Sixty million (disliked) atheists in America? 94

Our reader and commenter George draws our attention to an article titled “Why do Americans still dislike atheists?”

It is written by an ” an independent researcher in sociology and evolution”, Gregory Paul, and  “a professor of sociology at Pitzer College”, Phil Zuckerman, who wrote a book called  “Society Without God.”

The very idea of Sociology is Leftist. It considers human beings collectively. Sociologists can be assumed to be leftists – exceptions are very rare. So it is not surprising that Paul the researcher in Sociology, and Zuckerman the professor of Sociology, have written an article for the left-biased Washington Post, which demonstrates their collectivist mind-set.

Some of their information, however, is interesting.

Here are extracts:

Long after blacks and Jews have made great strides, and even as homosexuals gain respect, acceptance and new rights, there is still a group that lots of Americans just don’t like much: atheists. Those who don’t believe in God are widely considered to be immoral, wicked and angry.

No evidence for that “widely considered” is given. But the examples of discrimination against atheists that come next are worth knowing:

They can’t join the Boy Scouts.

You have to believe in the supernatural to be a Boy Scout?

Atheist soldiers are rated potentially deficient when they do not score as sufficiently “spiritual” in military psychological evaluations.

What does the word “spiritual” mean? A claim to believe in the supernatural?

Surveys find that most Americans refuse or are reluctant to marry or vote for nontheists; nonbelievers are one minority still commonly denied in practical terms the right to assume office despite the constitutional ban on religious tests.

The first part of that sentence is not provable or even plausible. The second part is important and points to a disgraceful state of affairs. It means that governing authorities are discriminating against people who hold a particular opinion with regard to religion, in defiance of the Constitution.

Rarely denounced by the mainstream, this stunning anti-atheist discrimination is egged on by Christian conservatives who stridently — and uncivilly — declare that the lack of godly faith is detrimental to society, rendering nonbelievers intrinsically suspect and second-class citizens.

Is this knee-jerk dislike of atheists warranted? Not even close.

Then comes a typical sociological passage with sweeping generalizations:

A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.

Notice the assumption that to be against the death penalty, bothered about “environmental degradation”, and uncritically accepting of the doctrine of “human rights’, is to be “more ethical”.

A series of “facts” come next, no sources given, reflecting more of the writers’ personal prejudices, but likely to be pleasing to at least some atheists:

Consider that at the societal level, murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States, which also has a much greater portion of its population in prison. Even within this country, those states with the highest levels of church attendance, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, have significantly higher murder rates than far less religious states such as Vermont and Oregon.

The statistics, not given, may be correct, but the authors make no attempt  to show a direct connection between religious views and crime rates.

What follows is, we think, true. Though again no evidence is shown, and we don’t look for “scores” on “measures”, we obviously consider superstition to be unintelligent.

As individuals, atheists tend to score high on measures of intelligence, especially verbal ability and scientific literacy. They tend to raise their children to solve problems rationally, to make up their own minds when it comes to existential questions … They value freedom of thought.

Yes. But those prejudices pop out again:

They are … less likely to be nationalistic or ethnocentric.

Leftists call patriots “nationalistic” as a pejorative. They have asserted that atheists are intelligent, yet cannot conceive of intelligent people being patriots.

Then they say that being atheist could be a symptom of mental illness, and not believing in the supernatural makes for unhappiness – though this connection is “complex” and some empirical evidence casts doubt on it.

While many studies show that secular Americans don’t fare as well as the religious when it comes to certain indicators of mental health or subjective well-being, new scholarship is showing that the relationships among atheism, theism, and mental health and well-being are complex. After all, Denmark, which is among the least religious countries in the history of the world, consistently rates as the happiest of nations. And studies of apostates — people who were religious but later rejected their religion — report feeling happier, better and liberated in their post-religious lives.

We like that, and would appreciate a link to those “studies” (even if they are written in pompous Sociologese).

The rest is a stew of diverse ingredients: suicide rates among atheists higher but not certainly so. And “on numerous respected measures of societal success — rates of poverty, teenage pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, drug use and crime, as well as economics — high levels of secularity are consistently correlated with positive outcomes in first-world nations. None of the secular advanced democracies suffers from the combined social ills seen here in Christian America.”

To translate what they’re saying: poverty, AIDS, etcetera in America are at least partly the result of religion. Some religions can cause poverty – notably Catholicism by forbidding birth control. But for the rest, causal connections need to be traced.

The next claim, if true, is good news:

Atheism is enjoying rapid growth. … Younger generations’ tolerance for the endless disputes of religion is waning fast. Surveys designed to overcome the understandable reluctance to admit atheism have found that as many as 60 million Americans — a fifth of the population — are not believers.

Sixty million! By statistical probability, at least some tens of thousands of them must also be conservatives. If we knew how to reach them we might become a movement.