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Old 07-18-2018, 03:04 AM
DavidwithanR DavidwithanR is online now
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American Christianity: taking control, or last gasp?

In a current thread about dystopian stories, this exchange took place:

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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Most plausible to me is still the Theocratic America in Heinlein's Revolt In 2100. Rikwriter thought that was hilarious 3 years ago. How do you feel today, Rik?
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Three times as hilarious. America is more and more secular every day, especially the younger generation.

What's your opinion? Is theocracy imminent in the US? Or are things going the same secular direction as Europe, but with more bumps along the way?

I know that there are a lot of Christians in the USA, and I know that many of those are very serious about it. I also know that many American Christians are blatant hypocrites, and that those two groups have significant overlap.

My own opinion is that religious control of the country might increase sharply in the very near future, but that after that potential swell, Christianity itself will have a very steep decline and will cease to matter in US politics (i.e. only a scattered few old people will care about religion at all anymore).

Maybe I'm too optimistic.
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Old 07-18-2018, 05:04 AM
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All those young evangelicals in those rise-of-the-evangelicals stories from the mid to late 1970s are >40 years older now. It's a graying movement.

But still, those young evangelicals from the 1970s and 1980s may be in their 50s and 60s now, but (a) that's a long way from dying off, and (b) older people vote. Their influence will wane, but it'll be decades before they can be disregarded.
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Old 07-18-2018, 05:12 AM
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I tend to think that Christianity will still be around, but it will cease to be a big political force. I already notice divisions, with even the younger evangelicals I know being disillusioned with Republicans. There just isn't enough to actually unite them into a force that could take over in any real sense. And the ones who do support Trump all have to basically deny their own beliefs to do so--and they as much admit it with stuff like "I didn't vote for a Sunday School teacher."

That said, I could see a decline. I just think that this will be hardest hit with the more fundamentalist stripes. I don't see those who have adapted and remain focused on a more social justice message declining much, though.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:11 AM
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My personal impression as a 57 yr old nontheist, is that it seems more common and acceptable - especially among younger Americans, to identify themselves as nontheist/agnostic/etc, and to express disapproval of organized religion. 20-30 years ago that was something that just wasn't said. I even perceive a decline in "mystical spiritualism."

Having said that, there are huge swaths of America that will remain strongly religious for a long time. But other areas will become increasingly secular, and there may be vocal minorities in the religious areas as well.

One wildcard is the religiosity of immigrants - such as those from strongly Catholic Mexico/Central America, or possibly Muslims.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:13 AM
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I don't see it, the Republicans talk a good Christianity game but any review of their policies tend to indicate an...interesting...interpretation of the Good Book. And the religious leaders who might have rallied folks around them (Falwell, Robertson, et. al.) are dead or too old, and I don't see a central rallying figure anywhere on the horizon (most 'names' in religious circles these days are either running megachurches and/or preaching the 'prosperity' gospel, in other words out for their own enrichment rather than a political movement).

But I admit that I could be wrong and somewhere out there is a Nehemiah Scudder (see Heinlein, Robert); but as mentioned above, I think this current generation is past the last religious 'awakening' (we have them every few decades) and will be more secular.

We shall see.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:17 AM
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There's also the question of what sort of Christianity, and how organised. There's no monolithic organisation that I can see, and just as many variant interpretations as in many other countries. I can see that a certain overt and demonstrative religiosity seems to be socially more prominent than over here, but that's not the same as a doctrinal political influence, and certainly not one with a single voice.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:44 AM
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I don't think there's any danger of theocracy in America anytime soon. If anything, Trump is a move away from Theocracy...and toward other things that are not related to religion at all.

And America will remain more religious than Europe, but there are now and have always been different views of how that gets reflected in the public sphere. Civil rights movements and abolitionist movements were strongly supported by Christian groups. There are also anti-abortion Christian groups.

I think the impact of Christianity on our politics will always be subject to the normal ebbs & flows of a society.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:54 AM
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I think the Christian Right is facing some problems. Members of various religious affiliations which share a common conservative ideology have been able to paper over their religious differences in the past few decades. But I've seen rumblings of a rift. I've seen comments from Protestant conservatives directed against Catholics, Mormons, and Jews, even those who are fellow conservatives.

I think this indicates why America is unlikely to develop a theocracy; the groups that are interested would find it impossible to agree on a state religion.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 07-18-2018 at 08:56 AM.
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Old 07-18-2018, 09:16 AM
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One wildcard is the religiosity of immigrants - such as those from strongly Catholic Mexico/Central America, or possibly Muslims.
Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are 40% evangelical.


https://aulablog.net/2018/03/20/lati...ing-influence/
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Old 07-18-2018, 09:23 AM
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What's your opinion? Is theocracy imminent in the US? Or are things going the same secular direction as Europe, but with more bumps along the way?
Why would you think those are the only two choices when there is so much middle ground between them. The US will largely go its own way, as usual. The idea that we will become a theocracy is in wing-nut territory.
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Old 07-18-2018, 09:25 AM
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Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are 40% evangelical.


https://aulablog.net/2018/03/20/lati...ing-influence/
And, like any other country, the area has Catholics who range from "right of Opus Dei" to "slightly to the left of Monseñor Romero".

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Old 07-18-2018, 09:46 AM
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A very long time ago I believed that reason would triumph over superstition, but I have abandoned that fantasy.

It's really not a matter of the number of official Christians. It's the social norm of a blurry God concept. A Santa Clause God who hates abortion, blesses America, protects our military, inspired our Constitution and gave us gun rights. The God in whom we Trust and under whom we fly our flag. And, to whom we direct our prayers after public assassinations.

Currently a bumbling oaf has 42% job approval as President of the United States. Imagine, instead, a President with the intelligence and charisma of JFK delivering the Prosperity Gospel. We'd be 8 years away from a Theocracy.

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Old 07-18-2018, 10:02 AM
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The demographics are against them and that's why they're scared and hostile. Tantrums and meanness are not the mark of powerful people.

As mentioned above, old people vote more and the US system gives a lot of clout to sparsely populated areas so they'll be trouble for a while but decreasingly so.
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Old 07-18-2018, 10:10 AM
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Mega-churches are not composed primarily of old people.
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Old 07-18-2018, 10:21 AM
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Demographics?

95% of the US population believes in God.
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Old 07-18-2018, 10:45 AM
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Demographics?

95% of the US population believes in God.
I think this thread may be less about theism or all of Christianity than about a particularly Pharisaic, Paulian chunk of Christianity which has been highly active since the 70s as a reaction to civil rights and the counterculture. If they were like Fred Rodgers, Rob Bell or John Shelby Spong, it wouldn't be a problem.

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Old 07-18-2018, 10:48 AM
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To me, the interesting aspect of religion in American politics is that Israel and Russia target it as a means of influencing policy. (Although Russia seems to be conflating guns and religion.)
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Old 07-18-2018, 10:49 AM
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Demographics?

95% of the US population believes in God.
"Believes in God" and "Christian" are not the same thing.
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Old 07-18-2018, 10:54 AM
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(Although Russia seems to be conflating guns and religion.)
Part of being a good influencer is communicating in a way your audience can relate to : )



Israel and Russia probably identified the same leverage Nixon spotted with his Southern strategy; A group of dysfunctional, disaffected morons who can be manipulated into being grunts for your objectives.

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Old 07-18-2018, 10:55 AM
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I think that the US population as a whole is becoming less religious but it is also self-segregating with the rural areas remaining or becoming even more unwelcoming to nonreligious people and so the political makeup of the country will reflect a less and less accurate picture of the religious beliefs of the country.
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Old 07-18-2018, 11:50 AM
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OP: Is theocracy imminent in the US?

Theocracy is non-denominational. As I stated above - "It's the social norm of a blurry God concept. A Santa Clause God who hates abortion, blesses America, protects our military, inspired our Constitution and gave us gun rights. The God in whom we Trust and under whom we fly our flag."

It is a matter of degree. To some extent we are currently a theocracy. Most citizens accept the blurry-God concept and go along with 'in God we trust' and 'one nation under God' as political norms.
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Old 07-18-2018, 01:16 PM
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Check out the Pew Religious Landscape Study (http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/).

Organized religion is becoming less important as you look at younger age groups across the board. Church attendance is down, prayer is down, identification as "None" is up to above 20%.

The "Unaffiliated" aren't self-reporting as atheists, most seem to vaguely hope/believe in some squishy form of afterlife/god. But it does show that the sort of organized religiosity behind things like the Southern Baptist Convention, the Moral Majority and all that is definitely losing people over time.

I do think like others have alluded to there is a quasi-secular "God" that non-practicing "Christian" conservatives "believe" in. These are people that never go to Church and can't tell you much about Christian theology, but they "like" the thought that there's a God out there that represents "them." To them it's basically a form of quasi-religion that justifies bigotries they hold already. It's not a fully fleshed out religion, and by some standards these people probably should be categorized as not really religious, but it's become like a cultural symbol that they hold onto without actually having deep religious feelings about it.
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Old 07-18-2018, 05:40 PM
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I think that the US population as a whole is becoming less religious but it is also self-segregating with the rural areas remaining or becoming even more unwelcoming to nonreligious people and so the political makeup of the country will reflect a less and less accurate picture of the religious beliefs of the country.
Heck, the U.S. has about as much territory and about half as many people as Europe, so naturally we can expect an awful lot of diversity. As a nation, I don't think it'll do much more than dangerously flirt with theocracy. Some of the individual states will embrace it as hard as they're allowed to.
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Old 07-18-2018, 06:45 PM
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I would agree with Crane, it's just a matter of having the right person get into the right position and it can all easily go sideways.

In Japan, for example, the population love peace, are glad that they have no appreciable military and that it's not allowed to engage in battle, and would never allow the government to create nor purchase nuclear weapons.

The government, on the other hand, is formed almost completely of nationalists who wish they could form a strong military, build nukes, etc.

Turkey worships Kemal Atataturk, just as we do so for George Washington, and he was a devout secularist and championed it strongly as one of the founding principals of the nation. Yet, despite that, Erdogan has successfully used the Islamic voting block to power his way to absolute power, which has meant the ability to rewrite the makeup of the government, fill key government roles with loyalists, and adjust voting measures to ensure continued power.

While it may well be that religiosity is on the fall, if you get someone in power who can suppress speech effectively, change school doctrine to include religious materials, and rig elections, then they would be able to maintain power for a Christian party and see that it lasts long enough until the population was forced back into widespread belief.

A minority group can take control over a country and force the rest of the country to go their way, if they are dedicated enough.

I would also worry about the continued irreligiosity of our youth. The Internet allowed atheists and agnostics were a majority of the first netizens and they influenced a lot of the new users to the Internet. But now the Internet is starting to allow communities to go off and dive into their own navels with impunity. The Internet is may continue its plunge into empowering stupidity, craziness, and woo, rather than hindering it.

And also, people tend to go back to the way that they were raised once they settle down and get married. I've had occassion to witness and hear about many a relationship with a person from Asia and Latin America and where the man/woman will initially seem progressive and American, suddenly things start to get serious, they tie the knot, or whatever and suddenly everything from the home country comes back, deep religiosity, horribly conservative values, etc. So while it could be that all the 20-somethings are currently living it up and championing LGBT rights and so on, they could hit 30 and go back to being the Christian fundamentalists that they were raised as.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:15 PM
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... Tantrums and meanness are not the mark of powerful people.
Tantrums and meanness are very common among powerful people. I think maybe you meant "confident people" or "secure people".
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Old 07-19-2018, 04:32 AM
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Tantrums and meanness are very common among powerful people. I think maybe you meant "confident people" or "secure people".
You're right.

I should have said that they feel insecure. And with good reason, if they insist on defining themselves through their waspness.
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Old 07-19-2018, 10:28 AM
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To me, the interesting aspect of religion in American politics is that Israel and Russia target it as a means of influencing policy. (Although Russia seems to be conflating guns and religion.)
Here is a recent article that goes deeper into the topic.

The article starts with the involvement of Maria Butina and the National Prayer Breakfast but then points out some of the history of the religious right with Russia. Both the gun culture and anti-LGBT movements have been used by Russia to divide us - all under the guise of religion.

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The attraction appears to be mutual — even if it is almost certainly not symmetrical. More than 50 Russians attended the most recent National Prayer Breakfast in February.

At the same time that it has been infiltrating the political system of the United States, the Russian government has sought to cultivate and influence far-right groups in Europe. It turns out that anti-L.G.B.T. politics are an effective tool in mobilizing religious nationalists everywhere, which is in turn an excellent way to destabilize the western alliance and advance Russia’s geopolitical interests.

Anti-L.G.B.T. politics are in this respect no different from the “gun rights” advocacy that Ms. Butina is accused of using to build a bridge between Russian and American leaders via the N.R.A. No serious observer believes that Mr. Putin cares a fig about our Second Amendment (or the rest of the Constitution). For him, America’s fabled gun culture is just a weakness to be exploited for the sake of Russia’s national interest.
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Old 07-19-2018, 12:48 PM
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There certainly seems to be a movement among the evangelical set to distance themselves from the Republican Party, after spending 40-odd years being the GOP. Exhibit A: last month's Southern Baptist Convention.
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Old 07-19-2018, 01:16 PM
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I think Crane and Sage Rat have a good handle on the actual danger. A combination of the current squishy (i.e. not strongly held) secularism of young people, and a charismatic leader who pushes just enough fuzzy "Christianity" as part of their message, might push/pull the US into an even stronger religion/politics alliance than already exists. Reagan moved the needle in that direction, and I don't see it getting any weaker since.

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I would also worry about the continued irreligiosity of our youth. The Internet allowed atheists and agnostics were a majority of the first netizens and they influenced a lot of the new users to the Internet. But now the Internet is starting to allow communities to go off and dive into their own navels with impunity. The Internet is may continue its plunge into empowering stupidity, craziness, and woo, rather than hindering it.
I'm not sure about "allowing" but I think I get what you mean. Almost any wacko believer can find others of his/her ilk on the internet and establish a virtual community, whereas before it wasn't nearly so easy. Competing sects may not be able to agree on sharing power, but the overall level of anti-rationality seems to be growing (or just becoming more obvious) from the influence of the internet.
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Old 07-19-2018, 01:23 PM
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The pragmatist in me thinks we're going the way of Europe.
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Old 07-20-2018, 01:22 PM
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I believe we need a new demographic template to use in our discussion. The population described by the old template:

1940s:

1. Socially Church/Temple centered - locally denominational - largely Judeo/Christian.

2. Information disbursed through the Pulpit, radio, newspaper.

3. Role models - local and movies.

4. Mobility - low

5. Economy de-centralized

2018:

1. Socially - Internet and lifestyle centered

2. Information disbursed through the Internet, TV, radio

3. Role models - International, Sports, TV, internet

4. Mobility - high

5. Economy centralized


Social norms are in competition. Folks can go to prayer meeting on Wednesday night or they can watch Survivor. On Sunday it's church or football. Limbaugh and Beck are more stimulating than books on political science. The falling away from organized religion is a result not a cause.

That still leaves belief as an open issue. Folks may be some kind of religious without being "Christian" or belonging to a Jesus Club.
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Old 07-20-2018, 02:39 PM
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One of the things that led me to start this thread was wondering whether there's a real relationship between a certain category of religion (one in which claims of belief not just beyond evidence but in direct spite of evidence are greatly emphasized) and a certain category of current politics (in which outright denial of evidence and lack of interest in evidence are essential).

I hope that was understandable to read. It felt clumsy to write. Sorry. Maybe someone else can say it better.
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Old 07-20-2018, 02:44 PM
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Maybe I can say it better: Are the anti-evidence faction in politics mostly also religious people of a similar faction?
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Old 07-20-2018, 03:01 PM
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Not really either. The OP is using the fallacy of the excluded middle.

American Evangelicals are still pretty numerous, but remember that Trump ran as a pretty secular candidate. It was only really his choice of Pence as VP that shored up the Evangelical vote; they really would have preferred Cruz.

Liberal Christians are far more common than people realize. I know a lot of Unitarians and Episcopalians who are socially liberal, highly educated, and believe strongly in their Christian faith, though they don't try to push it on others.

Catholicism is still strong in America also, among both liberals and conservatives. A lot of Catholics are in fact quite proud of the current Pope and are trying to move their religion in a less absolutist direction.

There are also African-American Christians to consider; there are a lot of them, they are often deeply religious, and those religious principles guide their values and the way they live their lives. Most of my African-American friends belong to churches. And I know white people who attend predominantly African-American churches, often because they enjoy the music and the camaraderie and feel welcomed there.
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Old 07-20-2018, 03:42 PM
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I agree about the excluded middle.

I too can make an anecdotal report of "knowing a lot of" more liberal Christians, but I think that's an illusion we both have, based on who we happen to know.
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Old 07-20-2018, 04:19 PM
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I once heard a writer say that the US is about 50 years behind europe in several ways, including religion. So if so, the future of religion in the US will be where Europe is now.

Secularism is growing among young people. It seems each generation is more secular than the last.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/...6588535962.jpg
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Old 07-20-2018, 06:05 PM
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I thought about it a little, and I think my excluded-middle fallacy had at least a little bit of a reason for existing. It seems to me that a lot of people in a lot of places are making a concerted effort to "exclude the middle" in society, and I'm wondering how that might play out.
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Old 07-20-2018, 07:07 PM
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I thought about it a little, and I think my excluded-middle fallacy had at least a little bit of a reason for existing. It seems to me that a lot of people in a lot of places are making a concerted effort to "exclude the middle" in society, and I'm wondering how that might play out.
I'm guessing... doughnut-like.
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Old 07-21-2018, 12:47 AM
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I'm guessing... doughnut-like.
Thanks
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Old 07-21-2018, 01:02 AM
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Religion in any customary sense is definitely on the wane, I think. However, America is suffering discord almost unprecedented in the modern developed world and I fear that we may be headed toward some dystopia, perhaps based on some pseudo-religion. Although itself far-fetched in the near term, Handmaid's Tale Season 1 had hints about the direction of American character.
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Old 07-21-2018, 08:46 AM
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My own opinion is that religious control of the country might increase sharply in the very near future, but that after that potential swell, Christianity itself will have a very steep decline and will cease to matter in US politics (i.e. only a scattered few old people will care about religion at all anymore)..
Christianity will indeed have a sharp decline. So much so that remaining Christians will be persecuted and killed for their beliefs. The very book, the Bible, that many people mock and despise today foretold this.
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Old 07-21-2018, 09:03 AM
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I never ceased to be amazed at the persecution fantasies that some Christians have. The rest of the world might think they're wrong, misguided, or ignorant but I find it hard to fathom them being seen as so threatening they'll be hunted down and killed.
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Old 07-21-2018, 09:04 AM
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Christianity will indeed have a sharp decline. So much so that remaining Christians will be persecuted and killed for their beliefs. The very book, the Bible, that many people mock and despise today foretold this.
The bible foretold how long it would be until Jesus returned. How's that workin' out for you?
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Old 07-21-2018, 10:00 AM
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The very book, the Bible, that many people mock and despise today foretold this.
Not that many. The problem ain't the manual, it's the users.
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Old 07-21-2018, 10:02 AM
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I never ceased to be amazed at the persecution fantasies that some Christians have. The rest of the world might think they're wrong, misguided, or ignorant but I find it hard to fathom them being seen as so threatening they'll be hunted down and killed.
Take a look at N. Korea, China, and the Middle East. It is a crime to merely possess a Bible in some places.
  #46  
Old 07-21-2018, 10:04 AM
Oddball_92 Oddball_92 is offline
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Originally Posted by Fear Itself View Post
The bible foretold how long it would be until Jesus returned. How's that workin' out for you?
No, the Bible does NOT foretell that, and it is working out fine for me.
  #47  
Old 07-21-2018, 10:05 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Originally Posted by survinga View Post
I don't think there's any danger of theocracy in America anytime soon. If anything, Trump is a move away from Theocracy...and toward other things that are not related to religion at all.
It might not be a literal theocracy, but it can follow the Putin model of using conservative religious beliefs and institutions to serve a criminal regime. You empower extremist religious groups to impose their beliefs on society as a whole and in exchange get their cooperation to help you maintain control.

The people at the top might not have any adherence to traditional Christian beliefs but they can give social and legal power to religious extremists as part of their basket of tools to maintain control over the country. This happens in a lot of dictatorships.
  #48  
Old 07-21-2018, 10:53 AM
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Broomstick Broomstick is online now
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Originally Posted by Oddball_92 View Post
Take a look at N. Korea, China, and the Middle East. It is a crime to merely possess a Bible in some places.
North Korea is a tiny country and such an outlier that it can be disregarded. There's no way on earth everyone else is going to start emulating the Hermit Kingdom.

It is not illegal to posses a Bible in China. That's BS. What is illegal is to proselytize, promote, or publicly worship outside the officially recognized Christian groups. They aren't hunting down and executing Christians.

Nor is it illegal to possess a Bible in the Middle East, where Jews, Muslims, and Christians all regard it as a holy book. What gets Christians butt-hurt is not everyone tolerates their relentless drive to covert others to their belief system. Other countries are not as tolerant as the US in regards to unwanted intrusions and harassment of others. But, again, the folks who are hunting down and killing Christians in that part of the world are not doing so based on those people being Christians, they're doing it to everyone who isn't just like them. Given that it's them against the rest of the world I anticipate that they aren't going to win and impose their system on everyone else.
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Old 07-21-2018, 11:50 AM
Ulfreida Ulfreida is offline
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Originally Posted by Oddball_92 View Post
Christianity will indeed have a sharp decline. So much so that remaining Christians will be persecuted and killed for their beliefs. The very book, the Bible, that many people mock and despise today foretold this.
Martyrdom sounds so much more stimulating and noble than does the vague continuing attrition actually happening.

The predictions in the New Testament about persecution were about persecutions that were already happening at the time of writing, and they continued, until Christianity triumphed and Christians could go about persecuting each other instead.

I hear you about the mocking and despising though. Wish people would quit that.
  #50  
Old 07-21-2018, 01:36 PM
Fear Itself Fear Itself is offline
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Originally Posted by Oddball_92 View Post
No, the Bible does NOT foretell that, and it is working out fine for me.
Matthew 24:30-34
Quote:
30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[c] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[d] 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it[e] is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
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