Pharyngula

Why, oh why, did you have to disillusion me, Ebonmuse? And to slap me upside the face with a study from my own university, no less.

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Oh. Well. That explains the tears and yelling from the in-laws-to-be 26 years ago last week.

Knowing how most Americans regard Muslims and homosexuals, though, it’s rather scary to see us ranked below them.

Edgell also argues that today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past–they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy–and in America, that ‘core’ has historically been religious,” says Edgell. Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.

And we’re even worse than Communists! Jebus. What have we done to America?

Criminal behavior? They’ve confused us with Republicans. Rampant materialism? I thought that was the American way! And again, they’ve confused us with Republicans. Cultural elitism? Umm, well. Hmm. That one fits, I suppose, but why would anyone think that was a bad thing?

Comments

  1. #1 craig
    March 21, 2006

    They’ve confused us with Republicans.

    Could have been worse – I first misread “rampant materialism” as “rampant militarism.”

  2. #2 QrazyQat
    March 21, 2006

    Imagine being a fat atheist.

  3. #3 tng
    March 21, 2006

    QrazyQat, I am a morbidly obese atheist. Believe me, it isn’t fun.

  4. #4 Jeff Knapp
    March 21, 2006

    My mother-in-law is one of those who hated the fact that her precious daughter was marrying an “Evil Atheist.” She never misses an opportunity to let know her disapproval of me. And, I too, am fairly overweight which definitely does not help.

    But hey, at least I am smarter than most of them – by far! 😉

  5. #5 Jim H
    March 21, 2006

    So the most hated/feared person in America would be what….An obese, black, former muslim, lesbian, athiest living in sin with her russian weight lifter girl friend?

    Side note – after 10 years of marriage, my inlaws are only beginning to suspect my non-belief, and that’s only because of my blantant smack-down of anything superstitious or supernatural.

  6. #6 PZ Myers
    March 21, 2006

    No, no — they’ve learned to tolerate all those other minorities as sharing their core values. It wouldn’t help to be a slender white heterosexual: it’s that godless taint that means we hate America.

  7. #7 craig
    March 21, 2006

    Imagine being a fat atheist.
    I’m a fat atheist liberal with a disabling mental illness, living off of government money and using medicare. I win.

  8. #8 horobin
    March 21, 2006

    If it’s any consulation, being a slim atheist doesn’t help. About the public’s perception: My girlfriend is the token atheist at her office. One of her co-workers flat-out refused to believe she doesn’t believe in God. Why? Because “You’re so nice“.

  9. #9 Bruce
    March 21, 2006

    �Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.�

    That’s right. Even though I’m not a woman, I still support a woman’s right to control her own reproductivity. Even though I’m not gay I still support the rights of homosexuals to be treated equally under the law. Even though I’m not religious, I still abhor the mistreatment and persecution of religious minorities throughout the world. Even though I’m a white guy, I still speak out against racism. Even though I’m fairly well off, I still give money to charitable causes.

    Yeah, I admit it, I’m a selfish prick.

  10. #10 Darkling
    March 21, 2006

    From Bush the Elder in an exchange with Robert I. Sherman of American Atheist Press on August 27 1987.

    No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God.

    From Positive Atheisms big list of scary quotes

  11. #11 Pip
    March 21, 2006

    On the positive side, the fact that Americans would rather their children married gays or lesbians than aetheists does hold out some hope for the acceptance of homosexual marriage in the States.

  12. #12 jbark
    March 21, 2006

    These types of studies don’t strike me as meaning much.

    You’re looking at a cohort that apparently has varying degrees of low opinion for all those minority groups mentioned. Whether atheists are above or below gays and muslims according to people who aren’t very fond of gays and muslims seems a bit immaterial.

    Let me see the results of a sample across more than “households willing to answer a phone survey” and then I might be interested.

  13. #13 paperwight
    March 21, 2006

    Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.

    Leaving aside the question of whether atheists are materialists in the every day sense (in my experience, the Christianists are the ones confusing worldly goods with moral superiority), notice that emphasized phrase.

    That’s right, “cultural elitism” is a moral indiscretion. Not a matter of taste or preference, like preferring chocolate to vanilla, but a moral indiscretion. The culture war at work.

  14. #14 Patrick
    March 21, 2006

    I still love you PZ.

  15. #15 Grumpy
    March 21, 2006

    Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

    Ahem. Americans would prefer to see gay marriages (which aren’t allowed, by and large) than atheist marriages (which are allowed)??

    Oh well. I guess that’s for the next round of constitutional amendments.

  16. #16 miko
    March 21, 2006

    not to mention opinion polling is predicated entirely on the premise that people know themselves. that bobby the baptist in mankato can subtly distinguish on a scale of 1 to 10 the amplitude of the imagined anger and disappointment caused by his daughter marrying a jew, a muslim, a woman, or an atheist (all of which may as well be mythical beings to bobby). lets just say lots of people are bigots, and detailed quantitation of the various vectors of their intolerance isn’t really the point.

  17. #17 Nathan Williams
    March 21, 2006

    “I’ve always wanted to be an oppressed minority”, says the straight white male. Does this mean I no longer need my ponytail to get the street cred of being kept down by The Man?

  18. #18 Chris Anderson
    March 21, 2006

    It’s obvious that one reason for need of religion by the human collective is universal ( and primal) fear of death and the forever{nonexistant}after: indeed, it’s no comfort to “un-be” – hence, the driving need of mortal man to believe. However, I wonder what it is that spurs you so passionately toward the opposite direction? Being an agnostic,I am not too far removed from atheism. But whenever I detect a zealot I begin to look for the ulterior – one can be spiritual without gamely following another’s confabulation of divinity. A perfect example would be Ayn Rand’s Roark in “The Fountainhead”… that marvelous creature only needed his own approval.

  19. #19 Ick of the East
    March 21, 2006

    The problem is that the word ‘atheist’ is still associated in most people’s mind with Stalin and Mao. Nobody is thinking of Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, or Albert Einstein.

    I’m not saying we should get rid of the world. But maybe we can bring up the subject of the great atheists more often.

    I also like to point out to my religious American family that in peaceful and rich Hong Kong and in exotic Thailand, where I’ve spent half of my life, atheists are the VAST majority.

    And honestly, where would you rather be on a Saturday night – Branson or Bangkok?

  20. #20 DarkSyde
    March 21, 2006

    But we still rank above terrorists!

  21. #21 Steve Bloom
    March 21, 2006

    You know, a Saturday night in Branson is like a Sunday morning in Bangkok. Come to think of it, a Saturday night in Branson *is* a Sunday morning in Bangkok. 🙂

  22. #22 mathpants
    March 21, 2006

    My “coming-out story” as an atheist to two college friends:

    Me: I’m an atheist

    Friend 1: I bet you think you’re real fucking smart.

    Friend 2: How about Einstein? You smarter than Einstein?

    Me: at the current moment in time, yes.

    Bizarre.

  23. #23 Liz Tracey
    March 21, 2006

    mathpants:

    That response has always fascinated me — why do so many people make that leap from atheist to “you think you’re smarter than anyone else”? In my experience it’s fairly common.

    P.S. Excellent name.

  24. #24 Darkling
    March 21, 2006

    I’m not saying we should get rid of the world. But maybe we can bring up the subject of the great atheists more often.

    If I’d been a little bit more focussed, after the quote from Bush senior, I’d have mentioned Thomas Paine. Whom I believe was of some minor importance during the American Revolution, although my US history is somewhat scratchy at best. However, I think that might have been wrong as most of the web references I’ve just looked at to him describe him as a deist.

  25. #25 mathpants
    March 21, 2006

    Liz,

    fascinating is one word for it, yes.

    Another related response is: “you think you’ve got it all figured out, huh?”

    I usually respond to such irrelevance by listing, in detail, all the shit I have yet to figure out, until they go away.

    As for the name, I do math and I wear pants quite frequently.

  26. #26 John C. Randolph
    March 21, 2006

    Chris,

    You may have read the Fountainhead, but you seem to have missed the point.

    Remember that Rand fled the Soviet Union, and felt an urgent need to fight against the socialist hogwash that had destroyed Russia, and appeared to be gaining mind-share among the pseudointellectuals in America at the time.

    Roark is the creative individual, who does not require the approval of the mob as the source of his self-esteem. He also represents the initiative and creativity that Rand had seen destroyed in Russia in her youth.

    -jcr

  27. #27 Frumious B.
    March 21, 2006

    Did the Neural Gourmet make a Freudian slip or was that deliberate?

    Atheists distrusted more than 97% of the population

    Me, I distrust 99.9999% of the population.

    A funny thing happened at work a while ago. I was a complete weenie. For some reason Puritans came up in an after meeting discussion. People here probably know that Puritans came to this continent to escape persecution, but were perfectly happy to persecute non-Puritans. Well, I made a crack about how they really set the tone for the subsequent development of the country. I got called on it, and totally backed down. I know that the tirade of anti-religous sentiment that would have come out upon explanation of what I meant would have resulted in a little chat with the HR department. I know better than to think that just because my Muslim coworkers are free to educate us about their religion, that I am free to educate anyone about atheism.

  28. #28 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    March 21, 2006


    You’re looking at a cohort that apparently has varying degrees of low opinion for all those minority groups mentioned. Whether atheists are above or below gays and muslims according to people who aren’t very fond of gays and muslims seems a bit immaterial.

    Here’s another survey.

    http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=726

    (What strikes me as interesting about the Pew survey is that “non-religious” people get higher favorability than “atheists”.)

  29. #29 Ick of the East
    March 21, 2006

    Paine denied that he was an atheist. He was certainly a deist, which is understandable for someone living in those times.
    There had yet to be any explanation for life, the universe, and everything. I would have been a deist too.

  30. #30 craig
    March 21, 2006

    Another related response is: “you think you’ve got it all figured out, huh?”

    I always respond to that with something along the lines of”No, but then I’m not the one claiming to know the answer – YOU are.”

  31. #31 Darkling
    March 21, 2006

    There had yet to be any explanation for life, the universe, and everything. I would have been a deist too.

    Initially I was going to agree with you. Then it occurred to me, that today we have answers to some of those questions. Still the question of what happened before the big bang, although that’s not the right way to express it, since time didn’t exist before the big bang. Although we have a more complete set of answers than we did then, there still a lot of questions to be answered.

    So working from that, Deisim could still be seen as an option (obviously some people still do), since there are still unanswered questions. I have a lttile bit of difficulty with that, an Agnostic position, I can understand, although I tend more towards the Atheistic side of that disscussion.

  32. #32 Ebonmuse
    March 21, 2006

    Sorry about that, PZ – didn’t mean to bring you down there.

    Personally, I doubt that these study results betoken anything seriously bad for us. After all, most people hardly know anything about even their own religion; that their dislike of atheism is a carefully reasoned response seems unlikely to me. I figure it’s far more likely that most people don’t know (or at least, don’t know they know) any real atheists, and are forming their opinions based on what their preachers have told them. (“Atheists are those evil guys who want to make it illegal to worship God, right?”)

    The plus side of this, if I’m right, is that it will be relatively easy to change people’s minds. All we have to do is introduce them to some real atheists and show them that we’re ordinary people who really don’t kick puppies or steal candy from babies.

    That response has always fascinated me — why do so many people make that leap from atheist to “you think you’re smarter than anyone else”? In my experience it’s fairly common.

    Perhaps it’s a repressed insecurity coming out? 😉

  33. #33 Revolved Beyond a Leaf
    March 21, 2006

    Yeah, reading your blog, I just can’t imagine why anyone would have anything negative to say about atheists. I mean, you don’t speak bad about anyone, and you certainly don’t refer to anyone or anything as “a blight upon the earth.”

    Where do people get these ideas from? Honestly!

  34. #34 PZ Myers
    March 21, 2006

    we’re ordinary people who really don’t kick puppies or steal candy from babies

    Uh-oh. Does this mean I have to reform?

    Will I still be allowed to build laser death rays and rob graves for my…experiments?

  35. #35 Ick of the East
    March 21, 2006

    I mean, you don’t speak bad about anyone, and you certainly don’t refer to anyone or anything as “a blight upon the earth.

    And we don’t say that anyone is deserving of eternal torture at the hands of a “loving” god either.

  36. #36 razib
    March 21, 2006

    part of it is ignorance. it was common knowledge i was an atheist in a 75% republican 50% mormon small town. no one was beating on me or tormenting me. on the other hand…if i had been gay….

    atheists are to some extent bogeymen, our numbers are small and we are regionally and socioeconomically clustered, so people can ascribe to us their superficial fears. the sentiment runs wide, but i am not sure how deep, i would much rather be an atheist in a small town in the south than a homosexual.

  37. #37 bigdumbchimp
    March 21, 2006

    “Imagine being a fat atheist.”

    I’m on Hour #17 today working on a VoIP implementation and am a little punchy.

    That just killed me. I may not recover.

  38. #38 Ebonmuse
    March 21, 2006

    Will I still be allowed to build laser death rays and rob graves for my…experiments?

    Hey, I only said that kicking puppies and stealing from babies was out. You’ll notice I didn’t mention creating armies of death-ray-wielding undead squid-men.

  39. #39 Caledonian
    March 21, 2006

    “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy”

    Well, yeah. That’s true of every society — there are some foundational issues that everyone needs to agree upon, or the society cannot hold together. The real question is what those issues are — freedom of thought and rational inquiry clearly aren’t high on the list of Americans’ concerns.

  40. #40 PZ Myers
    March 21, 2006

    You’ll notice I didn’t mention creating armies of death-ray-wielding undead squid-men.

    That’s a relief. The project is so far along that it would be a shame to terminate it prematurely.

  41. #41 D
    March 21, 2006

    Hmm…as a gay atheist I’m always vaguely surprised by these sorts of surveys. I mean, atheists doing worse than gays? Hmm.

    Maybe I just need to step out of liberal blue state college towns, where both do fine overall.

  42. #42 cm
    March 21, 2006

    My mother knows I’m an atheist and has always wished it weren’t so; not because of any real reason, but because it strikes her as unseemly.

  43. #43 John
    March 21, 2006

    I thought rampant materialism was part of the Protestant ethic.

  44. #44 Chris Anderson
    March 21, 2006

    John, I think it’s you who has missed the point; I’ll attempt to illustrate it more clearly for you. It’s about not being threatened by the will of others. It’s true that Rand embraced the concept of individualism by fleeing to America, the idea of a country that celebrates free thought, the antithesis to Russian social and political structure.
    Understand that Roark is so much more than just creative, the premise being his supreme selfconfidence supplies him with exaltation, with no need for belief in any higher power than his own, so no need for affirmation from the mob. The irony is that this was the vehicle for true love of self AND mankind’s capacity to achieve the same. This is spirituality in its highest form.

  45. #45 Alon Levy
    March 21, 2006

    I’m trying to overcome the cognitive dissonance brought by reading a complimentary discussion of Ayn Rand on Pharyngula.

  46. #46 Phoenician in a time of Romans
    March 22, 2006

    On the positive side, the fact that Americans would rather their children married gays or lesbians than aetheists does hold out some hope for the acceptance of homosexual marriage in the States.

    I wonder if having smiling people wearing crosses and pretending to be Christian passing around petitions calling for a ban on atheists marrying would get people to think?

  47. #47 Patrick
    March 22, 2006

    For a lot of people,

    “I am an atheist.”

    equals

    “Supernatural experiences are not valid, and religious people believe things that are wrong.”

    equals

    “People who believe they have had supernatural experiences and who believe things that are wrong, are stupid.”

    equals

    “You are stupid.”

    So, in the ears of your listeners, “I am an atheist,” means, “You are stupid.”

  48. #48 craig
    March 22, 2006

    Patrick…

    yeah? So?

    😉

  49. #49 Francis
    March 22, 2006

    42!!!!

    [RIP Douglas Adams]

  50. #50 J Bean
    March 22, 2006

    Oh cool, I’d never thought of that. I have an atheist marriage. I didn’t get married until I was too old to be fertile either. I bet they hate that.

    My husband’s sister was recently shocked to learn that he believes in evolution. He has a PhD in biochemistry and microbiology and grows bacteria for a living. I guess it is hard to believe that someone like that would not believe in ID. She was raised mildly Catholic in New York too and it’s not clear what caused her brain to rot in the last few years.

  51. #51 Chris Anderson
    March 22, 2006

    Ayn Rand was a profound atheist, so where’s the cognitive dissonance? Pharyngula might have been her mecca.

  52. #52 English Rose
    March 22, 2006

    Reminds me of my all time favourite newspaper cutting. The story was about the Scout movement in Britain allowing gay people to become scout leaders. After some harrumphing quotes from disapproving Conservatives the article (in the Guardian) finished with the immortal line: ‘Paedophiles and atheists will still be excluded’

  53. #53 T_U_T
    March 22, 2006

    Ayn Rand was also a head of a bizarre libertarian cult, and given PZ’s dislike of libertarian cranks, pharyngula would not be a very hospitable place for her;-)

  54. #54 Francis
    March 22, 2006

    *mutters something unprintable*

    I wish that I believed thatthe survey was false.

    (Hmm… seems that there are two “Francis”s around here).

  55. #55 oldhippie
    March 22, 2006

    mathpants:
    “That response has always fascinated me — why do so many people make that leap from atheist to “you think you’re smarter than anyone else”? In my experience it’s fairly common”.
    You and PJ seem to miss the whole point. In the US to be an intellectual elitist is considered a worse crime than to be gun-toting criminal. You want to get rid of a political opponent – just call him an elitist, Happened to George Bush many years ago he never forgot it. That’s whey he speaks so down-home and mangles words.
    Why is this? I never watch TV, but I suspect if I did I might find out….

  56. #56 Kristjan Wager
    March 22, 2006

    Remember that Rand fled the Soviet Union, and felt an urgent need to fight against the socialist hogwash that had destroyed Russia, and appeared to be gaining mind-share among the pseudointellectuals in America at the time.

    This is where I feel puzzled by the apparent lack of historical knowledge. “Socialist hogwash” didn’t destroy Russia.

    This is not a defense of Communism, Socialim or Stalinism. However, if people think that Russia was destroyed by the revolution, they don’t know anything about Tzarist Russia. What Stalin (and the people before and after him) did, was to increase the scale, but it happened before the revolution – indeed, it was the very behaviour of the Tzar and the nobles that triggered the revolution.

  57. #57 Graculus
    March 22, 2006

    Ayn Rand was a profound atheist, so where’s the cognitive dissonance?

    Ayn Rand also called evolution a “hypothesis”.

    Randians believe that philosophy trumps science.

  58. #58 Dale
    March 22, 2006

    “In the US to be an intellectual elitist is considered a worse crime than to be gun-toting criminal.”

    Worse still, “intellectual elitist” is redundant for most folks. By definition to know stuff is to consider yourself better than others. You’d need to meet my mother-in-law to know how often I have to go to battle over that one.

  59. #59 Caledonian
    March 22, 2006

    Ayn Rand also called evolution a “hypothesis”.

    So? It *is* a hypothesis. Every scientific theory needs to be a hypothesis — theories are a subset of the category of hypotheses.

    You might as well complain that someone says all squares are rectangles.

  60. #60 Graculus
    March 22, 2006

    Every scientific theory needs to be a hypothesis

    Rand didn’t mean it that way, she was not that familiar with science (or technology).

    She grudgingly admitted that evolution was the only scienctific theory going, but she hated it because she thought it was deterministic.

  61. #61 Jim H
    March 22, 2006

    You might as well complain that someone says all squares are rectangles.

    And I suppose next you are going to claim that all rectangles are parallelograms

    It wouldn’t help to be a slender white heterosexual: it’s that godless taint that means we hate America.

    So I guess skinny white heterosexual agnostic married to a Catholic makes me hated and feared — Hurray.

    You’ll notice I didn’t mention creating armies of death-ray-wielding undead squid-men.

    That’s a relief. The project is so far along that it would be a shame to terminate it prematurely.

    Watch it, or they may cut your funding.

    atheists are to some extent bogeymen, our numbers are small and we are regionally and socioeconomically clustered, so people can ascribe to us their superficial fears.

    Yeah, weren’t we suppose to be setting up an atheist homeland in Columbia Missouri?

  62. #62 Caledonian
    March 22, 2006

    And Nietzsche hated Darwin because he thought evolution was being used as an excuse for obedience to societal duties.

    So? He was wrong about the implications of the science, but he was right in his criticism of the use of the concept in that manner.

    As for the complaint about philosophy trumping science… competent philosophy is logic, and science cannot be conducted without logic. (Although some of you try your hardest to demonstrate this wrong, it would seem.)

  63. #63 Alon Levy
    March 22, 2006

    The problem is that for objectivists, logic isn’t what it means in scientific circles. Rather, it’s a euphemism for “pulling things ex rectum based on what aggrandizes predatory capitalism the most.”

  64. #64 K
    March 22, 2006

    Well, so what? I don’t want to marry their stoopid kids anyway. I found me another atheist to marry. We’re raising another atheist and brewing yet one more even as I type. HA-HA-HA-HA-HAAA!

    And I’d like two of your undead squid men. We need to clear books and stuff out of the baby’s room. And there’s all manner of other chores we’ve been putting off.

    I often force Husband to join me in watching my beloved America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway. I had no idea I was practising cultural elitism.

  65. #65 Bryson Brown
    March 22, 2006

    I particularly liked this bit of the interview:

    Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.

    Back to PZ’s theme: I thought this was a virtue for Republicans…

  66. #66 Chris
    March 22, 2006

    Although it may not be immediately apparent, Objectivism is about as objective as Scientology is scientific. Labels don’t necessarily reflect reality.

    Next you’ll be claiming that most Christians practice what Jesus preached… not by a long shot.

    Atheists, on the other hand, generally genuinely don’t believe in any god; truth in labeling wins that one.

    At any rate, it’s hardly a surprise to learn that we’re the most hated minority in America; it’s still socially accepted to be bigoted against us, while most people (I think) now disapprove of open bigotry against gays, Jews or Muslims. There are even people who claim in apparent seriousness that the First Amendment wasn’t intended to protect *our* beliefs.

  67. #67 Bro. Bartleby
    March 22, 2006

    Okay, a big circle … big circle … hold hands! … come on, everyone! … good, good, … complete the circle, over there, the fat ones … hold hands … okay, wonderful! … now all together!

    Kum ba ya my Self, kum ba ya,
    Kum ba ya my Self, kum ba ya,
    Kum ba ya my Self, kum ba ya,
    Oh Self, kum ba ya.

    Someone’s crying, Self, kum ba ya,
    Someone’s crying, Self, kum ba ya,
    Someone’s crying, Self, kum ba ya,
    Oh Self, kum ba ya.

  68. #68 Caledonian
    March 22, 2006

    The problem is that for objectivists, logic isn’t what it means in scientific circles. Rather, it’s a euphemism for “pulling things ex rectum based on what aggrandizes predatory capitalism the most.”

    While I think Rand was at best overenthusiastic about industrialism (and at worst just plain wrong), I’ve noticed that the people who denounce her the most vehemently are usually the ones who can’t counter her points.

    Past trends do not guarantee future results, of course.

  69. #69 Caledonian
    March 22, 2006

    The problem is that for objectivists, logic isn’t what it means in scientific circles. Rather, it’s a euphemism for “pulling things ex rectum based on what aggrandizes predatory capitalism the most.”

    While I think Rand was at best overenthusiastic about industrialism (and at worst just plain wrong), I’ve noticed that the people who denounce her the most vehemently are usually the ones who can’t counter her points.

    Past trends do not guarantee future results, of course.

  70. #70 BlueIndependent
    March 22, 2006

    Though I am Catholic, I have no time in my day to spite atheists.

    I say, you guys can be atheist all you want as far as I’m concerned. America allows you that right.

  71. #71 Alon Levy
    March 22, 2006

    I’ve noticed that the people who denounce her the most vehemently are usually the ones who can’t counter her points.

    I reserve the right to dismiss without evidence claims that are made without evidence.

  72. #72 Heliologue
    March 22, 2006

    This is why I’m a closet atheist where my family is concerned. Shit, I can’t even post this sort of stuff on my blog, because my uncle reads it, and I worry that it would get around.

    Much less than the possibly practical repercussions of my ‘rents finding out, I know it would break their hearts. So, for the time being anyway, I pretend like I’m merely disinterested in church, rather than vehemently opposed to it, and once I’m on my own I never have to worry about it again.

  73. #73 CousinoMacul
    March 22, 2006

    Alon,

    “pulling things ex rectum …” I love that line! I’ll have to start using it myself now.

    horobin,

    I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me I couldn’t be an atheist because I’m “too nice,” or “not evil at all.” I usually want to come back with something like “You can’t believe in God, you’re too smart!” Oh well, I guess I’m just too nice.

  74. #74 Carlie
    March 22, 2006

    “And honestly, where would you rather be on a Saturday night – Branson or Bangkok?”

    This reminds me of one of my favorite Simpsons quotes:
    Bart: “What’s Branson like?”
    Homer: “It’s like Las Vegas if Ned Flanders were in charge.”

  75. #75 Ebonmuse
    March 22, 2006

    By definition to know stuff is to consider yourself better than others. You’d need to meet my mother-in-law to know how often I have to go to battle over that one.

    Once again, the Onion nails it:

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33566

  76. #76 cp
    March 22, 2006

    I think it is a matter of tradition. Tradition says nations should speak the same language, have people of the same colour and if none of these works, they should at least believe in the same basic principles.

  77. #77 CanuckRob
    March 22, 2006

    “Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.”

    In Canada adults or the goverment don’t get to tell other adults who they can marry. Those right wingnuts down south of the 49th sound damn scary, they want to control everything other people do. What happened to land of the free and all that stuff? Oh yeah, it has been replaced by the land of the cross and the brainwashed. Hopefully you can get it sorted out in 2008 (please get it sorted out!)

  78. #78 MikeM
    March 22, 2006

    When I first read Edgell’s comments, the thought came to me that she is obviously biased here, and her rankings where atheists finish last shows this. But then I thought, Let’s just try to elect a president, or ANY politician, who comes out and says, “I am an atheist.”

    We will not do it. We have elected pretty much everyone else on the list. We’ve elected openly gay politicians, and Catholics, and Jews, and Muslims. But if someone in Morris decided to run for City Council (or whatever it is you have there) and said, “Oh, by the way, I am an atheist”, they might just as well quit the race on the spot.

    It always bugged me that Clinton had to pretend to be religious. No, I never believed for a second he’s religious.

  79. #79 Lya Kahlo
    March 22, 2006

    “Hopefully you can get it sorted out in 2008 (please get it sorted out!)”

    If it’s not sorted out, I’m moving up your way. HELLLOOO VANCOUVER.

  80. #80 BrianT
    March 22, 2006

    With such intense social pressure to not reveal that one is an atheist, think of how underestimated our numbers are!

  81. #81 Kristine
    March 22, 2006

    I’m trying to recall the quote by Vladimir Nabokov in his afterword to Lolita; something about how there are only three taboos left to write about in America (time of writing: 1955), and that one of these is the self-fulfilled atheist dying in peace.

    Sounds like an opportunity for a novel as taboo-shattering as Lolita. I’m working on it, but I’m no Nabokov. We need to lobby for more atheists on television, for accurate portrayals of atheists in popular culture, just as evangelicals have so effectively crusaded in this area.

    [BTW, Chris Clarke, if you’re out there, I wrote my short story, “Selfish Jean,” which does deal in part with self-fulfilled atheism, over two days and fired it off to a magazine, so thanks for those Old Spice waves or whatever, and cross your fingers for me.]

  82. #82 wamba
    March 22, 2006

    I’m not saying we should get rid of the world.
    .
    Posted by: Ick of the East | March 21, 2006 09:04 PM

    Should that have been “word”? Freudian typo? Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Evil Worldwide Atheist Conspiracy?

  83. #83 Glen Davidson
    March 22, 2006

    I expect the “You think you’re so smart” comments are the most revealing. I don’t know if atheists are so much hated, as feared. With religion being very persistent, yet regularly flouted and disrespected by academics and others, people are stuck with their religions without feeling very comfortable about them.

    Plus, what’s an “atheist” anyhow? I’d fit the definitions of “atheist” according to many, yet I neither call myself “atheist”, nor do I think of myself that way (mostly for philosophical reasons). Which means that my skepticism doesn’t bother most people, including the fundamentalists in my family. The iconic “atheists” are Madalyn Murray O’Hair (not a likable woman), people who have nothing better to do than to worry about “under God” in the pledge or “in God we trust” on coins, and to some, Richard Dawkins (who really doesn’t know much about religion). The local professor who doesn’t bother with religion isn’t generally hated for it, yet many continue to fear the unknown threat that people more intellectual themselves might unleash on their particular beliefs.

    The last thing that we have any business doing is feeling sorry for ourselves. We have power in our lack of religion, and we know it. Having the intellect and strength to disagree with the majority, I would even say that we are respected (even if media hound atheists may not be), feared to some extent, and mostly “hated” only for our ability to do what many religionists wish on some level that they could do, leave behind the threats and restrictions of religion.

    We are not courageous for taking up a position which stands out and which cannot be shown to be wrong. In some places, usually desirable places, the secular uniform is in fact the best one to wear for pretty much anything. Phillip Johnson noted this fact, and being the weasel that he is, he was irreligious when it benefited him the most. I know the story, of course, that he was “converted”, but don’t ever believe that it had much to do with anything except getting by comfortably in another context, as well as launching his own despicable grab for power, an “alternative science”.

    And let’s face it, how much does it bother us if the herd “hates us”? Get real, most of us like it. Except for a very small number of “atheists”, there is little if any downside to it, and we receive much of what we want by thumbing our noses at religion.

    The sad fact, however, is that superstition continues to afflict the populace at large. We should not enjoy being “hated” so much that we provoke reactions from the religionists, rather we should undermine religion judiciously for the sake of a more intelligent society.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  84. #84 mathpants
    March 22, 2006

    I boldly direct you all to the “Smartypants” gag on the 4th season of Mr. Show.

    Sums up a lot, it does.

    (Brief Summary: if you talk about facts, you have to go stand in the smartypants. which are enormous pants. filled with custard. everyone else gets to grab at falling dollars with a porn star in a small booth. it’s funnier when you see it, trust me.)

  85. #85 DAS
    March 22, 2006

    Leaving aside the question of whether atheists are materialists in the every day sense (in my experience, the Christianists are the ones confusing worldly goods with moral superiority) – Paperwite

    Interestingly, a Materialist in the philosophical sense would likely criticize materialists in the every day sense using the same language as Isaiah 55.

  86. #86 lt.kizhe
    March 22, 2006

    “pulling things ex rectum …” I love that line!

    Indeed! A new fallacy: argumentum ex anus
    (preferred for the alliteration; I’ll let our resident Latinists fix the conjugation)

  87. #87 shargash
    March 22, 2006

    The problem is that for objectivists, logic isn’t what it means in scientific circles. Rather, it’s a euphemism for “pulling things ex rectum based on what aggrandizes predatory capitalism the most.”

    If I ever have philosophic writings that garner a following, may the god I don’t believe in preserve my legacy from my followers. 🙂 There is a lot in Rand’s writings that can be criticized, but she really doesn’t deserve what the wingnuts like Pammy over at Atlas Shrugs have done to her.

  88. #88 Frumious B.
    March 22, 2006

    A new fallacy: argumentum ex anus

    *spittake*

  89. #89 Phoenician in a time of Romans
    March 22, 2006

    While I think Rand was at best overenthusiastic about industrialism (and at worst just plain wrong), I’ve noticed that the people who denounce her the most vehemently are usually the ones who can’t counter her points.

    The first time I saw an Objectivist talking about intellectual property as a “natural right”, I dismissed the entire cult.

  90. #90 K
    March 22, 2006

    Wow, Glen D, you must be living on a trust fund or something. You’ve really never been in a room full of people that you MUST please in order to, y’know, be employed, and who open their meetings/lunches/book burnings with a big ol’ prayer, have you?

    How about a boss who forwards God-filled brain dead chain emails? I get away with just deleting them, but still. It’s my boss. In a “right to fire” state.

    Oh, here’s one: A board member asked me, “Do you have a church home?”

    I won’t even get into the problems of prison guards like Husband. Would it surprise you to know that the Christians are the least likely to be killed during a riot? Guess who’s most likely to be killed. Go ahead.

    I don’t necessarily need the herd to love me and ask me to sing hymns and go to see Mel Gibson torture-fests and stuff. However, it would be nice not to have to constantly worry about looking the right way, or, in Husband’s case, fervently hope that everyone’s fooled into thinking one is a Christian who just happens not to have found his local “church home” yet.

    The only reward I’ve ever gotten as an atheist is the comfort of not being a damn fool. And, yeah, I know nothing of the threats and restrictions of religion. Just the threats and restrictions of THE RELIGIOUS.

    That’s bad enough. Yeah, we need to move. Maybe when the new creature is one or more.

  91. #91 Caledonian
    March 22, 2006

    The first time I saw an Objectivist talking about intellectual property as a “natural right”, I dismissed the entire cult.

    As opposed to what, exactly? Most of the statements the FFs stated were self-evident have been ignored, denied, or just generally incomprehensible to most of humanity throughout most of its history. Physics doesn’t exactly bristle with exciting new political principles.

    In specific context, talking about intellectual property as a natural right is not at all incoherent, although we’d have to discuss whether it was justified.

    Not that such a discussion is likely, because I’ve just dismissed your entire body of judgements. :c)

  92. #92 Dustin
    March 22, 2006

    I should tell my family that I’m about to marry an atheist (that’s true). I haven’t because they actually like my girlfriend a lot, and all of that unconditional affection they show her would evaporate instantly (they’re great people, my relatives). If it ever comes up, I’ll just point out that I’m an atheist too — most of them will have heart attacks, and that will likely end the argument.

    As for why I haven’t told them? They’re unpleasant enough as it is… I really don’t want to deal with what they’ll turn into afterwards. I’m also astounded that they haven’t figured it out yet.

  93. #93 pdf23ds
    March 22, 2006

    Dustin, they probably like their positive conception of you, and that sort of colors how they interpret the little “hints” that might otherwise give away your “moral degeneracy”.

  94. #94 K
    March 22, 2006

    Yeah, they’re just sure that once you find the right church home, you’ll be fine.

    I really don’t like the idea of you letting your fiance take the heat, though. You’ve been closeted so long that even if you come out and THEN tell them she’s a hellbound atheist pro abort sodomite TOO…they’ll forever blame her for leading you off the righteous path with her evil atheist feminine wiles. I’m serious. If they’re in denial about you now, they’ll stay in denial and she’ll be tortured by your rels throughout your marriage. Believe it.

  95. #95 Dustin
    March 22, 2006

    No, I wouldn’t let her take the heat for anything at all. That was a bit of a joke. Although, they would do that if they found out.

  96. #96 Dustin
    March 22, 2006

    Ahh, and that line “As for why I haven’t told them?” referenced my own atheism.

    My lack of command over the english language and this text based medium are killing my ability to deliver a humorous anecdote. I have shamed my house.

  97. #97 K
    March 22, 2006

    Oh, OK. I had no family problems; my dad was an atheist, too. I can’t imagine what it would be like. If I just lived somewhere else I think the other problems wouldn’t be as bad, either. Atheism and the Texas panhandle…bad mix.

  98. #98 SEF
    March 22, 2006

    Criminal behavior? They’ve confused us with Republicans.

    Whether or not the Republican thing applies too, they’ve got the correlation of criminality (and immorality) wrong – it goes with religion not lack of religion:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1798944,00.html

  99. #99 Graculus
    March 22, 2006

    I’ll let our resident Latinists fix the conjugation

    ano.

    Argumentum ab ano

    As a plural (anis) it would mean (IIRC, late Latin) “argument from hemorrhoids/bloody arseholes”

    And Objectivists: A=A is a tautology. Deal.

  100. #100 Dustin
    March 22, 2006

    The Boolean Ring answer to Ayn Rand: A=A^2

  101. #101 lt.kizhe
    March 23, 2006

    Graculus fixes my bad Latin:
    “Argumentum ab ano”

    Thank you for that. I’ll be looking for the earliest opportunity to deploy that phrase…..

  102. #102 lt.kizhe
    March 23, 2006

    If I just lived somewhere else I think the other problems wouldn’t be as bad, either. Atheism and the Texas panhandle…bad mix.

    Are you willing to go as far as Ontario? The winters suck (compared to TX), but very few people give a rodent’s rectum which (if any) house of worship you identify with. Bonus: no Gulf hurricanes.

  103. #103 Hellesfarne
    March 23, 2006

    PZ Myers: Will I still be allowed to build laser death rays and rob graves for my…experiments?

    Just make sure you knock the unhallowed damp of the grave off your boots before you come into the house. You know how hard it is to get out of the carpet. And did you remember to feed the sharks?

    Who’s going to build my death ray?
    Who’s going to build my death ray?
    And grow poison flowers
    Poison flowers with me?

    — Mono Puff, “Poison Flowers”

  104. #104 K
    March 23, 2006

    We would love to go to Canada. We worry that we would not be Highly Skilled, though. Husband has credentials as a drug study site co-ordinator and I’m a social worker. We took some online quizzes and were daunted by 1) our skill status and 2) the amount we would have to squirrel away to get in.

    “Bonus: no Gulf hurricanes.” Heh. The Panhandle is about a thousand miles from the coast. Here we get drought and tornados. And the Christofascist crop has boomed for the last ten years.

  105. #105 Alan
    March 23, 2006

    Well, I agree the survey is depressing, but I believe it mostly stems from ignorance. A good friend of mine admitted that he used to think that atheists were satanic – even though that would be contradictory. Once he understood what the term actually meant and after hours of discussion he had great respect for the atheistic viewpoint.

    To win over more sympathy, atheists should stop agitating religious people by focusing on the godless aspect of atheism.

    I think atheists need to understand that “atheism” or “godless-ness” is not important for the type of society we all want. We want a society where reason and evidence and critical thinking guide our lives and determine our policies and laws. It is dogma and intransient belief that is the enemy.

    To this extent deism, pantheism and those who are not religious, but believe in a “supreme being” are all beliefs that would not be threatening.

    In fact, I would argue that a utopian atheist society and a deistic utopian society would be mostly indistinguishable in laws, acceptance of science, etc.

    I believe that it would be orders of magnitude easier to achieve a secular humanist society by advocating science and reason without necessarily advocating atheism. I know many people willing to question religious dogma and accept science and rationality while maintainin some belief in a “supreme being”. But I know few currently religious adults who can/have make the jump straight to atheism — its just more unsettling to them. And again, not necessary for the type of society we want.

    Baby steps….

  106. #106 Steph
    March 24, 2006

    I wrote this on another message board when the “have you revealed yourself” question came up:

    ———

    I live in the Dallas area surrounded by Baptists mostly. It’s Godly and GW bumper sticker/roadway signs heaven down here. People set their little kids free with proselytizing pamphlets in at least one grocery store near me.

    I’m not joking about this one: A TV preacher actually walks around the park in my town with a professional football player to spread the “good news, health benefits and monitary perks” from finding “Jeeesuus”.

    LOL

    Maybe I aught to jump right on out of the Atheist closet – buy the t-shirt – and let everyone around know, but, I just can’t do it. I’m just not up for that kind of confrontation. No matter how nice I try to be.

    I’m just not confrontational.

  107. #107 jon
    March 28, 2006

    Isn’t the burden of proof on the ‘positive’ side? I’m sick of people constantly trying (if that’s not halfassed, then they really ARE dumb) to get us to “prove” there ISN’T some “omnicient, all-loving” (not to mention warmongering, violent, jealous and prone to both torture and “collateral damage”) invisible superpower…

    No signs point to there BEING one… shouldn’t it be up to them to prove their ‘boss’ exists?

  108. #108 eviri
    January 9, 2008

    I wish that I believed thatthe survey was false…

  109. #109 eviri
    January 9, 2008

    I wish that I believed thatthe survey was false…

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