If there’s one thing the rise of gay marriage has taught us, it’s how dramatically public opinion can shift in a short period of time. A poll of Minnesotans taken shortly after that state became the twelfth to legalize gay unions found a radical 18-point shift in opinion among respondents aged 50 to 64 in just a few months. Sixty-eight percent opposed gay marriage in February of 2013. By June, that dropped to 50%.
Recall that President Obama, radical leftist that he is, only “evolved” on the marriage issue less than two years ago. Such observations suggest that radical social ideas can rapidly become mainstream given the right circumstances.
So when actor Chris O’Dowd predicts that religion will one day be widely considered as offensive and unacceptable as racism, I don’t immediately write him off. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
The Irish star of films such as The Sapphires and Bridesmaids says he grew up respecting people of faith despite his atheist views, but has become “less liberal” as he ages.
Now he says religious doctrine is halting human progress and brands it “a weird cult”…
O’Dowd has told Britain’s GQ magazine: “For most of my life, I’ve been, ‘Hey, I’m not into it, but I respect your right to believe whatever you want’. But as time goes on, weirdly, I’m growing less liberal. I’m more like, ‘No, religion is ruining the world, you need to stop!’.
“There’s going to be a turning point where it’s going to be like racism. You know, ‘You’re not allowed to say that weird s**t! It’s mad! And you’re making everybody crazy!’
While we may be a long way off from such a world, with the vast majority of Americans still claiming a religious affiliation. However, it’s not hard to imagine a radical shift toward the dystopia O’Dowd predicts.
Looking at historical trends in Gallup polling, the only category of religious identification which has grown consistently in the past decade is “none.” We should note that touting a religious affiliation says nothing of whether an individual truly adheres to the faith they claim. Indeed, the percentage of respondents who claim that religion is “not important” in their life has also grown, and a huge majority of people believe the influence of religion is waning.
O’Dowd’s increasingly illiberal view toward the religious echoes that expressed in much of academia and the scientific community. Richard Dawkins personifies the extreme. Given his many critical quotes regarding religion, Dawkins seems to speak from O’Dowd’s imagined future. Here’s a choice selection:
“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.”
“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”
“Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith and violence against the side of reason and discussion. Both have implacable faith that they are right and the other is evil. Each believes that when he dies he is going to heaven. Each believes that if he could kill the other, his path to paradise in the next world would be even swifter. The delusional “next world” is welcome to both of them. This world would be a much better place without either of them.”
That belief, that the world would be better without religious people, holds a latent power which could easily be channeled against religious liberty. At the risk of evoking the rhetorical garbage that is “Godwin’s law,” believing that the world would be better without a particular group of people rarely bodes well.