Pharyngula

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So…have you all read the latest Pew report on American religion? It’s been reported in the NY Times, too, and I heard that it was the lead story on CBS News (which, unfortunately, said something about a “secular, morally empty America” — did anyone catch it, or better yet, record it?).

It’s mostly good news. We’ve got a fragmented, shrinking Protestant population, Catholics are abandoning ship in droves and what’s keeping it afloat is Catholic immigration from the south, and the “unaffiliateds” are growing fast, especially among young adults.

The survey finds that the number of people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with any particular religion as children. Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion.

16.1% is still a minority, but keep in mind that Catholics are 24% of the population — we could pass them by in a few years. Look at that table on the right. We’re huge (but not at all organized or unified, of course) and growing fast. It’s worth looking at past assesments: in 1990, the nonreligious were about 7.5% of the population; in 2001, 13.2%; now, 16.1%.

The Pew people break down the “unaffiliateds” a bit more, and it looks like a significant number of them do still have considerable affection or perhaps dependency on religion — they just don’t seem to like the existing sects. I suspect we can blame that not on the attraction of atheism, but the repulsion from overreaching, grasping American religion.

Like the other major groups, people who are unaffiliated with any particular religion (16.1%) also exhibit remarkable internal diversity. Although one-quarter of this group consists of those who describe themselves as either atheist or agnostic (1.6% and 2.4% of the adult population overall, respectively), the majority of the unaffiliated population (12.1% of the adult population overall) is made up of people who simply describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” This group, in turn, is fairly evenly divided between the “secular unaffiliated,” that is, those who say that religion is not important in their lives (6.3% of the adult population), and the “religious unaffiliated,” that is, those who say that religion is either somewhat important or very important in their lives (5.8% of the overall adult population).

But don’t try to argue that this “new” muscular atheism is driving people away. 1.6% self-identifying as atheists is a big leap forward: in 2001, that number was 0.4%.

It’s not all good news, though, and this one point here is something we must address.

To illustrate this point, one need only look at the biggest gainer in this religious competition — the unaffiliated group. People moving into the unaffiliated category outnumber those moving out of the unaffiliated group by more than a three-to-one margin. At the same time, however, a substantial number of people (nearly 4% of the overall adult population) say that as children they were unaffiliated with any particular religion but have since come to identify with a religious group. This means that more than half of people who were unaffiliated with any particular religion as a child now say that they are associated with a religious group. In short, the Landscape Survey shows that the unaffiliated population has grown despite having one of the lowest retention rates of all “religious” groups.

So we’re growing fast, but our children have a significant chance of ‘backsliding’ into some religion later in life. I suspect that is a consequence of the fact that most non-religious households will not provide any specific training in beliefs (I know I didn’t!) and godlessness is often presented as simple disbelief without a body of associated positive values. We need to change that.

Although there is also an alternative interpretation: how often have you heard the theistic testimonial that begins “Once I was an atheist…”? It’s practically a cliche. Another possibility is that a lot of born-agains will report their childhood as being unaffiliated with any religion, when what they really mean is that there was religion, it was just less fervent than their current zealotry. I’m not entirely convinced that the supposed low retention rate is real.

Anyway, we have something to feel good about — the trends are running towards a return to a more secular America, although obviously we have a ways to go yet. And of course, when the Rapture comes and all the charismafundagelical loonies vanish in a puff of incense, we’ll have an even greater forward lurch in the percentages.

Comments

  1. #1 King of Ferrets
    February 26, 2008

    We need the knock down that Christian number a bit…. I hope it’s at 50% by 2010.

  2. #2 Reynold
    February 26, 2008

    So much for this commentator who said that “Within us all there is a God-shaped vacuum”!

  3. #3 danley
    February 26, 2008

    Stanley Fish is really the only man capable of empirically verifying this report.

  4. #4 H. Humbert
    February 26, 2008

    So we’re growing fast, but our children have a significant chance of ‘backsliding’ into some religion later in life. I suspect that is a consequence of the fact that most non-religious households will not provide any specific training in beliefs (I know I didn’t!) and godlessness is often presented as simple disbelief without a body of associated positive values. We need to change that.

    I see a disturbing tendency amongst some non-religious parents to view any religious instruction as “indoctrination” or “coercion,” and express their intent to allow their children to make their own decisions regarding religion. While it is laudable that these parents wish to support their children’s choices, children should not be left to navigate the minefield of religious doctrines unprepared. As we all know, many religious organizations proselytize and recruit heavily, often employing dishonest arguments and passionate rhetoric which can be persuasive to those not on guard against such tactics. At a minimum, children should be taught critical thinking skills, the ability to spot logical fallacies, and the importance of applied skepticism in evaluating truth claims, as exemplified by the scientific method. In fact, I don’t know why more isn’t being done to expose children to these things at an earlier age in public schools.

  5. #5 Tulse
    February 26, 2008

    It’s also amusing to see that the percentage of divorced evangelicals (13%) is higher than that for atheists and agnostics (both 10%), as evident in this table. Just who is violating the sanctity of marriage?

  6. #6 Aquaria
    February 26, 2008

    Tulse, I wouldn’t put too much stock in those numbers. First: A percentage of Evangelicals will of course say that they divorced before they came to the big guy. Second: It’s pretty common for some divorced people to turn to a church after their divorce. In fact, a lot of these feel-good evangelical churches actively seek divorced/widowed people. They advertise heavily on various radio stations (at least here in Texas). You’ll hear a, “Divorced? Feel like you’re all alone? Come to the Lord’s Circle if Holy Fire Church, and we’ll give you love everlasting.” That’s not the exact wording, of course, but it’s the gist of it.

    It works on a disturbing number of people when they are the most vulnerable to such a message.

  7. #7 Derryl Murphy
    February 26, 2008

    It’s only a year or so ago that I started to self (and more importantly in this case, publicly) identify as an atheist, but I certainly was before. And I can think of a fair number of people in my larger circle who don’t believe but as of yet don’t or can’t admit it. So that 1.6% seems low.

    Unless of course the fact that I’m Canadian changes things up, since things are different in these parts.

    D

  8. #8 Anon Ymous
    February 26, 2008

    Actually only 10.3% – not 16.1% – because 5.8% of the “unaffiliated” people were “religious unaffiliated”.

  9. #9 danley
    February 26, 2008

    If we could just get rid of Josh Turner. Then we’d be bumped up to at least 19%.

  10. #10 Kseniya
    February 26, 2008

    I find the sentiment “Within us all there is a Hoover-shaped vacuum” to be a little more compelling.

  11. #11 Colugo
    February 26, 2008

    Immigration keeps theism alive in the West – Latin Americans in the US and Muslims in Europe. No use bellyaching about it. So we may as well get used to God-belief sticking around in the Western world for quite a while.

  12. #12 Aquaria
    February 26, 2008

    Yikes. Dropped the headphones on the keyboard when I got up, and it hit the enter key. To finish the rest of the point, a lot of the divorced evangelicals who come to the big guy soon after a divorce don’t stay very long with the faith. Once they’re over the ugly, they move on. It’s not true across the board, naturally, but it’s true in enough of them to make the numbers seem a little different than they could be. My mother is one of those who got religion not long after her divorce. Now that she’s remarried, you couldn’t drag her to church.

  13. #13 brian
    February 26, 2008

    If you want to see the CBS report, this link takes you to the CBS website that has it in the videos section:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/sections/eveningnews/main3420.shtml
    The quote is, “… (the survey) answers many of the concerns about a secular, morally void America”

  14. #14 Laurie Soule
    February 26, 2008

    That trend seems to be true in our household. Of our three children (my one, and my husband’s two), we have two atheists/agnostics and one who has gone from her mother’s Unitarian Church to join a Presbyterian Congregation. No matter how much her father and I tell her that it’s all complete unsubstantiated nonsense.

  15. #15 James C.
    February 26, 2008

    50% by 2010? Get real. I’ll be happy if it’s 25% by 2050.

  16. #16 James C.
    February 26, 2008

    Botched that last comment. Still works… mostly. I need to think, then type.

  17. #17 Sycorax
    February 26, 2008

    Hang on–5.8% of the population say that religion is “somewhat important” or “very important” in their lives, and yet they can’t pick one? The mind boggles.

    Or does this group include the people who traditionally over-report their religious attendance in polls: the ones who have a vague association of religion with warm-fuzzy good things, but can’t be bothered to waste their Sunday mornings (or whatever) actually attending a service?

  18. #18 mona
    February 26, 2008

    I’ll be happier if the secular percentage reaches 25 by 2050. This is America, after all.

  19. #19 Alex
    February 26, 2008

    This kind of reminds me of the browser share statistics here: http://marketshare.hitslink.com/report.aspx?qprid=0&qpmr=100&qpdt=1&qpct=3&qptimeframe=M

    Internet Explorer = Christianity
    Firefox = Unaffiliated

    Internet Explorer, much like Christianity, sucks, and most people use it simply because it’s what they’re expected to use or because they don’t want to change. Others deviate from the norm, and that number is increasing rapidly as time goes on and Firefox/not being affiliated with a religion becomes more common. :D

  20. #20 genewitch
    February 26, 2008

    5,600,000 atheists, compared to 1.4 million in 2000.
    I’d say we’re growing. :-D
    56,350,000 total unaffiliated. We’re almost even with the fundamentalist christians. Perhaps that is the reason that they haven’t taken over yet, Hmmm?
    We need to take that 12.1% “nothing in particular” and convince them to answer atheist from now on!

    yaya!

  21. #21 Bjørn Østman
    February 26, 2008

    Looking forward, I have recently had the experience of talking to children around age 10 who are all little believing protestants. I ask them why, and to tell me about their beliefs, and it dawns on me that they of course don’t know anything else. Slow as I am, no news here. Best predictor for religious views is that of the parents, and all thats.

    However, the interesting bit is how they look at me in bafflement when I tell them that I am atheist. “What’s that?” “Then what do you believe?” “You’re gonna go to hell.” “What’s Islam?”. So I tell them a little about Islam, and I sense that something now dawns on them.

    As kids become more and more exposed earlier in childhood to other ways of thinking (internet, better education, etc.?), we can hope that this discovery of context sows a seed that will lead to atheism later in life.

  22. #22 Bjørn Østman
    February 26, 2008

    Looking forward, I have recently had the experience of talking to children around age 10 who are all little believing protestants. I ask them why, and to tell me about their beliefs, and it dawns on me that they of course don’t know anything else. Slow as I am, no news here. Best predictor for religious views is that of the parents, and all thats.

    However, the interesting bit is how they look at me in bafflement when I tell them that I am atheist. “What’s that?” “Then what do you believe?” “You’re gonna go to hell.” “What’s Islam?”. So I tell them a little about Islam, and I sense that something now dawns on them.

    As kids become more and more exposed earlier in childhood to other ways of thinking (internet, better education, etc.?), we can hope that this discovery of context sows a seed that will lead to atheism later in life.

  23. #23 Emmet Caulfield
    February 26, 2008

    I’m with Anon Ymous @#8 — it’s 10.3%, since the nutters in Westboro and their ilk probably come under that 5.8% “unaffiliated religious” and shouldn’t be counted under the atheist/agnostic/secular/sane banner.

    Not meaning to piss on your fire, but 1.6% is hardly a landslide for reason over woo: just keep up the quadrupling for a few more surveys and we/you are in business; I say “we” as an atheist and “you” as a non-American living in one of those godless heathen countries, riven by moral decay, where there’s universal healthcare, social welfare, first-class free education up to university level, the lowest child/infant mortality in the World, a narrow poverty gap, and other unspeakable evils. We’ll clearly have to stem the influence of Satan so we can have more income inequality, shootings, child poverty, government spying on the citizenry, and other precious freedoms that are the envy of the World.

  24. #24 UmmoSirius
    February 26, 2008

    I found this data interesting but couldn’t find a pie chart, so I made one:
    [img]http://img520.imageshack.us/img520/8154/religionkk1.jpg[/img]

    It still looks a lot like the Pac-Man that is Christianity is eating us whole.

  25. #25 fyreflye
    February 26, 2008

    I’ve seen other surveys that show Wicca to be the fastest growing religion in the US, but neither it nor any other neo-pagan sect even registers on this survey. Either the study I saw was flawed or this one failed to reach at least one significant demographic.

  26. #26 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    when the Rapture comes and all the charismafundagelical loonies vanish in a puff of incense

    vanish in a puff of incense?

    well, that should freshen the air a bit.
    er, if you like incense, that is.

    I can’t help but think there are better things they could vanish into a puff of.

    meh, either way, I wish they’d just get on with it. I mean, the Heaven’s Gate crowd lived up to their stated dates, why can’t these idiots?

  27. #27 Eaux
    February 26, 2008

    My thoughts:

    1. I don’t believe percentages matter as much as either atheists, or the religious, would like to believe they do. (Here I depart from a large number of Christians, not only because my belief contravenes the almighty pursuit of Evangelism, but also because churches are not at all immune to the desires of business and livelihood.) If the people who remain in church are finding that they are growing deeper and more authentic in their faith, that is not necessarily a bad for the church. Similarly, if the growing number of uncommitteds simply don’t give a fig about matters religious _or_ contrareligious, that ain’t necessarily good for atheism. These newcomers are not the people with which you’ll be able to build a firewall against the evangelicals. ;-)

    2. Fluidity is a Very Good Thing, whether from one religious faith to another, or away/from religion. It suggests that not only are people responding to these issues, but that they have the freedom they need to pursue religious questions authentically.

    3. Characterizing an adoption of religion later in life as ‘backsliding’ is going too far. Not all who seek are lost; not all religious inclinations defy reason (from my point of view). But I agree that atheist parents should not duck the issue of religion altogether–just as I wish fundamentalist parents would allow their children a full and honest exposure to science and critical thinking–even if those parents are incapable of allowing themselves the same.

  28. #28 autumn
    February 26, 2008

    I am so glad to have grown up in a school system where I grew to know Jews, Catholics, Buddists, Hindus, Muslims, and many of my own Protestant(except that all non-Lutheran protestants were obviously going to Hell) denominations.
    As early as the sixth grade I asked one of my Hindu friends if the term “God”, in the pledge we were all required to stand in obiedience to, was in opposition to his beliefs, as it was offensive to me at the time that my friend should not be included in the “One Nation” which excluded polytheistic faiths. He said that it was, and that it was a thing which he chose to simply participate in, rather than admit that he was uncomfortable.
    At the time (I haven’t spoken him about this), he seemed to me, and I was a confirmed Christian, to be being forced to pledge himself (while not being strictly required, an American student seen to be not reciting the pledge, only standing in reverent silence, is on the short list for ass-kickings) to a theology not his own, under implicit threat of violence by his fellows, and the further threat of the disapproval of teachers and administrators.
    There is still a clear threat to freedom of religion in America’s schools.
    If you are one of those who will excuse this as radicalism, imagine if I were to lead your child’s class in a “morning confirmation” about higher powers giving us blessings and such. Imagine that your child was not required to say the words of the invocation, only to “stand reverently” as the invocation was read.
    All good to you Christians out there?
    What if I wore, every day, a pendant with a small, nearly unnoticible charm indicating my affiliation with the Church of Satan.
    What if the vice-pricipal also wore this charm?
    What if, and this is a long-shot, nearly every teacher in this school wore a Satanic charm on their necklaces?
    Would the morning invocation still be an innocent appeal to “higher powers”?
    No.
    It would be as intolerable to a Christian to have his child stand reverently for an obviously Satanic (to the majority of the faculty, and thus, as undestood by the children, to the majority of those in power over them) incantation as it it for me to potentially have my child indoctrinated by the normality of theistic thought in secular and governmental institutions.

  29. #29 miller
    February 26, 2008

    I wonder what the 1.6% figure for atheists means. So many questions! Does that mean the rest of them don’t care enough to have looked up the definition of “atheist”? Are they uncomfortable with the definition? Do they feel alienated by the activists? Are most of those agnostics actually agnostics, or are they simply unaware/disagree that “atheist” does not imply certainty? Are they simply non-practicing folk? Are they materialists? Skeptics? “Spiritual but not religious” new agers?

  30. #30 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    not all religious inclinations defy reason (from my point of view)

    good thing you qualified that, though you might want to qualify it even further and say something like:

    “Those who are religiously inclined don’t necessarily INTEND to defy reason.”

    we have several regulars (one who even won a Molly – Scott Hatfield) who would certainly fit the bill of not intending to defy reason, and go so far as to work for the cause of reason, for the most part.

    some of us remain unconvinced this isn’t really a case of cognitive dissonance, but at least the intentions are honorable.

    ;)

  31. #31 Brian
    February 26, 2008

    #17: I don’t think it’s that surprising. I’ve known a lot of people who just can’t believe that the universe (or life, or humanity) came into being all on its own, but are still quite capable of seeing the gaping holes in the religious organizations around them. They remain unaffiliated, but are no less spiritual for all that.

  32. #32 donna
    February 26, 2008

    Of course, this is of people who will answer the phone for surveys, so those like me who refuse to do so are totally unrepresented.

    I would guess these numbers are most likely Wrong.

  33. #33 Lost Clown
    February 26, 2008

    And I can think of a fair number of people in my larger circle who don’t believe but as of yet don’t or can’t admit it. So that 1.6% seems low.

    And I was shocked that the only 1.7% are Jewish. But, I lived in NYC and Chicago and comparing that to where I am now, I guess it doesn’t surprise me. Just like most my friends in big cities are agnostic/atheist. (Here in little NW town is the only place I’ve really known non-Catholic (and none of my friends actually practiced) xtians) I’m still getting over the shock that such a thing as a non-kosher hot dog exists.

    Skewed perspective depending on where you live. Growing up in Chicago in my neighbourhood everyone was either Jewish or Catholic. *shrug*

  34. #34 Rey Fox
    February 26, 2008

    The trends always look nice. But I’m still disappointed at the paltry 1.6% in the atheist column. Come on guys, just go whole hog! Reject fairy tales! You’ll be glad you did. I say this as a former agnostic who used to wonder if we could ever really know if God existed, and all that, and now thinks, “Why did I waste so much time hemming and hawing over all that? The very idea is patently absurd! Guy who’s somehow bigger than the universe, yet is so commonly represented as mirroring us somehow? Come ON!”

  35. #35 Meng Bomin
    February 26, 2008

    Tulse (comment #5), looking at the numbers in total, I would guess that the average evangelical is older than the average atheist, judging by the increased amount of “never married” atheists and agnostics (37% and 36% respectively vs 14% of evangelicals). I would say that this is promising news because it means that there are probably more atheists in the younger generations than in the older generations, and religious trends tend to be more generational than individual in nature

  36. #36 C. L. Hanson
    February 26, 2008

    I completely agree with your assessment that it’s not really the “new atheists” who are deconverting people so much as it is the religions are repelling people (especially the religious right) and then the “new atheists” gather them up.

    Just this past weekend I went to lunch with the exmos of Switzerland. We had a guy visiting who was on a business trip from Utah County, Utah — a lifelong Mormon who’d recently left the fold on his own after spending six months in Italy and discovering (to his astonishment) that the people there were good and happy without Mormonism. On this visit he was happily devouring his shiny new copy of The God Delusion. :D

  37. #37 Monkey's Uncle
    February 26, 2008

    Autumn, it’s sad that as a student, peer pressure makes kids compliant with the pledge ‘under god’. Here in the satellite US state of Britain, (he he) , kids are not pressured to believe in any one religion in schools unless of course it is a faith school; there are people who moan about that of course, but I think it’s better to learn about all religions equally, so that in later life you can make an informed choice (to not believe, hopefully).
    I think it’s a very blinkered attitude that kids who give ‘reverential silence’ will get ass kickings by their classmates, a very sad outcome IMO.

    I would like to see this survey for europe…anyone know of a link?

  38. #38 Eaux
    February 26, 2008

    not all religious inclinations defy reason (from my point of view)

    good thing you qualified that, though you might want to qualify it even further and say something like:
    “Those who are religiously inclined don’t necessarily INTEND to defy reason.”

    Nah, don’t wanna. After all, some religious inclinations actively do defy reason in one form or another, in subversive and sometimes (again IMO) useful ways. Cognitive dissonance is part of the fun. :-)

    My point, though, is that there are many reasons one might choose a religious calling. Some of them might even be good–or at least, interesting–ones.

  39. #39 Slyer
    February 26, 2008

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_new_zealand#Statistics
    Non-religious will hold the majority in New Zealand if trends continue, America has a long way to go. :)

  40. #40 tacitus
    February 26, 2008

    I wouldn’t be too pessimistic about backsliders. This is a quote from Pew Research last year:

    Pew surveys taken over the past 20 years show that the size of the secular group has remained constant over time within each age cohort. In other words, the number of seculars within each generational group is about the same in 2007 as it was 10 or 20 years before. Thus it appears that people have not become less secular as they have aged. For example, 14% of members of “Generation X” (born 1965-1976) did not identify with a religious tradition in 1997, about the same as in 2007.

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/614/religion-social-issues

    Look at the table at the top of the page. You’ll see that pre-boomers have remained at around 4% non-religious over 20 years, boomers at around 10%, and Gen-X at 14% (over 10 years). Gen-Y was measured at 19% in that survey, so the trend is our friend, and given the constancy of the generational numbers over the years, it will be our friend for a long time to come.

    But I don’t think that we’ll see the numbers in the USA that you see all over western Europe until America stops being such a conservative nation. Compared to most of Europe, politics in America is skewed way to the right. For all the talk of a 50-50 nation, if we measured ourselves using the political spectrum used elsewhere it would be more like a 30-70 split in favor of conservatives. (That’s why talk of Obama being an extreme liberal is such nonsense. He would barely qualify as a liberal in some countries!)

    Religion and conservatism are tightly intertwined and I don’t think you can budge support for one without budging the other. I have great hope that damage wrought by the Bush/Rove partnership will help sweep the Democrats to power this year, and perhaps a successful Democratic presidency (yeah, one can dream) will help to being nudging the political masses back to the center, at least, at give secularism a little more breathing room and a chance to grow.

  41. #41 Jit
    February 26, 2008

    Monkey’s Uncle #36: There was an EU-wide survey I think in 2001. You can get it from the Eurostat web site. France is the most secular nation in the UN and Malta the most religious.

    A recent report from the special rapporteur from the UN said this about Blighty: “In 2007, approximately two-thirds of the British either did not claim membership of a religion or said that they never attended a religious service, compared with 26 per cent in 1964.”

    You guys over the pond have got a little catching up to do…

  42. #42 bad Jim
    February 26, 2008

    I wouldn’t emphasize the agnostic/atheist distinction. My siblings and I used to equivocate. I remember my father telling me that we were agnostics, not atheists, because the latter designation required a faith in the nonexistence of god. The first edition of the American Heritage Dictionary shared his judgment:

    a*the*ist One who denies the existence of God

    Later editions have a dual definition including us non-believers.

    My parents found like-minded people among the Unitarian Universalists, and our town’s fellowship is experiencing growth pains. Nationwide they’ve been growing about 1% a year. They’re essentially non-religious but politically liberal, it’s a place to meet like-minded skeptics who like a Sunday morning talk on current events with a children’s program and coffee and cake afterwards.

    I don’t attend myself, but I pick up my mother afterwards and I know many other members. Some of the old-time hard-core types object to the minister wearing a robe and lighting candles, but are mollified when I point out that these are traditional pagan practices.

    There’s no creed, anyone can join, and diversity is prized, but if you’re a lonely non-believer you’ll find kindred spirits among the UU’s.

  43. #43 Daniel Murphy
    February 26, 2008

    There are so many difficulties in determining what people really think from surveys such as these, but I’ll mention just three:

    1. This was (mostly; see Appendix 4) a telephone survey. Of all working numbers called, at only 80% of the numbers (after up to 10 tries) could a request for interview be made. Of that 80%, only 35% consented to be interviewed. Of that 35%, only 86% completed the survey. Since 80% * 35% * 86% = only a 24% response rate, one wonders what the other 76% of us think, particularly the 65% of 80%, that is, 52% of all of us, who refused to be interviewed.

    2. When a surveyer asks “Do you believe in God?” (not a question on this survey, but the point remains) and the respondent answers “yes,” we haven’t learned much. We know only that when at a particular time a survey taker asked this respondent this question, the respondent gave that surveyer the answer “yes.” We don’t know what the respondent’s notion of God is, or how strongly he feels about it, or how often he thinks about it, or how it affects his behavior, or even what answer he would give in some other circumstance. I’ve seen it reported and repeated that 90% of Americans believe in God. I have no idea what that statistic really means.

    3. From the report: “Similarly, atheists and agnostics are defined here as all respondents who described themselves as being atheist or agnostic, even though some of them may believe in some notion of God.” Interestingly, Pew doesn’t similarly clarify that respondents who describe themselves as religious or religiously affiliated may not believe in some notion of God.

  44. #44 Damian
    February 26, 2008

    Monkey’s Uncle: Here

    From the article:

    The report claims that two-thirds of British people now do not admit to any religious adherence.

    It is likely to be even higher – both in Britain and the US – due to the fact that many people still claim a religious affiliation, while referring primarily to their cultural roots. Given that less than 6% regularly attend a church service, we are, to all intents and purposes, a nation of Godless heathens!

  45. #45 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    Tacitus,

    thx for the link, as I think this is the more correct analysis :

    – the non religious grew from 8% to 12% over the last 20 years (I wouldn’t consider the Atheist/Agnostic/non religious as significant, as it is totally unclear if the respondents would agree on a standardised definition).

    – traditional religious beliefs and practices (importance of prayer, judgement day, certainty of the existence of God) hardly changed since 20 years ago.
    However, what is quite significant is that the growing trend towards more religiosity which had been observed until the turn of the century, has been reversed since then.

    And that is the really good news, that the trend has reversed itself, despite all the efforts from the neo-cons to push a religious agenda during the last 7 years of Bush.

    So, even if one can hardly rejoice from the absolute numbers, there is at least one comforting news, America is back on the road to sanity.

  46. #46 Lilly de Lure
    February 26, 2008

    Damian said:

    Given that less than 6% regularly attend a church service, we are, to all intents and purposes, a nation of Godless heathens!

    I knew there was a reason I still liked being British! However if we really want to up the numbers of Godless Heathens (and this might help across the pond as well) what we need to do is ensure that all major religions have equal time in Religious Studies lessons (at least in State Schools).

    When religions are all presented as equal, contradictory and competing beliefs that all have the same amount of evidence to back them up (i.e. none) rather than individually in isolation as only way to truth the result is that they all wind up looking much less compelling. Thus the child is more likely to look at each one objectively rather than feel guilt-tripped into plumping for a particular one in later life simply because that happens to be the one most prevalent in their neck of the woods.

  47. #47 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    What I do find quite incredible is that 83% of all americans never doubt the existence of God.

    A similar question was asked in France in a CSA-Le Monde poll in 2003, (are you certain of the existence of God), and the result was only 24% !

    I’m quite sure that if one had compared these two in the 50s, they would have been quite similar. But now, the difference is striking, to say the least.

  48. #48 True Bob
    February 26, 2008

    Alex @ 19,

    My choice is to use Firefox. At work, I cannot control my PC configuration, so I am stuck with IE. But then I work for Fox lovers the Feds.

  49. #49 Jan Chan
    February 26, 2008

    Some other interesting things of note about atheists (not unaffiliated) if you look at the full survey results in the website (Yes, I’m a nerd with nothing better to do). Atheists boast the highest percentage of young people, second only to New Age. (I think we’re sucking out youngsters from both the secular unaffiliated and the agnostics)

    And we also have a large percentage of people who have large incomes, although not as rich as Jews and Hindus (Hey… where did they get their money?). We are also the most educated among the unaffiliated. (As you would expect, religious unaffiliated people dragged the education level of the unaffiliated down)

  50. #50 Guido
    February 26, 2008

    The ‘backsliding’ is not always permanent. I had to overcome religion twice. Sometimes a child realizes that he is atheist and the family surrounding him does everything possible to bring the rebel goat back to the herd. I realized I was atheist when I started to read mythology and see books about science, when I was 8 or 9. My atheism did not last long, two weeks with my fundie uncles and it was over. I simply did not have the tools to tear apart their ‘arguments’. Studying in a catholic school did not help neither, and I had to wait until i was 17 to realize again how silly and void is all the issue.

  51. #51 maditude
    February 26, 2008

    Say, I did a phone survey for Pew Research – must’ve been at least one year ago or so – asking all sorts of questions – but definitely included a bunch of religion/political questions, and household-income/kids/etc. It was actually an interesting conversation (not a robocall), and I was kind of glad I didn’t just hang up like I usually do.

  52. #52 Fernando Magyar
    February 26, 2008

    Re #4 Humbert,

    At a minimum, children should be taught critical thinking skills, the ability to spot logical fallacies, and the importance of applied skepticism in evaluating truth claims, as exemplified by the scientific method. In fact, I don’t know why more isn’t being done to expose children to these things at an earlier age in public schools.

    As a parent with a child in the public school system in Florida, (I suspect the specific state doesn’t really matter), I long ago understood that teaching critical thinking skills was my job on my own time. As to WHY more isn’t being done in this regard in the pulic schools, I have some ideas, I think that a lot of that has already been extensively discussed on this and other forums. In any case I’m pretty sure I can’t yet depend on the public school system to teach such skills.

    And of course, when the Rapture comes and all the charismafundagelical loonies vanish in a puff of incense, we’ll have an even greater forward lurch in the percentages.

    Maybe they have been deeply engrossed in the study of vulcanology and will pick an erupting volcano and all throw themselves in with large bales of incense tossed in for good measure. We atheists could set up bleacher seats at a safe distance and sell beer and hot dogs while we sit back and enjoy the brightly lit plumes of sweet smelling smoke wafting heavenward carrying their eternal souls. Bwa ha ha ha!

  53. #53 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    I’d be really interested to know on what basis these 83% Americans can say that they never doubt the existence of God.
    I mean do they really have an explanation for this apparent certainty, even if it isn’t scientific evidence, (such as “because I believe I have a personal relationship with God”, or “because I believe that the Bible is the word of God”) or are they just pretending that they never doubt, as if they were scared of something, or simply because of peer pressure ?
    I suppose that it is a bit of all, but it would be interesting to know more about this, especially when defining communication strategies to encourage critical thinking.

    Someone who has convinced himself that he is having a personal relationship with God, will probably be immune to any scientific arguments… This “born again” phenomena is going to be a harder nut to crack than we might think.

  54. #54 ArgusEyes
    February 26, 2008

    “and godlessness is often presented as simple disbelief without a body of associated positive values. We need to change that.”

    Really, and what would those values be? They wouldn’t be leftist values by any chance?

    Atheism/godlessness is not a belief system, I keep saying this to the religious nuts who I argue with all the time. Trying to make it into a belief system is 1) erroneous and 2) gives them ammo against us.
    You cannot derive a system of values that comes from not believeing in God, it just can’t be done.

  55. #55 Paco
    February 26, 2008

    As another implied above, Unitarians hardly fit in with the religious zealots. Some are Xtian, some solid atheists, and about the only thing they agree upon is that it’s possible to be in a religious community and think for oneself.

    Which I’m convinced is the important dichotomy — not between religious and atheist, but between People of the Book and freethinkers.

  56. #56 Lilly de Lure
    February 26, 2008

    Atheism/godlessness is not a belief system, I keep saying this to the religious nuts who I argue with all the time.

    In and of itself I agree, but in order to get to a freethinking/atheist position, particularly in areas that are dominated by religion you typically need to have respect for critical thinking, a respect for intellectual honesty and the humility to take on board the evidence reality puts in front of you whilst forming your views.

    These don’t seem like such bad values to teach to children do they?

    Really, and what would those values be? They wouldn’t be leftist values by any chance?

    I must admit to being a bit taken aback by this comment. Although PZ tends towards the Liberal end of the spectrum a quick glance at the threads dealing with Gun Control, Abortion, or indeed any of the familiar “flash issues” of the American political spectrum quickly reveals that, at Pharyngula at least, atheists hold a wide variety of political beliefs from right across the spectrum (religious wingnuttery obviously excepted – you don’t see too many Pharyngula regulars advocating ID in schools for example).

    What you do find when you look at these debates is that whatever side the commentators come down on they provide, and expect others to provide, evidence (ideally statistical evidence) to back up any factual claims they might make in the course of the argument and are quick to call BS on those who they regard as posting inadequate, inaccurate or deliberately misleading evidence to support their opinions.

    It kind of looks like all of us, whatever our politics, have a certain shared respect for the value of intellectual honesty, critical thinking and external evidence doesn’t it? Would you accept these as the basis of an atheist/freethinker value system?

  57. #57 Chris
    February 26, 2008

    Every time one of these surveys comes out, it shows there’s more iconoclasm among the young, and someone declares victory: in a few decades, all those young rebel atheists will be middle-aged atheists!

    Then they get older and settle down into the conventional religions of their neighbors. There’s *always* more iconoclasm among the young. It doesn’t necessarily imply a real demographic shift coming. (Or where are all the ex-hippies?)

    The logic error here is overgeneralizing: if statistics show that a disproportionate number of young people is, say, Latino, then when they grow up they’ll still be Latino, but that’s not necessarily true for political or religious affiliations.

  58. #58 James F
    February 26, 2008

    I’m a scientific advisor for the Clergy Letter Project, so I immediately looked for evolution-friendly faiths in the survey. This is obviously rough, since it’s rare to find any faith that is monolithically pro-evolution and I’ve overlooked some faiths, but my guesstimate would be:

    Catholic: 23.9%
    Mainline Protestant: 18.1%
    Mormon: 1.7%
    Reform/other Jewish: 1%
    Unitarians & other liberal faiths: 0.7%

    or 45.4% of as a likely pro-evolution coalition among the religious. Despite the stridency of the antievolution crowd, this gives me hope. Thoughts?

  59. #59 zeekster
    February 26, 2008

    I gave my two cents to CBS through their website:

    I recently watched your piece on “Religion in the United States” based on the results of the recent Pew report. I was surprised and insulted by the comment of Wyatt Andrews. He stated, “This unpresidented survey of religion answers many of the concerns about a secular, morally void America.” As part of the 16.1% of Americans who describe themselves as “unaffiliated” with religion, I am insulted that he thinks the alternative to being religious is being “morally void.” Shame on Wyatt Andrews and shame on CBS.

  60. #60 Jason Failes
    February 26, 2008

    “… (the survey) answers many of the concerns about a secular, morally void America”

    It still sounds like they need to go back to school and get some refresher courses in journalistic objectivity.

  61. #61 True Bob
    February 26, 2008

    As another implied above, Unitarians hardly fit in with the religious zealots. Some are Xtian, some solid atheists, and about the only thing they agree upon is that it’s possible to be in a religious community and think for oneself.

    Not quite true. Our local UU place (church?) now requires deism. No atheists allowed (must be tired of all the puppy blood smoothies).

  62. #62 firemancarl
    February 26, 2008

    It’s funny, my 16 year old has been hanging around his friends and suddenly became religious. He wasn’t before, so I would chalk up a ton of that ton “i’ll do what my friends do”. Conversely, my 7 year old daughters best friend is a Baptist and a few weeks ago told me she believed in god and she started praying before we ate. After two weeks, she told me “I don’t believe in god anymore” WOOT!!! After he brother told her about the devil, she said “Daddy, that stuff really creeps me out!” My 7 year old is an atheist, she just doesn’t know it yet.

  63. #63 CalGeorge
    February 26, 2008

    1.6% of 303,514,030 = 4,856,224.

    Hi everyone!

    At this rate of progress, the entire nation will be atheistic by the year 3,000 and there won’t be anyone left to rapture!

    Woo-Hoo!

  64. #64 Deepsix
    February 26, 2008
  65. #65 firemancarl
    February 26, 2008

    “Anyway, we have something to feel good about — the trends are running towards a return to a more secular America, although obviously we have a ways to go yet. And of course, when the Rapture comes and all the charismafundagelical loonies vanish in a puff of incense, we’ll have an even greater forward lurch in the percentages.”

    In case of Rapture, i’ll be watching porn.

  66. #66 October Mermaid
    February 26, 2008

    OT

    Hey, PZ! I found a goofy video you might get a kick out of. It’s from an old videogame back when translations weren’t very good, but there’s a priceless line at the 1:43 mark, or so, that I think you’ll appreciate it.

    It cracks me up every time.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8zN8hobvoQ&feature=related

  67. #67 apk
    February 26, 2008

    This post reminds me of some numbers in the link provided in Ricky Gervais’s deconversion story that was posted yesterday. In Mr. Gervais’s piece, he says:

    “Seventy-five percent of Americans are God-fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-fearing Christians. Ten percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists.”

    I have heard similar stats about the religious affiliation of the prison population. Can anyone point to where these numbers originate? It has been suggested to me that there exists in the prison culture in this country real pressure to affiliate with a religion (i.e. that being an atheist in prison can be “problematic.”) If that is the case, it might explain the reporting of such low numbers of atheists in prison. I would love to hear that this is not the case, and that atheists in general are much more law-abiding citizens than our Christian brothers and sisters.

  68. #68 Richard
    February 26, 2008

    Regarding this comment…

    “but our children have a significant chance of ‘backsliding’ into some religion later in life. I suspect that is a consequence of the fact that most non-religious households will not provide any specific training in beliefs (I know I didn’t!) and godlessness is often presented as simple disbelief without a body of associated positive values. We need to change that.”

    The Unitarian Universalist Church which is made up of largely secular humanists (athiests/agnostics) provides children with an understanding of other religions and also a faith community. It shows that you can go to church and not believe in god(s). http://www.uua.org/

  69. #69 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    Lilly,

    “It kind of looks like all of us, whatever our politics, have a certain shared respect for the value of intellectual honesty, critical thinking and external evidence doesn’t it? Would you accept these as the basis of an atheist/freethinker value system?”

    I’d say that we would most probably share similar definitions for these words, intellectual honesty, critical thinking, and evidence. How well we respect these, in all matters, is another piece of cake.

    The problem is, that many religious folks have their own definitions, which are going to be quite different from ours. An example of this is “evidence”. We free thinkers do not consider as evidence the fact that someone is convinced that he is having a personal relationship with God. Whereas they do. And it can even go beyond this, as ounce I were told, that my objection to this form of evidence, was the cause for my inability to “receive” this evidence.
    What shall I have replied to this ?

  70. #70 Mr.Mom
    February 26, 2008

    As my name applies, Im a stay at home dad raising 3 kids (6,4,2). I have found ways to handle the extremely sensitive issues of religion. One of the things I have found to help is to use past myths (greek mythology is the coolest) as examples while teaching why humans would have toid such stories. Then show them the answers that science has found for us.
    I have found that children, more so that adults, need answers to things they see. And if you just take the time to teach them about some of the simple sciences when they are young, it will give them a good foundation for rejecting religious nonsense later.
    The ONLY way to break religious dominance is to teach our children about SCIENCE.

  71. #71 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 26, 2008

    The Pew report is probably worth to look closer at, as was the last one when I was informed of its existence.

    For now, some scattered thoughts on the survey:

    There are so many difficulties in determining what people really think from surveys such as these,

    Exactly my reaction to these types of surveys as well, and the comments numbers shows this excellently.

    But let us also mention the possible worth: one can study trends of self-reported affiliations over a repeated survey, and roughly so over similar surveys. (Though I admit that varying response ratios complicates such a claim.)

    – The top 4 groups are equally large and the unaffiliated, mostly non-religious, ranks 4th. Possible political clout.

    – IIRC the rate of affiliation change has increased. This is A Good Thing, as it (may indicate that some affiliations are perceived as more unsatisfying and) definitely indicates that individuals are now more willing to consider what they believe in.

  72. #72 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 26, 2008

    The Pew report is probably worth to look closer at, as was the last one when I was informed of its existence.

    For now, some scattered thoughts on the survey:

    There are so many difficulties in determining what people really think from surveys such as these,

    Exactly my reaction to these types of surveys as well, and the comments numbers shows this excellently.

    But let us also mention the possible worth: one can study trends of self-reported affiliations over a repeated survey, and roughly so over similar surveys. (Though I admit that varying response ratios complicates such a claim.)

    – The top 4 groups are equally large and the unaffiliated, mostly non-religious, ranks 4th. Possible political clout.

    – IIRC the rate of affiliation change has increased. This is A Good Thing, as it (may indicate that some affiliations are perceived as more unsatisfying and) definitely indicates that individuals are now more willing to consider what they believe in.

  73. #73 rimpal
    February 26, 2008

    Our local UU place (church?) now requires deism. No atheists allowed…

    Surprising. I am Hindu and spend just a little more time at my mandir as I do at the UUA in my neighborhood (after I joined their book club). Neither of the traditions (they are not religions or faiths although some who follow these traditions may take things on faith) are creedal. Although for me, after all the gaiety, colour, song, and dance at my mandir, it’s hard to discuss abstract questions about purpose etc., with my UUA friends.

  74. #74 Lilly de Lure
    February 26, 2008

    I were told, that my objection to this form of evidence, was the cause for my inability to “receive” this evidence.
    What shall I have replied to this ?

    Possibly quoting some of the evidence for visions as brain-chemistry e.t.c. might help (you might want to make particular references to the US Military’s accidental replication of the out-of-body/near death experience by subjecting their pilots to powerful G-Forces during training), also the idea that a vision/ voice that only you can hear is by definition useless as evidence to anyone else.

    Also that, when it comes to religion’s interpretation of such experiences, one person’s vision is another person’s sinful delusions (or lie), depending on which religion you personally follow (some christians tend to think of Mohammed as suffering from some kind of schizophrenia for example). Don’t religious people find it a bit convenient that their prophets are always inspired by god but other people’s are all deluded maniacs. Ask them by what criteria are we and other people external to the vision to judge a vision’s correctness?

    Also ask how the person who sees it is supposed to judge it considering many serial killers (one of the most well known in the UK being the Yorkshire Ripper) claim to have heard voices/seen visions telling them to commit their terrible acts. If we assume that their internal vision is false, then how do we know that the one we are having is not, given the amount of evidence to back either one up is the same?

    Hopefully that’s enough to be going along with! ;-)

  75. #75 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    This part from the CBS article is really too much :

    “The unprecedented survey of religion answers many concerns about a secular, morally void America. To the surprise of many experts, Americans are still deeply religious, with 84 percent of adults claiming a religious affiliation, CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports.”

    “In the developed world, this is really the most religious country,” said Fr. Thomas Williams, CBS News faith & religion analyst.”

    So what do these guys think, the rest of the developped world which is as they say, far less religious than America, is therefore, morally void ? So how do they explain, that amongst all developped nations, the USA also has one of the the highest crime rates, is, by all means one of the most violent societies, and has one of the lowest life expectancy ?

    As you said, Lilly, intellectual honesty and critical thinking is certainly not something that these uneducated journalists respect.
    Or, God really does act in mysterious ways…

  76. #76 Lilly de Lure
    February 26, 2008

    So what do these guys think, the rest of the developped world which is as they say, far less religious than America, is therefore, morally void ?

    Given what such journalists regularly write about Europeans I’d say the answer has to be yes.

    Or, God really does act in mysterious ways…

    Or in mind-numbingly stupid ways, if you believe some of the crap the ID movement spews.

  77. #77 True Bob
    February 26, 2008
  78. #78 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 26, 2008

    most non-religious households will not provide any specific training in beliefs (I know I didn’t!) and godlessness is often presented as simple disbelief without a body of associated positive values. We need to change that.

    Ooh, risky! In the sense that healthy youths don’t like to be told what to believe, after being raised without blindfolds against available technical, scientific and cultural knowledge.

    So as I see it we should not frame (sigh!) this as “training” but promote teaching of history of religion/non-religion. The former drawback is now an advantage – the young student would tend to avoid repeating the teachers mistakes.

    the value of intellectual honesty, critical thinking and external evidence

    Good. On second thought I would add some further values:

    – Consistency with parsimony. (No superfluous imaginary agents or events.)
    – Genuine rationality. (No intrinsic need to divide reality into rational subsets and gluing them together by cognitive dissonance. Consistent with empirical rationality.)
    – Accepting morality for the phenomena it is. (I.e. as emergent social behaviors, not ethical precepts whether religious or secular.)
    – No other blindfolds of the morality type either, see my above argument. Okay, this goes towards “intellectual honesty” and “external evidence”, but it won’t hurt to make examples of subsets of values.

  79. #79 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 26, 2008

    most non-religious households will not provide any specific training in beliefs (I know I didn’t!) and godlessness is often presented as simple disbelief without a body of associated positive values. We need to change that.

    Ooh, risky! In the sense that healthy youths don’t like to be told what to believe, after being raised without blindfolds against available technical, scientific and cultural knowledge.

    So as I see it we should not frame (sigh!) this as “training” but promote teaching of history of religion/non-religion. The former drawback is now an advantage – the young student would tend to avoid repeating the teachers mistakes.

    the value of intellectual honesty, critical thinking and external evidence

    Good. On second thought I would add some further values:

    – Consistency with parsimony. (No superfluous imaginary agents or events.)
    – Genuine rationality. (No intrinsic need to divide reality into rational subsets and gluing them together by cognitive dissonance. Consistent with empirical rationality.)
    – Accepting morality for the phenomena it is. (I.e. as emergent social behaviors, not ethical precepts whether religious or secular.)
    – No other blindfolds of the morality type either, see my above argument. Okay, this goes towards “intellectual honesty” and “external evidence”, but it won’t hurt to make examples of subsets of values.

  80. #80 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 26, 2008

    about Europeans

    This triggered me to include a point on my list of scattered thoughts that was forgotten:

    – The survey result looks somewhat as the european nations I’m familiar with, in the sense that IIRC many or most unaffiliated Swedes (and that is proportionally many!) self report that religion is non-consequential:

    the majority of the unaffiliated population (12.1% of the adult population overall) is made up of people who simply describe their religion as “nothing in particular.”

  81. #81 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    February 26, 2008

    about Europeans

    This triggered me to include a point on my list of scattered thoughts that was forgotten:

    – The survey result looks somewhat as the european nations I’m familiar with, in the sense that IIRC many or most unaffiliated Swedes (and that is proportionally many!) self report that religion is non-consequential:

    the majority of the unaffiliated population (12.1% of the adult population overall) is made up of people who simply describe their religion as “nothing in particular.”

  82. #82 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    And then, what to think of this concluding remark from the CBS News correspondent, Wyatt Andrews (check the video);

    “Overall Americans are in a faith they have chosen, not one chosen for them. They are truely living, FREEDOM FROM RELIGION.”

    What a nutcase !

  83. #83 Keith
    February 26, 2008

    I’d be really interested to know on what basis these 83% Americans can say that they never doubt the existence of God.
    I mean do they really have an explanation for this apparent certainty, even if it isn’t scientific evidence, (such as “because I believe I have a personal relationship with God”, or “because I believe that the Bible is the word of God”) or are they just pretending that they never doubt, as if they were scared of something, or simply because of peer pressure?

    Quite a lot of it is people simply saying, yeah sure I believe in God because that’s what they were taught to say. They don’t and have never really given it any thought one way or the other and are functionally atheist (no supernatural claims are invovled in their daily thoughts or actions) They just tell the poller what they have been taught is the socially acceptable answer. It’s called the Halo effect.

    Which means there are actually more of us godless secularists out there, most just don’t self identify as such.

  84. #84 Annie
    February 26, 2008

    Forgive me if I’ve missed it somewhere in the comments, but in this movement away from a powerful source of affiliation is concomitantly a powerful opportunity to create a new and improved source of affiliation. It must have the attributes of stability, sustainability, vision, reward system and identifiers. The door is open to recruitment, and the future holds no limits on strategies to retain and to grow “market share’ for membership.

    What say you?

  85. #85 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    Keith,

    but it’s even stronger IMHO than just saying that you believe in God, 83% of Americans said that they agreed with the statement, that “they never doubt the existence of God”.

    I mean, it’s a pretty strong statement. When I was young, I used to say that I believed in God, but I would have never agreed to such a strong statement.

    Or is it, that Americans understand the question differently ?

  86. #86 Tony Jeremiah
    February 26, 2008

    @5,6

    The following is interesting, as it seems to contradict conventional wisdom…

    ‘By religion, Jewish and born-again Christians have the highest divorce rates at 30% and 27% respectively, followed by other Christians at 24%.[5] Even more revealing and disturbing is the finding that atheists and agnostics have the lowest incidence of divorce at 21%. Why is this? Spokesperson Ron Barrier for American Atheists offers some reasons why he thinks this is so. He says, “Atheist ethics are of a higher calibre than religious morals,” and “with Atheism, women and men are equally responsible for a healthy marriage. There is no room in Atheist ethics for the type of ‘submissive’ nonsense preached by Baptists and other Christian and/or Jewish groups. Atheists reject, and rightly so, the primitive patriarchal attitudes so prevalent in many religions with respect to marriage.” ‘ [6]

    From: http://www.godswordtowomen.org/studies/articles/Preato3.htm

  87. #87 sublunary
    February 26, 2008

    Re: apk @66

    I don’t have statistics, but I do have an anecdotal example. Over the summer I co-lead a therapy group for sex offenders, all of whom had spent time in State or Federal prison. All 10 of them described pretty much the same situation: you enter prison and are looked over by the gangs, if you don’t immediately join with one of them, the religious people will start approaching you. Once you identify with a religious group, you automatically have a set of friends who will keep you company and help protect you (well, until they find out your a sex offender. But that’s another story.) While there is no threatening or pressure to join a specific group, it is important to end up with some group. Being a loner doesn’t seem to be a safe option.

    Overall these guys made religious groups in prison seem like a less scary version of gangs. A few of them got so sucked in that they changed their pre-arrest religion to the one that helped them in prison. In addition to that, studying relgion is something to do when you have few options for entertainment. I also got the impression those studying to be ministers were given some leiniencies by guards since religion is generally considered a “worth pursuit”.

    In my group at least, all affiliated with some religion prior to being arrested, so I don’t really know how athiests are treated.

  88. #88 Glen Davidson
    February 26, 2008

    There needs to be a more affirmative rationality and, perhaps, even non-religious spiritual affirmation, among the unaffiliated.

    Still, the fluidity of the growing unaffiliated isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It ought to go without saying that some of the unaffiliated will have to be those who are merely in transition, and hoping for religion in any case. Better, no doubt many who do “join a religion” are just getting along with spouses, aiming for business connections, etc. I realize that religions still feed off of these people, but it’s still a lot better that they’re relatively uncommitted. Conceivably, the fluidity of the unaffiliated implies even greater numbers of religious people who are, in fact, not committed to religion.

    Hitchens, I know, has participated in various religious rites, thanks to spouses and in-laws. Not that he’s left the “unaffiliated,” however, a less visible and ideological person might have, “just to get along.” I have a brother, too, who’s about as non-religious as anyone gets, who not only is affiliated with religion, he even belongs to more than one church–sales are the reason. Others join religions “for the kids,” but I’d have to say that I like that “reason” least of all.

    The changes among the more “liberal religious and irreligious factions” may not be the most important issue, since a lot of the “unaffiliated” today would have been churched yet largely unaffected by religion in the past. What probably is most important in the America is what is happening among the “highly committed,” or at least, those stuck in fundamentalist and evangelical religions (Islam in many cases, too). They’re the ones who cause most of the trouble vis-a-vis religion. A decline in those numbers would be the most important, and most welcome, statistics of all.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  89. #89 Epikt
    February 26, 2008

    ArgusEyes:

    Atheism/godlessness is not a belief system, I keep saying this to the religious nuts who I argue with all the time.

    Of course, religion isn’t a belief system either. It’s a steaming, randomly-heaped self-contradictory pile of belief-rubble.

  90. #90 JimC
    February 26, 2008

    I doubt many atheists admitted as such due to social ideas that are still prevelant. I’m am sure the number is quite abit higher. Maybe even 10%.

    Likewise the catholic number is to high other than perhaps social catholics.

    One thing I found funny is all the categories for marriage/divorce. If you are married, shacked up, never married, or currently divorced.

    If your shacked up you may still be in the never married category or the currently divorced category. This likely isn’t enough to skew the results but it does a little.

  91. #91 Mark
    February 26, 2008

    If there are more evangelicals than mainline Protestants, what makes “mainline” so mainline? I thought that implied they were the majority.

  92. #92 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    Glen,

    Still, what I found the most surprising is that about eight-in-ten Americans say they have no doubt that God exists, that prayer is an important part of their lives, and that “we will all be called before God at the Judgment Day to answer for our sins.”
    And that proportion has remained fairly stable over the past 20 years ( slight increase in the 90s, followed by a slight decrease recently).

    Now, I don’t know how “committed” that makes you when you agree with these statements (no doubt god exists, prayer is an important part of my daily life, we’ll all be called before God for judgement day), but it does sound pretty committed to me.

    Or am I applying to much critical thinking to the questions themselves (which might be something these 8 out of 10 people are critically lacking…).

  93. #93 Tulse
    February 26, 2008

    ArgusEyes:

    Really, and what would those values be? They wouldn’t be leftist values by any chance?

    It is hard to imagine someone who has come to atheism rationally who does not also reject the notion of appeals to authority, and reject the valuing tradition solely for tradition’s sake, and believe in applying critical thinking and rationality to all problems in life, including those of public policy. While those qualities may not make one a “leftist”, they sure do rule out certain types of conservativism.

  94. #94 Enlightened Activist
    February 26, 2008

    Alright all you enlightened activists out there, I received 2 petitions in my email. One is for the Afghan journalist sentenced to death, and the other is for the Saudi woman sentenced to death for witchcraft. Spread the word.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/sign-our-petitionbrbr-we-the-undersigned-urge-the-uk-foreign-office-to-put-all-possible-pressure-on-the-afghan-government-to-prevent-the-execution-of-sayed-pervez-kambaksh-brbr-775954.html

    http://www.petitiononline.com/AIDFAWZA/petition.html

  95. #95 Bill Dauphin
    February 26, 2008

    So what do these guys think, the rest of the developped world which is as they say, far less religious than America, is therefore, morally void ?

    That certainly seems to be what our Rethuglican leaders think: How else can we explain the monumental arrogance of our foreign policy over the last 7 years?

  96. #96 Ray C.
    February 26, 2008

    Really, and what would those values be? They wouldn’t be leftist values by any chance?

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  97. #97 tomh
    February 26, 2008

    #53 Atheism/godlessness is not a belief system

    Hard to argue with that. While many atheists may believe that critical thinking skills, skepticism, etc, etc, may be laudable goals in raising children, that whole agenda is way beyond atheism, which is exactly what the word means, not theism. Non-belief cannot equal belief no matter how you slice it. Unless, of course, you want to make common sense into a belief system.

  98. #98 Glen Davidson
    February 26, 2008

    I don’t know, negentropyeater, I suppose that “no doubt that God exists” could indicate commitment in most of those who say it. What I do know is that it’s what people are “supposed to say.”

    I expect a lot of people would say they’d die for their country, for the right of dissent, etc.–the pieties of civic religion. In fact, the people behind Expelled claim to be braving persecution just to stick up for the right to practice science openly. Doesn’t mean a damn thing in reality, since their only actual desire is to suppress science and the freedoms necessary for robust science, and instead, have government dictate what is to be accepted as science.

    I would suspect that a lot of people mouthing the “right things” about religion mean it, but don’t really know what that means (how can prayer be important to one’s life, when it produces no results? I know, as a ritual it can be important, but what I remember from growing up religious is how I was unhappy that all of this religious stuff seemed to have no effect–but I still would have said the “right things” in a poll). And a lot of people are saying the “right things” because they haven’t bothered to really think about what they mean at all. Having “no doubt about God” could mean to some that the issue matters so little to them that they haven’t asked the most basic questions about “God’s existence.”

    I suppose the only way to understand what the numbers who “say they have no doubt that God exists, that prayer is an important part of their lives, and that “we will all be called before God at the Judgment Day to answer for our sins,” are really affected in their lives by these beliefs would be extensive psychological analyses of representative samples of such people. I doubt that enough money could be found for such thorough analysis, while the matter of properly blind sampling would be in question as well.

    Until something changes in our knowledge base, we’re going to have to do the best we can with anecdotes, polls whose meanings are in doubt, and our understandings of social psychology. So I’m sure that others can view the statistics quite differently than I do and would have good arguments for their positions.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  99. #99 Bostoninan
    February 26, 2008

    And of course, when the Rapture comes and all the charismafundagelical loonies vanish in a puff of incense, we’ll have an even greater forward lurch in the percentages.

    I’ve calculated the exact date of the Rapture, when the religious are taken up and the rest of us finally get some peace and quiet, to February 25th, 2008, based upon my reading of scripture and several other inerrant sources, such as old X-Files episodes.

    Wait, the 25th was yesterday? Er … I meant February 25th, 2009.

  100. #100 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    Bill,

    well, I knew that’s the way the neo-cons think, as well as most of the FauxNews noise makers, but I wouldn’t have expected that this kind of disinformation was still permeating most of the major media outlets, such as CBS.
    When is this going to stop ?

  101. #101 October Mermaid
    February 26, 2008

    Very few things mean what I think they mean.

    It makes life exciting!

  102. #102 Pierce R. Butler
    February 26, 2008

    Fernando Magyar: As a parent with a child in the public school system in Florida, … I long ago understood that teaching critical thinking skills was my job on my own time. … I’m pretty sure I can’t yet depend on the public school system to teach such skills.

    Aw c’mon: in Florida you can absolutely rely on the public schools to present an abundance of case studies in factual & logical fallacies. And if there is a (temporary) shortage, our governmental bodies can be counted on to fill the gap.

  103. #103 Holbach
    February 26, 2008

    Of course, we all are aware that there are a lot of atheists who will not admit to their stance on revulsion
    of all religion. Every time I see a person with a clipboard
    outside a supermarket or mall, I always ask if there is a
    religion query and am ready to offer more than a simple
    yes or no to what are my beliefs or lack thereof. How so
    disappointing to hear that no canvass of nonsense beliefs
    is being pursued! I am always ready for this ideal time to
    spew forth my entrenched hatred of any nonsense other than
    the one of logical unbelief. Come on, let’s show some guts
    and honestly answer these opinion takers with our stated
    and unbiased views on religious insanity.

  104. #104 Pierce R. Butler
    February 26, 2008

    On further consideration:

    the majority of the unaffiliated population (12.1% of the adult population overall) is made up of people who simply describe their religion as “nothing in particular.”

    Wow – almost 1 in 8 adult Americans worships nothing, in particular. That’s not just a moral void, it’s pro-active nihilism in the most literal sense. And we can already see political consequences of this mindset: isn’t the current leading presidential candidate’s platform regularly described as “vacuous” (not unlike the incumbent’s entire mentality)?

    It’s time to set up a Temple of the Perpetual Void, in which those who adore the Absolute Zero can come to practice their faith in the Infinite Vacuum.

    Let’s see now, 12% of adults in the US means the potential congregation would be at least 24 million adherents of the Endless Emptiness, who might be expected to tithe approximately … uh oh.

  105. #105 Kseniya
    February 26, 2008

    This is where the “Hoover-shaped hole” starts to come into play…

  106. #106 Laura
    February 26, 2008

    Along similar lines of enlightenment: http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/17/visitor.logs/

    scary…

  107. #107 Brownian, OM
    February 26, 2008

    We should really lay to rest those claims of moral bankrupcy among the secular. How hard could it be to write a moral treatise (based on what we’ve witnessed from religious leaders, of course) to fill that ‘God-shaped vacuum’?

    I don’t know what to do about that columnist’s brain-shaped vacuum. ‘Kay, here goes:

    1. Fuck the poor, figuratively.
    1a. If a priest or other trusted moral authority, fuck the young, literally.*
    2. Have lots of sex, secretly.
    3. Take lots of drugs, secretly.
    4. Have lots of money, openly.
    5. Hate gays.
    5a. If gay, hate other gays.
    6. Hate women.
    6a. If a woman, shut up and get the fuck back in the kitchen. You + Job Outside Home = Satan Wins.
    7. If white, oppress non-whites. God hates them.
    7b. If non-white, pray that God will protect you from the oppression of the whites. God doesn’t hate you; he’s testing you.
    8. Above all, point fingers at everyone else in the world at all times, for religion is about one’s personal relationship with God.

    Did I miss anything?

    *Yes, Sinbad, non-priests have taken advantage of the young too. Just shows that priests are no better than the rest of us. They just get paid to pretend that they are.

  108. #108 DanioPhD
    February 26, 2008

    The void within me is chocolate-shaped.

    Lilly de Lure, your observations about our common denominators are right on the money. The problem is how to package this in to a unified philosophy or movement that works for the majority. I know that secular humanism fits the bill for a lot of people, but it has some baggage and shortcomings that make it less than ideal for some who identify as atheist/agnostic. For the moment, I label myself as a ‘scientific rationalist’.

  109. #109 Phaedrus
    February 26, 2008

    A big point that is being missed is the sense of community found when attending church. A ready source of friends, possible business opportunities, babysitters, etc., is found in church. People who need financial help can often find it, people who want to do community service find an outlet, there are pot luck socials to meet your neighbors and a chance to play/sing music, theater, sports, teach, dance.

    The secular community has no such structure and I think that is a real deficit and feeds the idea that atheists are immoral and bad for society – they have a point, community is what makes many people live for ;)

  110. #110 Sastra
    February 26, 2008

    As a number of people have said, surveys on religion and God run right into the problem of definitions and meanings. It’s hard to think of any other area in which the terms are so vague and flexible. “God” is the ground of Being. “Faith” is having hope despite adversity. “Religion” is however you choose your ideals. Or not.

    The meanings not only vary from person to person, they often vary within the same person. I can’t be the only atheist who has been frustrated in religious discussions to see people equivocating between metaphors and claims, back and forth, flipping from a reasonable position to an irrational one and insisting it’s all the same thing, when looked at from the right angle. Which is, apparently, that Spiritual Faith is a wonderful thing, no matter what you believe.

    What this survey may be measuring then is not so much belief, but what Daniel Dennett calls “belief in belief.” They’ll say that God is very, very important to them — but ask them what they think God is, and there’s often a kind of panicked pause, as they run through their options and try to figure out which one is most likely to gain your approval.

  111. #111 pamh
    February 26, 2008

    And what to do with all the “stuff” of religion that has struggled and pushed its way into our culture and homes and workplaces? There’s a little history of working that “out” of those places and the struggle to accomplish it at the the WOCC website. It may be too religious for people who were never there, but helpful for those who were. (The trajectory of this group is toward Dawkins, et al.)

    –a participant of “Way of Compassion Community” (and Firefox user) pamh

  112. #112 Greg Esres
    February 26, 2008

    A decrease in religiosity does not necessarily imply an increase in rationality. Americans could become 100% atheistic, but still remain irrational in the remaining areas of their lives. I’d rather see Americans become more rational and allow the religious chips fall where they may.

    The only advantage that I see to these more random irrational impulses is that they would tend to neutralize each other.

  113. #113 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    I think these polls are fundamentally dishonest, and help to perpetuate the network effects of religions in America. They form part and parcel of the propaganda, are picked up by the major media who spin it in such ways as to keep the masses happy in their delusions. It seems as if not an ounce of critical thinking has been put in defining these questionnaires, nor in the analysis and press commentaries thereof.

  114. #114 scrabcake
    February 26, 2008

    It’s a pity that for each thoughtful Christian like Eaux arguing for a restrained and thoughtful approach to religion, there are three or four flaming idiots who through their actions define Christianity and religion in general as synonymous with bigotry, sexism, and ignorance.
    I don’t have any problem with religious people who come to their faith through years of self-examination and study, and who are prepared to concede that the scripture consists of mainly metaphors. As long as you don’t try to convert me, good for you. I’m glad you’ve found comfort and meaning.
    It’s the people who believe what they believe because they’re too lazy to examine anything else, and too stubborn to admit that they might be wrong, or because they get off on a feeling of superiority that majorly piss me off. And that includes anyone who thinks its their duty to “save” me.
    I don’t believe a lot of scripture. In my mind, evolution is irrefutable and leaves little room for god.
    But I do believe that there are things, mainly services to others that are definitely “good”, and things that are definitely evil. And I believe that pursuing the good without thought of a reward, and just for the sake of goodness and empathy are the most noble things to which a human can aspire.
    A lot of progressive religious people view this as the core of their religion, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.

  115. #115 Norman Doering
    February 26, 2008

    Brownian asked:

    Did I miss anything?

    Yes. They must despise science and drag the nation into poverty:
    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/2008/02/religion-as-force-for-ignorance-and.html

  116. #116 DanioPhD
    February 26, 2008

    Greg @108: Good point. Bill Maher is a stellar, high profile example of this phenomenon.

  117. #117 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 26, 2008

    Immigration keeps theism alive in the West – Latin Americans in the US and Muslims in Europe. No use bellyaching about it. So we may as well get used to God-belief sticking around in the Western world for quite a while.

    One or two generations longer, you mean.

    Then they get older and settle down into the conventional religions of their neighbors.

    This comes from comment 56. It was already answered in comment 39.

  118. #118 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 26, 2008

    Immigration keeps theism alive in the West – Latin Americans in the US and Muslims in Europe. No use bellyaching about it. So we may as well get used to God-belief sticking around in the Western world for quite a while.

    One or two generations longer, you mean.

    Then they get older and settle down into the conventional religions of their neighbors.

    This comes from comment 56. It was already answered in comment 39.

  119. #119 mona
    February 26, 2008

    At the time (I haven’t spoken him about this), he seemed to me, and I was a confirmed Christian, to be being forced to pledge himself (while not being strictly required, an American student seen to be not reciting the pledge, only standing in reverent silence, is on the short list for ass-kickings) to a theology not his own, under implicit threat of violence by his fellows, and the further threat of the disapproval of teachers and administrators. (#27)

    I can’t speak for all of the schools, of course, but I go to a fairly conservative district (in my AP Bio class, 14 out of 15 had wanted to include ID in an origin of life presentation…), and nobody takes the pledge very seriously. It depends on the class, but in many, there’s a fraction that’s just too lazy to stand up, and they’ll say so openly. There are some classes where nobody actually recites the pledge. But, it’s all a matter of conformity to the class, or to a group within the class. In my current morning class, almost all stand and recite. I sometimes sit in protest– but it’s a painting class, so I’m usually walking around the room, or cleaning my brushes, or still painting…

  120. #120 Steve Reuland
    February 26, 2008

    PZ wrote:

    It’s worth looking at past assesments: in 1990, the nonreligious were about 7.5% of the population; in 2001, 13.2%; now, 16.1%.

    The 2001 number you cite is not directly comparable, because it only denotes “Nonreligious/Secular” without including atheists, agnostics, etc., who are listed separately. The actual “unaffiliated” numbers from the 2001 ARIS survey, along the rest of the results, are practically identical to the numbers in the new survey. So things haven’t changed much since 2001. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a trend away from religion however; the number of adherents is probably being kept constant by a steady influx of religious immigrants, without which there would almost certainly be a trend towards secularism.

  121. #121 Jesus Christ, LORD OF ALL
    February 26, 2008

    If you don’t believe in me, you will go to hell where you will suffer for eternity.

    I know that seems harsh, but who said life was fair?

    In any event, you know the deal now so quit cryin’ and start worshipping.

    Thanks.

  122. #122 negentropyeater
    February 26, 2008

    “Immigration keeps theism alive in the West – Latin Americans in the US and Muslims in Europe.”

    Well please stop perpetuating this false belief that Islam is taking over Europe.
    All studies show that the Muslim population in W.Europe has grown during the last 30 years by an (incredibly alarming!) percentage of about …. 2% of the total population.
    Meanwhile, the population of non religious has grown by more than 15 times this amount.
    Moreover, in those countries which have seen an earlier onset of immigration from islamic nations (such as the Pakistanis in Britain and North Africans in France, which started more than two generations ago), it is clear that the second or third generation enjoy similar decreases in religiosity, as their former Christian counterparts.

  123. #123 harebell
    February 26, 2008

    Hate the word backslider
    It’s is so full of condescension and is used by the religious as an insult or derogatory term.
    I mean close your eyes and envision the word being used in real life. Superscilious, sneering, holier than thou look on the face of the orator clutching their holy tome tightly.
    In my conversations I try and lose terms used by the dogmatically judgemental in favour of non-loaded terms.
    It’s tough but I guess it goes back to trying to find a language that isn’t devisive.

  124. #124 MAJeff
    February 26, 2008

    If you don’t believe in me, you will go to hell where you will suffer for eternity.
    I know that seems harsh, but who said life was fair?
    In any event, you know the deal now so quit cryin’ and start worshipping.
    Thanks.

    What a great and loving dude.

  125. #125 HennepinCountyLawyer
    February 26, 2008

    My wife and I have always answered our kids’ questions to the best of our ability and their ability to understand. Part of this has been the willingness to say “I don’t know.” Our kids got used to the idea that uncertainty is a perfectly normal part of life. I suspect that a lot of kids never get that message, and that a lot of people grow up needing religion for that reason.

    When our kids asked about religion, we told them “Religion is what people think about stuff that nobody knows about.” That’s overly broad, but I’m not sure there’s a better sound-bite sized answer.

    (We also discovered our kids understood the permanency of death at a substantially younger age than children are supposed to be able to. That may have had something to do with the fact that we treated death as just another aspect of life and didn’t try to “soften” the message by pretending dead people or dead family pets are still “alive” “somewhere.”)

  126. #126 Holbach
    February 26, 2008

    # 116 Hey jesus christ, lord of nothing, note the lower
    case you fanatical retard, let’s see your imaginary and
    isane creation come down and smite us on this site! I’ll
    give you a penny if you can do it for that is all your
    isane drivel is worth! When will it dawn on you that your
    religion and all its rabid insanities are just fiction to
    keep the insane like yourself subservient to nothing?
    Come on, get the crap out of your skull and put some
    semblance of reason into it. Then again, you cannot for
    the insane do not know they are insane. Pathetic life.

  127. #127 Cthulhu
    February 26, 2008

    If you don’t believe in me, I’ll eat you.

    Then again, I’ll eat you anyway, so never mind.

  128. #128 Brownian, OM
    February 26, 2008

    In any event, you know the deal now so quit cryin’ and start worshipping.

    Shut up or we’ll execute you again.

    (He threatens; I threaten.)

    Norman Doering, been having trouble with fundies? Your blog has been flagged as having ‘objectionable content’ which I assume is a fundy dysphemism for truth.

  129. #129 Flying Spaghetti Monster
    February 26, 2008

    Believe in me, and get a heaven filled with beer volcanoes and stripper factories!

  130. #130 mona
    February 26, 2008

    If you don’t believe in me, you will go to hell where you will suffer for eternity.
    I know that seems harsh, but who said life was fair?
    In any event, you know the deal now so quit cryin’ and start worshipping.

    This came across as satirical to me– in the last line, especially.

  131. #131 Brownian, OM
    February 26, 2008

    This came across as satirical to me– in the last line, especially.

    Me too. It’s the cryin’ that gets me.

  132. #132 Holbach
    February 26, 2008

    # 125 Satire perhaps, but the content is worth some
    worthy and sarcastic rebuttal. Then again, this satirical
    clown may really believe he is that imaginary moron, and
    this should really get full treatment!

  133. #133 Odin
    February 26, 2008

    Believe in me, and get a heaven filled with beer volcanoes and stripper factories!

    Copycat! Believe in us and you get to drink mead and eat ham and bacon all day.

    You may have to battle a huge snake at the end of the world but no one has seen it lately. It may have gone mythological.

  134. #134 Robert S.
    February 26, 2008

    @Jesus above – We all know life isn’t fair. We expect the afterlife, however, to be fair. And consider any god or gods who do not act justly unworthy of worship.

    We also question why any omniscient, omnipotent being would desire worship. Worship is typically a demand of tyrants and the egomaniacal.

    Besides, I have better things to do with my time than worry about a fictitious Lake of Fire.

    Thanks.

  135. #135 Moses
    February 26, 2008

    These newcomers are not the people with which you’ll be able to build a firewall against the evangelicals. ;-)

    Posted by: Eaux | February 26, 2008 2:31 AM

    I don’t think we have to build that firewall. For all their hemming and hawing, they’re part of a dying breed. Even as mega-churches grow, it’s really at the expense of cannibalizing the smaller churches.

    And they’ve got their own seeds of destruction. We’ve seen examples of these mega-churches that have become so corrupt that they implode. Part is because they become mainstream, but part is that there eventually comes some type of ethics-shock to the congregation and the awareness that this whole church has been driven by MARKETING.

    Jim Bakker is classic. But there are others.

  136. #136 Thor
    February 26, 2008

    Odin, bugger off. The snake is MINE!

  137. #137 Naga
    February 26, 2008

    The snake is MINE!

    Like non-existent Hell it is–I was there first!

  138. #138 Thor
    February 26, 2008

    I was there first

    Pah! It matters not, it is my destiny.

    Now I have to go catch my bus back to Valhalla.

  139. #139 Loki
    February 26, 2008

    You two don’t mind if I step out for a bit, do you? That cave was getting boring.

  140. #140 Odin
    February 26, 2008

    Now kids, quiet down.

    Instead of that silly hammer, this time we are going to take the snake out with a nuke mounted on an ICBM.

    We’ve got to keep up with the times.

  141. #141 J
    February 26, 2008
  142. #142 Emmet Caulfield
    February 26, 2008

    Thor said

    Now I have to go catch my bus back to Valhalla.

    Luckily, you’re a deity from a place where the buses are regular and run on time.

  143. #143 Bill Dauphin
    February 26, 2008

    well, I knew that’s the way the neo-cons think,…

    Hmm… maybe not all the neocons. I think for some of them — W, Ashcroft, etc. — religion is truly the source of their sense of American exceptionalism (which is just a polite term for buttheaded arrogance); for others — Cheney, Rummy, Wolfowitz — the sense of exceptionalism is a priori, and religion is just a tool. Is it possible to imagine Darth Cheney even pretending to believe in a all-loving creator?

    ..but I wouldn’t have expected that this kind of disinformation was still permeating most of the major media outlets, such as CBS.

    Don’t attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by intellectual laziness. Religion = morality is just the easy, culturally received equation; it doesn’t require any disinformation conspiracy to understand why they said that.

    I think these polls are fundamentally dishonest…

    Yup, but again you don’t have to imagine any premeditated dishonesty: I suspect religion runs a dead heat to sex in terms of subjects about which folks are likely to dissemble, even in the most carefully designed anonymous poll. Frankly, my answers to the survey’s questions would have depended on whether my wife — a moderately devout Catholic to whom I haven’t quite been able to “come out” — was in the room when I took the call.

    I would assume that any such poll under-reports the total number of truly secular people and overstates both the scope and intensity of religious belief. How many people do each of you know who go through the motions of church membership for whatever reason (e.g., to please loved ones), but who have no true belief? Could a survey like this capture that population?

  144. #144 Rangi
    February 26, 2008

    Oi, I’m the creator god in the Pacific (along with the missus, Papa), I have palm fringed tropical islands and lots of dusky maidens. Come sip some coconut milk with me wandering souls.

  145. #145 Norman Doering
    February 26, 2008

    Brownian, OM wrote:

    Norman Doering, been having trouble with fundies? Your blog has been flagged as having ‘objectionable content’ which I assume is a fundy dysphemism for truth.

    I assume it’s a fundy problem. However, I have used the f-word on occasion.

  146. #146 Anubis
    February 26, 2008

    You all go ahead and have your fun and games, I’ll get you in the end.

  147. #147 Amaterasu-Omikami
    February 26, 2008

    Believe in me. We have Hawaiian Fridays — and dental.

  148. #148 Julie Stahlhut
    February 26, 2008

    By religion, Jewish and born-again Christians have the highest divorce rates at 30% and 27% respectively, followed by other Christians at 24%.[5] Even more revealing and disturbing is the finding that atheists and agnostics have the lowest incidence of divorce at 21%.

    If this is true, it may reflect conflicted attitudes about marriage in the most conservative religious denominations. An atheist or agnostic who isn’t interested in marriage has no reason to get married. But, someone who has been under lifelong pressure to get married because “that’s what God wants” may feel s/he has fewer options. If you’re going to be ostracized by your community for being GLBT or non-monogamous or an older single person or just plain solitary, you might drift into a conventional marriage just so that you’ll fit in with everyone else. But, even in communities that stigmatize divorce, some proportion of such couples just won’t be able to take it any more.

    Conversely, I don’t personally know any atheists or agnostics who take marriage lightly. Sometimes we’re accused of this, but it’s a straw-man argument. Who gets married with the intent to get divorced a few years down the road?

  149. #149 Sif
    February 26, 2008

    Boys, boys… DO calm down, please.

  150. #150 JimC
    February 26, 2008

    Who gets married with the intent to get divorced a few years down the road?

    It’s high time we stop looking at divorce as a moral failing. Given the myriad of reasons people actually marry for staying married is often worse than the divorce and what value/achievement is a several decades long loveless marriage?

  151. #151 Moses
    February 26, 2008

    The logic error here is overgeneralizing: if statistics show that a disproportionate number of young people is, say, Latino, then when they grow up they’ll still be Latino, but that’s not necessarily true for political or religious affiliations.

    Posted by: Chris | February 26, 2008 8:14 AM

    Unfortunately for your observation, it’s not grounded in fact. This is not the only survey that’s shown the over-all population remains relatively stable in their belief pattern once they become a certain age.

    You stratify the population by ten-year “geneerations” and they’ve all, once they’ve set, stayed fairly uniform by belief distribution. My generation has remained relatively the same for 30 years. My parents, for 50. My grandparents, for 70. This is well understood and documented going back to surveys in the 1960’s.

    Since the early 20th Century, every “generation” in America has become less theist and more atheist, with the proportions remaining relatively stable. The biggest changes are within the theist category where religions ebb and flow with popularity and marketing.

  152. #152 Ichthyic
    February 26, 2008

    This is not the only survey that’s shown the over-all population remains relatively stable in their belief pattern once they become a certain age.

    …and the reasons for that have been studied as well:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/316/5827/996

  153. #153 Pierce R. Butler
    February 26, 2008

    Julie Stahlhut @ 143: Who gets married with the intent to get divorced a few years down the road?

    Ever heard of something called a “celebrity”?

    “Celebrities” are a more prolific termite in the institution of marriage than gays, lesbians, and atheists added together.

    Yet today’s hyperchristians idolize the only divorced president (himself a career “celebrity”), and have yet to mobilize a visible crusade against “celebrities”.

  154. #154 Rick T.
    February 26, 2008

    NBC also did a report on this topic and what pissed me off was the obligatory footage of evangelical, mega church, praise Jeebus with the hands in the air Christian as the prototypical kind. Also, there was disregard for the unaffiliated, just as in CBS, with the token Buddhist and Muslim flashed across the screen at the end of the segment.
    I hate the fact that religious (to these unthinking, apparently uneducated journalist turds) means “evangelical” Christian. I would also like to see an example of the fastest growing segment of unaffiliated given some positive attention instead of continuous footage of fundies praying for the rapture as if this represents the majority.
    Hey, I also don’t like the continuous footage of fat people’s butts when any diet or health news is delivered. Can we agree to not photograph fat asses and Jeebus freaks worshiping from now on? Please.

  155. #155 Raymondmogger
    February 26, 2008

    It isn’t so much the riser of unaffiliated or non-believers that is important to a healthy society. It is the deleterious drop in monotheism that gives hope for the future. If 15% of the population Hindu and another 12% Buddhist, I would just as happy as have them atheist or agnostic (my group). Just so long as it christianity and islam taking the gut punch.

  156. #156 HP
    February 26, 2008

    Q: What’s the difference between the Unitarian Church and Count Dracula?

    A: One comes from Transylvania and avoids the sign of the cross, and the other is a fictional character created by Bram Stoker.

    The first time I heard that joke (I am not a Unitarian), I went into research mode to figure out why it was funny. Turns out that the Unitarian Church was founded in Transylvania when the region was wracked by a series of wars between Protestants, Catholics, and Muslims. The original Unitarian Church was essentially the Boolean intersection of Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant belief, kind of like the European version of Bahai. Balkan Unitarianism is still pretty much a liturgical faith. The American brand changed when they merged with a Deist group called the Universalists, who tried to merge Abrahamic religion with Hinduism and Buddhism.

    For all the icky anti-immigrant crap in this thread, it’s worth pointing out that at one time, America was a much more secular country than it is now, and many immigrants converted to Unitarianism in the early twentieth century as part of “becoming American.” In fact, until fairly recently historically speaking, immigrants were the single greatest factor in the growth of the Unitarian Church.

    I’m still not getting up early on Sunday to hear crappy music with a bunch of touchy-feely neckbeards, but let’s give the Unitarians their props for an interesting history.

  157. #157 Desert Donkey
    February 26, 2008

    It was a nice bit of news to see in my local newspaper. Oregon is leading the effort to push the ‘Non-affiliated’ percentage higher at 10 points above the national average. No wonder I like it here, even if it is a bit damp in Eugene.

    Heres to doubling the ‘members’ of the good team during my lifetime.

  158. #158 Geral
    February 27, 2008

    I thought the results were interesting. Wasn’t it news that the US was moving closer to religion since 9/11? We’re stepping back, but just wait until the next major catastrophe.

  159. #159 Ichthyic
    February 27, 2008

    We’re stepping back, but just wait until the next major catastrophe.

    don’t give the Neocons more ideas, m’kay?

  160. #160 mothra
    February 27, 2008

    Believe in ME and you will have life ever interesting.
    Believe in ME and the lamp of reason will forever be lit.
    Believe in Me and the quest for the truth will be unceasing.

    Tiktalik

  161. #161 Ichthyic
    February 27, 2008

    (and don’t forget to embrace your inner fish)

  162. #162 Norman Doering
    February 27, 2008

    Geral wrote:

    Wasn’t it news that the US was moving closer to religion since 9/11?

    For awhile, when Bush’s supporters thought he was going to smoke bin Laden out and win the Iraq war, the US did move closer. But as it became clearer and clearer that Bush was failing on both counts it began to dawn on a few people that they should have known the man was a nit-wit back when he said Jesus was the greatest political philosopher. That meant he was either shamelessly pandering or knew nothing about either politics or religion.

    We can thank George W. Bush for this slight growth in atheism over the last eight years.

  163. #163 Carlie
    February 27, 2008

    It’s high time we stop looking at divorce as a moral failing. Given the myriad of reasons people actually marry for staying married is often worse than the divorce and what value/achievement is a several decades long loveless marriage?

    Hear, hear. We don’t consider it to be a moral failing if people change careers after a few years, or their taste in music, or their religious preference, or their overall views on life, so why insist that the choice in romantic partner they picked (often in their early 20s) is the one they have to stick with until they die? People change.

  164. #164 Kseniya
    February 27, 2008

    Preachin to the chorus, there, Carlie. I’m with you, but try convincing the millions of terminally pious ostriches out there. “Sanctity of marriage, blah blah blah, holy vows, blah blah blah, ’til death do us part, uh, yeah, unless I change my mind during my mid-life crisis.” And of course we can’t have gays ruining all that perfection by participating in it.

    *slump*

  165. Well HP I give the Unitarians their props for an interesting history two or three Sundays a month. I make a point of attending U*U “church” quite regularly precisely because the “music” of the U*Us, indeed their insulting and defamatory “jazz“. . . is so crappy.

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