In a segment for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, correspondent Mike Rubens traveled to Las Vegas — why not? — to figure out why so many Americans are ditching organized religion. It’s no surprise that the people you find in Vegas may or may not believe in God, but attending church isn’t necessarily a priority even for the believers.
Nice to see Ryan Burge get interviewed for the segment because he’s followed and written about the decline for years. This exchange really gets to the heart of why this topic is important:
BURGE: … The problem is, though, from a social science perspective, the rise of the unaffiliated is actually really troubling for several reasons. I worry about a society where we don’t have churches doing clothes closets and food pantries. When that social safety net the churches have built goes away, who fills that up?
RUBENS: What if society and the economy were set up in such a way that the church wasn’t so necessary for charity and for food banks and clothes and everything like that?
BURGE: I think the atheists, agnostics would love that perspective and the evangelicals would hate it.
They would hate it, presumably, because it would make them even more irrelevant to people’s lives. Churches admittedly do plenty of incredible charity work (that doesn’t involve proselytizing or recruiting). But Rubens is right to point out that, in an ideal situation, we wouldn’t have to rely on the largesse of religious groups because the government would provide the kind of help and support people often need.
In other words, there are secular solutions to some serious societal problems. As we shift away from organized religion, there’s an even greater need to make sure people get that support. Progressive Democrats, by and large, have been pushing for that with their own agenda.
Rubens made one clear mistake in the piece, though. He said there’s only one “None” in Congress: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. While she’s technically the only religiously unaffiliated member of Congress, Rep. Jared Huffman is openly non-theistic and uses the label “humanist.”
There’s also a 14-member-strong Congressional Freethought Caucus: Sinema isn’t part of it, but Huffman and several religious allies are. So there’s more progress on that front than many people would care to admit.
There’s a long way to go, to be sure — the Congressional Prayer Caucus is huge and influential — but there’s also only one direction for our side to go. Which means Congress will likely include many more openly non-religious members in the future.