TODAY'S MESSAGE

1. Don't forget Thanksgiving Dinner on 11/22/14 -details at www.ThanksgivingCelebrations.org

2. This site is all my writings or writings about me.

3. I write full commentary at several of my dedicated blogs and site, which will not appear there, the main ones are at: http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com and www.WorldMuslimCongress.com

Friday, April 27, 2012

Muslims Desecrating Graves & Holy Cross


PRESS RELEASE


Criminals desecrating Graves & Holy Cross

As a Muslim, and the Muslims I have called are outraged, appalled and disgusted with the desecration of Graves and the Cross in Australia by the radical men, who are shamelessly calling themselves Muslims.

They need to be punished to the maximum allowable by the Australian Laws, no one should be spared. If you ask, what makes Muslims happy? It is when these criminals will be punished, these men are dangerous to the society.

No matter what they call themselves, or what religious label they want wear, they are damned criminals and must be punished severely.

No civil society should allow any criminal to use the name of a religion for their bad acts. No religion permits desecration and disrespect of other people’s property and things they hold dear.

This video is apparently banned on YouTube. Muslims need to speak up, shout in unison in expressing their disgust.
  1. http://infidelsunited.com/videos/1/3023/muslims-attack-australian-war-gr
  2. http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=f03_1330829653&p=1
  3. http://islamthreat.com/youtube_Muslims_attack_Australian_war_graves.html

They are the enemies of the civilized society and the biggest threat to Muslims.

I will recompose the press release, but I need to express my disgust in behalf of Muslims and hope you join in expressing the outrage.

Mike Ghouse
www.World Muslim Congress.org

2665 Villa Creek Dr, Suite 206
Dallas, TX 75234

MikeGhouse@aol.com
(214) 325-1916/ Text or Cell




Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Texas Faith - Mormon Moment


Courtesy: Newsweek
What issue would you most like to discuss with a Mormon about their religious faith?
Nine Texas Faith Panelists weigh in on it

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

The Christian battles with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are seemingly internal. Most non-Christians treat Mormons as a Christian denomination. Years ago, in a public program we had organized for the Foundation for Pluralism, we listed Mormons as a Christian denomination. Interestingly, a response from a Mormon attendee was amazing. He asked, "Do you really mean this?"

Today, the most common public issues that religious leaders yearn to influence are abortion, same-sex marriage, contraceptives, charity work and immigration. Most religious leaders range from accepting to rejecting the "otherness" of others. Either they are roped in by the politicians to play their tunes or politicians seize the opportunity to advance themselves. Mormons, in this area, seem to be no different than anyone else.

One of the founding principles of all religions is to inculcate humility in its followers as the faith builds communities. However, a few greedy pastors, imams, rabbis, pundits, shamans and other vainglorious clergy, preach just the opposite: arrogance. They are bent on denying divinity to others and making villain out of God, as if God has signed an exclusive deal with them behind other's back.

In January, 10 national evangelical pastors met in Texas to undo Romney's gains and unleashed Santorum on him. Outside of this group, a few have called Romney's faith a cult and a few others said he was not Christian enough! Obviously, the Republican leadership and the tea party are not in tune with moderate Republicans, let alone the American public. Against, their scheme, the presumptive Republican nominee is Romney now.

Indeed, there are a few in each group who see other's religious practices as weird. They arrogantly assume their practices are perfect to others. One of my favorite authors from my youth, Dr. Khushwant Singh, who was editor of the famous Illustrated weekly of India and a Sikh who wears full Sikhism on him, had criticized Muslims for not being progressive. He urged them to give up the veil and start drinking alcohol! Do you see the kettle calling the pot black? No one is free from this hubris.

As a moderate Republican, I do not see Mormons as any different than other groups of people, including Baptists, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and others who believe in a God and seek his guidance.

"The Mormon Moment" will come when they make their places of worship open to the public. Even though every chapel has a sign that welcomes visitors, and I have been to several including one in Saudi Arabia in 1979, the myths continue to persist. That includes about underwear, polygamy, obedience from women, and temple ordinances limiting entry to the inside sanctuary even to Ann Romney's non-Mormon parents during her wedding.

It's time to remove the myths, and the Mormon Church has an opportunity to do it through open houses, just as Muslims did after 9/11.
The myth that Romney would impose Mormon Sharia law onto Americans is no more valid than the idea that John Kennedy would impose a Catholic Sharia onto Americans when he was elected. President Carter did not impose a Baptist Sharia and President Bush did not impose Methodist Sharia.

It is time to ask them! I am convinced that it is better and more truthful to learn of others from them as they say "this is what we believe" rather than from those who would say, "This is what they believe".

Let us all thank God, by whatever name we know Him, that we live in America, the land of the free and the land where we can, each and every one of us, be ourselves! We have left an ugly past behind us, including persecuting Native Americans, African-Americans, Catholics, Jews, Baptists and others. We must now go further and spare Muslims, LGBT communities, Mexicans, Mormons and a few others. We need to grow up and learn to accept the "otherness" of others and tremember that this is the new American exceptionalism: Pluralism!

To see all the Nine contributions, please visit Dallas Morning Newshttp://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2012/04/texas-faith-the-mormon-moment.html
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MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day - Don't Mess with Mother Earth


We are sons and daughters of this planet,  like the mother who takes care of us, the earth offers us, what it takes for us to live – Air, Water and food.  

We are merely a strand in the scheme of things, as the Native American Chief Seattle puts it, “Chief Seattle, a Native American said this perfectly, “All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the webs, he does it to himself."

None of us can live by ourselves; we are all interconnected and interdependent. Our balance and survival depends on how well we take the responsibility to maintain it.   

On this Earth Day, I am pleased to share a few thoughts in the most simplistic language and ask you to become a contributor towards the well being of our mother.

Our caviler attitudes towards our environment amounts to messing up that delicate balance, the balance that keeps the seasons intact, the weather predictable, the right amount of energy from the Sun, the plants to produce oxygen,  the nights to refresh, the variety of nutrients to keep us healthy, the pure drinking water... if we mess that intricate balance, we screw ourselves out of life in the long haul.  

We understood the air pollution caused by carbon emissions from automobiles, factory stacks and other pollutants. Finally we came out of denial and are making serious efforts to reduce the pollution and restore the clean air.

To understand air pollution visit any fast growing city anywhere in the World, and I visited Bangalore, my Mother town,  where  each successive hour on the road, we blew the black stuff out of our noses, it was not a pleasant experience. What if it shortens the life span? I guess we can live with that, but what if it makes us eternally bedridden? Contrast that with New Delhi, where no gasoline run automobile is allowed within the City limits.  



Los Angeles and Houston were like that; we are leaning the importance of clean air and gaining some control, each one of us is a contributor towards the slow destruction or preservation of our mother. The smallest thing you can do is check your car emissions to see who you are.

We understood the pollution of underground and potable water, and we are making efforts to keep that water pristine, indeed most of the deaths in Asia and Africa are caused by water borne diseases. Watch out what you throw on the street; be good to the hands that feed you, the mother earth.

Imagine your home with heaps of garbage in it and the effect it will have on your health. The food, water, and air that give us life is a gift delivered through our mother. It is our responsibility and duty to take care of her.

With the climate change, global warming and improper disposal of trash we are hurting ourselves. Right now the garbage is dumped onto ocean through streams and drainage, the floating garbage is as big as Texas in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. There were 40 oil spills since the BP disaster and the Marine institute of Virginia claims 400 dead zones in coastal waters across the world.

We have to get a hold on this. Those who deny global warming and pollution must be given a tour of these places to learn firsthand and quit denying these.

What can you do? Just be conscious of what you throw and where you throw, throwing on the street amounts to throwing it in our own living room.

May we be guided to protect our own earth for our own good. Amen!
 
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MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Muslims commemorate Yom HaShoah

Muslims join Jews in commemorating Yom HaShoah. The best thing you can do to support Jews in their most solemn moment of history  is to visit the Holocaust Museum in your city and attend the Yom HaShoah commemorative prayers in your local synagogues this week.

The history, Wikipedia,  “Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah” known colloquially in Israel and abroad as Yom HaShoah and in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Holocaust Day, is observed as Israel's day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its accessories, and for the Jewish resistance in that period."


"In Israel, it is a national memorial day. It was inaugurated in 1953, anchored by a law signed by the Prime Minister of Israel David Ben-Gurion and the President of Israel Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. It is held on the 27th of Nisan (April/May), unless the 27th would be adjacent to Shabbat, in which case the date is shifted by a day In other countries there are different commemorative days—see Holocaust Memorial Day.”
Holocaust survivor Rosa Lee Schiff and Mike Ghouse at Temple Emanu-El
Last year I was at Temple Emanu-El and was got to meet my favorite lady, the Holocaust Survivor, Rosa Lee Schiff who and her late husband William Schiff were the key note speakers at the first Holocaust commemoration after the United Nations proclamation in 2005. 

Lao Tsu’s prayer of peace explains the need to participate;
If there is to be peace in the world,
there must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
there must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
there must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
there must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
there must be peace in the heart.

Peace on earth let it begin with me,
While listening to the notes of the Holocaust Survivors read by their family members tonight, I was in literal coma, grasping the pain and the betrayal of the world during the most difficult of times for the Jewish community. I sincerely wish the world understands this pain.


Muslims took the initiative to pray and commemorate the Holocaust event annually since the United Nations proclaimed it in November of 2005. Education was the purpose; we have to learn, acknowledge and reflect upon the terrible things we have inflicted upon each other, and we have to understand that our safety and security hinges on the safety of all others around us.


Every year we bring people of different faith together to reflect upon the Holocaust and Genocides and make a personal commitment to speak up, whenever we see a sign of massacre and genocides that is the least we can do.



There is a shameless cruelty in us, either we shy away or refuse to acknowledge the sufferings of others, worrying that it will devalue our own or somehow it amounts to infidelity to our own cause. Shame on us that we justifying massacres by believing and propagating that the victims deserved it or asked for it.



Pictures for the last five years are at www.HolocaustandGenocides.com

We sincerely pray that the following understanding continues to develop in our hearts;
Other people's suffering is as legitimate as mine; It is easy to see ourselves as Victims, but we must also see the perpetrator in us; when we strip the politics out of a conflict, we see hope; We can value others suffering without lessening our own; the overriding desire to highlight our own blinds us from other's suffering. A sense of responsibility for creating a better world is awakened ultimately co-existence and every one's safety and peace should be the driving thought.

To all those, who have endured holocaust, genocides, massacres, bombs, annihilation, land mines, hunger, rape, torture, occupation and inhuman brutality, we say you are not alone. The least we can do in the process of healing is to acknowledge every one's pain in one voice. 

We have begun the process of coming together as one people, to stand with you, we are indeed one world and a single humanity, and caring for each other brings safety and peace to all of us. I cannot be safe if the people around me are not, and I will not have peace if people around me don't. It is in my interest to seek a peaceful world for one and all.

We are working on initiating a course on tolerance education, so one day; we all can learn to have a heart that opens to the pain of every human, yes, we can do that.


Mike Ghouse is the founder of this event and is committed to building a cohesive America, where no Americans has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. He is a speaker, thinker and a writer and offers pluralistic solutions on current issues. His work is listed at www.MikeGhouse.net   

Religion Formulaa - Engaging Dr. Kumar


(Please note, this is a conversation and not an article)

The following is a conversation between Dr. Kumar and Myself, it is a sequel to my piece Religion Formula. http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/04/religion-formula.html  

Thanks for sharing your thoughts; a dialogue facilitates exchange of information so all of us can update ourselves. The bottom line for all of us is to have a cohesive society where all of us can live without fear.

Dr. Kumar, I am with you when it comes to mistreatment of minorities in Muslim majority nations, a majority of Muslims condemn them all,  just Google it, there is plenty of information out there; as well including a small list that I have created at http://standingupforothers.blogspot.com/2012/04/standing-with-hindus.html

Unfortunately, we are comparing our democracies with the monarchies and dictatorships, those men are to be blamed and dethroned. The Muslims are still living in oppression under those “bad ass rulers” calling themselves Muslims.

We Indians had a taste of it during Indira Gandhi’s regime. The decisions she made did not represent the decisions of Indians, it is the same thing with Bush, – 72% of us were against the wars. Yet his policies destroyed our economy and the common man on the street, besides destroying Iraqis and Afghans. We, the average American are paying for it. I am a Republican, but will acknowledge that Obama did the right thing; he got the bad guy with least or no collateral damage.

Same goes with Egypt and other nations. It is not the will of the people.

Some of them hate us Americans not that they want to hate. But because we Americans funded Mubarak, protected the Bahraini Khalifas, and supported Shah…… and what did they do? Oppress their people with our monies. To the average Egyptian, Bahraini or Irani (pre-shah) America funded the dictators to oppress them. Do you see the flaws in our foreign policy? Thank God for Obama, he was rightly guided. If US had supported Mubarak, they would have hated us even more.  

We cannot compare our nations to the dictatorships and monarchies, we don’t need to copy them, they need to look up to us, India, USA and other democracies to model after us. And we need to uplift ourselves and remain on a higher moral plane.

Your quote, “99% of all suicide bombings in the world have been conducted by muslims, and there are muslim victims also, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, etc. That leaves only 1% from the global non-muslim population.”

Yes, those guys are a part of the 1/10th of 1% in the formula given below. They are dangerous to the society, let’s apply that formula to the the United States and India, the nations we belong to – 5 Million Muslim should have 5,000 Muslims who are extremists, and India should have 160,000 Muslims who subscribe to that ideology. That formula is too generous, even if it is 100th of 1% - it will be 500 Muslims in the United States and 16,000 Muslims in India.


Please put some numbers together for Independent India and the USA, how many non-Muslims have been killed by Muslims, strictly in the Hindu-Muslim riots. How many in the United States. And also put the opposite numbers how many Muslims have been killed in strictly in the Hindu-Muslim riots. It is worth the research to help us free ourselves from stereotyping and bias.

In case of India and the United States, even 1000th of 1% is a higher number, if you put the right numbers together. However, worldwide, a bigger number like 100th of 1% is warranted. You will find the extremism executed in India by Muslims, Hindus, Christians and others match the percentages proportionately. Check the CIA site; they put the terrorist number around 40,000 around the world, including everyone from south America, Europe, Asia and the Middle east inclusive of all faiths.

In the US, our laws prevent the Robertsons, Falwells, Jeffress and their likes to drive Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons out of the country. America and India are the models for the world, the land of the laws that keep bad guys from executing their badness. Our systems are good, we need to sustain them.


Kumar, indeed, “Tumhare moo may ghee shakkar” –meaning God has blessed your words, for you to suggest, “I support yours and all efforts to increase tolerance and pluralistic behavior in all societies around the world. Such efforts are needed in even greater measure in the Muslim countries to level the playing field around the world and to demonstrate the same understanding on pluralism as you do.”

Someone else wrote, go teach the Muslims. Indeed, my work is published in Arab papers, its published in Tehran Times, Arab News, Jakarta Post, Indian Muslim Observer, New age Islam and several Muslim and non-Muslim websites as well… and just about everywhere. My world includes 7 billion people, I believe in what Bhagvad Gita guides one towards Vasudaiva Kutumbukum, and Quraan, “God is God of all universes” and we are all one world and we have to understand each other and take care of each other.

We have to help the divisive minds to be un-divisive and become conflict mitigaters and good will nurturers. We need to dialogue with all, including those who are bent on maligning others instead of uplifting us all.

Kumar we are all in this together and it is your responsibility, and my responsibility to make the world a better place. India and America are not Islands, we are interconnected and interdependent.

Here is the wisdom from our cousin, “Chief Seattle, a Native American said this perfectly, “All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the webs, he does it to himself."


Kumar - take a look at this small list of things, that we all can do consistently.
Standing up with Jews, Christians, Hindus, Atheists, Muslims and others - link

Mike Ghouse is committed to a cohesive America, would you like to be a partner in the work?

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Mike,

Religion Formula- not so fast.

I greatly support your efforts to infuse pluralistic behavior. However, I believe what you are saying in terms of percentages is what you wish it were, but it is not factual. You can conduct a gallup poll of 5 million muslims in USA or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or Iran and test your assumptions.

Please consider the following:

1. 99% of all suicide bombings in the world have been conducted by muslims, and there are muslim victims also, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, etc. That leaves only 1% from the global non-muslim population.

2, 95% of all terroristic acts have been caused by Muslims in the last few years. That leaves only 5% from the global non-muslim
population.

All muslims enjoy constitutional protections- in- Law in non-muslim countries such as USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, India, and China. However, non-muslims don't have the same constitutional protections in muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, etc. Even Egypt, Turkey and Malaysia are not free from this situation. In fact, buddhists can not acquire citizenship by constitution in Egypt.

Just count the number of new churches, synagogues, bahai temples, buddhists temples built in Saudi arabia, Iran, etc over the last 25 years vs number of new mosques built in the North America, Europe and India. So long that is going on, how can you say Islam is fundamentally pluralistic? Are you saying that the governments and the entire populations of these countries don't understand Quran, the same way as you do in relation to pluralism?

Even if we assume that your statistics are reasonable, then one would come to the conclusion that 3% of muslims have caused 10 times more killing of innocent lives than 3% of non-muslims (christians, jews, hindus, sikhs, bahai's, buddhists, jains,) around the world in the last 1400 years and it is also happening in the present time. There has also been a lot of killing of innocent muslims by muslims during that time, but it does not exonerate the behavior.

That said, I support yours and all efforts to increase tolerance and pluralistc behavior in all socities around the world. Such efforts are needed in even greater measure in the Muslim countries to level the playing field around the world and to demonstrate the same understanding on pluralism as you do.

AKumar
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals. His daily blog is www.TheGhousediary.com

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Texas Faith - Catholic bishops and civil disobedience

As Americans we have to stand up for the rights of fellow citizens who are Catholic. Why should anyone stand up for us, if we are not willing to do the same for others? On February 27, on Hannity Radio, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist convention and I, a Muslim, joined in supporting the rights of Catholics.


TEXAS FAITH: Catholic bishops and civil disobedience

How far should people of faith go in resisting laws they consider immoral. Eleven Texas Faith panelists weigh in. Here is one:

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

Indeed, the religious liberty of Catholics is under attack. If a compromise is not reached and the proposed law is not acceptable to the people, we have to challenge it and go all the way to the Supreme Court to check the constitutionality of it. If not that, we need to get Congress to work on rectifying it.

As Americans we have to stand up for the rights of fellow citizens who are Catholic. Why should anyone stand up for us, if we are not willing to do the same for others? On February 27, on Hannity Radio, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist convention and I, a Muslim, joined in supporting the rights of Catholics.

Unlike the monarchies, dictatorships and communist forms of government, where the rulers decide what is good for the subjects, we the people decide what is good for us.

We are a nation of laws, and our systems are well equipped to handle injustice and the unlawful laws, but are nonchalant towards valuing civil disobedience. The dissipation of the Occupy Movement is indicative of our attitudes.

Civil disobedience worked for Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., because of immorality of the laws of the time. And it would work again if the Supreme Court were unwilling to consider the plea and Congress was not willing to fix it.

The Supreme Court has done well in checking the legality of the issues and has knocked out the popular sentimental California and Oklahoma propositions in the interest of justice.

The coerciveness of the government occurs when we the people are not collectively represented in the pursuit of our happiness. And it is our failure, rather than the failure of our government, to ignore the checks and balances built into our system.

Every American must feel a sense of security, safety and freedom. It is in our long-term interest to build a cohesive America, with liberty and justice for all.

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Mike Ghouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals.www.TheGhousediary.com is Mike's daily blog.

The rise of atheism in America


COMMENTARY -Mike offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. This particular response to a comment from a Muslim to worry about Atheism.

Let's be realistic, it's not the west that causes one to be an Atheist, I chose to be one in India (raised in a secular but religious family) when I was in my teens and remained so thru the last century. It's human to be an atheist or have an atheist streak in one.

There is nothing evil being an Atheist, and one should not look down on it, if we do that, it amounts to arrogance of being righteous, to God, the righteous ones are the ones who care about fellow beings.

And I'm a muslim, perhaps a very strong one, without negating other paths, but appreciating them all in creating societies that God wanted- where people honored the otherness of others and accepted the God given uniqueness of each one.

Deep down, a majority of Muslims are this way. Are you not?  

Mike Ghouse

The rise of atheism in America

By The Week's Editorial Staff | The Week – 14 hrs ago

The number of disbelievers is growing, but they remain America's least trusted minority. Why?
How many atheists are there?

It depends on your definition of the term. Only between 1.5 and 4 percent of Americans admit to so-called "hard atheism," the conviction that no higher power exists. But a much larger share of the American public (19 percent) spurns organized religion in favor of a nondefined skepticism about faith. This group, sometimes collectively labeled the "Nones," is growing faster than any religious faith in the U.S. About two thirds of Nones say they are former believers; 24 percent are lapsed Catholics and 29 percent once identified with other Christian denominations. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, claims these Nones as members of his tribe. "If you don't have a belief in God, you're an atheist," he said. "It doesn't matter what you call yourself."

Why are so many people leaving religion?

It's primarily a backlash against the religious Right, say political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell. In their book, American Grace, they argue that the religious Right's politicization of faith in the 1990s turned younger, socially liberal Christians away from churches, even as conservatives became more zealous. The dropouts were turned off by churches' Old Testament condemnation of homosexuals, premarital sex, contraception, and abortion. The Catholic Church's sex scandals also prompted millions to equate religion with moralistic hypocrisy. "While the Republican base has become ever more committed to mixing religion and politics," Putnam and Campbell write, "the rest of the country has been moving in the opposite direction." As society becomes more secular, researchers say, doubters are more confident about identifying themselves as nonbelievers. "The collapse of institutional religion in the first 10 years of this century [has] freed so many people to say they don't really care," said author Diana Butler Bass.
How are nonbelievers perceived?

Most polls suggest that atheists are among the most disliked groups in the U.S. One study last year asked participants whether a fictional hit-and-run driver was more likely to be an atheist or a rapist. A majority chose atheist. In 2006, another study found that Americans rated atheists as less likely to agree with their vision of America than Muslims, Hispanics, or homosexuals. "Wherever there are religious majorities, atheists are among the least trusted people," said University of British Columbia sociologist Will M. Gervais. As a result, avowed atheists are rare in nearly all areas of public life. Of the 535 legislators in Congress, for example, only one — Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) — calls himself an atheist. Few sports stars or Hollywood celebrities own up to having no religious faith.

Why so much distrust?
Many Americans raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition are convinced that atheists can have no moral compass. Azim Shariff, a University of Oregon psychologist who studies religious thinking, sums up how believers view nonbelievers: "They don't fear God, so we should distrust them. They do not have the same moral obligations as others." The antipathy may have actually grown with the recent emergence of "New Atheist" writers such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, who have launched impassioned attacks on organized religion. Dawkins has encouraged his followers to "ridicule" anyone who could believe in "an unforgiving control freak" and "a capriciously malevolent bully" like the God portrayed in the Old Testament. Dawkins's harsh approach, said Barbara J. King, an anthropologist at the College of William and Mary, has confirmed "some of the negative stereotypes associated with the nonreligious — intolerance of the faithful, first and foremost."

How have atheists responded to this negative image?
A coalition of nonbelievers is out to make atheism more acceptable, starting with last month's "Reason Rally" on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., where thousands stood up for their right to not believe. Silverman of American Atheists, who helped organize the rally, said it was intended to give heart to young, "closet atheists" who fear the social stigma of being "outed," in much the same way closeted gays do. "We will never be closeted again," he said. Some within the movement advocate taking a more conciliatory approach to believers, too. Alain de Botton, the Anglo-Swiss writer of the new book Religion for Atheists, assails Dawkins as being "very narrow-minded," and praises religions as "the most successful educational and intellectual movements the planet has ever witnessed."

Will atheism ever be accepted?
If growth continues at the current rate, one in four Americans will profess no religious faith within 20 years. Silverman hopes that as nonbelief spreads, atheists can become a "legitimate political segment of the American population," afforded the same protections as religious groups and ethnic minorities. But he's not advocating a complete secular takeover of the U.S. — nor would he be likely to achieve one, given the abiding religious faith of most Americans. "We don't want the obliteration of religion; we don't want religion wiped off the face of the earth," Silverman said. "All we demand is equality."

Atheists in foxholes
Atheists are barely visible in politics and entertainment, but they are clamoring for recognition in another area of public life — the military. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers estimates that 40,000 soldiers identify as nonbelievers, and counts the most famous casualty of the war in Afghanistan, former NFL star Pat Tillman, as one of its own. In attempting to secure the same rights and support enjoyed by religious soldiers, the association lobbies against the idea that "there are no atheists in foxholes," and wants "atheist chaplains" made available for the ranks of the armed nonbelievers. Jason Torpy, the association's president, says that nonbelievers outnumber every religious group in the military except Christians, yet receive no ethical and family counseling geared to their own nonbeliefs. "These are things that chaplains do for everybody," he said, "except us."

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Mike Ghouse is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, commentator on national radio network, writes weekly at Dallas Morning News and bi monthly at Huffington post, The Smirking Chimp and other periodicals. His daily blog is www.TheGhousediary.com