09-15-07, 04:26 AM #1
On the Radar: The rise of atheism
Washington Post: Atheists increasing voice, numbers
Jordan, Mary. "In Europe and U.S., Nonbelievers Are Increasingly Vocal". Washington Post, September 15, 2007; page A01. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...091402501.html
Salmon, Jacqueline L. "In America, Nonbelievers Find Strength in Numbers". Washington Post, September 15, 2007; page A14. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...091402199.html
The Washington Post runs two stories today regarding the state of atheism. Mary Jordan's front-page article considers the rising number of atheists in the United States and Europe:
Every morning on his walk to work, high school teacher Graham Wright recited a favorite Anglican prayer and asked God for strength in the day ahead. Then two years ago, he just stopped.
Wright, 59, said he was overwhelmed by a feeling that religion had become a negative influence in his life and the world. Although he once considered becoming an Anglican vicar, he suddenly found that religion represented nothing he believed in, from Muslim extremists blowing themselves up in God's name to Christians condemning gays, contraception and stem cell research.
"I stopped praying because I lost my faith," said Wright, 59, a thoughtful man with graying hair and clear blue eyes. "Now I truly loathe any sight or sound of religion. I blush at what I used to believe." (Jordan)
Many analysts trace the rise of what some are calling the "nonreligious movement" to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The sight of religious fanatics killing 3,000 people caused many to begin questioning -- and rejecting -- all religion. (ibid)
Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society, a British organization, also points to a backlash against European accommodation of its growing Muslim population, as well as fundamentalist Christian efforts against scientific research and civil rights. Sanderson noted that "There is a feeling that religion is being forced on an unwilling public, and now people are beginning to speak out against what they see as rising Islamic and Christian militancy."
American Phil Zuckerman points out that secular groups are also finding traction in religious societies such as India, Israel, and Turkey.
Jordan also makes note of a European organization, the Council of Ex-Muslims, a small but growing group originating in Germany. The article goes on to discuss British issues, including a watchdog group in Parliament, and also the growth of the British Humanist Association.
• • •
Meanwhile, Jacqueline Salmon considers the rising number of atheists in the United States and Europe:
"People who were ashamed to say there is no God now say, 'Wow, there are others out there who think like me, and it feels damned good,' " said Margaret Downey, president of the Atheist Alliance International, whose membership has almost doubled in the past year to 5,200. It has a 500-person waiting list for its convention in Crystal City later this month.
Focusing fresh attention on atheism in the United States was the publication last week of a book about Mother Teresa that lays out her secret struggle with her doubts about God. "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light" has led some high-profile atheists to say that her spiritual wavering was actually atheism.
"She couldn't bring herself to believe in God, but she wished she could," said Christopher Hitchens, a Washington-based columnist and author of "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," the latest atheist bestseller. (Salmon)
The rising atheistic voice includes charter schools and overnight camps; the Council for Secular Humanism has seen a 40% budget increase in the last couple years.
Recently, U.S. Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) acknowledged his atheism, and 2005 saw the advent of Godless Americans PAC, the first atheistic political action group.
The faithful, however, look dubiously upon their godless neighbors; a 2006 nationwide poll by the University of Minnesota found that "Americans rated atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants and other minority groups in 'sharing their vision of American society'."
• • •
Religious voices often consider such developments as hateful. I find it hard to sympathize. Given that for most Christians, the free-will decision to have faith in God and Jesus comes only after childhood indoctrination, and amid a lifetime of familial and social pressures bordering on emotional blackmail and psychological abuse. That people have faith is one thing, but it is entirely a different circumstance when that faith demands that others must submit. For many in the West, suicide bombers and al Qaeda are almost an afterthought; it was enough to hear their religious neighbors demand that equality is only achieved through supremacy, and that refusing discrimination is hateful. And in a time when "Islamism" is considered by many in the West to be a spiritual, as well as military, enemy, it should not be surprising if the godless wonder what the hell American Christians are doing giving aid and comfort to Islamist factions in Turkey in order to spread the Gospel Against Science. As the world's most influential religious tradition--e.g., Abramism°--seems more and more determined to thrust humanity into a new dark age, perhaps the godless will be the only ones among those nations who will fight for the future and prosperity of the human species.
The rise of atheism is not, in fact hateful. It is an attempt to escape a world painted with hatred. As Emma Goldman wrote in 1910:
Religion! How it dominates man's mind, how it humiliates and degrades his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says religion. But out of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical, so cruel, so terribly exacting that naught but gloom and tears and blood have ruled the world since gods began. (Goldman)
° world's most influential religious tradition: It is not that I would ignore my Hindu and Buddhist neighbors, but rather that slightly different considerations apply. While violence between Hindus and Sikhs is not enough for me to indict either faith, we cannot escape the fact that what will bring India greater prosperity are those things that originate and function outside the religious paradigm. As to the Buddhists, there are myriad considerations, and while I do not consider them harmful as I do the Abramists, I am hard-pressed to see their influence in terms comparable to the effects of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Goldman, Emma. "Anarchism: What it Really Stands For". Anarchism and Other Essays. New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1910. See http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist...anarchism.html
09-15-07, 05:19 AM #2
As asinine as it is, people often confuse atheism with satanism.. they need to get themselves educated.
09-15-07, 05:27 AM #3Originally Posted by Enmos
• • •
I realize I'm probably not being fair to that 25% or so of religion-free respondents. It's more likely that they simply are trying to avoid religion and not worry one way or the other about whether or not God exists.
Last edited by Tiassa; 09-15-07 at 05:34 AM. Reason: Revise and extend my remarks.
09-15-07, 05:31 AM #4
09-15-07, 05:37 AM #5
That's a bit tougher to lay out. The simplest version is that it is a system of interrelated superstitions, but in the near future I'll be posting a link about the relationship between religion and primates that complicates my definition. It's interesting that you ask; I just heard the bit last night, and haven't gone back to figure out what the hell it means.
09-15-07, 05:47 AM #6
The reason I asked is because I don't see how you can except 'a' notion God and yet have no religion. The other way around is plausible (religion without a God) in my opinion.
Can you explain how you can hold a notion of God and yet have no religion ?
09-15-07, 06:00 AM #7Originally Posted by Enmos
Last edited by Tiassa; 09-15-07 at 06:01 AM. Reason: Clarification
09-15-07, 06:06 AM #8
09-15-07, 06:15 AM #9
09-15-07, 06:29 AM #10
One doesn't just believe in God. A person comes to believe in a God because of:
- experience of certain things that, seemingly, can only be attributed to God,
- 'logical' deduction ('how did the universe came to be?'),
Realizing that there is a God can't be the end of it, it has huge implications.
I haven't thought this out all the way but it seems imperative that a person that believes in a God holds numerous other believes surrounding this God-figure. These make up a set of believes which can be held to be a religion in my opinion.
09-16-07, 08:50 AM #11
09-17-07, 10:25 AM #12
09-17-07, 10:36 AM #13
09-17-07, 11:00 AM #14
For an example of a society which forcibly abolished all religion indiscriminately a century ago, look at former USSR. There are good and bad sides to it, so look carefully. Surely they are not tormented by the same things as American society, not kept back by the same silly boundaries; but lack of religion did not eliminate conflict, did not add "reasonableness" or orderliness. Are you sure you want America to head that way?
While comparing, I see that faith isn't the problem. Faith in god is one thing, philosophy attached to it is another. Let people keep faith if they want, alter the philosophy, use gods to enforce the philosophy, and voila! the effort is less strenuous, the outcome is better.
09-17-07, 11:03 AM #15
09-17-07, 11:08 AM #16
Take me, for instance. I don't call myself an atheist because there is a definition of God that I accept. In the end, though the notion of God is inconsequential. I have no religion, but do not deny the existence of God. (I do, however, deny the existence of shoebox gods like the one in the Bible.)
09-17-07, 11:08 AM #17
Being raised in a religious society (or family) does not compel you to take up the same faith nowadays, but the morals and the ways of action are enforced on you. U.S. is a puritan society through and through, and the atheists carry on relatively the same values as theists. [Edit: that's my theory.]
09-17-07, 11:31 AM #18
09-17-07, 01:04 PM #19
09-17-07, 01:05 PM #20
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