Pharyngula

90% of teenage girls believe they are overweight, according to a recent survey. That’s something to worry about — there’s the reality, that a lot of us are overweight, but there’s also the perception problem, that many girls are convinced that they must lose weight when they really don’t. There’s an article that speculates on the cause of this problem, whether it is an obsession with celebrity, peer pressure, or pressure from the diet industry, but it comes up with a strange explanation:

It is, in truth, all of the above. But there is another profoundly important yet little noticed dynamic at work in the anxious, achievement-oriented lives of perfect girls: they have a sometimes deadly, often destructive, lack of faith.

I don’t quite get the point—so atheists are driven to be leaner? Religious people tend to be less concerned about their bodies? I have never noticed a correlation between body weight and theism/atheism, I’m afraid. I wish I could say that all atheists are beautiful, but it just isn’t so; we have the same range of body types and appearances as believers, and you can’t tell us apart by looking at us—the differences are all in our brains.

Maybe the author has some data, though. Perhaps there is some kind of valid statistical difference.

Overlay our dearth of spiritual exploration with our excess of training in ambition and you have a generation of godless girls.

We were raised largely without a fundamental sense of divinity.

In fact, our worth in the world has always been tied to our looks, grades, and gifts – not the amazing miracle of mere existence.

Thinness and achievement stand in for qualities of kindness and humility.

We think that our perfect bodies – not God’s grace or good works – will get us into heaven.

We have no deeply held sense of our own divinity, so we chase after some unattainable ideal.

Perfect girls, as a result, feel they are never enough. Never disciplined enough. Never accomplished enough. Never thin enough.

Hmmm … no evidence there at all, but what an impressive amount of handwaving. I don’t see any evidence that we can make this sweeping argument that American girls are particularly godless, or any association between atheism and body weight. I have never heard an atheist suggest that being thin is a substitute for kindness.

Does anyone believe that going to church is a useful treatment for anorexia?

That article is a perfect example of an apologist making what she thinks is a rational argument for religion — and when it’s examined, there isn’t a shred of evidence presented, and it’s nothing but a collection of excuses built on a foundation of unwarranted assumptions.

(via ERV)

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    April 30, 2007

    “Christian girls let their figures go” sounds like a perfect first line for a poem.

  2. #2 quork
    April 30, 2007

    Well this is surprising… aren’t Christian girls supposed to be preparing themselves to be brides of Christ?

  3. #3 xenophobic
    April 30, 2007

    I’m 5’9″ and my weight is somewhere around 125. I’m an underweight atheist, though not a female. Sadly I don’t know any female atheists so I can’t add my own experience. Most of the agnostic women I know are not overweight or have an obsession with their weight… weird…

  4. #4 Carlie
    April 30, 2007

    I’m a fat atheist, so pbthhh to that.

  5. #5 Aris
    April 30, 2007

    The article is worse than inane, it is incoherent. Read this line, referring to godless girls:

    “We think that our perfect bodies – not God’s grace or good works – will get us into heaven.”

    How exactly do godless people think that anything, perfect bodies or approval from a supernatural creature, will get them in a place they don’t believe exists?

    ___________________________

  6. #6 pleco
    April 30, 2007

    Perhaps atheists, knowing there probably isn’t any afterlife, are more concerned with staying healthy in this life, in order to live as long as possible? And the religious, believing in an afterlife, don’t care about this existence very much (though I always wondered why they use seat belts, take medicine, etc., if heaven is so much better than earth…)

  7. #7 andyo
    April 30, 2007

    I will guess without looking at the link and with the same kind of evidence that the author of that article has for those assertions, that it is a chubby, but not obese, christian 15-25 year old woman.

  8. #8 AC
    April 30, 2007

    We have no deeply held sense of our own divinity, so we chase after some unattainable ideal.

    ? Oops there goes another irony meter…. ?

  9. #9 CalGeorge
    April 30, 2007

    I have it! The Wafer Diet.

    Slim as Jesus in no time.

    Get your diet supplies here:

    CM Almy – outfitters to church and clergy since 1892.

    Almy is pleased to offer communion bread from America’s finest baker. We maintain a complete inventory of fresh individual-serving wafers and multi-portion loaves for prompt delivery.

    Almy Communion Bread
    ? Made in both pure wheat flour and water or gluten free with water
    ? Sealed edge for freshness
    ? Choice of whole wheat or bleached flour
    ? Choice of wafer sizes and packaging

    http://www.almy.com/commbread.html

    Mmmmmmmm.

    Happy dieting!

  10. #10 Frank Anderson
    April 30, 2007

    Kudos, Aris! That line also struck me as particularly idiotic.

    I actually started to list all the ways in which this person’s central argument is clearly wrong, but why bother? Logic doesn’t apply here.

  11. #11 Skeptic
    April 30, 2007

    America is one of the fattest countries in the world.

    America is one of the most Christian (that means demographically) countries in the world.

    Causality?

    (Remember the Pirate vs. Global Warning chart?)

  12. #12 Skeptic
    April 30, 2007

    Darn! Typo, meant “Global Warming”.

  13. #13 Blake Stacey
    April 30, 2007

    pleco:

    And the religious, believing in an afterlife, don’t care about this existence very much (though I always wondered why they use seat belts, take medicine, etc., if heaven is so much better than earth…)

    I always wonder why they didn’t baptize their babies, kill them, then accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and kill themselves. Sort of a do-it-yourself Rapture. OK, maybe you have to take a slow-acting poison and then accept Jesus, so that you don’t sin with your last act, but anyway, point is — shuffling off this mortal coil into Abraham’s bosom is easy.

  14. #14 quork
    April 30, 2007

    I have it! The Wafer Diet.

    Slim as Jesus in no time.

    You are what you eat.

  15. #15 Stuart Coleman
    April 30, 2007

    “it’s nothing but a collection of excuses built on a foundation of unwarranted assumptions.”

    Like all of apologetics/religion?

  16. #16 pleco
    April 30, 2007

    Blake said:

    “I always wonder why they didn’t baptize their babies, kill them, then accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and kill themselves. Sort of a do-it-yourself Rapture. OK, maybe you have to take a slow-acting poison and then accept Jesus, so that you don’t sin with your last act, but anyway, point is — shuffling off this mortal coil into Abraham’s bosom is easy.”

    I would guess the “reason” is that God would know what you are doing (taking the easy way out) and you would not be allowed into the super-mega nice parts of heaven because of it. Plus, if you kill yourself off quick, you can’t try to convert more people, and the religion dies (ala Jim Jones)

    See, Evolution in Christianity! Who’d thunk it?!

  17. #17 Zachary Moore
    April 30, 2007

    Does anyone believe that going to church is a useful treatment for anorexia?

    If it’s a Southern Baptist church, yes.

  18. #18 quork
    April 30, 2007

    Sex makes you fat. If you’re a female tick, that is

    The “truly gluttonous” female ixodid tick increases her weight an astounding 100 times her original size after she mates, so a University of Alberta researcher investigated what it is about copulation that triggers such a massive weight gain.

  19. #19 Dave Hone
    April 30, 2007

    Has no one pointed out that of the Western countries, the UK has both one of the lowest rates of religious belief, *and* one of the higest rates of obesity.

    Hmmm, methinks they have the whole thing backwards.

  20. #20 rebecca
    April 30, 2007

    As a woman, a feminist, and an atheist the op-ed piece was appalling. All this article does is shift responsibility from one area of the patriarchy to the next.

  21. #21 Chuck Morrison
    April 30, 2007

    We think that our perfect bodies – not God’s grace or good works – will get us into heaven.

    So a generation of godless girls is mired in angst over what will get them into heaven? Perhaps the reason we atheists are so thin is that we burn so many calories in frustration over stupid, stupid arguments like that one.

  22. #22 Rey Fox
    April 30, 2007

    “We think that our perfect bodies – not God’s grace or good works – will get us into heaven.”

    It’s true-this is the sort of line that’s routinely tossed about in Christian writings, and the readers of which will solemnly nod their heads and say “That’s so true”, while anyone able to take a step back from that culture will say, “No we don’t! That’s just an absurd notion!” It’s a whole different plane of “truth” in there.

  23. #23 Chris Bell
    April 30, 2007

    Americs are fairly religious and very overweight
    Swedes are not particularly religious or very overweight

    But clearly godlessness is the problem….

  24. #24 bourgeois_rage
    April 30, 2007

    Aren’t they always saying how Europe is godless? And aren’t Americans on the average overweight? Seems that it would be easier to find a correlation pointing to the religious being overweight.

    I have no data to back that up, just a thought.

  25. #25 Berlzebub
    April 30, 2007

    In high school, my wife would “binge and purge”. She was/is Roman Catholic. So, the argument falls flat on its face.

    -Berlzebub

  26. #26 jackd
    April 30, 2007

    I wonder if the author of the article was thinking of good old Christian traditions of fasting and mortification of the flesh? Or the condemnation of gluttony? Did she even consider how neatly the “never good enough” connects to the Christian idea of humanity’s fallen, sinful condition?

  27. #27 Monado
    April 30, 2007

    Actually, there is a correlation between some flavours of Christianity (pun intended) and obesity.

    states with large numbers of persons professing a religious affiliation had higher than average numbers of obese people. In the new study, he breaks this down by specific creed, and reports that whereas 1 one percent or less of those embracing the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or other non-Christian religions qualify as obese, the numbers of the markedly overweight rise dramatically the further one goes toward the Christian fundamentalist end of the spectrum: around 17 percent of Catholics; 18 percent of Methodists; 20 percent of Pentecostal and Assemblies of God parishioners; and a striking 27 percent of Baptists, including the Southern, North American and Fundamentalist wings.

    (It’s the only indulgence left to them.)

    See “Praise the Lard” for slightly more and a link.

  28. #28 CalGeorge
    April 30, 2007

    The Bible seems to approve of fatness:

    Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters,
    and he that hath no money;
    come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come,
    buy wine and milk without money and without price.
    Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread:
    and your labour for that which satisfieth not?

    Hearken diligently unto me,
    and eat ye that which is good,
    and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

    King James Bible: Isaiah 55:1-2

  29. #29 Middle Professor
    April 30, 2007

    Arias: you took that line too literally. It’s meant to add humor to the piece, acting as an allusion to the common phrase “in heaven”, meaning “in ecstasy”, such as, “I’d be in heaven if only I could lose 5 pounds”. The humor is a result of the author talking about a godless person saying this.

  30. #30 Silmarillion
    April 30, 2007

    What an absolutely appalling article in both premise and journalistic quality. I think I may have to go bang my head against the wall now. At least it’ll burn off a few godless calories.

  31. #31 Kseniya
    April 30, 2007

    Speaking only for myself, I’d say the relationship between anorexia and godlessness is pretty obvious: Seeing someone starve herself to death tends to make one question the character and existence of god.

  32. #32 Martn Pereyra
    April 30, 2007

    While the “I’m not thin enough” cannot be linked to godlessness, it can be fairly linked to Christianity:

    I’m not virtuous enough.
    I don’t pray enough.
    I don’t proselytize enough.
    I don’t go to the church enough.
    I don’t read the Bible enough.
    I don’t make enough sacrifice.
    I’m not charitable enough.
    I don’t have enough faith.
    I don’t love God / Christ / whatever enough.

    (I remember there was a joke in The Simpsons like that: Ned Flanders calling Reverend Lovejoy and saying: “I’m humble, but I think I could be humbler” or something like that.)

    At least, similar expressions of self-humiliation are common in the most fanatical brances of Catholicism.

  33. #33 Martn Pereyra
    April 30, 2007

    While the “I’m not thin enough” cannot be linked to godlessness, it can be fairly linked to Christianity:

    I’m not virtuous enough.
    I don’t pray enough.
    I don’t proselytize enough.
    I don’t go to the church enough.
    I don’t read the Bible enough.
    I don’t make enough sacrifice.
    I’m not charitable enough.
    I don’t have enough faith.
    I don’t love God / Christ / whatever enough.

    (I remember there was a joke in The Simpsons like that: Ned Flanders calling Reverend Lovejoy and saying: “I’m humble, but I think I could be humbler” or something like that.)

    At least, similar expressions of self-humiliation are common in the most fanatical brances of Catholicism.

  34. #34 Curt Cameron
    April 30, 2007

    My anecdotal experience is the opposite: on those occasions when I get dragged into a church, I always notice that the chicks are [i]hot[/i].

  35. #35 BSD
    April 30, 2007

    “In God We Lunch”

    Maybe because it’s in the bible these women think it’s ok to eat 7 loaves of bread and 5 fishes at a single setting.

    I swear it was Satan who made me eat the donuts!

  36. #36 khan
    April 30, 2007

    I seem to recall a study of medieval Catholic female saints that found many of them were anorexic.

  37. #37 Mike
    April 30, 2007

    Interesting that no criteria was established to determine whether or not the Christian-claiming girls were actually Christians. So apparently you can just claim stuff and the media will accept it as true and broadcast it as fact. In that case, I am Giovanni, the Siamese Natrually Selected QiGong Marmoset, and His Noodly Goodness helped me shed 12 pounds of tusk. And I am credible.

  38. #38 Loren Petrich
    April 30, 2007

    Andrea Yates had believed that she was sending her children to Heaven by killing them; she was willing to let herself be sent to Hell so that her children could go to Heaven.

  39. #39 Daniel Martin
    April 30, 2007

    So, in light of the comparisons with Europe: does faith cause obesity, or does obesity cause faith?

    Or are they both the result of some common cause: do processed foods cause faith? Is Monsanto putting a special “believer protein” in its Roundup-Ready (TM) seed? Are the “locally grown” and “organic food” movements the tools of Satan?

  40. #40 tony
    April 30, 2007

    I am a fat Athiest!!!

    [apology] but I’m also a guy …. 2 out of three ain’t bad! [/apology]

    😉

  41. #41 natural cynic
    April 30, 2007

    It’s the little rewards system – cookies and pastries after sunday services.

  42. #42 writerdd
    April 30, 2007

    Aris asks, “How exactly do godless people think that anything, perfect bodies or approval from a supernatural creature, will get them in a place they don’t believe exists?”

    You misunderstand what many Chrstians mean by “I don’t believe in xyz.” They do not mean “I don’t believe xyz exists.” What they do mean is “I don’t believe xyz is good or holy.” For example, many Christians would say “I don’t believe in astrology.” But they don’t mean that astrology is bunk. They mean that astrology is real but it is of the occult and the devil, and therefore it is not good so they won’t have anything to do with it.

    Understanding this is critical for atheists who want to get Christians to comprehend them. When someone says “I dont’ believe in God,” few Christians think that means “God does not exist, just like Santa Claus does not exist.” What they think you mean is “Of course God is real — just like astrology and Ouiji boards and witches — but I don’t want to worship him or obey his Word.”

    Just FYI, from a fat atheist who used to be a thin Christian.

  43. #43 windy
    April 30, 2007

    Tongans are pretty religious, aren’t they? And sumo wrestlers are always tossing that salt around to ward off spirits. The hypothesis thickens!

  44. #44 Kristine
    April 30, 2007

    Three words: the car diet.

    People don’t have to give up their cars cold turkey (though of course I wish they would), just use the car when absolutely necessary. Walk to the grocery store, etc. Not driving a car everywhere is like not snacking every day. (And then you’re not listening to all that Christian radio either.)

    The problem with our culture and with religion is that they both teach people to be sedentary and passive, not unlike the veiled older women at a Saudi wedding! (Yeah, I don’t think Christians are going to like that comparison but that’s what I thought of.) Young people, girls especially, are growing up in a snow globe environment: no risks, no surprises, nothing to make you think on your feet or negotiate, all pre-programmed experiences. Boredom is also a big contributor to obesity, and to crime – I don’t know how many people think about that.

  45. #45 RichVR
    April 30, 2007

    Priest(holding out communion wafer): Body of Christ…
    Catholic girl: No thanks, I’m on a diet.

  46. #46 Anton Mates
    April 30, 2007

    Aren’t they always saying how Europe is godless? And aren’t Americans on the average overweight? Seems that it would be easier to find a correlation pointing to the religious being overweight.

    I would think so. In America, IIRC, obesity is more common in the Midwest and South, and among the poor; so is religious belief. I’d expect that alone to produce a positiv correlation.

  47. #47 Sonja
    April 30, 2007

    Anorexia is, in part, a reaction to societal pressures on young women to be extremely thin.

    Belief is, in part, a reaction to societal pressures to on young people to be religious.

    Us free-thinking atheists throw off the shackles of all these irrational, societal pressures. You know, “no gods, no masters”.

  48. #48 Aris
    April 30, 2007

    Middle Professor: you took that line too literally. It’s meant to add humor to the piece, acting as an allusion to the common phrase “in heaven”, meaning “in ecstasy”, such as, “I’d be in heaven if only I could lose 5 pounds”. The humor is a result of the author talking about a godless person saying this.

    I will readily admit that the last thing I expect from the pious is a sense of humor. And when they talk about their precious “heaven” I do take them literally. Irony and wit require irreverence, and that’s one quality the pious lack, due the fact that they are, well, pious.

    writerdd: You misunderstand what many Christians mean by “I don’t believe in xyz.” They do not mean “I don’t believe xyz exists.”

    Granted, some Christians may indeed consider disbelief to be merely denial. But that does not make the statement “We think that our perfect bodies – not God’s grace or good works – will get us into heaven” as supposedly a statement of motivation by godless girls to go into god’s little playground, any less incoherent to those of us who understand what words actually mean.

    ___________________________

  49. #49 maja
    April 30, 2007

    PZ, I love your blog, but I find the headline of this post very insulting. The op-ed cited is ridiculous – I was anorexic all through my tenure at a Very Christian high school – but as an atheist feminist woman I don’t enjoy being the butt of the joke at a blog I admire.

    (And yes, ex-anorexic that I am I probably have ‘let my body go’. Still managed to get married to a fellow atheist though.)

  50. #50 Leni
    April 30, 2007

    I didn’t get fat until I became an atheist.

    That’s mostly because it happened in my late 20’s when everything starts to go. (First and foremost the magical ability to not gain weight no matter how bad you eat…)

  51. #51 tikistitch
    April 30, 2007

    I studied body weight regulation (albeit in animal models) in grad school. I’ve taken seminars on eating disorders, and talked to professionals who treat bulimic and anorexic patients. And, um, whoever wrote the article with this interesting new theory as to the etiology? “Lunatic” comes to mind.

  52. #52 Mooser
    April 30, 2007

    “…we have a generation og Godless girls…”

    Thank God the boys are coming up straight and pure!

  53. #53 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 30, 2007

    Maja,

    Did you not read the post by PZ? Don’t be so knee jerk.

    The point is that faith has NOTHING to do with body weight or eating disorders.

  54. #54 marc
    April 30, 2007

    The basic misunderstanding is the same one I keep running into. “Christian”=”values kindness, etc”, therefor “Not Christian”=”doesn’t value kindness, etc”.

  55. #55 Alison
    April 30, 2007

    Uh-oh. I’d better go on a diet, or people might mistake me for a Christian. . .

    Thank goodness my daughters still have their svelte atheist figures. But what will people think when they see us together?

  56. #56 Greg Laden
    April 30, 2007

    you can’t tell us apart by looking at us–the differences are all in our brains.

    You can’t always tell, true, but there is a certain vacancy in expression, a certain zombiesque lilt to the voice, a certain, je ne sais quoi thing going on among some of the believers. You can see this across a room.

  57. #57 middle professor
    April 30, 2007

    Did people actually read the article?

    It’s not about fat christian girls or fat atheists or fat brits.

    Its about over-achieving, American females that tend to be both 1) areligious and 2) thin – a very small, and mostly urban, segment of our population. The author connects the three (areligiosity, over-achievingness, and thinness) arguing that personal achievements have replaced more traditional religous expectations of women (being a good wife) and that being thin is part of the whole over-achieving schtick.

  58. #58 Anne-Marie
    April 30, 2007

    I was first diagnosed with anorexia seven years ago (at age 13), and it has been an ongoing battle ever since. I was raised Roman Catholic, and was a devoted member of the church up until my senior year of high school–I was confirmed, acted as Eucharistic minister, etc etc. Around age 18 I started actually reading the history/development of the church, and Christianity in general, and decided it wasn’t something I could be a part of anymore, and am now comfortable with my Atheism.
    Anyway, my point is that since I’ve been an Atheist my eating disorder has improved dramatically. I am living each day for me because I realize this life is all I’ve got, my one chance to make a difference and experience everything this amazing world has to offer. The religion thing isn’t the only life change I’ve made, but I can tell you that the times when I was most into my faith were also the times when I felt the most desolate about my disease, and since I’ve moved past relying on a deity and taken more responsibility for my own life, it has made a world of difference.

  59. #59 Greg Laden
    April 30, 2007

    The site also says this:

    The worst of this can be seen in the frightening websites that purport to be support groups for girls with anorexia and bulimia.

    Such sites claim that these two disorders are a religion, not a disease, and pray to false gods named after them: Ana and Mia.

    So, even though the site goes on an on about godlessness being connected to this and that personality flaw, it comes down to this: Delusional and psychotic behavior, in the form of anorexia, bulimia, or religiosity, all suck.

  60. #60 middle professor
    April 30, 2007

    And…contra PZ and most of the other commenters on the article, I infer that the author is areligious. This actually seems to be quite conspicuous. From what are people inferring that she is at all religious?

  61. #61 Greg Laden
    April 30, 2007

    Well, the piece ends with this:

    I’m not calling for a return to the ways of conservative religion or restricting dogma.

    I’m hoping for an inspired movement towards community, where girls are nourished with dinner-table conversations about the values of kindness and charity; where girls undergoing puberty are encouraged to embrace the miraculous, complex, and perfectly imperfect bodies they possess; and where girls can find inspiration – not condemnation – in religious texts.

    so I’m guessing that this is a case of “spirituality” …

  62. #62 Greg Laden
    April 30, 2007

    … ah, that second paragraph was part of the quote. Not me. Part of the quote. OK? But this damn “can’t post right way thing” is going to cause the 10,000 people who will read this over the next two minutes to think that I’m calling for an inspired movement with inspiration spewing out of religious texts and stuff. I’ll probably be force to apologize for this … damn….

  63. #63 maja
    April 30, 2007

    Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD,

    I get the post.
    I get the joke.
    I just don’t find it funny.
    The end.

  64. #64 Keith Douglas
    April 30, 2007

    It occurs to me there would be a reasonable but slight corrolation (in the US) between religiousity and obesity, as there is a corrolation between poverty and obseity and one between poverty and religiousity.

  65. #65 natural cynic
    April 30, 2007

    from the article:

    Thinness and achievement stand in for qualities of kindness and humility.

    Like Ann Coulter?

  66. #66 Torbjrn Larsson
    April 30, 2007

    One could as easily claim that a religious outlook is required to sustain an obsession.

    And that atheism or more specifically skepticism at large at least means a leaner, hungrier and more active consciousness. 🙂

    In America, IIRC, obesity is more common in the Midwest and South, and among the poor; so is religious belief. I’d expect that alone to produce a positiv correlation.

    I expect the same. We have also positive correlations education-atheism and education-fitness that supports this expectation within a specific population.

    Swedes are not particularly religious or very overweight

    The overweight trend is hitting Europe as well as other continents. There is a time lag between populations, different for different phenomena.

    Here AFAIK it seems to be about 20-30 years, or a generation, before particularly sedentary habits become popular. (The root causes may be unknown or unverified, but personally I think this hints that inactivity may be the root cause.)

    The good news is that there is still time to be proactive. IIRC, in UK they have successfully tested programs where they teach adolescents how to eat (basically, regular and prepared meals) and the difference between food and junk. (Since their parents doesn’t know, or doesn’t know how to teach them.)

    That seems to help, but I wouldn’t expect them to help fully if they don’t get to all of the root cause(s).

  67. #67 Torbjrn Larsson
    April 30, 2007

    One could as easily claim that a religious outlook is required to sustain an obsession.

    And that atheism or more specifically skepticism at large at least means a leaner, hungrier and more active consciousness. 🙂

    In America, IIRC, obesity is more common in the Midwest and South, and among the poor; so is religious belief. I’d expect that alone to produce a positiv correlation.

    I expect the same. We have also positive correlations education-atheism and education-fitness that supports this expectation within a specific population.

    Swedes are not particularly religious or very overweight

    The overweight trend is hitting Europe as well as other continents. There is a time lag between populations, different for different phenomena.

    Here AFAIK it seems to be about 20-30 years, or a generation, before particularly sedentary habits become popular. (The root causes may be unknown or unverified, but personally I think this hints that inactivity may be the root cause.)

    The good news is that there is still time to be proactive. IIRC, in UK they have successfully tested programs where they teach adolescents how to eat (basically, regular and prepared meals) and the difference between food and junk. (Since their parents doesn’t know, or doesn’t know how to teach them.)

    That seems to help, but I wouldn’t expect them to help fully if they don’t get to all of the root cause(s).

  68. #68 Kseniya
    April 30, 2007

    I’ve moved past relying on a deity and taken more responsibility for my own life, it has made a world of difference.

    Anne-Marie, that’s great, I’m happy for you.

    By the way, are you aware that your words echo the words of Madalyn Murray O’Hair?

    [The atheist] knows that we cannot rely on a god nor channel action into prayer nor hope for an end to troubles in the hereafter. He knows that we are our brother’s keeper and keepers of our lives; that we are responsible persons, that the job is here and the time is now.

    Those are words to live by, if you ask me. 🙂

  69. #69 obscurifer
    April 30, 2007

    Slightly OT, but related to fat Americans…

    I was picking up some tacos for my son last night at Taco Bell, and I was astounded to see advertising for their “4th Meal” campaign. It’s the meal between dinner and breakfast. With such rampant obesity in America, isn’t it a bit irresponsible of a corporation to support adding another meal to the menu?

    Feh, once the boy gets out of his pre-teens, nobody in my house will eat at Taco Bell for taste-related reasons.

  70. #70 PeteK
    April 30, 2007

    Taking the “meme’s eye view”, this could make sense: the memes want you to be fit and healthy in order to spread the memes better. So religions not only preach theistic stuff, but also health guides, such as dietry laws. This is coupled to the directive to devote more time to “being spiritual” so that you’ll feel like speading the religious memes, than spreading other memes, etc. This is, of course, is probably a gross oversimplification of this poential explanation, but you get the gist…

  71. #71 Rey Fox
    April 30, 2007

    Far be it for me to defend Taco Bell, but I think Fourthmeal is just their pithy way of advertising that they’re open late at night.

  72. #72 Middle Professor
    April 30, 2007

    obscurifer: I think the argument behind that is: 4 meals per day keeps the snacking away. I would think the four meals would be two lunches and not another meal after supper (unless one eats supper really early).

  73. #73 Suzanne
    April 30, 2007

    I think the article makes an important point. Religious faith teaches people non-materialistic values in a simple, digestible form. Secular values systems are harder to understand. If as a teenager you’re not up to that challenge intellectually, you may simply come to value what’s portrayed as desirable by advertisers, peers and the entertainment industry – materialism and social approval. Not healthy.

    A lot of smart people fear atheism, not because they think it’s implausible, but because it makes them morally uncomfortable. They may even think most atheists are fine, but they don’t see widespread atheism as a solid foundation for the society they want to live in.

    This isn’t irrational – just pessimistic. There haven’t been many strongly atheistic societies. So there’s little evidence that social cohesion won’t decline if people stop believing there’s a policeman in the sky.

    If you want a secular future, you need to persuade these skeptics that ordinary people – not just intellectuals – can teach and understand and uphold social values just as well without God.

  74. #74 Steve_C (Secular Elitist) FCD
    April 30, 2007

    Isn’t sweden over 80% atheist?

    I think there’s plenty of evidence.

    There’s not much evidence that religion maintains positive social cohesion.

  75. #75 Frumious B
    April 30, 2007

    Yeah, PZ, you goofed with that headline. I can recognize an attempt at humor, but your joke rests on a foundation of “fat=ugly” and “fat chicks = unfuckable”, and that’s just not cool.

  76. #76 Aris
    April 30, 2007

    Suzanne: A lot of smart people fear atheism, not because they think it’s implausible, but because it makes them morally uncomfortable

    You’re quite eight. In fact, I think this is the biggest hurdle we face as secularists is convincing the average person that morality and religion are most definitely not synonyms. I get very annoyed with the insistence of the press and politicians to refer to “values” as the provenance — in fact, as the sole provenance — of the religious and spiritual.

    While the prominent attacks on religion as the bane of humankind by PZ, Dawkins et al. have been awesome and inspiring, it’s time for creating another front in this war of ideas: since ethical behavior is the product of rational thought, not a system based on future rewards and punishments, the argument ought not to be that secularists can also be good people, but that only secularists can be truly good, because their goodness is an end in itself, and not a means for procuring after-death booty.

    ___________________________

  77. #77 Suzanne
    April 30, 2007

    Steve_C – the Sweden thing is kinda interesting. According to Hamburg & Petersson (1994, J. for the Scientific Study of Religion 33:205), about 14% of Swedes believe in a personal God; 31% describe themselves as religious; and 90% belong to the Church of Sweden. And church and state are still heavily intertwined – for instance, payments to the church are still an integral part of the tax system. So I guess you have to conclude that either a) most Swedish people can’t perceive logical inconsistencies or b) most Swedish people think religion is worth having socially, but not personally important to them.

    Aris – that’s a really good point. What would be great is if we could boil it down to a simple meme.

  78. #78 middle professor
    April 30, 2007

    Aris: so goodness is defined by the means and not the ends?

    Its an illusion that being good is an end in itself. The feeling one gets when we’ve done good is reasonably modeled as an evolved response and I’m also guessing that societal policing is a bigger motivator for us to do good than we want to admit.

    Regardless, its awefully arrogant to think that our good is somehow better than the good done by someone that fear’s eternal damnation.

  79. #79 windy
    April 30, 2007

    And church and state are still heavily intertwined – for instance, payments to the church are still an integral part of the tax system. So I guess you have to conclude that either a) most Swedish people can’t perceive logical inconsistencies or b) most Swedish people think religion is worth having socially, but not personally important to them.

    The state church was disestablished in 2000. In addition to simple inertia, weddings, baptisms and funerals are the only reason many people bother to keep the membership. Isn’t this sort of rituals-only religion almost converging on Shintoism?

  80. #80 Suzanne
    April 30, 2007

    Middle professor, I’m confused.

    Suppose I establish a leper colony where starving lepers receive top-quality care and are freed from social stigma.

    Now suppose that the reason I did it was:
    a) because I empathise with their plight
    OR
    b) to remove these disgusting human filth from my nice middle-class neighborhood – and I’m really annoyed that the government won’t let me simply shoot them.

    You’re saying I’m just as good a person either way?

  81. #81 articulett
    April 30, 2007

    Yeppers. Religion makes you fat.

    http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2006.00305.x
    http://news.adventist.org/data/2006/10/1162905982/index.html.en

    I suspect all that “going forth and multiplying” thing can be hard on the figure too.

  82. #82 middle professor
    April 30, 2007

    Suzanne: I’m confused. Why would someone who thought lepers were disgusting and should be shot bother to provide top-quality care and a community free from social stigma?

  83. #83 articulett (again)
    April 30, 2007

    Oooh my…check out these females; they seem to have a profound lack of faith:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070427092016.htm

    (I suspect being an invertebrate parasite can have a profound detrimental effect on one’s perception of her “own divinity”– To think I stubled upon this article and those fat insects in the same day…it must have been “meant to be”.)

  84. #84 Suzanne
    April 30, 2007

    Err… sorry middle professor, that was a *hypothetical* scenario that I made up to provide a context for the question you raised of whether moral value is implicit in action or intent. The sad truth is, I don’t even own a leper colony!

    But if it helps you to understand the question better, we could say I provide all that good stuff because it’s the only way the government will let me relocate the lepers.

  85. #85 Maronan
    April 30, 2007

    Hm, I’m male, I’m an atheist, I’m skinny and relatively fit, and I got that way on the “see food” diet. Where do I fit in?

  86. #86 Aris
    April 30, 2007

    windy: Isn’t this sort of rituals-only religion almost converging on Shintoism?

    Aptly put.

    Furthermore, in many cultures belonging to the official church is more of a statement about ethnic identity than an expression of faith. In Greece, for instance, you don’t get drafted in the army unless you’re Greek Christian Orthodox, i.e. a member of the official church. A Greek Catholic could volunteer to join the military, and will be accepted, but will never be accepted as truly, truly, Greek. On the other hand, a godless Greek who happened to be born as a Greek Christian Orthodox and baptized as a baby, can’t avoid being considered thoroughly Greek, which includes being drafted, expected to have a church wedding, etc., despite the fact that he’s far less Christian than a Catholic Greek.

    The thing to fight is not so much religion but mysticism, in all its permutations. That’s the true enemy of a secular, science-based society. That would be a far more effective frame, and it would be less threatening to vast numbers of people who consider belonging to a church as something akin to a membership to a social club, cultural/ethnic group, and so on. Religion is bad because is a mystical construct, but there are other mystical forms, and they’re all bad.

    ___________________________

  87. #87 forsen
    April 30, 2007

    Steve_C, speaking as a native of Sweden… society as such is very secularized. Church attendance is really low, and evolution is almost unanimously accepted… the National Board of Education does it’s fair share of creationist/ID bashing every now and then. Institutional Christianity is thus quite weak, but according to the polls, a majority of ppl do bevlieve in “something” metaphysical or spiritual, although this “something” is usually very weakly defined. The wiki entry is rather good on the matter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweden#Religion

  88. #88 Aris
    April 30, 2007

    middle professor: I’m confused. Why would someone who thought lepers were disgusting and should be shot bother to provide top-quality care and a community free from social stigma?

    I’m actually confused: What is it about Suzanne’s example you didn’t understand? I think it illustrates very clearly that motivations do matter: Feeling empathy and being compelled to do the right thing because it is the right thing is very different that doing something that happens to be the right thing because of your own ulterior motives.

    This is not to say that empathy is anything more than an evolutionary adaptation. I do think that free will is a delusion, and therefore I did not suggest that we can “will” ourselves to be empathic or good. But even in purely pragmatic terms, having citizens who do good because they feel compelled to be good, regardless of what they’ll get out of it, makes for a much better society than a world where the predatory quest for personal benefit is the only motivation.

    I can imagine only Ayn Rand zealots disagreeing with this simple premise.

    ___________________________

  89. #89 Anton Mates
    April 30, 2007

    And…contra PZ and most of the other commenters on the article, I infer that the author is areligious. This actually seems to be quite conspicuous. From what are people inferring that she is at all religious?

    Um, the whole article? Deploring “our dearth of spiritual exploration, and the fact that “we were raised largely without a fundamental sense of divinity?”

    Talking about salvation through grace and works, and the need for “spiritual armor?” Expressing the hope that “girls can find inspiration – not condemnation – in religious texts?”

    She doesn’t seem to be a conservative believer of any stripe, but it seems pretty clear she’s religious or “spiritual.”

  90. #90 forsen
    April 30, 2007

    Suzanne: The matter of membership in the Church of Sweden is largely due to the fact that until ’96, children automatically became members if one of their parents were – many of whom had been born into the Church in the same way. Attendance is really low though, except – as windy pointed out – when it comes to rituals such as funerals and child baptisms. Now the membership numbers are dwindling as well, as many have figured out that they get rid of the church tax, which has to be paid annually, if they terminate their membership. As I said, check out the wiki post linked above.

  91. #91 Norman Doering
    April 30, 2007

    Christian girls let their figures go

    Why not? It appears that lesbians do.

  92. #92 Suzanne
    April 30, 2007

    Thanks for the link forsen!
    The fact that a majority of people still believe in “something” suggests to me that you can’t really call this an atheist society. It’s pretty similar in Australia, actually, where I come from: about 70% are nominally Christians, but only a tiny minority would ever attend church, and virtually all accept evolution. Most would tell you merely that they believe in “something”. Why do they go on believing in that “something”? My hypothesis is it’s because they like having churches around in society, even though most of the time, they don’t personally need them. So then you have to ask yourself, are these people all stupider than you? Or do they think they have a rational reason for maintaining some irrational beliefs?

  93. #93 bad Jim
    April 30, 2007

    I’ve heard that there’s a low-carb communion wafer sold under the name “I can’t believe it’s not Jesus”.

  94. #94 forsen
    April 30, 2007

    IMO, there has at no point is history existed anything which can be even remotely defined as a thoroughly atheist society. The attempts (communist dictatures, for example) have usually, to some extent, promoted persecution of religioous minorities and/or infringements of the freedom of speech in the same manner as theocracies. Besides that, they usually end up with some sort of state-imposed emperor worship instead of the rejected religion – look at the personality cults around Mao, Stalin & so on. So no, I don’t’ think neither Sweden nor Australia can be defined as atheist countries/cultures… although highly secularized ones.

    Concerning the beliefs in “something”, I think they usually are so weakly defined that their degree of rationality can’t even be judged. Concerning rationality btw, I think intellectuals often greatly exaggerate the importance of rationality when it comes to peoples belives. To your sterotypical, blue-collar Tom and Jane, the thorough logical coherence of a theological/philosophic system has very little to do with whether or not to maintain religious beliefs/practices/fellowship. To most folks, the values of religion does not lie in intellectual sophistry – instead, it gives them an identity in a group, hope for an afterlife, metaphysical foundation for etics, and so on and so on. People who are not intellectually inclined, usually do not think very much on these matters. I’ve met quite a lot of outspoken, church-attending Christians who are less interested in theology than I am. So no, I wouldn’t say they’re more stupid than the average, ‘rational’ free-thinker… they just have another disposition of personality. It’s like – to take an Australian example – blaming Ian Thorpe for being a poor philosopher, or Peter Singer for being an equally poor swimmer.

    If you still wonder whether this belief in “something” is irrational or not, well… I do not belong to the Dawkins branch of atheism, which thinks we would be much better off if all religious expressions were eradicated from the face of the earth. Like Dennett, I remain agnostic about that. Religion is a multi-faceted phenomenon deeply rooted in human society – partly out of tradition, partly – I think – out of neurological disposition; a by-product of certain aspects of our cognition ( read the excellent article by Paul Bloom at http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200512/god-accident , if you haven’t already). It has served as everything from great ethical inspiration to motivation for heinous crimes against humanity. Religion has been a part of human society from the very beginning, and it doesn’t look like it’s about to leave any time soon. Even in highly secularized societies like Sweden and Australia, many ppl still believe in this “Something”. And if people who believe in this “Something” act in a civilized manner, and do not “step on the toes of science” (as Stephen Jay Gould put it), I honestly have no problems with it.

  95. #95 forsen
    April 30, 2007

    gah, a number of typos… aw, you get the idea =)

  96. #96 Tatarize
    April 30, 2007

    It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a fat girl to get into Heaven.

    I don’t get it, the article is blaming atheism for Ana(rexia) and (buli)Mia? Did it even bother to run a correlation study to see the faith of the sufferers? A quick glance and all I can find are how to cure such diseases with prayer.

    Anybody have a proper correlation?

  97. #97 Tatarize
    April 30, 2007

    Heh. I was looking for actual studies on religion/spirtuality and eating disorders and I came across this nugget:

    http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/809.asp

    Man, that’s funny. They are digging at the bottom of the barrel to try to find anything. “Hsu, Crisp, and Callender (1992) did a study in which 16 patients with eating disorders were interviewed to acquire knowledge into the experience and recovery from eating disorders. One of the patients self-reported that her faith in God and prayer had assisted her in her recovery process.”

  98. #98 Suzanne
    April 30, 2007

    forsen, I mostly agree with you – (and thanks for the cultural references mate 😉 )

    But I’m torn.

    On the one hand, I think it’s sad, and often destructive, that people feel they need to believe in “something” – because that “something” can easily become culturally transformed into a religion, and religion can easily become fanatical. So I worry about this, and many people here seem to feel the same way.

    But I also worry about the opposite. Like Dawkins I dream of a society free of supernatural beliefs, but that’s not something that has ever existed. What makes me so sure it will work? I don’t need religion, but maybe some people do. Maybe nobody needs religion, but maybe it does make society happier. How can we know?

    So I sit on the fence, and it ain’t comfortable here, so please, someone, anyone… convince me!

  99. #99 Tatarize
    April 30, 2007

    Well there have been some studies done on why religion screws people up with regard to eating disorders.

    Richards et al. (1997)

    1) The negative image of God, the perception that God makes judgment, is unforgiving and punishing.
    2) Feeling of spiritual unworthiness and shame, that is the patient believe that God consider him or her as unworthy and a useless person.
    3) Patient has is the fear of abandonment by God, that is the patient has difficulty in trusting God’s love and feels abandoned by God.
    4) Guilt and shame about sexuality, that is these patients are often time sexually abused as children and adolescents and are taught to fulfill their need of love through sexual activity.
    5) Reduced capacity to love and serve; these patients try to avoid love, such as God’s love and love of others.
    6) Difficulty surrendering and having faith; they try to control their life by controlling the food they eat and in doing this they become so extreme that they refuse to have faith in higher power.
    7) Dishonesty and deception; they are very secretive about their eating habits and go through emotions of shame over deceiving others about their eating disorders. They feel that God is not pleased with them because they are deceiving others.

    Though, half of those are complete crap, feeling like an evil unworthy sinner who God has forsaken, and constantly fails at everything, isn’t going to help mental health. More so when religious dogma says that you have absolute free will and you can just choose to do something different if you want.

  100. #100 Tatarize
    April 30, 2007

    >>But I also worry about the opposite. Like Dawkins I dream of a society free of supernatural beliefs, but that’s not something that has ever existed. What makes me so sure it will work?

    Such a society does exist, in every species other than humans. They do fine. Also, the supernatural beliefs use to just be really amazing natural beliefs. It wasn’t until science came around crushing all the little hiding places for gods that people started shoving their gods outside the universe, science, reason, and rationality.

  101. #101 Rachel Rev
    May 1, 2007

    I am a liberal Christian pastor with a strong interest in feminist theology and gender studies. In seminary, I wrote extensively on the correlation between patriarchy in the church and the destruction of the female body. Historically, eating and/or fasting have been ways for many Christian women to gain control in some aspect of their lives, that is their bodies. My research also revealed that Christian women are just as likely as secular women to participate in self-destructive behaviors around eating. In response to the article you quote, I must say, this is a load of crap (my theological opinion). Perhaps the reason “godless women” are more apt to go to the gym and to care for their bodies is because they aren’t subjected to the misogyny so prevalent in the church, even today, that they truly believe that the female body is worth caring for and preserving.

  102. #102 Torbjrn Larsson
    May 1, 2007

    obscurifer:

    isn’t it a bit irresponsible of a corporation to support adding another meal to the menu?

    Many fitness programs (i.e. based on regular training) suggest eating more often, say each 3-4 hour, to even out blood sugar load and provide steady nourishment, so maximizing recovery from hard training.

    It is unclear to me if there are any measurable effects. But if there is, perhaps a less rigorous training regime also benefits from this, it could put less stress on the organism.

    This must be balanced by eating smaller portions of course, and that would presumably preclude junk food – it wouldn’t be enough bulk to stop the hunger.

    One should also consider the allegedly measurable fact that eating more than 4 or 5 times per day gives more wear on teeth, brushing or no brushing.

    Suzanne:

    payments to the church are still an integral part of the tax system.

    Only for those who still are members, and this for practical reasons. In law, state and church is now separate. (Except for the formality that the former state church still has the privilege of keeping the name ‘Swedish Church’.)

    The fact that a majority of people still believe in “something” suggests to me that you can’t really call this an atheist society.

    I have looked at, and criticized, the statistics in earlier comments to Pharyngula. The problem is that inconsistent and leading questions makes numbers very different in different studies. Comparing with other european countries within the same studies, swedes seems to be among the less organized religious and most atheist.

    I think we need better studies to draw more definite conclusions on absolute numbers. It was easier when everyone went to church. 😮

  103. #103 Torbjrn Larsson
    May 1, 2007

    obscurifer:

    isn’t it a bit irresponsible of a corporation to support adding another meal to the menu?

    Many fitness programs (i.e. based on regular training) suggest eating more often, say each 3-4 hour, to even out blood sugar load and provide steady nourishment, so maximizing recovery from hard training.

    It is unclear to me if there are any measurable effects. But if there is, perhaps a less rigorous training regime also benefits from this, it could put less stress on the organism.

    This must be balanced by eating smaller portions of course, and that would presumably preclude junk food – it wouldn’t be enough bulk to stop the hunger.

    One should also consider the allegedly measurable fact that eating more than 4 or 5 times per day gives more wear on teeth, brushing or no brushing.

    Suzanne:

    payments to the church are still an integral part of the tax system.

    Only for those who still are members, and this for practical reasons. In law, state and church is now separate. (Except for the formality that the former state church still has the privilege of keeping the name ‘Swedish Church’.)

    The fact that a majority of people still believe in “something” suggests to me that you can’t really call this an atheist society.

    I have looked at, and criticized, the statistics in earlier comments to Pharyngula. The problem is that inconsistent and leading questions makes numbers very different in different studies. Comparing with other european countries within the same studies, swedes seems to be among the less organized religious and most atheist.

    I think we need better studies to draw more definite conclusions on absolute numbers. It was easier when everyone went to church. 😮

  104. #104 forsen
    May 1, 2007

    Suzanne: I can add to the references that Nick Cave is one of my favourite musicians, and that I strongly vote for a marsupial revenge on the placentals (= us) who pushed them back. I’m especially fond of obscure marsupials such as the honey possum or marsupial mole… but that’s another story =)

    It may be destructive that ppl have to believe in this “something”, but unfortunately, som ppl will probably always do it… it is, to some extent, a part of how our minds work. What we can do is to try to create a world where the negative effects of religion are reduced, and keep it from intervening with science and politics.

    I’ve settled with the fact that I personally don’t need or believe in religion, but others may want to. And as long as they act like straight folks and don’t step into fields where their religious views don’t belong (said science and politics), I won’t bother.

    I wouldn’t say that you sit on a fence. You’ve already taken the stance that you don’t believe in religion. I don’t think you have work strenously for the complete eradication of religious beliefs – just to erode it whenever the occasion arises. =)

    IMO, liberal faith is not dangerous faith… I personally think science-friendly, liberal religious folks like Rachel Rev above are our allies, not our enemies. That’s my position. Does that make me a “Neville Chamberlain atheist”? Perhaps, and a proud one too. I’ll take a balanced, science friendly believer over a mean-spirited, intolerant atheist any day. If that’s a fence, it’s a rather comfortable one.

  105. #105 Middle Professor
    May 1, 2007

    Tatarize: “I don’t get it, the article is blaming atheism for Ana(rexia) and (buli)Mia?”

    Good god people. This article is neither a rant against atheism nor a call to religious conversion. The article is about driven, overachieving, young women who grew up without much or any religion and how these women are obsessed with material possessions and personal achievements. The author argues that these women should replace this obsessive love for themselves with a more healthy love for friends, family, and the community around them. Her argument is at least 2500 years old and has similar elements in stoicism, epicureanism, buddhism, pantheism (the religion – if you can call it that- of Spinoza and Einstein), much of liberal christianity, and a lot of new-agism.

    No, she is not arguing that if you are an atheist you are skinny.

    No, she is not arguing that all christians are fat.

    Yes, she is arguing that areligious households tend to fail to lay the foundation for how to care about friends, family, and community and, therefore, girls growing up in these houses have unhealthy ideas on what this good life is and care mostly about themselves.

    Yes, she is arguing that growing up in a moderately religious household does instill a sense of humility and a sense of friends, family, and community.

    Is she arguing that one must grow up in a moderately religious household to get this sense of humility and community. She doesn’t say explicitly but that is not a conclusion that I draw from the article. I infer from her tone that by “godless” she doesn’t mean atheist (one that disbelieves in gods because of an intellectual argument) but people that live a life without religious activity because its just not a priority.

    I doubt she would argue the daughter of an atheist cannot grow up with a healthy sense of humilty, friends, family, and community, but she may argue, where’s the beef (not that she gives any)?

    Does she think that girls growing up in some religous household cannot acquire a whacked sense of self? Who knows because she doesn’t talk about this.

    If read at all, the article should have been quickly forgotten as it’s really not worthy of much discussion (the argument itself may be, but the article itself is too lightweight for any support one way or another).

  106. #106 Suzanne
    May 1, 2007

    Tatarize:
    “Such a society does exist, in every species other than humans. They do fine.”
    Please tell me that’s a joke… you’re not seriously suggesting that every animal society is superior to every human society, or that humans can simply adopt the social behavior of other species… are you?

    forsen:
    “I wouldn’t say that you sit on a fence. You’ve already taken the stance that you don’t believe in religion.”
    forsen, thanks very much for your thoughts – they have helped me make up my mind. I’m okay with the belief-unbelief fence – crossed that one years ago :-). The uncomfortable fence is the one between tolerant atheism (which you exemplify) and militant atheism (which many others here represent). Reading what you and other people say here, the conclusion I’m coming to is that there are a lot of unknowables and conflicting imperitives in this issue. Truth is important. Being nice is also important. It’s hard enough trying to balance those at a personal level, let alone deciding that for all of society.

    A dear friend of mine, a lifelong atheist (and, coincidentally, anorexic), recently “found God”. It’s annoying, because he aggressively raises the subject all the time in conversation. On the other hand, he was suicidal before – and now he’s not. If there were no churches, I think there would be a high likelihood my friend would be dead by now.

    So, I’ll stick with tolerance for now.

  107. #107 forsen
    May 1, 2007

    Good if I have been of any help =) I am very uncomfortable when atheists are not content with people being outspoken atheists/agnostics/”free-thinkers”, but demand that they cross the “second fence” as well, into what you call “militant atheism” – the position that religion in itself is something wicked and evil, and that we would be much better off without it. I find the approach of Paul Bloom or the late Stephen Jay Gould much more fruitful (and more mature, but that’s my personal opinion) than the one of Dawkins/Harris/Grayling/Hitchens, or whatever radical atheist you want to pick. Actually, if I had to choose I’d probably pick theistic evolutionists like Ken Miller or Simon Conway Morris over the radical atheists, although their way of mixing science and religion makes me shun (“Non-overlapping magisteria, ffs!” =) ).

    Now let me be absolutely clear on this point – I think that the god of the Old Testament is one of the nastiest characters in the history of world litterature, I would gladly see the bogus of creationism/ID or fanaticism/fundamentalism going extinct. But all of religion ain’t like that!

    Religion as a phenomenon is nothing but than a product of the human brain and society – therefore it’s only good or bad to the extent that the societies and ppl that are good or bad. Claiming that religion is more evil than the minds who uphold would be, I think, to postulate the concepts metaphysical evil – and for all I know, metaphysics is something that atheistm/naturalism/reductionism, by definition, rejects.

    Concerning your friend, he’s just showing typical signs of what can be called the “infatuation phase” of a religious conversion. I went through the entire religious spectra in my teens/early twenties: conversion -> fanaticism/zealotry -> stabilisation -> backsliding -> outspoken deconversion -> atheism/free-thought. There are, generally speaking, two possible outcomes for your friend. Either he takes the path above. Or, he diverges from it in the “stabilisation” phase, and remains a stable believer with slightly more liberal views over time.
    Of course, he could take a turn for the worse and turn into a full-blown fanatic nutjob, but they usually wane over time. Fanaticism takes a hell lot of energy, if it’s not fueled by extreme outer conditions such as poverty or oppression (which, among other things, is a hotbed for radical islamism).

    Either way, I think we both can agree that it’s better for our friend if he becomes a stable (and perhaps even liberal?) Christian than a suicidal atheist. A stable atheist wouldn’t be bad either, but hell, you can’t always get what you want… =)

  108. #108 Suzanne
    May 1, 2007

    “Claiming that religion is more evil than the minds who uphold would be, I think, to postulate the concepts metaphysical evil – and for all I know, metaphysics is something that atheistm/naturalism/reductionism, by definition, rejects.”

    I’m not sure about this. For instance, it seems to me that a war is worse than any of the minds who create it. Helen of Troy wasn’t exactly evil, and neither was her boyfriend or anyone else involved, even though they got all those Greeks killed.

    I think people are usually acting at local scales, and with very little awareness of what they’re doing – while things like wars and religions self-organize at such large scales that no human can really imagine them. So I think it is reasonable to push for policies that change these large-scale phenomena – if we know where we want them to go. With war, we can probably agree that less is more. With religion – I really don’t know.

    I do hope you’re right that my friend’s just in a phase – thanks for the preview! And yes, I would definitely rather he was fanatical and annoying than rational and dead.

  109. #109 bullfighter
    May 2, 2007

    Has nobody considered the possibility that one factor contributing to girls’ (subjective/wrong) perception of themselves as fat is that their mothers are (objectively) fat? There are multiple reasons to believe this. Children identify with their parents, as well as notice any problem more, and worry about it more, if it is present in their household. This is a testable hypothesis, and one that, if true, would lead to prediction of the problem increasing in recent years (which has, apparently, happened).

  110. #110 Joolya
    May 2, 2007

    I know a number of religious anorexics. No correlation. Absolutely nonsense.

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