting, Sociology of

2 Alignment, Dealignment, or Realignment?

These three models have been guiding electoral research agendas. In the wake of the sociological model attention was first given to the effects of social class and religion, even more so in Europe where party systems were historically built on the basis of social and religious conflicts and cleavages (see Lipset and Rokkan 1967 ). Rose's ( 1974 ) classic study of voting patterns in 15 democracies shows that class in Scandinavian countries and religion in the others are by far the most predictive factors explaining postwar electoral behavior, a working class position predisposing to a left-wing vote and regular church attendance to a right-wing vote. Then, in the 1960s, the Michigan paradigm became the leading model, inspiring nationwide research surveys in Europe, especially in Britain where Butler and Stokes ( 1969 ) explained long-term alignments of British voters by their party identification, itself rooted in their social background. What became known as the ‘two class, two party’ model does not fit as well in countries such as France with multiparty systems. There, Left/Right orientations are the substitute for party identification, equally rooted in religion and social class (Michelat and Simon 1977 ).

Neither model though can account for the increasing electoral change that appeared in the United States by the end of the 1960s, and in Europe at the end of the 1970's. On the basis of the SRC presidential surveys between 1956 and 1974, the authors of The Changing American Voter (Nie et al. 1976 ) revealed a decline of party ties. The proportion of ‘independent’ voters, who define themselves as neither Republican nor Democrat, has risen from 23% in 1964 to 40% in 1974. Among those who still identify themselves with one side or the other the proportion who declare a ‘strong’ attachment or have a positive image of a party is declining, and the very link between party preference and voting is weakening. Voters seem more interested in politics, more aware of the issues at stake and more inclined to choose their candidates according to their political stands, whatever party they belong to.

Parallel studies in Europe detect similar trends of electoral volatility or instability of voting choice and partisan dealignment or gradual moving away from all parties (Crewe and Denver 1985 ), seen as a structural feature of the emerging postindustrial society. Social and geographical mobility is blurring the traditional class cleavages and loosening community ties. Progress in education and exposure to the media have increased the average levels of political sophistication. The rise of the permissive and individualistic set of values coined as postmaterialist by sociologist Inglehart (The Silent Revolution, 1977) encourage a new style of politics, more demanding and protest-prone, and promotes new post materialist issues—environmental, feminist—that cut through traditional party lines. All these trends converge to make citizens less dependent upon existing parties to make their choice. Voters are seen as ‘autonomous,’ ‘strategic,’ ‘rational,’ or ‘reasoning’ and the developing cognitive sciences are increasing studies on political reasoning mechanisms, the way voters process and organize information, the cues they rely on to make a decision, etc. (Sniderman et al. 1991 ). Short-term issue or candidate centered voting could well be taking the place of the former stable ‘cleavage voting’ with a partisan, religious, or social base (Franklin et al. 1992 ).

But a second research trend is taking an opposite stand, questioning the extent of this dealignment process by casting doubts on the way it is measured. The most heated controversies have developed around the supposed decline of class voting. Until now the simplest and most widely used indicator has been Alford's index, which measures the difference between the proportion of manual and nonmanual voters voting for the Left. For instance, if all the British working-class voters supported the Labour party and none among the middle classes in a given election, the value of the Alford index would be 100%, indicating perfect class voting. Measured by this index, the downward trend is undeniable. Class voting across post-World War II elections has decreased, for instance, by almost half in Britain, and more than two-thirds in Germany. But critics underline several weaknesses of such an index. Its dichotomous nature does not take into account the complexity of post-industrial occupational structure nor the complexity of party systems. It is statistically biased because it does not consider the changes in the marginal distributions of the two classes and of the two votes from one election to another. And it only measures dealignment, while various processes of electoral realignment along new cleavages such as private sector vs. public sector, self-employed vs. wage-earners, or educated vs. non- educated voters, seem to be taking place in postindustrial democracies, as shown by multiclass approaches using detailed occupational classifications and sophisticated measures such as odds-ratios or log-linear models. In Britain for instance, in the long run, Heath et al. ( 1991 ), contrary to previous findings, find no decline of class voting, just ‘fluctuations without trend.’ In France since the 1980s, the salaried middle classes have tended to support the Left, compensating for the drop of working-class support, attracted by the extreme right embodied by the National Front (Boy and Mayer 1997 ). In the United States, Hout, Brooks, and Manza dispute Clark, Lipset, and Rempel's claims about the declining political significance of social class, by showing the historical realignment in presidential post-War elections since 1968, as professionals and nonmanagerial white- collar workers moved from supporting the Republicans to voting for the Democrats (special issue of International Sociology, 8(3), 1993, on class voting). Lastly, the new institutionalism approach attempts to reintegrate voters' choices in their political context, analyzing their response to changes in the electoral rules of the game, in the party structure, and in the strategies of political actors, especially concerning their uses of the media.

The Wadowice Community

The history of Wadowice's Jews is very short [1] . The beginning of their settlement started in the second half of the 19 th century. Until then, the Jews weren't allowed to settle in the city limit or trade there. This ban was based on a special law enacted on 6 November 1754 by King Augustus III of Poland and elector of Saxony, and was approved by Kaiser Franz in a law from 28 May 1793 [2] .

Presumably, the purpose of the law from 1754 was to continue the legal situation that prevailed until then. This assumption is expressed in the “Jewish Encyclopedia” edited by Dr. L. Katznelson [3] . According to this opinion, the law “Privilegium de non tolerandis Judaeis” [privilege of excluding the Jews] already existed for some time in Wadowice. Presumably, the reason for the renewal of the ban was related to the fear that the Jews will flow to the city on the grounds of obsolescence of the law. In Pinkas Va'ad Arba Arazot [4] , that contains decisions from1580-1764, and list the communities who paid state taxes during that period, there is no information about Wadowice. Jewish communities and settlements in the western part of Krakow Voivodeship, meaning, in the districts of Wedowice, Biała, Myślenice, and Żywiec, don't appear in the map of Polish Jewry for the period of 1667-1764 (which is attached to the same notebook).Only the cities of Oświęcim and Kazanów, and Jewish communities and settlements in remote and isolated places appear there.

This bizarre situation stems from the fact, that in the Middle Ages the districts listed above (Księstwo, Oświęcimskie and Zatrorskie), except for Myślenice, didn't belong to the Jagiellonian Kingdom but to the Piast Dynasty, who in contrast to the kings of Poland carried an anti-Semitic policy, and only allowed the Jews to live in the cities of Oświęcim and Zator.

This tradition of intolerance towards the Jews also continued after the annexation of the aforementioned principalities to the Kingdom of Poland in 1564. As a result, it was very rare to see Jews in these cities during the 17 th and 18 th centuries, except for Jewish travelers. Even the settlement of Jews in the villages wasn't welcomed [5] .

However, the residents of these cities didn't accept this de facto situation of intolerance towards the Jews, and tried to get laws from the kings totally prohibiting the settlement of Jews, as it was done by the municipality of Wadowice.

We need to remember, that in 1754 it was very easy to get such a ban in Poland. This period excelled with brutal persecutions against the Jews, and if we take out the days of the Cossack revolt led by Khmelnytsky and the invasion of the Swedes (the decrees of 5408/09 – 1648/49), we will find that there were no such persecutions in Poland. In the years 1736-1753, there were many “blood libel” trials all over Poland. These trials resulted in a huge number of innocent victims who perished in great torture. [6] Every Christian child who died from unclear reasons such as an accident, a vague criminal act and the like, was a “ Corpus delicti ” [body of crime] in a “blood libel” trial again a Jew, who to our great tragedy lived close to where the incident occurred.

The author Jędrzej Kitowicza, who lived during that period, wrote in his book “Opis obyczajów za Panowanie Augusta III” [customs during the reign of August III], that according to the terms of that time, it was impossible to describe the freedom of the nobles without “Liverum veto” [I freely forbid]. So was the whole Polish nation, apart from a small group who was convinced that Jewish Matzos weren't baked with Christians' blood.

In this atmosphere, it was easy for the governors of various Polish cities to get all sorts of privileges from the king. These privileges gave them the freedom to “break free” [7] from the Jews. No wonder, that the city of Wadowice announced this ban on the pretext that the Jews were unwanted citizens within its borders, because they were accused across the country for using Christian blood for their religious rituals.

Sometimes, for economic reasons, Jewish individuals were forced to live temporarily in a city, and received a special permit for this purpose. For example: when they had to execute their right to sell alcohol. In the first half of the 19 th century, this commercial industry was largely held by the Jews. On this basis, the liquor merchant, Sini Schiffer, received a temporary permit to live in Wadowice. HaRav Shmuel Avraham Zeltenreich writes about it in great details in his article - “The Rabbinical period in Wadowice and lines to the image of Rabbi Anshel Yitzchak Zeltenreich.”

The law forbidding the settlement of Jews in Wadowice existed until the second half of the 19 th century. In 1860, before the Jews settled in the city limit [8] , they lived in the nearby villages of

Chocznia, Tomice, Radocza, Klecza, Dolna and Górny. Most of them lived in the Groble suburb near the outskirts of the city on the side of Tatsaniska Street. The Groble suburb, which during our time belonged to the Mikołaj estate and the Krowitzki family, wasn't included in the city proper. Therefore, a large number of Jews lived in this neighborhood and built a house of prayer there.

Also in other cities, where the “de non tolerandis Judaeis” law was applicable, the Jews tried to break the ban by settling in the estates of nobles and priests, who were in the city limit but weren't subjected to city's rules. That's what they have done in the cities Drohobych, Sambir and others. In Piotrków, the Jews were able to obtain permission from King Jan Sobieski (1679), which allowed them to live in a city suburb and trade there.

On this background, a severe struggle took place between the Jews and the municipal authorities from the middle of the 17 th century to the end of the 18 th century. Eventually, the struggle ended in favor of the Jews. In Wadowice, there weren't any estates that belonged to nobles or priests and the municipal rule, which was unlimited, applied to the entire city. There weren't any separate places of this kind (“enclaves”), and there was a large desolated space between the Groble suburb and the city's first buildings. Therefore, all attempts to invade the city were in vain, and it was impossible to cancel the prohibition of 1754.

To understand why this law, that greatly humiliated the Jews, was also present after the partition of Poland and existed for a hundred years or so during the days of the Austrian Empire, we need to read the history of Judaism in the Habsburg Empire. Apart from the period of 1849-51, in which under the pressure of the freedom movements (Spring of Nations 1848), a constitution was published in the city of Olomouc that gave the Jews equal civil rights, but it was re-cancelled two years later. Until 1859, Austria sank into the laws of the Middle Ages that limited the civil rights of Jews such as: the division of Vienna's Jews into unbearable and bearable, a prohibition on settlement in the Alps (Tyrol, etc.), the prohibition of buying property in certain districts, and employing non-Jewish servants.

However, from 1859, there was a change for the better after the defeat in the Italian War (Solferino 1859) and the Prussia War (1866). In order to save its existence, the Austrian government started to publish liberal laws. The Jews enjoyed these laws to a large extent, because by then they suffered from discrimination more than other nations. From now, a constitutional period started. In 1867, a law that abolished the remaining reactionary decrees from the previous royalist's period was published. The “Konfessionsgesetz” law from 1868 promised equality to all nations and religions, including the Jews of Galicia [9] .

Indeed, it's not surprising, that until 1867 the residents of the city of Wadowice claimed that the previous royal laws, including the prohibition of Jewish settlement, were still valid, since they weren't eliminated and didn't violate the spirit of the general laws of the Austrian government.

This situation suppressed the Jews who lived in the surrounding villages because there wasn't even a Jewish doctor in the city.

For the same reason, Jewish communities weren't established in the adjacent cities mentioned above: Biała, Myślenice, and Żywiec [10] .

However, thanks to the legal reforms that were made in1867/68, the struggle of Austria's Jews in general, and Galicia in particular, ended successfully, and the ban on settlement in our city was automatically canceled as it stood against the new constitution.

It is clear, that Wadowice's Christian residents weren't happy with the new situation, and a vigorous struggle was needed, at least from one Jew, to break their opposition, enter the city by force and pave the way for other Jews.

The powerful man, who managed to revoke the ban without taking legal steps, was Baruch Stieberg. Details about his action and the moral and political evidence that he used are brought below in the memoir of Dr. Wilhelm Kluger, the last community leader. From them we realize that the operation was carried out after the year 1863, because Stieberg took part in the 1863 Polish revolt against Russia, and from this he derived his strength to fight the Christian residents in Wadowice to achieve his goal. [11]

Wadowice appears in the 1880 census, which was held in Galicia once every 10 years, with 404 Jews (about 75 families). Therefore, we can assume that the first Jews settled in Wadowice between 1864 and 1879, and by 1880 they reached the number listed above.

According to this count, the Jewish quota didn't reach 10% in 3 out of 125 cities in Galicia [12] . Since there were only 8.1% Jews in Wadowice at that time (see Table #2 below), is clear that our city was one of the three cities with the smallest percentage of Jewish population.

The establishment of the Jewish community at such a late period, and its short existence of 60 years (roughly), greatly influenced the delay in its development.

First of all, Wadowice didn't manage to obtain the number of Jewish residents who lived in similar communities. In 1939, at the end of its existence, it barely reached 2000 persons. 105 Polish cities are listed in the book “Landsmanshaftn in Yiśroel” [13] . Most of them were similar in structure to Wadowice, meaning, each had a police station, a court house and a military camp, and all of them had more Jews than Wadowice. No wonder that the residents of other cities always wondered why there were few Jews in our city despite its great legal importance. The answer is in the data mentioned above – in its very short existence.

Yisraeli, one of the first residents of the city, worked for the establishment of the community and for its legal foundation. Unfortunately, we lost his first name. The regulations of the community were composed by Doctor Daniel Isidor, who settled in the city around 1880 (see the chapter, Personalities and Public Figures, below). The first community leader was Herman Reich.

The religious and cultural character of the city

Almost all of the first inhabitants of Wadowice were advanced Jews who spoke fluent German, unlike the Jews in other Galician cities whose language was Yiddish and Polish. Most of them came from nearby Silesia and from villages on its borders where a strong German influence prevailed. Here, they continued their relationship with Silesia, and kept the “traditions” that they brought with them. Their dress was modern European, and on the Shabbat, holidays and state assemblies, they came to the synagogue dressed in a tailcoat and a top hat. Shtreimels and kaftans weren't seen and weren't found. On the Sabbath, the Jews who followed them from Galicia appeared in Wadowice's streets dressed in a Shtreimel. Polish teenagers threw stones at them because this dress was foreign to them.

Almost all the first Jews in Wadowice only read books and newspapers in German, and they had no knowledge of Hebrew and Yiddish literature. Even the names of their children were registered in German in their birth certificates, and the inscriptions on the tombstones in the cemetery were inscribed in German with a poor addition in the holy language. The German culture continued to influence because they had to travel to Beelitz, which was a German city at that time, to take care of their commercial affairs. By the way, in the 19 th century the authorities' main offices were located in Vienna

No wonder, that the Jews of our city were able to maintain the purity of the German language for many years after the foundation of the community.

The German character of the community was also reflected in the style of the synagogue and in the version of the prayers. The temple was built in the modern style of Western Europe (see the chapter, Synagogue, below). The architect wanted to set up a special cubicle for a women's chorus, and to install an organ in the reform tradition. The prayers were done in the Ashkenazi version. At the beginning, the Gabaim protested vigorously against those who dared to add the Sephardic version of “ V'yatsmakh purkaney vikareyv mshikhey ” [May His redemption sprout forth, and may His messiah come soon] to the Kaddish . They also rebelled against the infiltration of the Hassidic atmosphere into the synagogue. Only after a fierce struggle, the ultra-Orthodox managed to add the “ Hallel” [14] to the Ma'ariv prayer service of Passover night. According to the advanced Jews, the prayer should only be read during the “Seder”, in the middle of the “Haggadah”.

Over time, there have been important changes in this situation, when a population started to flow to the city from the nearby Galician cities and villages like: Kazanów, Oświęcim, Zator and Limanowa - cities where the German culture was alien and the spoken languages ?? were Polish and Yiddish. These Jews, who were imbued with the spirit of Galician Hassidut, brought changes to community's traditional way of life and the traditional clothing, such as long silk kaftans, velvet hats, Shtreimels and sandals with white socks. Over time, Beit Midrash, where the prayers were held in the Sephardic style, was established for this new religious population. In the first synagogue they continued to maintain the Ashkenazi version to the end. It is possible, that this put an end to the settlement of advanced Jews, who left the city and moved to Beelitz or to other German cities. In 1917/18, at the end of the Austrian Monarchy, the Hasidim constituted the largest part of the city's Jews

The new face of the Jewish community was also reflected in the elections to the community council, and the impact of the growing Hasidic population increased. While the former community leaders, Herman Reich, Dr. Isidor Daniel, Huppert, Zachariah Kluger, Dr. Apollinari Zimerspitz, were advanced Jews, the community leaders who served after them, Mathias Jakubowicz, Yehiel Balamut, Avraham Yakov Reifer, were orthodox Jews, except for the last community leader Dr. Wilhelm Kluger.

Our community's rabbis had the same fate. The first rabbi, Rabbi Mordechai Rotenberg, who usually used the German language, was accepted by all the social circles. In 1912, when Rabbi Rotenberg left our city and moved to Antwerp, a stubborn war for the Rabbinate chair broke out between the advanced Jews and the Hassidim. Five candidates were invited after the posting of the bid, 2 advanced and 3 with a significant religious lifestyle, to carry their sermons in the synagogue on Saturdays. So if there will be differences of opinion concerning the selection of a rabbi in the community council, they can leave, in accordance with the regulations, the decision to a referendum that will determine which of the candidates is best suited for this role. Eventually, after a long struggle, the candidacy of the Hassidic rabbi, Rabbi Asher-Anshel Yitzchak Seltenreich, won.

Also in the following years, the percentage of Hassidim continued to rise constantly. At the end of 1939, there were 450 families in the community with only 10 to 15 percent advanced Jews.

In this manner, the city drastically changed within 60 years of its existence. The settlement of Hassidic Jews in our city was slow as long as there were no religious institutions based on their spirit. When the regulations were set, Beit-Hamidrash was built, the Rabbinate was founded and the rest of the religious needs were provided, the Hassidim started to settle in large numbers and the nature of the community completely changed.

No wonder, that until the First World War, Wadowice was called a “refuge city', because residents from various places migrated to it and established a new community.

In the nearby cites, like Oświęcim and Kazanów, Jews lived for many generations, and even .if a new population flowed to them it was swallowed within the older population. On the other hand, in Wadowice the residents kept to their former habits, and gathered in associations according to their former places of residence, that is to say: the association of Kazanów's Jews, Zator's Jews, and the like. This solidarity was also reflected in the social and commercial relationships, and also in the local elections.

These “regional” differences disappeared just before the Holocaust. However, until the community's bitter end, the elders were named after their place of origin, such as “Kashnower Yid” and the like.


    Wadowice received an official city status in 1430. It was named after Marci Wadowita (1567-1641) a native of the city. He was a famous theologian who served as a priest in “Saint Florian Church” in Krakow, (Gutenberg Encyclopedia, Warsaw, volume xviii page 25). Starting from 1819, Wadowice was a district city. For details about its development see the following chapter: The contribution of the Jews to the development of the city. Return Polish Geographic Dictionary (Słownik Geograficzny Polski, pages 212, 232). Dr. J. Putek, O zbojnickich zamkach, heretyckich zborach i oswiecimskiej Jerozolimie, Krakow 1938. Dr. Majer Bałaban: “The history of Galicia's Jews” (1772-1868), page 6. Return Encyclopaedia Judaica 1916, volume V page 266. Return The Notebook of the Congress of Four States, Halperin, the Bialik Institute Publications, Jerusalem 1945. Return In the 1776 census there were 1,047 Jews in these districts compared to the overall number of 171,596 Christians (0.6%), and 51 Jewish homes compared to the overall number of 27,991. This was the smallest percentage of Jews in comparison with the 18 districts in Galicia (Dr. J. Putek's book, pages 211, 232 , 241). Return The famous trials in - Poznań (1736), Zaslov (1747), Shepetivka (1748), Zhytomyr
    (1753), Yampol (1756), Przemyśl (1759), and Wojsławice (1760). In these trials a considerable number of Jews were tortured to death. (Dubnow “World History of the Jewish people” the German addition, volume vii, pages 140-150). Return There page 131. Return The Jewish Encyclopedia (Katznelson) page 266. Return Dubnow: The equal rights of the Jews of Austria, “The History of the Jewish people”, German addition, volume ix page 379. Return The Jews were expelled from Biała in 1765 and moved to the nearby villages: Lipnik and Krumlowice. In 1808 only 3 Jewish families lived in Biała. When they gradually returned, they didn't establish a community but belonged to the community of Oświęcim. The Jewish community was established in 1872, meaning: during the constitution period (Encyclopaedia Judaica – Klatzkin, Berlin 1928, volume iv page 464. Dr. Józef Putek, - O Zamkach zborach ss. 1938).
    About the late establishment of the community of Myślenice (the settlement ban was already issued in 1804 by the Austrian Government). It is described below in the “Myślenice Book”.
    Jews didn't live in Żywiec until 1939. The ban on settlement was based on the decision of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa (1740-1780). It is understandable that since 1867/68 the ban was only De facto, but the city's residents kept it so firmly and stubbornly, that in 1900, when the law expert, Dr. Lazar, rented a furnished room in the city limit, he was attacked by the residents and was forced to leave the city (Encyclopedia – Katznelson, volume vii, page 576). The community was established in the village of Żywlocia, and the Jews only lived there and in the nearby villages: Lipowa, Sporish, Isp and the like.
    However, in Zator, which belonged to the Wadowice district, there are evidences that Jews lived there in the 16 th century. In the city's archive there is a document stating that in 1547 the residents objected the lease of municipal property to the Jews. Also 92 Jewish tax payers appear in the city's 1765 census (Polish Geographic Dictionary, volume xiv Encyclopedia – Katznelson, volume vii page 683).
    There is an absolute approval to all these data in the book “The Wadowice District”
    J. Edlen von – Der Wadowicer Kreis im Königreich Galizien – Mehoffer (Vienna 1843). The author traveled the length and breadth of the area around 1840. He writes that there are only two Jewish communities in the whole district – the main community in Oświęcim with a district rabbi and a synagogue, and a chapter in Zator with a teacher. He mentions that there are only 6,500 Jews in the district out of 350,000 residents. He stresses that the Jewish settlement in this district (1.86%) is the smallest in all of Galicia (page 23). Return The penetration of Jews to our city is described in a few words in Majer Bałaban's book mentioned above: “When the industrial law was published in 1859, the law banning the settlement lost validity, and despite the vigorous opposition the Jews began to settle in the cities of Wadowice, Bochnia and the like”. Return Yakov Leszczynski “The urban population of Jews in Poland” New York 1943. Return Published by the Association of Polish immigrants in Israel, Tel-Aviv 1961. Return Hallel – Praise – A Jewish prayer - a verbatim recitation from Psalms 113𤩦, which is used for praise and thanksgiving. It is recited by observant Jews on Jewish holidays. Return

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The Unknown History of Televangelism

William F. Fore received a B.D. from Yale Divinity School and Ph.D. from Columbia University. A minister in the United Methodist Church , he was Director of Visual Education for the United Methodist Board of Missions, then Executive Director of the Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches in New York City. From 1989 to 1995 he was Visiting Lecturer in Communication and Cultural Studies at Yale Divinity School.. His publications include Image and Impact (Friendship Press 1970), Television and Religion: the Shaping of Faith, Values and Culture (Augsburg 1987, currently reprinted by SBS Press, 409 Prospect St., New Haven, CT 06511), and Mythmakers: Gospel Culture and the Media (Friendship Press 1990).

This essay was delivered in slightly modified form at a conference of the German broadcast authorities held in Dusseldorf, Germany, November 21, 2006. It appeared in this form in Media Development (World Association for Christian Communication), 1/2007.


Fundamentalist broadcasters have greatly leverage their cultural and political power in the U.S. due to the failure of the FCC to require their radio and television stations to meet the public interest standard.

A great deal is being written these days about the increasing role of religion in American life, and in particular, its political life. A recent book by best selling author Kevin Phillips, entitled American Theocracy (Penguin Books, Viking Group, 2006) details the central role religion now plays in America. Many writers -- sociologists, historians, cultural analysists -- have described the phenomenon and tried to explain its origins and power. They point to the sect-driven dynamic of American religion, the populist innovations in worship developed by laypersons, the large number of denominations, the pervasive influence of the Bible and its literal interpretation. But with few exceptions, almost none of them has dealt with one of the most important factors in the equation -- the use of the mass media by televangelists.

In this article I will give a brief summary of the history of televangelism in the United States, how it began, then grew, and finally dominated the media. Then I will suggest some implications of this history, and indicate why the subject deserves a good deal more careful analysis than it has received thus far. Along the way I will describe some events that are virtually unknown about the televangelists gained power over the Federal Communication Commission -- a power that has provided a unique opportunity for fundamentalist religion to effect cultural change during the past forty years.

I. A Brief History of Religious Broadcasting

In 1934 the U.S. Congress passed the Communications Act which authorized the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to grant broadcast licenses. The Congress asserted that the electromagnetic spectrum is a national resource that cannot be owned by any one person or corporation, but that it can only be licensed for a specific period of time. The license, in effect, is a monopoly to use a scarce commodity. In exchange for this monopoly, the station is obligated to broadcast "in the public interest." From the beginning, religious broadcasting was considered one of the ways of fulfilling a station's "public interest" obligation.

But which religious speakers should broadcasters put on the air? Literally hundreds of ministers and evangelists asked for time. At first the radio networks sold time to religious speakers, but some of the more outspoken clergy were much too narrow and controversial for their liking. Perhaps the worst example was Father Charles Coughlin who broadcast on radio in the early 1930s, regularly preaching hatred of Jews and blacks. Very soon the radio networks decided not to sell time but to give time to the largest representative bodies which would speak on behalf of all religions. These groups were the national Council of Catholic Bishops, the Federal Council of Churches (Protestant), and a coalition of three national Jewish organizations.

This system worked reasonably well throughout the late 1930s and 1940s. When television came in about 1950, each of these "faith groups" was given time each Sunday for their TV programs -- programs which were broadly representative of the religious and cultural diversity of the country as a whole. The FCC gave "public interest credit" to the networks and their stations for providing free time. In fact, the networks themselves actually paid for the program production. However, the evangelical and fundamentalist groups were more or less excluded from this agreement, although the Southern Baptists, Mormons and others were given a modest amount of air time, and some televangelists were able to buy time, mostly on radio and non-network TV stations.

In 1960 all this changed. Under growing pressure from conservative groups, the FCC ruled that local stations could sell airtime for religious programs and still get "public interest" credit. Suddenly evangelical groups lined up to buy commercial time on radio and TV, and local stations that had previously agreed with the network policy not to sell airtime for religious broadcasting, began to cash in on the new demand and to sell time to the highest bidder.

The new FCC policy was devastating to programs that had been carried free for the major (main line) groups. Just before the FCC ruling took effect, only 53 percent of all religious broadcasting was paid-time. But by 1977, paid-time religious broadcasting had risen to 92 percent. Thus, since the mid-1970s, religious broadcasting has been firmly in the hands of the televangelists.

However, the changes in religious broadcasting were only the beginning of a more fundamental change in broadcasting itself. When Ronald Reagan became President in 1980, he brought about an almost complete deregulation of radio and TV. He did this by weakening the FCC to the point where it had very little real control. He cut the number of FCC Commissioners from seven to five. He drastically reduced its budget. And he installed a Chairman who publicly proclaimed that "television is no different from a toaster." That is, in his view the TV set was just another appliance. The cultural impact of broadcasting was irrelevant. The marketplace, not public policy, determined who controls TV and radio.

The result was the rapid buying up of stations by large networks, which made possible the centralization of power in the hands of only a few multinational corporations who now own every part of the broadcasting system -- radio, TV, cable, and satellite. Programming -- including sports, news, investigative reporting, even the weather -- rapidly became commercialized. Profits ruled over the public interest.

Businesses profited greatly from this change -- and so did the Electronic Church. Televangelists used money sent by listeners and viewers (much of it pledged for mission work overseas) to buy up hundreds of radio and TV station licenses, and to create satellite-fed networks. Some of the largest televangelist organizations became multi-million dollar giants. Aggressive and legal fund-raising on the air made possible the creation of huge distribution systems for the televangelists -- all with the bonus of being tax free as religious organizations..

Political Power of the Electronic Church

In addition, since 1960 the religious broadcasters have steadily increased their political power in America. Consider the famous "Madelyn Murray O'Hare Affair." In the 1960s and 70s, Madelyn Murray O'Hare was a famous American atheist. Among other things, she attacked the electronic church through marches and protests. But in 1975 an anonymous letter began to circulate, charging that Mrs. O'Hare was trying to get the FCC to remove all Christian programs from radio and television. To quote from the letter: "(Her) petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel (of) our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America. They got 287,000 signatures to back their stand! Please stand up for your religious freedom and let your voice be heard."

The only problem with this letter, which was passed on to thousands of conservative Christians in church meetings, newsletters, and through private mailings, is that none of it was true. Mrs. O'Hare had not filed a petition with the FCC. There were no 287,000 signatures. The whole thing was false. It was soon revealed to be untrue in the press and on the air. The FCC issued a public statement saying the petition never existed and that it had no intention of forbidding Bible reading on the air. But this did not deter the religious faithful. They began to send letters and postcards to the FCC by the thousands, and finally by the millions -- for months and months -- and then for years and years! The Commission received so much protest mail (more than 30 million!) that they had to stop opening them, and merely piled stacks of mail bags in their closets.

And from this experience the FCC got the message, loud and clear -- don't challenge the Electronic Church . Ever since that time, the Commission has refused to exert any significant regulation over so-called religious stations. Today there are some 1,600 "Christian" radio stations on the air, and 250 "Christian" TV stations. They blanket the nation. Their licenses require them to broadcast "in the public convenience, interest and necessity," and the courts have ruled that this means a broadcaster must provide diverse programming that meets the needs of its entire listening-viewing audience. But these 1,600 radio stations do not do that. Instead, they broadcast, hour after hour, the brand of religion that suits them, and nothing more. The FCC should have long ago denied them their licenses to broadcast, but they will not. They cannot, because the religious right has become so strong in the Congress and the Administration that it would be political suicide for any politician to challenge these stations.

If you turn on one of these stations, you will hear an amazing gospel. The outline of the message is rather simple -- and bizarre. For most of them it goes something like this: The Old Testament is literally true, and it promises the Jews that they are the People of God. Once Israel has occupied all of the "biblical lands," legions of the anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a battle in the valley of Armageddon, at which time the Messiah will return for the "rapture." During the "rapture," true believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated on the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts, and frogs during the seven years of "tribulation" that will follow. Then there is increasing struggle and the final battle on the plains of Armageddon. Christ is victorious, and those who are saved look forward to a glorious reign of a thousand years -- a new Heaven and a new Earth. (Incidentally, this is one of the main reasons for America's support of Israel, since Israel's control of the "biblical lands" is a first step toward the "Rapture" and the end of the world which is so much desired by these Christians!)

If you find it difficult to accept that many ordinary people would really believe this sort of thing, consider that in a 2004 Gallup Poll, 55 per cent of Americans said they believe the Bible is literally true, including the story of Noah's Arc and God's creation of the earth in six days. Even more disturbing, 71 per cent of evangelical Christians said they believe the world will end in an Armegaddon battle between Jesus Christ and the Antichrist. Thus, millions of people in America hold this amazing (and very disturbing) view But of course, millions do not. The result is that America is a nation deeply divided between people who are concerned about real-life issues – war and peace, social justice, the health and welfare of people – on one hand, and other people who are concerned, instead, about "values," by which they mean adherence to ancient taboos, dependence on a magical God, enforcing acceptance of ancient creeds, requiring everyone to believe as they do, and finding safety in raw (though often hidden) social and economic power.

What are the implications of such a message, broadcast everywhere in America, everyday of the year, on radio and television? First, consider the theological implications. In the last half-century a whole new understanding of the Bible has emerged from Biblical scholars. The result in Europe has been a mass exodus from the traditional churches which cling to the orthodox views, while in America there has arisen a much stronger fundamentalism. Why has there been such different religious development on the two sides of the Atlantic? A major difference is that in America there were scores of television evangelists and hundreds of radio preachers on the air, day and night, preaching a bogus religion whose story is a wild tale of the end of the world, and whose values closely resemble the values and worldview of secular America -- the values of winning, of wealth, of power, and of being Number One. On the other side of the Atlantic, European audiences were never subjected to this kind of message.

Second, consider the political implications. Today there is a significant group within the fundamentalist community who want to bring about a complete change in the American form of government. Pat Robertson is a key leader in the group called Dominionists, or sometimes Reconstructionists. Robertson and his followers consistently and openly argue that America must become a theocracy under the control of Christian fundamentalists. He is on record saying that democracy is a terrible form of government, unless it is run by his kind of Christians.

Dr. Gary North, a major figure among the Dominionists, clarifies their goal and tactics: "We must use the doctrine of religious liberty . until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God." To give you an idea of what the new Bible-based order would be like, Dr. North advocates public execution of women who undergo abortions, and a similar fate for those who advise them to do so.

This situation could easily be dismissed as the ravings of a few neurotic sociopaths, except for the chilling fact that our President and many of his advisors talk in much the same way. While Mr. Bush does not agree wholly with the Dominionists, he is supported by many of them, and they have much in common. In Mr. Bush's world, there exist only two groups -- the enemies of freedom and the lovers of freedom -- the evil and the good. Thus to waver, to change policy, would be to tempt God's disfavor. Indeed, the very act of holding to his resolve -- what his critics identify as his stubbornness and arrogance -- becomes a way of reassuring himself of his special place in God's plan.

What we have in the American Electronic Church today is a phenomenon that has gained immense power, almost entirely through the use of radio and television. The televangelists have used this power to join forces with the political right in order to bring about a nation more in conformity with what its adherents believe to be the will of God, or at least the demands of Christianity. This power came about because the FCC, which is charged with making certain the airwaves are used to meet the needs of the entire community and that all issues of importance to citizens are thoroughly aired, has failed in its task. The FCC has allowed licenses to go to religious groups who have no intention of ever broadcasting in ways that speaks to the diversity within their community, but only to use their monopoly as a tool to further their own narrow ideology. And if they are able to continue to gain power, some day they may even attempt to deny religious liberty to all the "enemies of God." This is what the current "culture clash" in America is all about.

O course, this situation was not created in a political and social vacuum. Many other forces were at work, including the powerful commercial broadcasters who wanted to be free from regulation at least as much as the religious broadcasters. But without the development of large and powerful conservative religious broadcasting, with its strong political component, much of what has occurred in the past six years in the United Sates simply would not have happened. Mr. Bush would not have been elected President. The nation would not have been plunged into a war that is understood by many to be a religious war and not acknowledged to be about oil. And millions of Americans would not have been misinformed and misled into accepting a war based upon both false information and a superficial misunderstanding of the Bible and its teachings.

Television is not a toaster. It is the world's most important source of news and information, and its most powerful propaganda agent. Unless it is regulated by governments so as to insure that all people have access to all sides of issues, democracy as we know it becomes impossible.

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