Contribute to First in the Family Humanist Scholarship Fund

In 2013, Black Skeptics Los Angeles (BSLA), a 501c3 organization, spearheaded its First in the Family Humanist Scholarship initiative, which focuses on providing resources to undocumented, foster care, homeless and LGBTQ youth who will be the first in their families to go to college.  Responding directly to the school-to-prison pipeline crisis in communities of color, BSLA is the first atheist organization to specifically address college pipelining for youth of color with an explicitly anti-racist multicultural emphasis.

Indiegogo Link

The Nones are an Important Super Tuesday Bloc

Last week Public Religion Research Institute published a short report on the religious affiliation of self-identified Democrats and Republicans in states with contests on Super Tuesday (tomorrow).

It is not surprising that the nonreligious comprise a larger portion of the Democratic Party coalition than the Republican’s. According to the data collected for the American Values Atlas, more than 1-in-5 (22 percent) Democrats are nones, but only 1-in-10 Republicans are.

In three states the nones comprise at least 3-in-10 Democrats: Colorado (34 percent), Massachusetts (31 percent), and Minnesota (30 percent). Among Republicans, Alaska has the highest rate of nones in their coalition. One-in-five (20 percent) of Alaska Republicans are nonreligious.

Considering that the PRRI analysis divides the party coalitions in large racial and religious groupings, it is fair to assume that in most of these states the nones represent the largest segment of the Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, contrary to most of those racial/ethnic/religious groups, the nones are not as well organized politically. We do not have a well-organized secular left even though the nones have been consistent supporters of Democratic candidates for nearly 4 decades and were an important part of Barack Obama’s coalition. But until we take party politics seriously, we will not be more than a vote taken for granted but not actively mobilized. The time is due for a powerful and strong Secular Left to serve as an antidote to the damage the Religious Right has done to this country.

Photo Credit: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton facing off in the Democratic debate at St. Anselm College, December 19 2015; Ida Mae Astute ABC News via Flickr.

A Latino Deconversion Story

Diego Kal-El Martinez at Medium writes the story of leaving Catholicism and becoming an atheist. My favorite quote may be this one, that encapsulates what I think is a very common experience of people who were raised religious and are now nones.

The thing about my story though is I don’t think I can pinpoint an exact moment I became an Atheist. It was all just one long progression from Catholic to Atheist. Sure I can say that now with great conviction but there was never that, “Ah-Ha” moment when I said to myself, “I am an Atheist”. Oh and that missing piece in my life, well I never found it.

I loved how he phrased that progression from religious to none. Moreover, I think it is a very common experience, especially among Latinos. Most people probably start doubting a tenet of the religion, a teaching, or just the authority of the religious leaders. Which is why I think a focus on science education as the sole route to atheism is misguided because it scares people into thinking that a particular knowledge set is a litmus test to become an atheist. Go and read the whole thing.

What I’ve been up to

I closed the old site in 2012 to adapt to a new full-time job that required moving from Connecticut to Washington, DC, and to work on my dissertation with the limited free time I was going to have. My level of activity in the secular world declined considerably, but I was still able to get in debates every once in a while. The pace picked up last year after completing my dissertation. Below is a list of my publications, media appearances, and speeches after shutting down the old blog.

Most of my writing was done for my employer’s (PRRI) blog. I used the platform to write about Latinos and politics. But I also did some writing on secularism. My writings on secularism from that period include an analysis of the secular vote between 1980 and 2008, the theological diversity of the secular population, a 2013 Darwin Day post on evolution and American public opinion, and a secular interpretation of New England’s embrace of same-sex marriage. My other blog-ish piece during that period was an article for Religion in the News in the Fall of 2013 titled “Congress gets a None.” The article chronicles the strange case of Arizona representative Kyrsten Synema’s decision to avoid the label “atheist” when discussing her religious beliefs.

Outside of the PRRI blog, I was able to publish 2 book chapters. “A World of Atheism: Global Demographics” was a collaboration with Dr. Ariela Keysar, my former colleague at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture, and published in the Oxford Handbook of Atheism. The chapter analyzes international survey research to come up with an estimate of the number of atheists around the world and came out in the fall of 2013.

The other book chapter was published in the summer of 2015 and also explores atheism using survey data. However, this time it is confined to the United States and touches the subject of (in)tolerance toward atheists. The chapter is titled “Nonreligious Tolerance: American Attitudes toward Atheists, America’s Most Unpopular Religious Group” coauthored with my former PRRI colleagues Dr. Robert P. Jones and Dr. Daniel Cox. It was included in Dr. Paul Djupe’s Religion and Political Tolerance in America. The other academic publication during this period is, of course, my dissertation The Diversity of Latino Ideology, which I defended in March 2015.

I discussed the world of religion surveys in two interviews. I appeared in Dr. John Shook’s show Humanist Matters on December 2013, and almost a year later (October 2014) I was interviewed by Hemant Mehta for the Friendly Atheist podcast. My other podcast appearance was discussing my talk about secular Latinos at the American Humanist Association conference in The Humanist Hour.

Finally, the completion of my dissertation allowed me to travel more than I had been able to in previous years. I took the chance to speak at three different conferences (an additional appearance had to be cancelled because it coincided with the birth of my child). In May I spoke at the 74th AHA conference in Denver. The title of my talk was “The Rise of the Latino Nones: How Secular Latinos will Shape the Future of American Secularism”. The next stop was Buffalo, where in late July and early August I addressed the student and community leaders in the Center for Inquiry’s Moving Freethought Forward Conference. I presented twice in the conference. A talk about racial diversity among the growing secular community titled “The Many Faces of American Secularism” and another on politics in the secular movement titled “Balancing The Force: The Secular Left as an Antidote to the Religious Right.”  I closed the year with a presentation in October as part of Humanist Haven, a series of talks sponsored by the Yale Humanist Community. The title was “The Nonreligious in American Politics: Challenges and Promises” and gave me the opportunity to return to Connecticut for the first time since my dissertation defense.

This year I have more in store. Tomorrow I depart for Houston to take part in the Secular Social Justice Conference. I also have 2 book chapters on secularism and race, 1 book chapter on immigration, and an article on secularism and race that should finally see the day of light (and print) at some point this year.

My permanent secular writing home

Over the past few months I’ve been moving back and forth between my official homepage at and this site when blogging. As a new year’s resolution I decided to permanently move here. After some url issues were solved earlier this year, I’m finally able to transfer some old writings and start my new writing here again.

It’s been almost 4 years since I shut down the old LatiNone website. Back then the pressures of starting a new job in a new city while trying to complete a dissertation meant that some of my online activities had to go. Hence, the blog was placed in a semi-permanent hiatus.

I’m looking forward to start writing again in this blog. Hopefully with the frequency I did back in the day. In 2011 and 2012 (before I shut down), I was writing a short piece a day. I’m not sure if I can match that feat, but I will certainly try. In the meantime, use this site as a way to keep up with my upcoming appearances, announcements of new publications, and my musings on the intersection of race and secularism.

This Weekend: Secular Social Justice Conference

If you’re in Houston this weekend, consider stopping by the Secular Social Justice Conference. A great group of secular activists and/or scholars of color will be discussing how to advance social justice in the growing secular community.

I look forward to reconnect with leaders like Sikivu Hutchinson, Anthony Pinn, the AHA’s Maggie Ardiente, and CFI’s Debbie Goddard. I also hope to meet others whom I’ve followed for a while like Sincere Kirabo and Alix Jules. Hopefully, Greta Christina also makes good on her promise and attends!


Twenty Percent (or 7.5 Million!)

Today is December 12, the day of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico. Which is a good day to remind people how Latinos’ religious composition has changed in recent years, and how large the secular cohort has become. We are now 20 percent of the Latino adult population, or 7.5 million. So, my secular Latino friends, look at this quick infographic and remember: you’re not alone.

La Guadalupana

Becoming secular…without science

The New Yorker recently published a piece profiling the deconversion of Megan Phelps-Roper. If the name rings a bell, it’s because she’s the grand-daughter of Fred Phelps, the late leader (and founder) of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church (WBC).

Phelps-Roper deconversion followed an interesting path. With access to the web, she joined Twitter and became the digital voice of the WBC. One of the features of Twitter is its ability of not only broadcasting a message, but also getting instant feedback. The WBC loves spreading their message, and this platform was well-suited for their usual trolling.

However, in Twitter Ms. Phelps-Roper also found a legion of detractors. Some of them later became friendly foes who engaged her as she spread the WBC’s message and planted the seeds of suspicion in her regarding the “truth” she had been taught. Ms. Phelps-Roper didn’t get interested in the theory of evolution, the Big Bang, or any other major scientific breakthrough that clashes with religious teachings. Her deconversion was a slow process emerging from a distrust of authority, a subject I recently-ish spoke about.

During one of my talks at the 2015 Center for Inquiry’s Leadership Conference I discussed the importance of non-scientific secularism. What I mean by this is that many people are becoming secular/non-religious not because they just got interested in biology or physics. Instead, people leave religion because they begin question its authority, and the authority of its leaders.

This is the case with Ms. Phelps-Roper. Her Twitter followers plated the seeds of distrust, but it was her analysis of how inconsistent and random the people in power at the WBC were with their new prophecies what led her to disbelieve what she had been taught.

It is also worth noting that one of the events that led to her leaving the WBC was the demotion of her mother as a major leader in the Church. Gender dynamics, where males took over absolute control of Church affairs, further fueled her questioning.

You should read the whole piece in the New Yorker. It gives great insights into the minds of young people leaving religion today. While Ms. Phelps-Roper case is an extreme one (in terms of the religious congregation she left), it is also an excellent example of how you don’t need science to distrust religion: its authority is dubious enough that people with critical thinking skills can see through the facade.

The Nones are Becoming More Honest

The most recent Pew poll released last week shows that the nones (secular Americans, aka: the “unaffiliated”) are becoming more secular, at least according to their own headline. In my humble opinion, the nones have just become more honest in their answers about their religious practices.

The recent report based on the belief and behavior questions in Religious Landscape Survey highlights two main findings. The first, that the nones are increasingly secular, the second that American soceity as a whole is also becoming more secular. As the figure below shows, the nones have become more likely to say religion is not important, more likely to admit they rarely pray or go to church. But the most amazing finding is that the percent who say they don’t believe in God increased by 50 percent, from 22 percent in 2007 to one-third (33 percent) in 2014.

Source: Pew Research Center
Source: Pew Research Center

These numbers are the best evidence that being nonreligious is normalizing in American society. The trend is stronger among young people, who are more likely to know other nonreligious people. This may be because their friends in school or the neighborhood are not religious or because they are more technologically-minded and know other nonreligious thanks to the internet.

The other major finding of the report is that these measures of religious belief and behavior are declining among the population at large. However, the report is clear that there has been no major changes among religious Americans. This means that all of the change comes from the nones. This is very important because it means the nones are a group so large that they can now affect national trends by themselves. Hopefully we have not reached “peak secular” yet and more good news like these will continue to appear in future studies.