Martin Marty – The Infidel and the Indifferent

Here is the latest issue of Sightings. Lots of insight, indeed.

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Fifty-two years ago—can it be?—I published The Infidel: Freethought and American Religion, and have been tracking “the infidel” ever since. Whether he or she was dubbed “free-thinker,” “agnostic,’ “atheist,” “secularist” or many things more, the infidel thrived on the reaction of the “religious” majority. By publishing date in 1961, the infidel had gone off center stage, and scholarly colleagues and I had to ponder what “the religiofication” (as scholar Eric Hoffer called it) of American culture would mean. Infidels not only “went,” from time to time, they “came.” Again.

In recent years opinion surveys, pop culture, and scholarly literature have discovered the unmistakable presence of the current round of “infidels.” The term of choice currently is “the religiously unaffiliated,” a very relaxed term which suggests that “religion”=”affiliation.” Unsatisfied with that big-tent designation, opinion surveyors have helpfully studied and redefined sub-groups in the category. One of the most popular sources finds and names three sub-categories. The American Values Survey (see source at end of this column) looked at the 19% of the population which was “unaffiliated” and found that almost one-fourth of these were “unattached believers,” over one-third were “self-identified atheists and agnostics,” and almost forty percent were simply (well, sometimes maybe complexly) “unaffiliated secular Americans,” not “secularists.” Continue reading “Martin Marty – The Infidel and the Indifferent”