Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book Review: Nonbeliever Nation - The Rise of Secular Americans

                In his book Nonbeliever Nation, the author David Niose defines secular Americans as “individuals that choose to live without religion, or at the very least, without theistic religion.”  Although the number of self-identified agnostics and atheists in the U.S. is listed as 1.6% of the population, the author points to the results of the American Religious Identification Survey, which showed that 18.4% of the responders did not affirmatively claim belief in a higher power.  The author argues this result is an indication that there are more secular Americans than we realize. 
                This book was both a history lesson as well as a reminder that secular Americans need to be more open about their identity.  The author covers the early days of the United States, discussing and refuting the widespread claim that the Founding Fathers meant for the United States to be a Christian nation.  A large part of this book was also devoted to the recent rise of the Religious Right in politics; the author points to the election of Reagan as a watershed moment for the Religious Right.  Reagan’s election was aided by the formation of the organization Moral Majority by the evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell; since then the dominance of religion in politics has steadily increased to a point where omitting the mention of God results in a huge backlash for a politician. 
                The dominant theme for this book is the argument that secular Americans need to assert their identity.  A 2006 University of Minnesota study found atheists to be the most feared minority in America, ranking behind Muslims, gays, and recent immigrants.  With these attitudes is the attendant fear of associating with such a misunderstood identity.  However, the author argues that by remaining quiet about our secularity, we have allowed the national conversation to be dominated by a minority that actively spreads misinformation about the dangers of non-believers.
                This is not a book that will de-convert anyone of their religious beliefs. Nor is this a book that seeks to take away the right of any individual to worship according to the dictates of their conscience.  However, this is a book that call for the separation of church and state, as well as a reiteration of the need for secular Americans to affirm their identity as people that live their lives without religion.  

Nonbeliever Nation - The Rise of Secular Americans can be found in both e-book and hardcover at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's.  The author is currently doing a book tour.   

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