Atheists are America’s most distrusted minority.

Several other blogs have picked up on this and I’m late to the game, but what the hell, I blame it on my WoW addiction.

It’s true, I am the guy your mother warned you about.

According to a new survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s department of sociology Atheists are considered to be bad, bad people by the majority of Americans:

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

The parents of the first woman I asked to marry me weren’t thrilled with the idea of their daughter marrying an atheist and they worked hard to bring about the end of our relationship once we got engaged. It wasn’t the sole reason our relationship fell apart, but it was a factor in it and it left a bad taste in my mouth. Which is why I was so surprised at how accepting my in-laws are of my unbelief despite the fact that they are a reasonably religious family, certainly more so than my own family ever was.

Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. “Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.

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

I’ll give ‘em the materialism and even the cultural elitism, but criminal behavior? Folks, check your prisons and you’ll find the majority of people in there are good old fashioned believers who are supposedly all moral and upstanding thanks to their religious beliefs. Least represented belief group proportionally speaking? Atheists. Must be that cultural elitism making us so damned clever we never get caught or something.

Edgell believes a fear of moral decline and resulting social disorder is behind the findings. “Americans believe they share more than rules and procedures with their fellow citizens—they share an understanding of right and wrong,” she said. “Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.”

Which is really ironic to me considering that the vary majority of truly apathetic and self-centered people I’ve known in my life have been true believers while the vast majority of people I’ve known that actually gave a damn about the common good were atheists. It’s entirely possible that my personal experiences are different from the norm, but I haven’t any reason to suspect that is the case.

The researchers also found acceptance or rejection of atheists is related not only to personal religiosity, but also to one’s exposure to diversity, education and political orientation—with more educated, East and West Coast Americans more accepting of atheists than their Midwestern counterparts.

Being more educated makes you more accepting of other’s differences, or in other words, more liberal?!? GASP! Whodathunkit?

In all seriousness, there’s not a whole lot in this new survey that we atheists haven’t known for a long time already. The archive here at SEB has similar entries about previous surveys/studies that have said the same thing. We already know that an openly gay politician with a felony record and an alcohol problem would still be more likely to be elected to political office than an openly atheist candidate. We are the people you love to hate and that’s likely to stay that way for awhile yet to come. So long as being stupid remains fashionable at least.

Not that I’m complaining as entry into The Evil Atheist Conspiracy gets us these wicked cool black capes and long “Snidely Whiplash” mustaches that we can twirl in a sinister fashion as we cook up our plots to take over the world. 

96 thoughts on “Atheists are America’s most distrusted minority.

  1. “…university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups…”

    I’m so proud to be an athiest. Looks like being called a Nazi is actually a notch UP in the social ladder.

  2. I’d make a joke about how I think lesbians are cooler than atheists, too, but someone would probably get offended.

    *cough*

    Anyway, two thoughts:

    1.  People are uncomfortable with the unfamiliar.  The idea of people having a moral/ethical code that isn’t, in some fashion, associated with religion is scarier than codes even based on unfamiliar religions.  (“You’re a Buddhist?  Well, at least you believe in God.”)  For someone to consciously and intentionally develop a code of behavior without relying explicitly on religious dictates is terrifying to a lot of people, both because they feel it invalidates their own code and because it points to, perhaps, their own unwillingness to examine it.

    2.  People mistake atheism, per se, with “lawlessness.”  Thus the association with criminal behavior.  Most criminals are, as you note, not conscious atheists—at most, many might be defiant *of* God, or claim that they don’t believe, but that’s different from you, Les, who’s actually thought this whole atheism thing through.  It’s as unfair to say that atheists are more likely to be criminals because they don’t believe in God as it is to say that theists are more likely to be criminals because they think God tells them to do crazy things.

    In reality, the folks in prison, whether ostensibly religious or not, are their because of their immoral behavior.  The vast majority are not (with the exception of, say, prisoners of conscience) there because they’ve made a reasoned decision that God does not exist, thus, cry havoc and grab a TV set.  Nor are they there because, well, they think Jesus forgives, and thus, hey, He’ll forgive me for grabbing this TV set, too.  They’re there because of greed and lust and anger and all the other deadly sins.  The folks in prison are there (for the vastly most part) because they *didn’t* follow the religion they claim, not because they decided to be atheists.  They’re lazy/irresponsible theists (or lazy/irresponsible atheists, I suppose), not a good example of either category.

    But that is, I fear, too nuanced for a lot of people to grasp.  They don’t understand how people can follow rules if they don’t believe in some rule-giver to reward/punish them.

  3. On a tangentially related note, I remember reading a statistic somewhere that said that drug addicts (in this day and age) tend to be highly traditional types and, as such, likely believe in god.

    Mind you, I do drugs occasionally for recreational purposes, yet I am far from being an addict and I pride myself on my unconventionality.

  4. When I first read the results of this study I was excited to finally be able to come here and say neener neener neener and then it occurred to me that I may have gained stature only to lose it for being an atheist too.

    I’m very confused where I stand with bragging rights. Am I one-half above other atheists or twice as damned?

    I hate not knowing my true worth!

  5. What about feminist, hippie, Pagan/Wiccan, childless-by-choice, bisexual young women such as myself? I’ve gotta be pretty low on the respectability and trustworthiness meters as far as most Americans are concerned (and damn proud of it). LOL

  6. Sexy Sadie   on 3/29/06 at 05:35 PM wrote the following…
    What about feminist, hippie, Pagan/Wiccan, childless-by-choice, bisexual young women such as myself? I’ve gotta be pretty low on the respectability and trustworthiness meters as far as most Americans are concerned (and damn proud of it). 

    Probably so far out there that you aren’t even detectable on the long range scanners.

  7. Probably so far out there that you aren’t even detectable on the long range scanners.

    Yeah, you win, Sadie.

  8. I’m always a bit suss when I hear a survey came up with this or that conclusion. wink
    I remember an episode of Yes, Prime Minister (The Ministerial Broadcast 1986) 
    http://www.yes-minister.com/episodes.htm where Sir Humphrey showed Bernard that How you word a question, or rather the Preceding questionS, determines the response to The question.
    It was to do with ‘are you for or against National Service?’ Humpy asked a question one way then asked it another way to elicit the ‘right’ response.
    Hear it here: http://www.yes-minister.com/sounds/ypm12q1.ram

    Or if you don’t have Real player or can’t be bothered looking up the other site:
    Sir Humphrey: “You know what happens: nice young lady comes up to you. Obviously you want to create a good impression, you don’t want to look a fool, do you? So she starts asking you some questions: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the number of young people without jobs?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Do you think there is a lack of discipline in our Comprehensive schools?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Do you think young people welcome some authority and leadership in their lives?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Do you think they respond to a challenge?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Would you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Oh…well, I suppose I might be.”
    Sir Humphrey: “Yes or no?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Of course you would, Bernard. After all you told you can’t say no to that. So they don’t mention the first five questions and they publish the last one.”
    Bernard Woolley: “Is that really what they do?”
    Sir Humphrey: “Well, not the reputable ones no, but there aren’t many of those. So alternatively the young lady can get the opposite result.”
    Bernard Woolley: “How?”
    Sir Humphrey: “Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Are you worried about the growth of armaments?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Do you think there is a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Do you think it is wrong to force people to take up arms against their will?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “Would you oppose the reintroduction of National Service?”
    Bernard Woolley: “Yes”
    Sir Humphrey: “There you are, you see Bernard. The perfect balanced sample.”

    As I said, results of surveys are always suss.
    Yes, Minister & YPM, had a lot to do with teaching me to be cynical; especially about government and politicians.
    Sir Humphrey: “Surveillance is an indispensable weapon in the battle against organized crime.”
    Jim Hacker: “You’re not describing politicians as organized crime?”
    Sir Humphrey: “No…well, disorganized crime too of course.” LOL

  9. I would love to know where the LaVeyan Satanists fall.

    Not only are they an extremely miniscule percentage, the very mention of the word ‘Satan’ shocks and horrors.
    As it is intended to, however, so we’re all good. They’re just helping people like myself accomplish their mission.

  10. Yeah, I would imagine that Satanists are more deplorable in the popular American psyche than are atheists. Perhaps even more deplorable than me. wink

  11. From “How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World—A Short History of Modern Delusions”, by Francis Wheen, published last year by Harper Perennial. An absolutely ripping yarn …

    The genius of America’s founding fathers was to guarantee freedom of religion and freedom from religion simultaneously. In the words of the First Amendment: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’. … I’m passionately in favour of freedom of religion just so long as we have freedom from religion as well and I don’t have the Pope telling me that the sun revolves around the earth and that I’ve got to say the same or else it’s the rack for me, matey.

    Elsewhere in the same book, I came across this note:

    A Gallup poll in June 1993 found that only 11 per cent of Americans accepted the standard secular account of evolution, that ‘human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process’; 35 per cent thought that humans evolved over millions of years, but with divine guidance; and 47 per cent maintained that ‘God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the past 10,000 years or so’—the creation story as told in the Book of Genesis. Other polls at about the same time discovered that 49 per cent of Americans believed in demonic possession, 36 per cent in telepathy and 25 per cent in astrology; and that no fewer than 68 per cent approved of creationism being taught in biology classes.

    … so nothing in your claim surprises me.

    I’m an out-of-towner (I live down in godzone country, Oz) who lived in the midwest for some three years, and I’ve never forgotten the result of a newspaper survey I saw there once—well, I’ve forgotten the detail, but the general thrust was that (some significant percentage of the population) believed they would wind up in a fairly conventional notion of heaven; but a far greater percentage believed they knew someone who was for-sure going to hell!

  12. Yeah, I would imagine that Satanists are more deplorable in the popular American psyche than are atheists.

    I doubt it. Whackjobs, easily dismissed.

  13. “Sure, Satanists worship the source of all evil.  But at least they buleeve!”

  14. Of course, to some True Believers the distinction between atheism and Satanism is nonexistant, or both mindsets are viewed as part of the same continuum.

  15. Y’know, as a generally amoral human being who happens to be an agnostic/atheist, even having little moral fiber has nothing to do with it. I can guage my own experiences and those of others to things that are not moral and get by.

    I don’t have to look at killing as an “immoral nono” to realize that it’s something with huge risk factors and little reward. Likewise, if I got the chance to kill Hitler, I’d probably do it, since I see a reward in tune with doing so (fulfilling some aspect of the world I’d like to live in). Lots of perfectly moral people would make excuses for performing an immoral act. In that way, I tend to think I’m fortunate. I’m not faced with moral conflicts that inhibit me from meeting my goals.

    I contend that being amoral – even immoral – does not necessarily mean being at odds with your society. Even a nutjob can share your vision of the world in some respects.

  16. Fuck, I’m really getting tired of how christians believe that all Atheists, wiccans and satanist are the source of all “evil”. What the hell is it with christians looking for scapegoats like how many of them consider products like harry potter, doom and dungeons & dragons to be “evil”.

    It would be nice if less christians would say random stuff out of ignorance. Perhaps if they did some research they could figure out that Anton Levey didn’t even believe in satan existence.

  17. I live down in godzone country, Oz

    Hey, I though we Kiwis were in the Godzone?

    Not that I am one per se yet…

    As for the atheism – I do not hide it, but to my shame I do hesitate sometimes before stating it, or hide behind the less strict label ‘agnostic’.

    NZ is not as religious as the US by far, but surely is much more so than myy old Germany.

  18. Ingie:

    Hey, I though we Kiwis were in the Godzone?

    Nah – it’s the Ozone – that’s why it’s called the …

    Ingie:

    NZ is not as religious as the US by far, but surely is much more so than my old Germany.

    Yep, but, settle petal – give it a bitte (a stretched pun) time.
    ALL western ‘civilisation’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:West.png incl Oz & NZ will, eventually, bow to the extremes of US ‘civilisation’. Polar bears, mate – leap = polarisation = will happen.

    Civilisation = Gandhi was once asked by a reporter: What do you think of Western Civilisation? Ghandi: It’d be a good idea, wouldn’t it?  LOL
    Yeah, mate. rotflmao
    See? It doesn’t take much t’ get me goin’.

  19. I’d like to address Tina’s comment…

    And this is precisely why I’m a closet atheist.

    …and say that this survey is exactly why I’m not a closet atheist. The false perceptions people hold about atheists aren’t going to be changed if we hide in the closet.

    Despite the rather gruff image I have on this website most folks who know me in real life tend to think I’m a pretty nice guy, if somewhat scary looking thanks to my beard. I seem all mean and angry here because I mainly use this as a means of venting my frustrations which is why I can be a nice guy later when I have to go out into the world and interact with all the idiots.

    I don’t wear my atheism on my sleeve, but I also don’t hesitate to mention the fact should my religious affiliation come up in the course of a discussion, which it often eventually does with some folks. A lot of people are quite literally shocked to find out I’m an atheist and more than a few have had a seriously hard time coming to grips with the preconceptions they have held about what atheists are like and the reality of what I am actually like. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had someone say to me, “But.. you’re a nice guy!” Thank you, I try.

    I’m not about to go around “outing” closet atheists, but I do wish to encourage folks to consider coming out and sharing their point of view with others. This doesn’t mean you have to challenge every person who makes a religious claim in front of you to a knife fight or anything like that, but don’t deny the fact that you are a good person and an atheist should the question come up. Only by putting the lie to the stereotype is it ever going to change.

  20. I’d like to address Tina’s comment…

    Les, this makes perfect sense. My family knows that I am, at the very least, agnostic, but they take this to mean that I am “confused” and will believe again someday. I can’t get them to “get” it, but they are southern baptists/evangelicals so I doubt they relent in their attitudes. Funny, I don’t feel confused and I’m more at peace believing in nothing than I ever was with the teachings of my family.

    I guess where I’m most in the closet is at work. I’m slowly learning the religious beliefs of my coworkers and it looks like I’m the odd one out. I don’t need people proselytizing to me at work so I keep my mouth shut. Plus, I don’t know how to explain how I came to be a non-believer without being condescending toward their beliefs. How do you do that?

    I had a student last semester who wrote a paper on this very issue. She interviewed people of varying beliefs and measured (I forget how she did this) their morals. I was so optimistic that she had even thought about this (this was community college) but was disappointed in her results. Her atheist? Her deadbeat ex-husband. You can imagine what sweeping generalizations she made with such a “sample.” On the last day of the semester I had a few students left over from my class (a devout and outspoken muslim, a baptist, a methodist, etc.) and while we were talking about her paper, I outted myself. They asked about my morals and I told them my goal is to treat others as I’d like to be treated because, to me, that’s just common sense. Of course, they attributed this to my being brought up in a very religious family. As if I would have no morals if I hadn’t been exposed to *some* religion. Ugh!

  21. Only by putting the lie to the stereotype is it ever going to change.

    Good point Les, and on the same vein how can we correct the imperfect view of America as predominantly a Christian nation if all the non-believers stay quiet (for fear of persecution – as often as not – of all things)? Can’t even begin to add up all the things that are accepted by (supposedly all of) the majority of American society that when examined quite closely do not belong in the belief system of a true Christian (if they are honest and intelligent enough to spot the problems).

  22. Perhaps I should restate (just a tad) so that somebody won’t come along thinking I meant something else – I could probably enumerate a number of things, it would just take more time than I currently have to dedicate to the process to do it justice. How many nanoseconds in a lifetime?

  23. Some good questions here. First let me tackle Tina’s follow up:

    Les, this makes perfect sense. My family knows that I am, at the very least, agnostic, but they take this to mean that I am “confused

  24. Nice comment, Les.  It’s easy to forget how different things are in the States nowadays.  I can count the number of times a stranger here in Austria has asked me about my religion on the fingers of one foot.  Being an atheist is no big deal here.

  25. The thing that bothers me most about studies such as these is that they interview 2,000 people (who knows where these people are?) and say “most Americans”.  I am originally from the South.  I can completely sympathize with Tina’s position at work.  I worked for a company for 8 years that felt it was OK to pray before luncheons and had a warehouse supervisor who was a “reverend” at his church, and was one of the most intolerant, self-righteous idiots I’d ever met.  I’d been working there about 3 months when he cornered me in the copyroom to ask me if I’d accepted Jesus as my personal savior.  After trying to tactfully remove myself from the conversation, and him not allowing me an out, I finally went back at him with “what in the world makes you think that this is appropriate at work?”  When he made a comment about being concerned for my immortal soul, I responded that he wasn’t concerned about me, he was concerned about getting abother conversion under his belt, and exerting power over me by bullying me into the conversation.  We never really got along after that.  Other people at work, who were Christians and knew about me had no problem with my beliefs.
    My other problem with studies like these is that I feel they are trying to get the word out that this is how the “majority” feels, possibly in order to allow others to think they are justified in their feelings, which compounds the intolerance.
    My answer for the people who ask me about being a good person without religion is, really, who’s the good person?  The person who is good because of threat of punishment, or promise of reward, only, or the person who makes the decision on his or her own to do what he/she thinks is right knowing there is no reward/punishment forthcoming?  Of course, I only bring that out for people who are being passively nasty/condescending instead of asking me in honest curiosity hoping to learn.
    I’ve actually referred quite a few people to this site for deeper answers than I can give. So, thanks, Les.
    Sorry for the long comment.

  26. Perhaps if they did some research they could figure out that Anton Levey didn’t even believe in satan existence.

    Proper spelling, anyone?
    (LaVey, or La Vey)

  27. Les: The parents of the first woman I asked to marry me weren’t thrilled with the idea of their daughter marrying an atheist and they worked hard to bring about the end of our relationship once we got engaged. It wasn’t the sole reason our relationship fell apart, but it was a factor in it and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

    My daughter turned nine months old today.  A problem like this is not going to come up anytime soon, if ever.

    However, I have to admit I would do the same thing if she wanted to marry an unbeliever one day.  Not because I personally have anything against atheists and pagans (my daily lunch buddies are a Hindu and an agnostic/lapsed Roman Catholic).  I would try to talk her out of the idea because a Christian marrying an non-Christian is just asking for trouble.

    Of course, people are free to make their own mistakes and live with the consequences.  I thought I’d give you the perspective of someone devout and conservative.  Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t marry a non-Christian for the following reasons:

    1. Kids.  I can’t even imagine trying to raise my kids if my wife were not Christian.  What exactly am I supposed to tell my kids as we’re heading off to Church every Sunday?  “Daddy, you said that Church is the most important thing we do every week.  Why isn’t Mommy coming with us?”  “Daddy, you said it’s important for us to pray every day, why doesn’t Mommy pray with us?”  “Daddy, why doesn’t Mommy come with us to picket the abortion clinic?  Unborn babies need someone to speak up for them—doesn’t she care?”

    Any honest answer I give them is going to cause friction in my marriage.  Inevitably there will be cases where I have to choose between my kids and my faith on the one hand, and my wife on the other.  And the Bible is absolutely clear on this point: Christ comes first, always.  Before children, before parents, before spouse, and before self.

    2. Money.  Christians are required to provide for the less fortunate.  Liberals and atheists often want the government to sieze their money by force, instead of taking personal responsibility.  What if my wife starts to resent charity as a “Christian tax”?  Or what if she wants to donate to the atheist Red Cross while I prefer the evangelical Samaritans Purse?  What about that money I “waste” every week by putting it in the collection plate?

    3. Divorce.  Many atheists regard marriage as a temporary way of telling another adult, “I think you’re groovy!”  The secular world tells people that if they are unhappy in a marriage, they should walk away.  “Consequences to your children be damned: What’s important is that you are happy.”

    Christians are forbidden to divorce.  The Bible tells us that marriage is a promise you make to your spouse, to your children, to your community, and above all to God.  A promise which cannot simply be “set aside” because it is no longer wanted.  So we can see that even the foundation of a mixed marriage is defective: You have two people married, but they don’t even agree on what it means to be married.  I want my daughter to marry a man who understands that when she isn’t quite as young and pretty as she used to be, he still has responsibilities—to her, to my grandchildren, and to God.

    4. Kids again.  Most unbelievers want few kids, or none at all.  Most liberals will have no kids or one kid.  A few have two kids.  Conservative, religious people overwhelmingly favor large families.  Just speaking for myself, I’d like to have 4-6 kids plus some adoptions.  This isn’t an issue which a couple can compromise on.  You can’t “sort of” have five kids; you either do or you don’t.

    5. Where to live.  I’d like to live in a socially conservative area.  This makes it easier for my children to grow up around other Christian children.  When it comes time for them to look for husbands and wives, they will need ready access to a large number of other Christians from which to select a spouse.  A non-Christian wife might resent living in the Bible Belt for the sake of my religion.

    Those are the reasons that I, personally, would never marry a non-Christian.  Christian love and charity (to say nothing of parental duty) would demand that I make those same arguments to one of my children if he or she were in danger of straying.  But I wouldn’t have to, because God beat me to it:

    2 Cor 6: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

    Of course, a lot of atheists think that these issues are “no big deal”.  They wonder why someone would make a fuss about something “unimportant” like religion.  That’s not surprising, because religion is obviously not a big deal to an atheist.  Try to think of it in non-religious terms, and I think you’ll get a clearer picture.  Let’s look at a completely secular example.

    Suppose your daughter really, really wanted kids, and told you she was going to marry a man who expressly didn’t want kids and figured she could “bring him around” over time.  I don’t know about you, but I would read her the riot act about how much trouble and heartbreak this would cause her five or ten years down the road.  I would tell her that however nice this man might be, marrying someone who has wildly different goals in life is just asking for trouble.  I would say that she was being dishonest—not only to herself, but also to the man she was marrying.

    I would tell her all those things, even if I rather liked the gentleman in question and thought he was a swell guy.  Would you?

  28. Hmmmm….

    This makes it easier for my children to grow up around other Christian children.

    Would 49 states be enough room for you? Or would you and your brethren insist on occupying all 50? Kinda revealing isn’t it? What about the odd child that – despite being surrounded at all times – doesn’t choose to believe?

    Conservative, religious people overwhelmingly favor large families.  Just speaking for myself, I’d like to have 4-6 kids plus some adoptions.

    Sounds like (subconciously maybe?) some are planning to win by population what can’t be won by reasoned discourse.

  29. I have a different stance on raising children (that is, if DH and I choose to have any) when it comes to religion. I refuse to force any belief from my children. If they want to see what church is all about, I’ll take them and let them form their own opinion. If they want to believe in God, fine. If they want to be buddhists, that’s also fine. What’s important is the thought process behind it. There’s nothing I hate more than blind followers of anything.

    Regarding divorce… I don’t even know how to respond to that given the divorce rate among Christians. And christian parental duty? Ha! What a joke! My family is southern baptist/evangelical and both of my parents abandoned me. My grandmother provided food and shelter, but not much more. What about all the neglectful christian parents that would rather do anything other than parent their children? The ones that drop their kids off at the mall, etc. every evening…

    No offense, but we must not be living on the same planet.

  30. Zilch: Being an atheist is no big deal here [Austria].

    According to my good friend Pete, who has literally traveled to every corner of the globe over the last five years, Austria is a wonderful place. Pete is gay, and he says that the reception in Austria was very warm nonetheless. He preferred Austria over Hungary and other neighboring countries (though he did love Prague more than Vienna).

    I’ll have to check out Austria some time. I’m sure it’s stunningly beautiful (though probably a little chilly for my tastes). I’d love to visit central Europe, having already been to northern Europe several times. Hell, I’d love to travel just about anywhere. When I was sixteen, I really wanted to see Mongolia for some reason. I’ve always loved exoticism.

  31. Tina [regarding Daryl]: No offense, but we must not be living on the same planet.

    Tina, meet Daryl. While Daryl indeed lives on Earth, he definitely resides in a different world than most of us.  rolleyes

  32. Wow, Daryl, you’ve demonstrated practically all of the stereotypes about atheists in a single comment. The fundamentalists really got their hooks into you it seems. It’s kind of sad for me to see a mind that I regarded as great be diminished by theistic hogwash.

    Not all the reasons you list are bad, having common values and interests is important in a marriage, but the the assumptions you’re basing them on are bigoted at best. For example, I don’t know of any atheists that regard marriage as just a “temporary” thing that you should walk away from if you’re unhappy. In fact, according to a 1999 study by The Barna Group Christians were more likely than non-Christians to get a divorce in America:

      Surprisingly, the Christian denomination whose adherents have the highest likelihood of getting divorced are Baptists. Nationally, 29 percent of all Baptist adults have been divorced. The only Christian group to surpass that level are those associated with non-denominational Protestant churches: 34 percent of those adults have undergone a divorce. Of the nation’s major Christian groups, Catholics and Lutherans have the lowest percentage of divorced individuals (21 percent). People who attend mainline Protestant churches, overall, experience divorce on par with the national average (25 percent).

      Among non-Christian groups the levels vary. Jews, for instance, are among those most likely to divorce (30 percent have), while atheists and agnostics are below the norm (21 percent). Mormons, renowned for their emphasis upon strong families, are no different than the national average (24 percent).

      These findings were both expected and surprising, according to George Barna, president of the firm that conducted the study. “The national statistics have remained the same for the past half-decade. While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing. But the research also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families. The ultimate responsibility for a marriage belongs to the husband and wife, but the high incidence of divorce within the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages.”

    Christians may be forbidden to divorce, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping them.

    It is true that religious people tend to give more money to charity than secular people and that may be because secular folks tend to be more supportive of government programs, but to characterize that as lacking “personal responsibility” is just idiotic:

      Secularists are distinct from religious people in their view on the government’s role in providing social welfare. According to the National Opinion Research Center’s 1996 General Social Survey, secularists support greater public spending for social programs — even if it means higher taxation — at slightly higher rates than religious people do. This support might logically correspond with disfavor for private, charitable alternatives to public-sector social welfare provision. To understand why, consider the attitudes evident in this recent passage from the opinion magazine the Nation: “A program that deals with drug addiction as sinful behavior curable through Bible classes — and much touted by the supporters of faith-based approaches to social problems . . . actually costs more to deliver than conventional drug treatment.
  33. Kysstfafm: Sounds like (subconciously maybe?) some are planning to win by population what can’t be won by reasoned discourse.

    I don’t know if anyone’s “planning” to win anything.  A common misconception on both the left and the right is that there’s a secret cabal of “the other guys” somewhere which meets to set long-term objectives.

    However, your basic premise is correct: one reason that liberals are becoming an endangered species is that they simply don’t breed.  Very few liberals have more than two children.  Even at two children per couple, a population group will have negative growth.  At one child, the size of the population will more than cut in half every generation.  Slightly more than two children per couple is called the “replacement birth rate”.  Search through the SEB archives, and you’ll find GeekMom and I have already had this conversation.

    The same thing happening to liberals in the US is happening on a titanic scale in ultra-liberal Europe.  Germany, UK, Italy, Spain: All are dying off.  Russia is a basket case with an astounding 3 deaths for every 2 births.  Right now the problem is “manageable” but given their extensive social safety net, everything will implode when the aged start to retire and there aren’t any young workers to keep their country functioning.

    It reminds me of something a read about a year back.  An old-line feminist was lamenting that the membership of NOW was getting older every year, and that young women weren’t joining.  I didn’t even know how to respond to her comment.  I guess I’d say this:

    “You spend all your days and night disparaging traditional marriage, mocking women who choose to be a mother and raise a family instead of pursuing a career, and demanding a so-called right for your members to kill off any babies which accidentally occupy their womb.  Now you wonder where the next generation of feminists has gone????  I’d start by checking the bio-hazard dumpsters behind your local abortion mill.  You’ll find some of the ‘missing’ younger generation in there..”

  34. While that’s a funny potshot to abortion, Daryl, the reality (as it’s been in my life, at least) is that feminism in it’s modern form has become a lot more amorphous. There are still the goals of a woman’s liberty, and her equality with men, but there’s a lot less following now that the conflicts are far less apparent.

    The next generation of feminists, I would guess, are simply getting on with their lives thanks to the efforts of the previous generation. I know lots of empowered, free, liberated women. I know, perhaps, one that would call herself a feminist. That said, not aborting doesn’t necessarily mean more feminists.

  35. To address a couple of Daryl’s comments:

    I think there are some distinct advantages/conveniences in marrying someone with a similar—not identical—point of view.  There are areas where, as you note, just some problems (“I want kids / I don’t want kids / I’m sure you’ll come around to my view”) that *can* be worked through, but that can also cause serious, long-term problems or failure in a relationship.

    That said, there are always going to be some differences.  Some of them may be profound. Some of them may not be.  Some can be worked through, or around.

    Raising kids is a tough one, if the parents both (a) aren’t on the same page about belief, and (b) aren’t on the same page about how to act that belief out.  Yes, if Daddy wants to go to an abortion clinic protest, and Mommy doesn’t, that can lead to some difficult questions.  (This begs the question as to whether even of Mommy is Christian she’d be out there painting signs and protesting, too, though I suppose that depends on your interpretation of what a Christian is.)

    What’s missing from your equation in that case is how the parents *together* decide to present this.  (“Mommy, why does Daddy want to go to picket the abortion clinic?  Women need to be free-doesn’t he care?”)  The answer is that, even if (especially if) there’s a profound difference of opinion on a moral point, the parents need to work to make sure the kids aren’t taking sides.  Mom needs to be ready to explain her position (and her understanding/respect of Dad’s), and vice-versa.

    It’s tough. But it may be necessary.  Sooner or later, unless Mommy and Daddy are in absolute and unnatural lockstep, there will be some significant, even profound, difference of opinion. 

    Any honest answer I give them is going to cause friction in my marriage.  Inevitably there will be cases where I have to choose between my kids and my faith on the one hand, and my wife on the other.  And the Bible is absolutely clear on this point: Christ comes first, always.  Before children, before parents, before spouse, and before self.

    I understand, and fundamentally agree with what you’re saying.  On the other hand, I think the number of circumstances where it comes down to something that apocalyptic and “Get thee behind me, Honeybun!” are probably very few.

    Christians are required to provide for the less fortunate.  Liberals and atheists often want the government to sieze their money by force, instead of taking personal responsibility.

    Again, I’d strenously question (a) your setting up “Christians” and “Liberals and atheists” as opposites, (b) your lumping of “Liberals and atheists” together, (c) your characterization of “liberals and atheists” as preferring government seizure of property vs. charitable contributions (or even that the two can’t go hand in hand).

    What if my wife starts to resent charity as a “Christian tax

  36. That said, not aborting doesn’t necessarily mean more feminists.

    Possibly. Tempting to simplify things too much (watch out, temptation).

    Is it possible that Daryl (just for one on this board) considers the matter closed when the child is raised in a particular home (don’t we all now that every child raised in an environment always stays with that belief system their whole life?)? If those possible humans had been realized wouldn’t they have just as much chance of accepting or rejecting their parents’ beliefs as every other infant in the world?

  37. Of course, to some True Believers the distinction between atheism and Satanism is nonexistant, or both mindsets are viewed as part of the same continuum.

    Technically speaking, LaVeyan Satanists are atheists. Of course you can’t expect most fundies to realise that. They just think all unbelievers follow Satan.

  38. I wonder how Daryl would square with the fact that I was raised in Kansas—one of the most stiflingly conservative states in the union—and yet I turned out ultra-liberal and non-Christian.

  39. Interesting, Sadie, good thing you escaped with your capacity intact. Maybe there was some higher power behind that (like God does exist but he isn’t on the side he’s claimed to be on – nah, too unlikely)? I can confirm the stifling atmosphere of the state known as Kansas. And 1967 was an excellent year, child.

  40. Thanks, Kyss. As traumatic as it was at times, I wouldn’t want to have grown up anywhere else. I got a good sense of what I was not, and that was a very valuable experience. I could not say with any certainty that I would be the same person I am today had I grown up in New York City, for instance.

    And yes, the Summer of Love was the greatest! cool smile

  41. Les: In fact, according to a 1999 study by The Barna Group Christians were more likely than non-Christians to get a divorce in America….

    I am disappointed, Les.  You are generally a worthy debater, but here you have dragged out the ludicrous and discredited “Barna Study”, propped it up and tried to convince people it’s alive.

    That dog just won’t hunt.

    For the record, this study asked people their religion, and whether they had ever been divorced.  They were then shocked, shocked! to find that religious and non-religious people are equally likely to be divorced.  This is often held up as evidence that religion doesn’t make you any less likely to divorce, which is complete hogwash.

    News flash: Religious people are far more likely to get married in the first place.  This is particularly true of the more conservative denominations like Catholics and Evangelicals.  So even if the same percent of Christians and atheists have been divorced, the fact that Christians are far more likely to marry means that fewer of their marriages end in divorce.

    In any case, the benchmark study in this area is the City University of New York’s American Religious Identification Study (PDF file here).  For starters, the CUNY survey is almost 15 times as large (Over 50,000 respondents versus 3,800).

    Skip forward to page 27 for the relevant numbers: Amongst adult Catholics, 60% are married while 9% are divorced.  Amongst atheists, just 19% are married while the same 9% are divorced.  The rest is left as an exercise to the reader.

    One added note: Christians are even less likely to divorce if they’re married to another Christian, as opposed to struggling to make a “mixed marriage” work.  Which just gets back to what the Bible told us thousands of years ago: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?

    Les: Not all the reasons you list are bad, having common values and interests is important in a marriage, but the the assumptions you’re basing them on are bigoted at best.

    If I came off as bigoted, I didn’t present my case very well.  Let’s try again.

    It was not my intention to argue that these are 5 areas where Christians and atheists will never agree.  For example, some atheists are commited in marriage, while some people who call themselves “Christian” will insist that divorce is A-OK—despite the specific, repeated and completely unambiguous teaching of Jesus himself that divorce is never permitted.

    Similarly, some atheists give money to charity.  And plenty of pro-life people aren’t religious: In fact, pretty much all of my in-laws are vehemently pro-life, and not a church-goer amongst them.

    My intent was to point out areas where having very, very different worldviews would make marriage difficult or impossible.  Having said that, I would add that while some atheists could agree with me on most of these issues, none would escape the problems listed in point number 1: Teaching the kids.

    Les, consider an alternate universe where Daryl married someone exactly like my wife, but she wasn’t Christian.  The year: about 2012.  Daryl sits down with his children for weekly home Bible study.  The oldest is 7 years.  Today we’re reading the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.

    Let’s watch.

    Daryl: (reading from Matthew 25) When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
    Little One: (raises hand) Daddy?
    Daryl: Yes, little one?
    Little One: Who are the people on the right?
    Daryl:  Jesus is talking to His People, the Christians.
    Little One: Oh.  Like you and me, but not Mommy.
    Daryl: Right.
    Little One: That sounds nice.
    Daryl: It is very nice.  Ahem.  Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…”
    Little One: (worried) Daddy?
    Daryl: Yes, little one?
    Little One: Won’t Mommy be on the left, with the goats?  She’s not a Christian.
    Daryl: That’s right, little one.  Mommy will be with the people on the left.
    Little One: But I don’t want Mommy going in the fire with the Devil!!
    Daryl: Neither do I, little one.
    Little One: Why can’t she be a Christian like us??
    Daryl: Mommy is an adult and has to make her own choices.  We live in America, and people can be Christian or not if they choose.
    Little One: But Daddy, the lake of fire!!

    You get the idea.

    You be the judge, Les:

    1. Is that conversation fair to my imaginary kids?
    2. Is it fair to my imaginary wife?  I’m not exactly badmouthing her, but I do have to be honest with my kids about our Christian faith.
    3. Is it fair to me?  At some level, it’s forcing me to choose between my faith and my own flesh (my wife).  Why would I want to put myself in that position?

    Regardless of how socially conservative my imaginary atheist wife is, she’s not a Christian.  So the conversation above would happen.  Repeatedly.  Probably every single time I sat down with my kids to read the Bible and talk about what it means to be a Christian, what salvation is, the nature of sin.  Does this seem like a good idea?  If my kids wouldn’t like it, my wife wouldn’t like it, and I wouldn’t like it, how is it a good idea?

    ***Dave: For what it’s worth, I think a lot of atheists (at least those who took their atheism seriously) would have hesitation over marrying a conservative Christian.  And for many of the same reasons.

    Well, now we’re finding common ground ***Dave.

  42. Back when I was a young man, my personal belief system was rather closer to fundamentalist Christianity than anything else.  I gladly read Hal Lindsey, etc.  Then, in my early high school years, I encountered people I deeply liked and admired and people I did not like nor admire.  Among those I liked and admired were a Wiccan and an atheist, among those I did not like were many, many Christians.  So I decided that I would rather spend eternity in the lake of fire with my friends than spend eternity in heaven with a bunch of jackasses like Daryl.
    I have never found cause to regret this decision.

    Indeed, the people I trust most are “feminist, hippie, Pagan/Wiccan, childless-by-choice, bisexual young women” like Sexy Sadie.  But then I guess I’m not in step with mainstream America at all, at all.

  43. Thank you for the compliment, Neon. grin

    Anybody else think that Daryl is a complete fucking nutjob!?

    Count me in, Q!  LOL

    Seriously, though, Daryl Cantroll strikes me as a misguided and very angry person.

  44. Daryl makes the all too often made mistake of believing that Christians can be identified in a crowd. It’s a nebulous and inexact method of identification and since GodJesus is the only one who can apply the distinction, studies can’t really matter.

    It’s just more examples of his ego-dancing and repressive mimicry.

    Daryl, if you raise your kids the way your last pretend conversation suggests you will, they’re going to be getting their little holier-than-thou butts kicked on the playground every day.

    I feel sorry for them already.

  45. I can pretty much use Daryl’s reasons as to why I wouldn’t marry a religous woman. 

    Compatibility is a big factor in marriage.  Religous beliefs, interests, habits…  An athiest and a born again Baptist would have problems like a dem marrying a repub, or a slob marrying a clean freak.

  46. Well, my significant other is Catholic, and I’m atheist, and that hasn’t been a problem so far.  Of course, when we’re dead, she’ll be in Heaven and I’ll be in Hell, but we’ll cross that bridge when the time comes. tongue laugh

    Daryl a nutjob?  A matter of definition.  I would say that Daryl is an intelligent guy who’s been infected by a virulent meme, one that posits a capricious division of humankind into two categories, saved and unsaved.

    Of course, we are all infected by a wide variety of more or less virulent memes.  For instance, one way I divide the world is between people who do, or do not, play Quake III (go ahead and snicker).  But I keep the fragging in cyberspace, and I don’t live there.  The points of intersection between the fantasy world of Q3 and the real world are few and well circumscribed.

    But the fantasy worlds of religion, however, are not so circumscribed.  The fragging, and the charity, and the love, and the hatred, inspired by religion, have very real consequences, for believers and nonbelievers, for good and ill.

    So is Daryl a nutjob?  Let’s just say he has different filters than some of us.  None of us see the world unfiltered, but we have some choice about which filters we think are the clearest, or the best, or the truest, or the most fun.  Seeing the world through the filter of the Bible puts a different spin on things that seeing it through, say, the Koran, or Finnegan’s Wake.

    Daryl chooses to have a filter I view as flawed, because it doesn’t jibe with what I see in the real world.  That is fine with me, as long as he keeps it to himself; and that’s the rub with religion.

    Btw- our kids, now 15 and 17, are both atheists.

  47. Oh, and Sadie- yes, Austria is a nice place to live in lots of ways.  The gay community here is active and pretty well accepted.  The Viennese can be rather aloof, but they are (for the most part) civil and tolerant.

    Prague is more beautiful than Vienna because it is better preserved- a poorer country, not as much new construction.  But St. Stephen’s Cathedral is magnificent.

    If you’re afraid it will be too cool here, come over in the summer- it’s a lot warmer than SF.  Let me know if you’re coming, and I’ll take you out for a beer or a coffee.

    That invitation goes for all of you SEB’s out there- you too, Daryl.

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