Is America beginning to accept atheists?

Apr 21, 2015

Photo: Joanne Ciccarello/The Christian Science Monitor/File

By Jessica Mendoza

As the debate around religious freedom heats up across the country, one group has become increasingly central to the conversation: Atheists.

Earlier this month, lawmakers in Madison, Wis. voted to give atheists the same protections for employment, housing, and public accommodations as other groups – making the city the first in the nation to include atheists in its list of protected classes.

The decision, coupled with growing media attention and the rising number of atheists and religiously unaffiliated across the United States, may be a sign of shifting perceptions around those who reject religious beliefs.

Among the least accepted groups in the United States today, atheists have long faced discrimination in politics, military service, and schools, as well as hostility in everyday life.

Eight states have laws that technically prohibit atheists from holding office: Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. A 1961 Supreme Court ruling prevents these laws from being actively enforced, yet there are no openly atheist members of Congress, The Washington Post reported.

In 2013, news magazine The Week published a piece about the US military’s religious requirement for recruits, which classified as a potential risk indicator a “lack or loss of spiritual faith.” While advocates of the policy said it aimed to strengthen emotional well-being among troops, where suicide rates were on the rise, others saw it as discriminatory and unconstitutional, according to the report.


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40 comments on “Is America beginning to accept atheists?

  • 1
    aroundtown says:

    The Constitution advocates for all, it is the church and its followers who would oppress non-believers in America, and they would continue to do so, its in their creed. Your not going to see me asking for permission to be accepted by the religious anytime soon. They retain this notion within the basic delusion that they hold the high ground of “supposed goodness” but they conveniently ignore the horrendous atrocities that have been perpetrated throughout history by religion, and those are still in play today. The blame for their “intolerance problem” needs to land directly where it belongs, in front of their doorstep.

    If the Religious feel threatened by those who are leaving the church in droves that is a situation they will have to square with themselves, we don’t need to do any heavy lifting for them so they might feel better about atheists in their midst. If their actions say anything about where they are going, the recent religious freedom law attempts speak volumes. The intrenched concept in their minds that they are the only folks who matter will continue in the home, and in the courts apparently.



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  • America’s a huge place. I live in the Northeast. Most people are religious, but I’ve known numerous atheists, and I’ve never heard from them or witnessed any specific animosity towards them. I am certain attitudes would be different in other parts of the country. It is very hard to lump us all together.



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  • The atrocities perpetuated in the name of religion are certainly horrendous. Did you know that none of those atrocities represent the teachings of Christ? Did you also know that the atrocities perpetuated in the name of religion pale in comparison to the atrocities in the name of atheism?

    I think it’s fair to say we shouldn’t lump all categories of religion or atheism together. Certainly the Amish don’t pose the same threat as Islamic terrorists, and certainly the followers of Bertrand Russel would not support the evil actions of Mao or Stalin…



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  • Did you also know that the atrocities perpetuated in the name of religion pale in comparison to the atrocities in the name of atheism?

    Big statement Ron. You’re going to have to back this up with some more evidence. And don’t roll out Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot etc. They have been the subject of recent detailed discussions and articles and you will find that atheism was not a motivating factor in any of the activities. So start with a fresh whiteboard and fill us in on the atheist atrocities that far outweigh the religious atrocities. Given it wasn’t safe to be an atheist until the last 80 years, it would be hard to organized atheist inspired genocides over history.

    Religion however, has had a major part to play in every atrocity ever committed on this planet. Russian orthodox church turns a blind eye to Stalin (A diagnosed psychopath) to stay in existence. An entirely catholic lutheran state of Germany commits genocide, with the connivance of the Pope of the time. Cambodia is a deeply Buddhist nation, including Pol Pot. Didn’t save them from the Killing Fields.

    Bertrand Russell has some advice for you. He said, “Most people would rather die than think. And most people do.”



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  • David, surely you do not deny that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, were heads of the three officially atheistic states that were responsible for some of the worst mass crimes of the 20th century?

    And surely you do not deny that atheism is intricately intertwined with Marxism/Communism:
    “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.”
    Karl Marx

    I do not doubt that this has been discussed before, but I am curious as to how you cannot see the direct path of the atheistic world view of these leaders with their atrocities they committed in their zeal to abolish religion…

    Having said that, I certainly do not accuse you or any other atheist for advocating these atrocities, nor would I ever, without appropriate evidence. I actually hope that goes without saying, but I needed to be clear…



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  • but I am curious as to how you cannot see the direct path of the atheistic world view of these leaders with their atrocities they committed

    This is where you fall at the very first hurdle. It’s the same hurdle previous theists have tried to mount, making the same arguments your are trying to make. Your three star examples committed the atrocities as part of the politics of the day, aided and abetted by the religious citizens of those countries.

    While the states may have been officially atheistic, that was a political decision, not a theological decision. It meant that all of the citizens continued to be religious, just not publicly.

    Find me a quote from each of these villains that indicates that a non belief in god, was the reason they killed political opponents. Same challenge has been made to all other theists that have tried to run this same argument. There is nothing. You are trying to stick a label of atheism on a purely political issue. It just doesn’t stick.

    And surely you do not deny that atheism is intricately intertwined with Marxism/Communism:

    While it may have been Marx’s ideology, it wasn’t carried out in practice. E.G. Stalin new that for him to able to commit his genocidal political purges, he had to keep the Russian orthodox church on the sidelines, turning away. I see nothing. The Russian population were deeply religious. Encitement by the Orthodox church, if they had had the moral courage, would have routed Stalin. Stalin’s proposition to the church, which they gladly accepted, was, “I will let the church continue, as long as you don’t interfere with the politics of state.” They accepted this and are complicit in the genocide of 20,000,000 million people. So much for the religious moral high ground.

    The examples you cite are all political, and have nothing to do with belief, or lack of belief in a god. Other correspondents I am sure will expand your horizons to the utter impossibility of this argument to be sustained, and thus the claim, that atheists is immoral, which is what you are driving at.

    Finally, here is a bit of science about how evolution was responsible for morality, not god. Great science.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v425/n6955/abs/nature01963.html

    During the evolution of cooperation it may have become critical for individuals to compare their own efforts and pay-offs with those of others. Negative reactions may occur when expectations are violated. One theory proposes that aversion to inequity can explain human cooperation within the bounds of the rational choice model1, and may in fact be more inclusive than previous explanations2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Although there exists substantial cultural variation in its particulars, this ‘sense of fairness’ is probably a human universal9, 10 that has been shown to prevail in a wide variety of circumstances11, 12, 13. However, we are not the only cooperative animals14, hence inequity aversion may not be uniquely human. Many highly cooperative nonhuman species seem guided by a set of expectations about the outcome of cooperation and the division of resources15, 16. Here we demonstrate that a nonhuman primate, the brown capuchin monkey (Cebus apella), responds negatively to unequal reward distribution in exchanges with a human experimenter. Monkeys refused to participate if they witnessed a conspecific obtain a more attractive reward for equal effort, an effect amplified if the partner received such a reward without any effort at all. These reactions support an early evolutionary origin of inequity aversion.



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  • There have been half a dozen items at RDF about atheism being the fastest growing group, with most of the growth in young people. Christians are quite concerned. Extrapolating shows them disappearing. They have to recruit other people’s children to keep the game going.



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  • 10
    RonHill says:

    @David R Allen

    ” Your three star examples committed the atrocities as part of the politics of the day, aided and abetted by the religious citizens of those countries.”

    Do you have any evidence for that? I could say the same thing about atrocities intertwined with religion…that they were committed as part of the politics of the day. And quotes to the contrary don’t prove the real intentions were not political, i.e for wealth and power. Actions would clearly demonstrate otherwise.

    “Find me a quote from each of these villains that indicates that a non belief in god, was the reason they killed political opponents.”

    Again, actions speak louder than quotes. The attempts to abolish religion were fairly obvious in their burning and plundering of churches, and in separating children from their parents who attempted to teach them religion.

    “While it may have been Marx’s ideology, it wasn’t carried out in practice.”

    Maybe not by Marx, but certainly by his followers. Communists took this anti-religious Marxist doctrine very seriously.

    “…and thus the claim, that atheists is immoral, which is what you are driving at”

    Wrong. I’m not claiming that at all.

    Regarding your cited scientific study, I took the privilege of copying it back, with certain words emphasized that certainly stand out to me, and thus make my point for me.

    During the evolution of cooperation it MAY have become critical for individuals to compare their own efforts and pay-offs with those of others. Negative reactions MAY occur when expectations are violated. One theory PROPOSES that aversion to inequity CAN explain human cooperation within the bounds of the rational choice model1, and MAY in fact be more inclusive than previous explanations2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Although there exists substantial cultural variation in its particulars, this ‘sense of fairness’ is PROBABLY a human universal9, 10 that has been shown to prevail in a wide variety of circumstances11, 12, 13. However, we are not the only cooperative animals14, hence inequity aversion MAY not be uniquely human. Many highly cooperative nonhuman species SEEM guided by a set of expectations about the outcome of cooperation and the division of resources15



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  • As usual theists seem to have a major problem with the difference between correlation and causation. There’s no more reason to opine that something nasty that happened was because the person was an atheist than that they were a non stamp collector or a non train spotter. However when religious nutters do something and proclaim it in the name of their imaginary god it’s a bit different. Burning people at the stake because they didn’t believe the sun went round the earth. Invading Iraq for specious reasons. Stoning adulterers, children who don’t obey their parents or people who work on the Sabbath because their book of bullshit says to do so.



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  • RonHill
    Apr 22, 2015 at 4:01 am

    Maybe not by Marx, but certainly by his followers. Communists took this anti-religious Marxist doctrine very seriously.

    That is hardly surprising when the religious establishments supported the repressive Czarist regime! – and the monarchies which were attacking them.



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  • I always love a thread that gets hijacked by someone using the phrase “atrocities in the name of atheism”

    you would of course be have to be very disingenuous or maybe just gullible to think that any historical atrocities were done for some sort of non-belief cause. suppression of religion has historically been for a single purpose, to reduce the power of the greatest threat to the dictator. The inquisition was more of an atheist atrocity than the examples given, it was not about creating catholics so much as suppressing protistantism which in itself questioned the legitimacy of the church.

    All dictatorships that have commited atrocities have done so to supress primarily those who could question their legitimacy.

    What I might suggest however is an acceptance that atheist tyrants are cleverer than theist tyrants. In any country in any time in the past you’ll find a majority who believe, so suppressing such a majority takes a lot of political guile, whereas the traditional religious tyrant can afford to be less intelligent, and retain their credibility by simply stating “cuz god sez” after every pronouncement.

    The important thing for any atrocity to happen, is a significant majority of obedient humans to carry out or be complicit in the most hideous of orders. If this truly was ever done in the name of atheism we would have to conclude that the majority of humans in any of these events were atheists.

    Personally I doubt it, but if it were true than the population of the soviet union, for example, were mostly atheists, and soon after the break up, instantly converted to authodox christianity, islam, judaism and catholicism, without any need for an inquisition or caliphate, geographically distributed in similar ways to their pre-communist ancestors.

    maybe that is proof of god? maybe once his nemesis, communism, was defeated his words spread freely among the ex-soviet population with his divine command: “OK, back to fighting over me everyone”



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  • Addendum: RD’s ‘The God Delusion’. That book made a large, positive splash (e.g. “staff recommended”) here in the u.s.



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  • RonHill
    Apr 21, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    Are children becoming increasingly atheist? Who’s children?

    The educated younger generation in general.

    http://religions.pewforum.org/reports
    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.



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  • RonHill
    Apr 22, 2015 at 12:06 am
    .
    I do not doubt that this has been discussed before, but I am curious as to how you cannot see the direct path of the atheistic world view of these leaders with their atrocities they committed in their zeal to abolish religion…

    That is because atheism is an end product not a cause.

    The moves to eliminate competing religious ideologies – particularly ones opposing theirs, had nothing to do with atheism. Atheism was simply a bi-product of the removal of obstructive religions opposing competing fundamentalist political ideologies. This is a similar situation to religious wars between faiths.



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  • Those societies show many of the same tendencies as religions, or certainly of cults-

    CHARACTERISTICS OF A CULT
    There is blind devotion to a supreme leader. No questioning of the moral behavior of that leader can be tolerated. Whatever he does (or did) is considered good and moral. Questioning the leader’s moral behavior incurs dire consequences to the questioner.

    There is a clear conceptual separation between “us” and “the others” among the members of the belief system. Words to describe “us” (e.g., “brothers”, “believers”) and “the others” (e.g., “unbelievers”) should exist. Members are encouraged to wear attire that advertises very strongly the fact that they are members.

    There is the practice that every newborn baby belongs to the belief system by default. Children must be educated according to the customs and beliefs of the system, so that they behave like other members when they grow up.

    Leaving the belief system incurs serious penalties to anyone who attempts it. Penalties may range from death to excommunication from the society (losing all one’s friends and acquaintances, having no one to socialize with).

    The states you quote all had pseudo-religious rules, as do North Korea and [formerly?] China…



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  • 20
    RonHill says:

    Alan, thanks for that info. I will check into that when I get a moment. It is surely an interesting concept. Why did the Russian people, religious or secular, not have the moral courage to stand up to Stalin and his regime? Why in all of history do the masses allow an authoritarian to his evil deeds?



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  • Developed societies have certainly become more accepting of atheists in response to forces of secularization. The process began historically about 300 years ago as scientific practices started to “solve” more and more vital human problems that had been left in the hands of God or the praying supplicant. Technological advances in medicine, agriculture, transportation and manufacturing “killed” God by substituting empirical knowledge of how nature works for the ineffable ignorance demanded by faith. Human-centered Natural Law began to establish the ambitions of democratic republics ruled by reason while overthrowing monarchies ruled by the Divine Right of kings. Of course the process proceeded gradually and the vast majority remained believers. Only since the 1950s with the popularization of philosophies like existentialism combined with the already widespread adoption of official Atheist-Marxism in large nation states like the Soviet Union and China did atheism become openly espoused in academia and STEM fields.

    A greater share of Americans today are NONES with many inclined to confess agnosticism. Atheist ranks have grown slightly but self-identification numbers remain very low. Nonetheless the trend moves in an encouraging direction. Anecdotally, I find many people comfortable saying they don’t believe in God or an afterlife especially if they are in an open-minded urbane gathering of peers. Still most “civil” people observe the “good manners” of not discussing religion at social gatherings. The philosophical discussion, doubtless more common among younger people, especially among secondary and college students, is rare in general adult gatherings. A larger share of women, compared to men, are turned off or bored by debates about the existence of God.

    Many challenges await. The majority is still religious or “spiritual” while conditioned to look askance at atheists (the term itself has been historically associated with nihilism and amorality). But looking to the future, younger educated generations have been encouraged to bring the “God Debate” out in the open under criteria of critical (scientific and rational) thinking. We have substantive reason to project a growing trend of non-belief and secular humanism among developed societies as older religiously conditioned cohorts die off.



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  • 22
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Why did the Russian people, religious or secular, not have the moral courage to stand up to Stalin and his regime?

    A few did and paid with their lifes since the regime was absolutely ruthless with political dissidents. This is a very difficult question that was asked by many after the world learned about the atrocities of the gulag and the collectivisation of farms (kholkozes) , etc..

    For more insight on this, I recommend reading Alexander Soljenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago” which earned him a Nobel of litterature in the 70’s.

    In a nutshell, it was not only fear of the regime (although this was unarguably the main cause) but there was also a strong element of shame. People were afraid of being seen by the public as monarchists or bourgeois if they criticized the regime which made it a point to stigmatize those they arrested by making them seem sympathetic to the old monarchy. Which was considered a mortal sin in the intelligentsia of the Russian society of those days.

    Stalin’s regime had all the charateristics of a religious cult. It’s no accident that historians call it “cult of personality”. Stalin, like the Pope, like God, was infallible and to say otherwise was considered heresy. He pillaged the churches and outlawed religious worship because he perceived the church as a competitor, an obstacle to his goal of absolute power.

    But to imply that the Russian people did not have the moral courage to stand up to Stalin because they were atheists is both condescending and untrue. In fact, a lot of people were going to undercover mass celebrations and in time, it became the “newfangled dissident thing to do” with the younger generations.



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  • I’m sure the USA will catch up with the rest of the more advanced world as time goes by. One of the difficulties there, is that religion, mainly strains of Christianity, has become a big business in itself, with such clout as to acquire serious media time. With media time, your ideas are propagated widely. The ‘shock’ / ‘horror’ every time a Fox news presenter mentions that deadly word ‘atheist’, reminds me of the, to them equally abhorrent word ‘communist’.

    As for Marx, quite clearly he saw the hold of religion on the workers’ minds as an obstacle to a better society, but recognised its ‘opiate’ properties. As long as the workers’ had religion, so long would their minds be on the next life, and not on the here and now. Marx’s brilliant description of religion as that ‘mist enveloped land‘ takes some beating for, if nothing else, brevity.



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  • David, surely you do not deny that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, were heads of the three officially atheistic states that were responsible for some of the worst mass crimes of the 20th century?

    Before these people made it an atheist state most of the citizens of the country were religious. Are you suggesting that when a dictator comes into power you suddenly stop believing? Everyone in Russian for example suddenly became an atheist? I think not.

    What you have there is a state in which it is forbidden or dangerous to declare your beliefs, a state in which you were not allowed to announce your beliefs, a state in which the delusions of the leader were every bit as prone to wish thinking and credulity as any of the religions that preceded them a good case in point is Lysenko’s claims that he could breed super crops on a flawed, disproven version of Larmarkian evolution. This because Darwinian evolution smacked a bit much of capitalism (to Stalins eyes – I don’t think it does personally), Stalin put his weight behind it sending any geneticist who dared to disagree to prison, the following famines that resulted from turning over agriculture to an unproven science and a hack of a scientist was as devastating as the thinking was irrational. The fact that these people were atheists does not mean that he was rational, does not mean everyone was on board with the atheism an it does not mean you can blame these atrocities on other atheists, my shared disbelief in a deity does not make me a supporter of Marx or any of the derivative works thereof. It doesn’t even mean we don’t believe in Gods for the same reasons or even good reasons. You can no more claim that not believing in Gods any more mandates I commit genocide than it does I should suddenly believe I can grow tomatoes the size of houses.



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  • RonHill,

    Regarding your cited scientific study, I took the privilege of copying it back, with certain words emphasized that certainly stand out to me, and thus make my point for me.

    The reason scientific papers use words like ‘may’ ‘proposes’ ‘can’ ‘probably’ etc. is that they are very clear not to make absolutist statements. This is a strength not a weakness. You will also find if you go further than the abstract and read the actual paper generally that very precise values are given in scientific papers called error bars a value will be give say 15 + – 2. This is because this is the most precise you can often be and scientists are fully prepared to acknowledge exactly what they don’t know often to extreme precision (particularly with quantum mechanics). What David is doing here is not asserting absolute fact, he is providing you with a scientific study that shows you there is an alternative model for being kind to others that works and does not require your black and white thinking on this. Uncertainty is okay, only absolutists need to make their claims around absolutes. The rest of us do much better understanding uncertainty – with often extreme precision.



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  • 29
    RonHill says:

    “Children are all born atheist, they are made theistic by their parents and society.”

    If atheism is defined as the absence of belief in God, then you are quite correct. In that case, my cat is also an atheist…



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  • 30
    RonHill says:

    “The rest of us do much better understanding uncertainty – with often extreme precision.”

    I’m not sure I understand that statement. Can you give me an example of understanding uncertainty with extreme precision?



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  • We have substantive reason to project a growing trend of non-belief and secular humanism among developed societies as older religiously conditioned cohorts die off.

    There is depressing news offsetting encouraging demographic shifts in religiosity beyond “developed societies.”

    In 50 years time, the world’s religious makeup is going to see some pretty massive changes.
    According to a new report by the Pew Research Center, Christianity is likely to be practised by pretty much exactly the same share of the world population, while Islam is on an upward path — and by 2050, the two religions will be pretty much equal in size.
    Christianity and Hinduism are expected to keep up with the pace of global population growth (so keeping roughly the same portion of the world’s total), but Islam is expected to outstrip that considerably — Pew is forecasting a 73% increase in the number of Muslims around the world, against a 35% increase in the global population.

    High birthrates spiking populations in Africa and Muslim countries may put billions of “extra” believers on the planet by 2050 and beyond. It’s mathematical. While populations in the EU and Euro-Ancestry populations in the U.S. are stagnating on a path to decline, Africa, Arab countries, Indonesia, Pakistan and India will pour hundreds of millions of young Christian and Muslim faithful onto the planet. Suffering from bitter poverty, unemployment, and deficits in education, efforts to secularize masses of young men radicalized in religious sectarian cultures in conflict with heretical counterparts may prove futile. While we engage the nerd nest door, or decorate the recreation room for “Blasphemy Day” or celebrate a newly won seat on the Community Interfaith Alliance at home, mushrooming billions in the hinterlands may be eying us with pious hatred.



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  • Sure RonHill be glad to,

    In science nothing is considered absolutely certain rather models of how we understand nature are proposed that map to reality with measurable precision. For example the law of gravitational attraction F = Gm1m2/r2 is a fairly precise measure of how gravitational attraction between objects work, basically F= the force of gravity is equal to the Gravitational constant x the mass of the first body x the mass of the second / radius squared (between the centre of mass of the two objects). You don’t need to understand this other than to realise that you can use this formula to find any one of the factors such as the mass of the first object given all the others. Jigger about the formula with a bit of algebra and TA DA, you’ve measured the mass of the Galaxy, etc. So this is useful in understanding why the planets orbit like they do and was an improvement of Kepler Laws (in fact basically is with the gravitational constant added). Understanding how the heavens go in Newtons times allowed for better navigation of ships time and allowed for predictions of Comets and much more. Today it is used for orbiting satellites and sending probes to distant planets by basically shooting them in the right direction and understanding how the influence between the probe and planets it passes by can be used to take gravitational energy around say Venus and fling it faster out to the outer planets. This is very precise and very useful but Einstein’s modification of these laws modelling that the mass of an object essentially bends the space-time around it made it even more precise and is used in understanding phenomena like gravitational lensing etc. Alan4discussion is much more knowledgeable than me on this so he’ll likely correct me if I’m wrong on anything here (I’m going off memory so may have some errors in understanding on the details).

    Quantum mechanics is even more precise to the point where the error bars (the area of uncertainty) is something like the width of the USA compared to a human hair. Note this is extremely precise measurement of the point at which you can not know something. All of this is backed up with experiment after experiment anyone of which could bring the whole thing down or as in the case of Newton and Einstein add to the precision at certain speeds and gravities. It works but we still don’t know anything with certainty, we remain open to a better explanation, not locked into one theory as though it was absolute, written in stone, but step by step building on what you know to gain better knowledge of what you don’t.

    So when you are critical of scientific papers being written with a certain level of uncertainty it is not an indication of weakness of the argument but rather an expression of what is to still be discovered, a proposed solution and an invitation for others to check your work, run an alternative experiment, suggest a better hypothesis or even overturn yours entirely. This is the power of science, scientists are encouraged to admit up front what they are uncertain of and precisely how uncertain they are about any given data set (if you’d read further into the paper itself, what was quoted was an abstract – you would probably have found out exactly how certain or uncertain they were). In short all scientific papers are written with the language of uncertainty even though they are closest we can get to certainty. Using the language of certainty is usually considered highly suspicious, arrogant and likely to indicate error. Of course the language is not in itself evidence but when you have facts you present them scientists who do so causally or imprecisely or fraudulently will usually be found out and their ideas are often re-assessed and tossed out like yesterdays garbage.

    In this way knowledge gradually ramps up, an unsuccessful experiment tells us not to bother down that path and approach from a different angle, a partial success leads to further investigation and the error bars reduce (but they never go away completely). The way most of our knowledge and technology has come to be able to exist is through this process.

    The trouble with religion is it must stick to one story (or try to pretend to). This makes it inflexible and holds back moral progress. Slavery for example is condoned, even instructed in the bible, this made it difficult to get rid of it. Yes there were religious people who helped end it but they did so by having to ignore very specific passages in the bible to do so which other Christians tried to use to condone slavery. We are now going through the same thing with gay marriage, there is no rational reason why one group should not be considered as equal under the law only dogma driven religious ones, secular people are having to fight tooth and nail to get laws changed that are bloody obvious to anyone without religious blinkers on. If we are to be a more moral, fair and empathetic society we must see each other without dogma riddled memes clouding our minds IMO.

    Regards



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  • I followed the link to this story on CS Monitor. They had a quiz “Are You Smarter Than An Atheist?” I am an atheist and I scored 97% on this little religious quiz – a full 13% above the average reader score. Therefore, I think the answer must be “No, you’re not smarter than an atheist, or at least you don’t know your religious texts as well as atheists do.”



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  • 36
    aroundtown says:

    @Ron

    The atrocities perpetuated in the name of religion are certainly horrendous. Did you know that none of those atrocities represent the teachings of Christ? Did you also know that the atrocities perpetuated in the name of religion pale in comparison to the atrocities in the name of atheism?

    I would say there’s an obvious distinction here, and our views come from two camps as we look at this. I survey the landscape through tangible realities and weight the evidence and the resultant outcomes, but a religious individual usually has to run their propositions through a religious prism first, and then apply that to any given situation, real or imagined.

    The glaring difference can be noted here as regards your post. You provide the proposition that Christ and his teaching were benign but you miss the mark due to religious bias. You have excluded this God fellow who purportedly annihilated all of humanity and only saved one family who then floated around in a tub until the waters receded sufficiently enough to give it another go I suppose, if you believe the tale.

    This monster who would kill off everyone because they didn’t turnout to be subservient enough to please him, throws a tantrum and kills them all. I can hear it now though, a proposition that god was not Jesus but you would overlook that whole “I am” business as pertains to his construct generally and the holy trinity stuff, you know, were he said he knows everything about his fathers mind, he clearly is stated suggesting that boast in the bible tale. This genocidal monster would have clearly been the largest offender on the block, and I cannot think of any instance that could match that vicious crime. You don’t get a do-over on something of that magnitude regardless of the supposed high ground he is assumed to hold. This, “I promise not to kill everyone again” stuff is just sickening really.

    The idea that being a non-believer puts you on a path to ruin is not true. The shear numbers of atheists who’ve done good works would be the proof, I’ve never seen the rap sheet on Bertrand Russell committing horrendous crimes as you have pointed out yourself. In one breath you say were on the path to destructive ruin and in the next you provide an example like Bertrand Russell who was clearly a good man, but one who simply did not believe in the supernatural.

    Most coming to this site are generally already atheists or they are individuals who have suffered tremendous doubt, so they take the plunge and come here because of Richards books, Videos, or lectures, or maybe a web search, put it on their radar. They receive positive information at that point and decide for themselves if they still believe in supernatural proposition. Even ordained ministers have made there way here, or through the clergy project, to assist in their need. But there are instances of those who come here to show us the error of our way I presume, as most of the banter is directed at our not understanding the blessings that we are missing, or they want us to know we have a guaranteed ticket to Hell.

    In my opinion religious individuals can be led to the door of reason but they are not going to actually consider the input they receive on this site because their religious barriers are built quite high as a fortress to any supposed atheistic corruption they might suffer. Their usually not going to get much out of atheistic principles in my observation, but hopefully they might get something that will niggle in their mind that no longer matches up with the religious tales they’ve been given.

    This message of damnation and error on our part making its way to the site is not going to find any traction here, as most have shed the religious condition, or never wore it in the first place, and we have rejected the religious concepts with finality.



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  • 37
    aroundtown says:

    @Ron

    And vice versa Ron. I am not out to convert the Religious, although my opinions can be construed as stern I would not suggest punishment for anyone. I am sure that is the take away at times. I simply throw them out there as I see them, or as I have experienced them, in relation to a lot of things, not just religion. You will discover that I am not a sharp knife in the kitchen around here, far from it, but there are some very intelligent/enlightening people here that you can learn from. I certainly have.

    You’ve been invited to stick around and I hope you do, your understanding of our perceived reality might show you an expanded understanding beyond what I usually call the small box of religion. Your going to receive a lot of info but no one will try to turn you into an atheist. That would be your choice.



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  • Ron
    Apr 23, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    RM, I now understand what you meant so thanks for that. But I am not so sure that every scientific study can reduce their conclusions to a mathematical equation. Some studies are more definitive with their conclusions, regarding cause and effect, than others are. I find the studies with the words “may,” “probably,” “perhaps,” “seem,” and “probably,” in their abstracts or conclusions to be less than fulfilling, from an intellectual standpoint….

    It’s when they have follow-on studies independently confirming the data and conclusions that the position becomes more solidly based.

    That is why science uses a range of terms: speculation, hypothesis, theory, law, etc. to describe its findings and indicate levels of probability.

    Many features which have industrial uses, have been confirmed thousands or even millions of times, down to very precise measurements.



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  • Hi RonHill,

    firstly thanks for continuing to have a dialogue, I hope you continue to do so even though you may get a bit bombarded at times. It’s nice to have a theist to argue with.

    But I am not so sure that every scientific study can reduce their conclusions to a mathematical equation. Some studies are more definitive with their conclusions, regarding cause and effect, than others are. I find the studies with the words “may,” “probably,” “perhaps,” “seem,” and “probably,” in their abstracts or conclusions to be less than fulfilling, from an intellectual standpoint….

    As Allen4Discussion mentioned language in science papers resolves itself to more and more certainty when more is known.

    I’d also argue most scientific papers can be reduced to a mathematical equations or at least using mathematics (even if it is statistical in nature) to indicate certainty but it is true I gave examples that are very solidly based upon specific mathematical formula. This is because it was easier to explain what I meant through these examples and also because I’ve studied them and used them in a couple of university courses in Astronomy I completed. But let’s look at a more difficult example. Medicine. Testing of medications can be difficult because there are so many factors in the body that can influence data so it can be difficult to tease out the signal from the noise. Many results in medical papers for example will be statistical in nature. So specific markers may be used to measure effects such as weeks taken to recover from a specific type of surgery for example these may have small sample sizes and have some variation in results that are judged to be noise, there is a very precise formulation for calculating error bars to display this information so even in a study in which the language and error bars are large generally the level of uncertainty is known quite precisely, authors of papers will also right up front explain exactly what they don’t know yet and may suggest follow testing. I repeat this is not a weakness it is a strength.

    As for the specific example of DavidRAllen’s this is one of many studies that show with extreme precision how it is possible to have a moral framework without a higher power. I suggest reading the Selfish Gene or looking at Richard Dawkins TV show he did on this way back called “Nice Guys finish first” here an excellent synopsis, although the selfish gene goes into much more detail including the mathematical analysis. In this case as we have no time machines we must model, then test those models in nature. This is the reason for the speculative language. So far after much observation of different primate, human and other animal experiments confirm the work of these studies the PBS series the human spark explores some of these first episode here but because we cannot read behaviour in the fossil records this sort of language is the best we can use.

    This may seem weak to you, but it is not. Consider the alternative, you as a theist are in exactly the same boat only you are using the language of certainty – but without justification. You may believe strongly or have had personal experiences that make you feel strongly but as every other mutually exclusive religion throughout history has had the same, you should not be putting confidence in your hypothesis that a God is necessary to stop us from tearing each other to pieces. What the scientists have is a plausible explanation/s which they have taken the care to demonstrate with sufficient precision that proving it wrong should be easy (if it is wrong). They have told you exactly what they suspect is the case so others can model or test and refute or improve.

    On the other hand theists have a contradictory set of beliefs collated at specific point in history for political reasons with some scriptures rejected, some modified, few agreeing with the events that took place, that have wildly different rules throughout that no moral being would consider worthy. And speculation.

    I choose known, accurate levels of uncertainty with plausible -falsifiable hypotheses over mythology any day. And I will throw it all away in a second if it can be shown to be false.

    Regards



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