From the Vancouver Sun, we learn what Christians allegedly think about “atheists”:
Religious believers distrust atheists more than members of other religious groups, gays and feminists, according to a new study by University of B.C. researchers.
The only group the study’s participants distrusted as much as atheists was rapists, said doctoral student Will Gervais, lead author of the study published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
That prejudice had a significant impact on what kinds of jobs people said they would hire atheists to do.
The study is titled, “Do You Believe in Atheists? Distrust Is Central to Anti-Atheist Prejudice.”
I don’t believe in any god, but I tend to avoid use of the term “atheist.” I do this because when Christians use the word “atheist,” they tend to mean something much different than when non-believers use the term “atheist.” If the subject of religiosity comes up, I describe myself by saying “I don’t believe in god.” If I’m asked whether I’m an “atheist,” I say yes, but then further explain that I’m not out to tell other people what to believe in their hearts, and I’m not out to ridicule them for having a personal private belief in a sentient non-physical being. I explain that in my view it is impossible for there to be a thinking being who who lacks some sort of physical neural network. If I’m pressed to ask what I think of Jesus, I typically say that I have some doubts that he ever existed, but if he did, I believe he was a human being, nothing more.
Based on these sorts of answers, I have almost always been able to have civil conversations and, often friendships, with those who claim to believe in God. I doubt that many people have ever despised like they would a rapist based on my way of seeing the world.
I wonder what the above study would have shown had the it used “non-believer” or “non-religious” or “persons who don’t believe in God.” For many Christians, “atheist” has become a word referring to a person who not only doesn’t believe in God but who is also hostile to those who do. That is unfortunate, because many atheists are of the live-and-let-live attitude. For many Christians, “atheist” has come to represent people who have no set of moral values and for whom “anything goes.” This is especially unfortunate, because that is not how any atheists use the term “atheist.” Further, there are many degrees of non-belief and there are many other terms that more precisely describe the type of non-belief. To lump all of these folks in with the cartoon version of the angry and intolerant atheist (which is the image that many Christians have of “atheists”) gives a false view (I believe) of what most Christians think of those who don’t believe in god.
Notwithstanding anything I’ve written above, I’m also convinced that American society treats atheists unfairly, oftentimes abyssmally. One especially egregious example is that those who identify themselves as “atheists” are excluded from public office. I see this as a form of bigotry, especially given (this is my personal guess) that at least 50% of Americans who claim to believe in god don’t actually believe in god. Rather, they believe in the importance of claiming to believe in god, and their actions speak much more loudly than their words.
I’ll end this post with a wish that someone would re-do the above study using a less inflammatory word to represent those who don’t believe in god. If this were done, I would bet my house that those who “Don’t believe in God” would not be seen as less trustworthy than rapists.
Granted that the one they chose to censor isn’t a typical, dull, dry Bible that you actually have to read to get to the good parts. This one is gaily illustrated with photographs of Lego™ dioramas for every juicy story. Years of work went into developing the Brick Testament as an online presence.
Then a paper publisher got interested, and more work went into producing several volumes (Available on Amazon).
But Walmart refused to distribute the books as is, full of literal illustrations of the stories in the Holy book, including the sexual parts. So the publisher persuaded the author to pull the most explicit scenes. And they produced a new volume specifically for Walmart and its clientele.
But after an initial small order, Walmart felt that even this censored version of the Bible was still too graphic, and refused to carry the volume. The other Bibles they sell, all of which include even the stories and scenes excised from the Brick Testament, are still for sale.
Over at FOX News, Todd Starnes wrote this:
President Obama did not include any reference to God during his weekly address titled, “On Thanksgiving, Grateful for the Men and Women Who Defend Our Country.”
And then the culture war was reignited, which you can see in the hundreds of comments to the post. In reaction to Obama’s address, comments indicated that he was an American-hating, Muslim (or Pagan) rotten atheist socialist. One woman commented: “Pray for Obama – Psalm 109:8 ~ ‘Let his days be few and brief; and let others step forward to replace him.'” Another woman wrote: “There is no way I could be more disgusted with this creature who pretends to be a man. He must be eliminated from the public eye. The people who claimed to love god tend to hate Obama. In more recent comments, non-believers jump into the fray to chastise the Christians for their nastiness.
All of this caused by a President who said things like this:
As Americans, each of us has our own list of things and people to be thankful for. But there are some blessings we all share.
We’re especially grateful for the men and women who defend our country overseas. To all the service members eating Thanksgiving dinner far from your families: the American people are thinking of you today. And when you come home, we intend to make sure that we serve you as well as you’re serving America.
We’re also grateful for the Americans who are taking time out of their holiday to serve in soup kitchens and shelters, making sure their neighbors have a hot meal and a place to stay. This sense of mutual responsibility – the idea that I am my brother’s keeper; that I am my sister’s keeper – has always been a part of what makes our country special. And it’s one of the reasons the Thanksgiving tradition has endured.
I have repeatedly criticized Obama for his decision-making, but I don’t see anything in his address that is hostile to religion.
What have we come to, America? And since when did Thanksgiving become a holiday only for those who believe in God?
Epilogue: Good thing Obama didn’t follow in the footsteps of Neil deGrasse Tyson:
Thanksgiving dinner, a few years ago, each in turn thanked God for food. I thanked scientists for improved farming. Got booed.
There is a new series on the Pharyngula blog: Posts confessing “Why I Am An Atheist” gleaned from comments and responses. Some are well written, others not so much. But each is selected for showing a particular path into the light for people who have recovered from invisible friend addiction.
The most recent post, Why I am an atheist – Adam, shows how an upbringing under the Ken Ham school of Young Earth Creation and science denialism eventually led him to an understanding of the willful ignorance and dishonesty that pervades that culture. Once he began to question the “facts” that he was raised with, he quickly climbed up toward rationalism and lost his religion.
Over at his new incarnation of Daylight Atheism at Alternet, Adam Lee (a/k/a Ebonmuse) discusses some of the deep differences between Mormonism and what passes for Christianity in modern America. As Lee explains, Mormons are working hard to sweep those differences under the rug in order to be politically acceptable. This is still a work in progress, as shown by the struggles of Mitt Romney. Lee also draws distinctions between Mormons and atheists, the latter group undoubtedly still pegged as political outsiders, despite the fact that non-belief is America’s fastest growing “religion.”
From the National Journal we learn that God has told yet another candidate to run for President:
Herman Cain, whose campaign could use some redemption in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, told a crowd of young Republicans on Saturday that God convinced him to run for president and that he “prayed and prayed and prayed” about it.
What is “blasphemy?” According to Wikipedia:
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things.
It seems to me, then, that it is blasphemy for any mere human being to claim to understand what “God” wants. Really, Herman? Though you are a human animal equipped with a 3-pound brain, you are able to understand what is typically purported to be omniscience and omnipotence? This arrogance–blasphemy–is all-too-common these days. Herman Cain is one of many politicians who claim to know what “God” wants, and each of them claims that God wants him or her to run. It sounds like God is confused. Or more likely, it sounds like many of the candidates running for President are pathologically manipulative blasphemers.