If America’s political religion were a fire we’d have to say that the conflagration has been fully contained. Flames still smolder but they’ve been fairly well corralled geographically and demographically.
We now find ourselves at a pivotal point in America’s religious history. Old orders are changing. The culture war is increasingly becoming an intramural affair within the Republican Party. With traditionalist religion somewhat diminished, the task at hand for secularists now has less to do with fending off looming theocracy, and more to do with conversation and integration. To contain staunch believers as an embittered, insular minority is not a victory, because such groups can still complicate and degrade the democratic process. Meanwhile, outside the political realm, religion continues to divide a lot of families. Tom Mates suggests that the best conversational approach for secularists to adopt is one that, instead of attacking religion broadly, emphasizes its pluralistic, evolutionary, and human nature.
Tom Mates is the author of My Own Church: A Nonbeliever Looks at Post-Christian America (2013), and A Judeo-Islamic Nation: The Evolution of America’s Political Theology (2011). He is technical director of the analytical laboratories at the Materials Science department at UC Santa Barbara. Though raised in the Episcopal Church, he considers himself a lifelong nonbeliever. He is especially interested in the contrast between the ideal of religion as a source of timeless, unchanging values, and the reality that religious beliefs vary greatly from person to person and evolve from generation to generation. He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Alfred University in upstate New York, his master’s degree at MIT, and a doctorate at Cornell University in polymer chemistry and materials science. Several of his articles on religion and society have appeared in Free Inquiry and The Humanist magazines
This event is sponsored by FreeThought Arizona and will be held at DuVal Auditorium