Libra New Moon, September 28, 2019

Wendy Cicchetti

The Libra New Moon offers chances to lay new foundations in relationships. This may evolve from recognizing the lack of potential in an existing setup, since the New Moon closely opposes wounded Chiron. Accepting that some things cannot be mended, repeated, or reframed can be quite progressive. We may stop trying to force an issue that has been going nowhere, despite our intense hope and efforts. The New Moon is quincunx Uranus, an aspect that represents a blind spot, involving a planet that indicates a flash of insight. We could be given a glimpse into where a state of affairs has been going wrong — and what would help to balance it out in the future.

Sometimes, it becomes clear that, due to a lack of action or to inappropriate action in the past, a situation really cannot be salvaged. It is finished or irretrievable. Yet, another opportunity can be snatched up, which would set the moral compass of circumstances on the right track again. This is a distinct possibility, under the current lunation, and might simply entail being open to unusual suggestions.

This theme could apply in a very specific area, such as health, which is often a concern with the quincunx. Uranus has a maverick quality, so we might be encouraged to try something quite alternative. Since Uranus is retrograde, it may well be an option that we considered or even tried before but dismissed as unsuitable or undesirable. Yet, suddenly, it may seem just the thing — seen in a new light under the Uranus–Sun connection!

Venus is conjunct Mercury, the planet of mind and verbal exchanges. Here, the emphasis is on peace, calm, and balance. When establishing new connections, we do well to veer towards those people with whom we naturally feel greater tranquility and equilibrium. There may be a sense of emotional and lifestyle recharging around such folk, with new mental stimuli coming in — and perhaps a few cultural events on the calendar again.

If people around us seem easygoing, maybe we find it easy to mirror that approach to life, too. Venus is happy in Libra and will compromise there, without feeling resentment. The Libra planets indicate a win–win situation and an easy, give-and-take element — friends and family tend to have fewer problems in taking turns. So, it may be easier to get needed support, or just to find a companion for a desired event we’d rather not attend alone.

In the Tarot, Venus links with the Empress, attuning to seasonal changes and the need for adjustment to trends. She maintains high standards of hospitality but, when in Rome, is open to the local culture and cuisine. Venus is challenged by squares to Saturn and Pluto, indicating caution around going too far. Excesses of food, wine, or love can result in toxic outcomes. Some simple protection is afforded through Jupiter’s close sextile to Venus. Jupiter in Sagittarius means that if we aim for the highest good — allowing for a spiritual connection — we may be less likely to err.

This article is from the Mountain Astrologer, written by Diana Collis.

Elon Musk warns ‘advanced A.I.’ will soon manipulate social media

Musk also said that “anonymous bot swarms” should be investigated.

STEPHEN JOHNSON 27 September, 2019 (bigthink.com)
FilmMagic
 / Getty

  • On Thursday, Musk tweeted about the potential dangers of advanced A.I. manipulating social media.
  • It’s unclear what prompted Musk to tweet about advanced A.I., but his tweets came hours after The New York Times published an article about digital disinformation campaigns.
  • Musk has a history of being rather pessimistic about the future of A.I.

Twitter bots in 2019 can perform some basic functions, like tweeting content, retweeting, following other users, quoting other users, liking tweets and even sending direct messages. But even though bots on Twitter and other social media seem to be getting smarter than previous iterations, these A.I. are still relatively unsophisticated in terms of how well they can manipulate social discourse.

But it’s only a matter of time before more advanced A.I. changes begins manipulating the conversation on a large scale, according to Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

“If advanced A.I. (beyond basic bots) hasn’t been applied to manipulate social media, it won’t be long before it is,” Musk tweeted on Thursday morning.

It’s unclear exactly what Musk is referring to by “advanced A.I.” but his tweet come just hours after The New York Times published an article outlining a study showing that at least 70 countries have experienced digital disinformation campaigns over the past two years. 

“In recent years, governments have used ‘cyber troops’ to shape public opinion, including networks of bots to amplify a message, groups of “trolls” to harass political dissidents or journalists, and scores of fake social media accounts to misrepresent how many people engaged with an issue,” Davey Alba and Adam Satariano wrote for the Times. “The tactics are no longer limited to large countries. Smaller states can now easily set up internet influence operations as well.”

Musk followed up his tweet by saying that “anonymous bot swarms” — presumably referring to coordinated activity by a large number of social media bots — should be investigated.

“If they’re evolving rapidly, something’s up,” he tweeted.

Musk has long predicted a gloomy future with AI. In 2017, he told staff at Neuralink – Musk’s company that’s developing an implantable brain-computer interface – that he thinks there’s about “a five to 10 percent chance” of making artificial intelligence safe. In the documentary “Do You Trust Your Computer?”, Musk warned of the dangers of a single organization someday developing superintelligence.

“The least scary future I can think of is one where we have at least democratized AI because if one company or small group of people manages to develop godlike digital superintelligence, they could take over the world,” Musk said.

“At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.”

Transference

By Wendy Mandy, U.K.

September 28, 2019

If we can understand Transference, we can free ourselves up in the most incredible way.

     Fundamentally no one can do anything to you, they can only trigger your wish to learn about yourself and to grow. Between conception and the age of three we form all our neural pathways and our perceptions to our environment [read Gabor Maté].   

We incarnate with ancestral imprints (epigenetics) and parallel life imprints, into our mother’s womb and with this coding we develop patterns of behaviour from the perceptions of our first caretakers (primarily the mother). These patterns stay with us for life unless we do process work to understand ourselves and energetically change our frequency.  

Anyone we have a close relationship with (work colleagues, children, parents, friends, siblings) can bring up our emotional trauma patterns for us. If we understand this, even when it is very painful (as it was when we first experienced the traumas) we can come out of blame – “you did this/that to me” – and be able to say as the Hawaiian shamans say:

THANK YOU, I FORGIVE YOU AND I LOVE YOU!   

This ‘other’ has illuminated for you where you are stuck and need to grow. You have a chance to change the frequency of the relationship on your side into something positive – this clarity may mean that you come out of co-dependence (victim/persecutor/rescuer). You might not want to stay with this ‘other’ after such a revelation – you may not be able to work together, live together or be close friends with some people but you and they will grow! Hopefully you can make the relationship more fruitful and be more grateful!   

Consciousness like nature is benevolent and wants us to grow and flow. It is there to help us not punish us. LOVE is all around us at all times, it’s just that our pain sometimes feels too deep for us to move through it. However, as an adult we can parent that inner child who really was reliant on the ‘other’. We have power as an adult to change all our circumstances. The kind of work we offer targets the shift of old patterns. Make today the day you start taking responsibility for re-parenting yourself.~

Please email me for advice on who to see for 5 element acupuncture, shamanic work, transformational breath, osteopathy, nutrition, homeopathy, kundalini yoga etc. My books are closed but I know really good people. I am writing a book and can step up this kind of communication. Let me know what you would like me to write about! 

Love Wendy
 
Our mailing address is:
wendmandyuk@gmail.com

“Fellow Traveler” by Mike Zonta, H.W., M.

Mike Zonta, Fellow Traveler

In the early aughts of the 21st century, I was a trustee of The Prosperos. After a few months, I resigned and automatically became a fellow (thus the title of this blog). A fellow is one who has a voice but no vote at trustee meetings.

Since trustee meetings are of general interest to The Prosperos student body, I thought I’d share my voice about the annual meeting we had online on Sunday, September 22, 2019.

It was a good meeting. Attended by the seven trustees (Rick Thomas, Sarkis Balayan, Heather Williams, Richard Hartnett, Anne Bollman, William Fennie, and HughJohn Malanaphy) and two fellows: myself and Janet Cornwell. Also present were the president of the High Watch Association, Pam Rodolph, and the president of the Mentor’s Association, Calvin Harris. And dean of the school, Al Haferkamp. As well as invited guest Zoë Robinson. And there may be one more person who I don’t remember.

I won’t go through the agenda item by item. If you are interested in that you can email Anne Bollman for a copy of the official trustee’s report.

First of all, the seven trustees were asked if they wanted to continue as trustees for next year. All seven answered in the affirmative. I asked if there were any openings on the board. I think it was Anne who answered that there is no limit to the membership as long as it is an odd number.

Then we went on to discuss the deanship question. Richard brought up my rotating deanship proposal which the High Watch membership considered and rejected. The vote in the High Watch was 10-4 against the idea of rotating the deanship amongst the three member of the Executive Council for a period of two years each. Richard said he agreed that it would be nice to run the school more in line with group dynamics.

My whole idea was that we are too leadership-centered, almost reverentially so. And that that’s not healthy for the school or the dean. Do we really need a dean? Why not just an Executive Council? The current Executive Council is made up of dean Al Haferkamp along with two people of his choosing: William Fennie and Heather Williams. Was this approved by the trustees? Who knows? These are the mysteries (because no one outside the trustees receives their reports).

Al agreed to remain dean for one more year with the possibility of leaving earlier if he needs to. There was no discussion of an alternative to Al. No one brought it up. I didn’t even think about it. Which just goes to show you that once the trustees elect a dean, he or she is dean for life, if not in law, than certainly in practice. Long live the Dean!

On to Assembly 2020: It was decided to hold the 2020 assembly in Denver, Colorado. That’s where most of the energy seemed to be. Richard Hartnett would work with John Atwater and others in Denver and others in the school to organize this event. The theme is “Global Awakening and How to Evolve Successfully with It.” 

Let me predict: HughJohn will talk about dreams. Richard will talk about the tarot. Calvin will handle the entertainment. Greta Balayan will give a spontaneous speech about her most embarrassing moment. Other speakers will include Al Haferkamp, Heather Williams, William Fennie and possibly myself if I can be seduced into attending. Oh, and lots of break-out groups.

Then William brought up a plan for a newly revised Prosperos website. It would involve lots of volunteers helping out to respond to the numerous queries which are anticipated. I didn’t put much stock in it because William’s been giving us new plans for The Prosperos website for years and not much gets done.

William did mention one thing of interest to me: that Thane was concerned that the school would break up into cadres. Which I think is what has happened. In the case of the trustees, it’s a self-perpetuating cadre.

Final note: Heather did bring up the idea of addressing the great deanship crisis of 1997 and we will be having a special meeting on Sunday, November 17 at 9 am Pacific time via Zoom to discuss this.

Au revoir.

Poland deeply divided over LGBT rights

FRANCE 24 English Subscribe to France 24 now: http://f24.my/youtubeEN FRANCE 24 live news stream: all the latest news 24/7 http://f24.my/YTliveEN

In Poland, LGBT+ activists have been holding marches all summer, campaigning for rights such as civil partnerships or marriage. While the liberal opposition supports them, the conservative-nationalist government certainly does not. Alongside members of the clergy, it openly opposes the movement, turning LGBT+ rights into a campaign issue ahead of October’s general election. In the meantime, Polish society remains deeply divided on the subject. Our correspondent reports.

Visit our website: http://www.france24.com

Sonnet 29: When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes

BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
       For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
       That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Are dogs conscious? How about computers? Brain scientist Christof Koch takes on deep questions

Alan Boyle, GeekWire September 23, 2019 (Yahoo.com)

Neuroscientist Christof Koch, president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, talks about the roots of consciousness at the 2017 GeekWire Summit. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)
Neuroscientist Christof Koch, president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, talks about the roots of consciousness at the 2017 GeekWire Summit. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

Do animals possess consciousness? Can consciousness be uploaded into a computer? Can we measure objectively whether someone is conscious or not?

Those may sound like deep, imponderable questions — but in a newly published book, “The Feeling of Life Itself,” neuroscientist Christof Koch actually lays out some answers: Yes, no … and yes, scientists are already testing a method for measuring consciousness, with eerie implications.

Along the way, Koch addresses brain-teasing concepts ranging from the Vulcan mind melds seen on “Star Trek” to the kind of brain-computer interface that billionaire Elon Musk is backing through his Neuralink venture.

Koch has studied the workings of the brain for decades as a Caltech researcher and now as chief scientist and president of Seattle’s Allen Institute for Brain Science. This is the third book he’s written about the consciousness conundrum — and you might think he’d stick to the view, popular among the technorati, that being conscious is just a matter of having sufficiently complex software.

“In particular, this means that computers, if they are sufficiently complex and if they begin to resemble our cognitive abilities and memories and speaking, then they too will become conscious,” Koch told GeekWire. “Consciousness is all about doing. Consciousness is just a special form of computation. It’s just a particular algorithm. So, consciousness is just a hack away.”

Contrary to expectations, Koch takes a radically different view: He says consciousness has to do with how the brain’s hardware is intrinsically structured and interconnected.

“It’s a measure of how complex systems are. It’s a measure of how usable a system is. It’s a measure of how much causal power the system has upon itself,” he said. “So, in principle, you could measure it.”

Neuroscientist Christof Koch is the author of “The Feeling of Life Itself: Why Consciousness Is Widespread But Can’t Be Computed.” (Photos Courtesy of Christof Koch and The MIT Press)
Neuroscientist Christof Koch is the author of “The Feeling of Life Itself: Why Consciousness Is Widespread But Can’t Be Computed.” (Photos Courtesy of Christof Koch and The MIT Press)

The scale of consciousness

In his book, Koch lays out a concept for consciousness known as integrated information theory, which was first proposed 15 years ago by a collaborator of his, Giulio Tononi of the Center for Sleep and Consciousness at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The theory states that, by analyzing the structure of a system’s circuitry, it should be possible to derive a numerical measurement of the system’s cause-and-effect power, known as phi (that is, the Greek letter Φ).

“If phi is zero, then the system doesn’t exist for itself,” Koch said. “A system that has phi that’s positive, 10 or 20 or 5 million, exists for itself. The larger this number, the more conscious it is.”

Koch devotes much of the book to explaining the concept of phi — and experimental efforts to measure levels of consciousness in a wide variety of individuals using brain-wave monitors.

When a person’s conscious brain is zapped with a strong magnetic field, the response produces a complex sweep of brain waves that reverberate like the ringing of a bell. But the response of a non-conscious brain — say, the brain of someone who’s in dreamless deep sleep — is more like a cracked bell, without reverberation in different brain regions.

This “zap-and-zip” technique of using a strong magnetic field and electroencephalography is already being used in clinics as a “consciousness-meter,” Koch said, and the readings seem to correlate roughly with the apparent state of patients who are minimally conscious as opposed to being in a vegetative state.

One eerie aspect of the studies is that some patients who were thought to be in a vegetative state exhibit strongly reverberating brain activity. “If the theory is correct, it implies that these patients are conscious yet unable to communicate with the world,” Koch writes in his book.

And that’s not all: The theory suggests that consciousness is not a binary, on-or-off phenomenon. Looking beyond humans, animal brains show a lesser degree of cause-and-effect, but the effect is still there. Koch has come around to the view that all forms of life — from apes, dogs and dolphins all the way down to microbes — possess a modicum of consciousness.

This concept, known as panpsychism, has transformed Koch’s life. “I’ve turned into a complete vegetarian,” he said. “That is one of the implications [of the view] that consciousness is more widespread than we assume.”

Minds vs. machines

Another implication is that it would be impossible for computers to become conscious, at least if they’re merely advanced versions of current-day machines.

Thanks to deep learning and other tricks of the artificial intelligence trade, it’s possible to train a computer to pass an eighth-grade science exam, or even pass itself off as a human. But because of the linear way in which the circuitry is structured, Koch argues that even the most advanced AI systems lack cause-and-effect power.

“Yes, they can mimic the human brain, including mimicking the program in the brain for waking up and saying ‘I’m conscious,’ ” Koch said. “But it’s all going to be the ultimate deepfake. It will not feel like anything to be these machines.”

Koch admits there’s a catch: If future computers are modeled to reflect the highly complex, self-referential way in which neurons are connected in living brains, the question of machine consciousness could be revisited. As an example, Koch pointed to IBM’s True North project, which is developing neuromorphic computer chips.

All this implies that we won’t be uploading our brains into the cloud anytime soon. But how about merging our brains with machines? This concept is what motivated Elon Musk’s investment in Neuralink. The way Koch sees it, hooking up a computer to your brain would be analogous to having a search engine in your head.

“It’s cool what they’re doing, no question,” Koch said of Neuralink. “But we’re very far away from anything of the sort that Elon is talking about. And of course, unlike cars and rocket technology, just getting the FDA to approve the surgical devices is going to take many years.”

Merging different brains, as the fictional Mr. Spock was able to do on “Star Trek,” is a different matter. Studies of surgically split brains and conjoined twins suggest that brain-to-brain mergers are possible.

The effect seems likely to vary depending on the magnitude of the merger, Koch said. If integrated information theory is correct, there could come a point when the brain bridging is so complete that two minds merge into one.

“Your conscious experience of the world vanishes, as does mine,” he writes. “From your and my intrinsic perspective, we cease to exist. But our death coincides with the birth of a new amalgamated über-mind. It has a Whole extending across two brains and four cortical hemispheres.”

Will we all be assimilated? If so, you heard it here first.

Neuralink is developing an apparatus for implanting brain electrodes that has been compared to a sewing machine. (Neuralink Photo)
Neuralink is developing an apparatus for implanting brain electrodes that has been compared to a sewing machine. (Neuralink Photo)

Rise of the mini-brains

In another case of science fiction intersecting with real-life neuroscience, researchers reported last month that artificially grown bunches of human brain cells, known as cerebral organoids, exhibited electrical activity similar to the brain waves of newborn babies.

The findings are still tentative. “We don’t have any good evidence that it’s developed anything [that] you would confuse with the electrical activity in a conscious mouse or in a conscious dog,” Koch said. “But you know, sooner or later, in the next five or 10 or 15 years, we’re going to get there.”

He said the use of cerebral organoids in research is likely to raise deep questions.

“What it would feel depends on the exact wiring, but probably primarily it would have a feeling of a notion of spatial expanse. Probably it wouldn’t be pain or pleasure. It would feel like something … maybe very undifferentiated. Nothing like the highly sophisticated consciousness that you and I have, or that a 2-year-old has,” Koch said. “But, you know, this is the beginning of the road.”

Christof Koch will read from “The Feeling of Life Itself” and discuss the future of neuroscience at 7 p.m. Friday at Ada’s Technical Books in Seattle. The book launch event is free to the public.

(Contributed by Janet Cornwell, H.W., m.)

Three Decades Ago, America Lost Its Religion. Why?

“Not religious” has become a specific American identity—one that distinguishes secular, liberal whites from the conservative, evangelical right.

SEP 26, 2019 (theatlantic.com)

Derek Thompson Staff writer at The Atlantic

man walking out of a church door
JAMES STRACHAN / GETTY

The idea of American exceptionalism has become so dubious that much of its modern usage is merely sarcastic. But when it comes to religion, Americans really are exceptional. No rich country prays nearly as much as the U.S, and no country that prays as much as the U.S. is nearly as rich.

America’s unique synthesis of wealth and worship has puzzled international observers and foiled their grandest theories of a global secular takeover. In the late 19th century, an array of celebrity philosophers—the likes of Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud—proclaimed the death of God, and predicted that atheism would follow scientific discovery and modernity in the West, sure as smoke follows fire.

Stubbornly pious Americans threw a wrench in the secularization thesis. Deep into the 20th century, more than nine in 10 Americans said they believed in God and belonged to an organized religion, with the great majority of them calling themselves Christian. That number held steady—through the sexual-revolution ’60s, through the rootless and anxious ’70s, and through the “greed is good” ’80s.

But in the early 1990s, the historical tether between American identity and faith snapped. Religious non-affiliation in the U.S. started to rise—and rise, and rise. By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they didn’t associate with any established religion (also known as “nones”) had doubled. By the 2010s, this grab bag of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size.

History does not often give the satisfaction of a sudden and lasting turning point. History tends to unfold in messy cycles—actions and reactions, revolutions and counterrevolutions—and even semipermanent changes are subtle and glacial. But the rise of religious non-affiliation in America looks like one of those rare historical moments that is neither slow, nor subtle, nor cyclical. You might call it exceptional.


The obvious question for anybody who spends at least two seconds looking at the graph above is: What the hell happened around 1990?

According to Christian Smith, a sociology and religion professor at the University of Notre Dame, America’s nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.

This story begins with the rise of the religious right in the 1970s. Alarmed by the spread of secular culture—including but not limited to the sexual revolution, the Roe v. Wade decision, the nationalization of no-fault divorce laws, and Bob Jones University losing its tax-exempt status over its ban on interracial dating—Christians became more politically active. The GOP welcomed them with open arms. The party, which was becoming more dependent on its exurban-white base, needed a grassroots strategy and a policy platform. Within the next decade, the religious right—including Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, and Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority—had become fundraising and organizing juggernauts for the Republican Party. In 1980, the GOP social platform was a facsimile of conservative Christian views on sexuality, abortion, and school prayer.

The marriage between the religious and political right delivered Reagan, Bush, and countless state and local victories. But it disgusted liberal Democrats, especially those with weak connections to the Church. It also shocked the conscience of moderates, who preferred a wide berth between their faith and their politics. Smith said it’s possible that young liberals and loosely affiliated Christians first registered their aversion to the Christian right in the early 1990s, after a decade of observing its powerful role in conservative politics.

Second, it may have felt unpatriotic to confess one’s ambivalence toward God while the U.S. was locked in a geopolitical showdown with a godless Evil Empire. In 1991, however, the Cold War ended. As the U.S.S.R. dissolved, so did atheism’s association with America’s nemesis. After that, “nones” could be forthright about their religious indifference, without worrying that it made them sound like Soviet apologists.

Third, America’s next geopolitical foe wasn’t a godless state. It was a God-fearing, stateless movement: radical Islamic terrorism. A series of bombings and attempted bombings in the 1990s by fundamentalist organizations such as al-Qaeda culminated in the 9/11 attacks. It would be a terrible oversimplification to suggest that the fall of the Twin Towers encouraged millions to leave their church, Smith said. But over time, al-Qaeda became a useful referent for atheists who wanted to argue that all religions were inherently destructive.

Meanwhile, during George W. Bush’s presidency, Christianity’s association with unpopular Republican policies drove more young liberals and moderates away from both the party and the Church. New Atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, became intellectual celebrities; the 2006 best seller American Theocracy argued that evangelicals in the Republican coalition were staging a quiet coup that would plunge the country into disarray and financial ruin. Throughout the Bush presidency, liberal voters—especially white liberal voters— detached from organized religion in ever-higher numbers.

Religion has lost its halo effect in the past three decades, not because science drove God from the public square, but rather because politics did. In the 21st century, “not religious” has become a specific American identity—one that distinguishes secular, liberal whites from the conservative, evangelical right.


Other social forces, which have little to do with geopolitics or partisanship, have played a key role in the rise of the nones.

The Church is just one of many social institutions—including banks, Congress, and the police—that have lost public trust in an age of elite failure. But scandals in the Catholic Church have accelerated its particularly rapid loss of moral stature. According to Pew research, 13 percent of Americans today self-identify as “former Catholics,” and many of them leave organized religion altogether. And as the ranks of the nones have swelled, it’s become more socially acceptable for casual or rare churchgoers to tell pollsters that they don’t particularly identify with any faith. It’s also become easier for nones to meet, marry, and raise children who grow up without any real religious attachment.

Nor does Smith rule out the familiar antagonists of capitalism and the internet in explaining the popularity of non-affiliation. “The former has made life more precarious, and the latter has made it easier for anxious individuals to build their own spiritualities from ideas and practices they find online,” he said, such as Buddhist meditation guides and atheist Reddit boards.

Most important has been the dramatic changes in the American family. The past half century has dealt a series of body blows to American marriage. Divorce rates spiked in the ’70s through the ’90s, following the state-by-state spread of no-fault divorce laws. Just as divorce rates stabilized, the marriage rate started to plummet in the ’80s, due to both the decline of marriage within the working class and delayed marriage among college-educated couples.

“There’s historically been this package: Get married, go to church or temple, have kids, send them to Sunday school,” Smith said. But just as stable families make stable congregations, family instability can destabilize the Church. Divorced individuals, single parents, and children of divorce or single-parent households are all more likely to detach over time from their congregations.

Finally, the phenomenon of “delayed adulthood” might be another subtle contributor. More Americans, especially college graduates in big metro areas, are putting off marriage and childbearing until their 30s, and are using their 20s to establish a career, date around, and enjoy being young and single in a city. By the time they settle down, they have established a routine—work, brunch, gym, date, drink, football—that leaves little room for weekly Mass. “They know who they are by 30, and they don’t feel like they need a church to tell them,” Smith said.


The rise of the nones shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the religious identity that seems to be doing the best job at both retaining old members and attracting new ones is the newfangled American religion of Nothing Much at All.

Does the rise of the nones matter?

Let’s first consider the possibility that it doesn’t. As America’s youth have slipped away from organized religion, they haven’t quite fallen into wickedness. If anything, today’s young people are uniquely conscientious—less likely to fight, drink, use hard drugs, or have premarital sex than previous generations. They might not be able to quote from the Book of Matthew, but their economic and social politics—which insist on protections for the politically meek and the historically persecuted—aren’t so far from a certain reading of the beatitudes.

But the liberal politics of young people brings us to the first big reason to care about rising non-affiliation. A gap has opened up between America’s two political parties. In a twist of fate, the Christian right entered politics to save religion, only to make the Christian-Republican nexus unacceptable to millions of young people—thus accelerating the country’s turn against religion.

Although it would be wrong to call Democrats a secular party (older black voters are highly religious and dependably vote Democratic), the left today has a higher share of religiously unaffiliated voters than anytime in modern history. At the same time, the average religiosity of white Christian Republicans has gone up, according to Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the polling firm PRRI and the author of The End of White Christian America. Evangelicals feel so embattled that they’ve turned to a deeply immoral and authoritarian champion to protect them—even if it means rendering unto an American Caesar whatever the hell he wants. American politics is at risk of becoming a war of religiosity versus secularism by proxy, where both sides see the other as a catastrophic political force that must be destroyed at all costs.

The deeper question is whether the sudden loss of religion has social consequences for Americans who opt out. Secular Americans, who are familiar with the ways that traditional faiths have betrayed modern liberalism, may not have examined how organized religion has historically offered solutions to their modern existential anxieties.

Making friends as an adult without a weekly congregation is hard. Establishing a weekend routine to soothe Sunday-afternoon nerves is hard. Reconciling the overwhelming sense of life’s importance with the universe’s ostensible indifference to human suffering is hard.

Although belief in God is no panacea for these problems, religion is more than a theism. It is a bundle: a theory of the world, a community, a social identity, a means of finding peace and purpose, and a weekly routine. Those, like me, who have largely rejected this package deal, often find themselves shopping à la carte for meaning, community, and routine to fill a faith-shaped void. Their politics is a religion. Their work is a religion. Their spin class is a church. And not looking at their phone for several consecutive hours is a Sabbath.

American nones may well build successful secular systems of belief, purpose, and community. But imagine what a devout believer might think: Millions of Americans have abandoned religion, only to re-create it everywhere they look.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.Related Video

DEREK THOMPSON is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, technology, and the media. He is the author of Hit Makers and the host of the podcast Crazy/Genius.Twitter

(Contributed by Gwyllm Llwydd.)

Rewired with Dr. Joe Dispenza | Gaia

Gaia Through the power of neuroscience, epigenetics, and quantum physics, Dr. Joe Dispenza’s profound work has touched the lives of millions, enabling them to conquer pain, chronic conditions, and even terminal illnesses. In his first-ever Gaia series, Rewired, Dr. Joe will teach you how to rewire your brain and recondition your body to go beyond your current limitations and become supernatural.

SUBSCRIBE: https://bit.ly/2Kzgk9x About Gaia: Gaia offers the largest resource of consciousness expanding videos. Answer life’s deeper questions and go beyond the mainstream narrative with Gaia— a member-supported media network of truth seekers and believers empowering an evolution of consciousness. Explore over 8,000 ad-free, streaming titles that challenge modern paradigms and allow you to manifest the reality that defines your being. You can experience Gaia in English, Spanish, German, or French. We offer original, dubbed or subtitled content in these languages. Join hundreds of thousands of members in 185 countries in awakening your consciousness. SIGN UP FOR GAIA – https://bit.ly/2z1f3S2

(Courtesy of Ben Gilberti, H.W., M.)