Atheists Have Tripled in the Last Six Months June 8, 2007

Atheists Have Tripled in the Last Six Months

Atheism is the featured article on Wikipedia today!

We now join the ranks of other recent featured article subjects, like the Battle of Midway, Jupiter, and Frank Klepacki (?!?).

I think it’s safe to say more damage will be done to atheism today than ever before.

No one’s laughing…? Damn.

(Thanks to Don for the link!)

[tags]atheist, atheism, Wikipedia, Battle of Midway, Jupiter, Frank Klepacki[/tags]

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  • Darryl

    Hemant, you did not explain the heading. How do you know that atheists have tripled in the last six months? If this is the case, what do you make of this? My gut tells me that a temporary increase in professions of atheism in the present climate is predictable and insignificant. Trends are trends and usually amount to nothing of significance.

  • It was a reference to a Stephen Colbert joke where he asked his viewers to change the Wikipedia entry on elephants to say that the population African elephants had tripled in the past six months (See?! They’re no longer endangered! We saved them, America!)

    An article about it is here. Sorry for the confusion 🙂

  • Darryl

    Hemant, thanks for the explanation. I should have caught that one because I like Colbert. I’m getting old.

  • [Finally getting around to de-lurking myself…]

    The Nation’s got a (well-thought-out, in my opinion) article about “The New Atheists” – Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, etc. It’s here. Has anyone else heard of or read it yet?

    – L. W.

  • Don’t worry, I got the joke. 🙂

  • Darryl

    Thanks for the link literaghost. I have picked out what I consider the salient points in the Nation article by Ronald Aronson “The New Atheists” (June 25, 2007 issue) and made brief comments on them. For those, like me, that tend to skip over longer posts, I apologize, and feel free.

    . . . the four [(Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens)] have become must-read writers. The most remarkable fact is not their books themselves–blunt, no-holds-barred attacks on religion in different registers–but that they have succeeded in reaching mainstream readers and in becoming bestsellers. Is this because Americans are beginning to get fed up with the religiosity of the past several years? It would be comforting if we could explain this as a cultural signal of the end of the right-wing/evangelical ascendancy. Such speculations are probably wishful thinking–book buyers are such a small slice of the population that few sociologists would stake their careers on claiming that book buyers’ preferences reflect anything like a national mood.

    Some Americans are beginning to get fed up, and the Christian right is losing some ground (they see to be aware of this), and this is not wishful thinking because—thankfully—book authors have still got to promote their wares, and cable-television viewers, which are more than a «small slice of the population,» see and hear the authors talk about and defend their books.

    This is what the polls are telling us: Virtually everyone in America believes in God.

    Yes, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

    We commonly hear that only a tiny percentage of Americans don’t believe in God and that, as a Newsweek poll claimed this spring, 91 percent do. In fact, this is not true. How many unbelievers are there? . . . the possible sum of unbelievers is nearly one in four Americans.

    . . .

    As a first step this demands creating a coalition between unbelievers and their natural allies, secular-minded believers. I am speaking first about many millions of Americans who nominally belong to a religion but effectively live without any active relationship either to it or to God, or belong to a church and attend services but are “tacit atheists,” living day in and day out with only token reference to God. And I also include the many believers who accept the principle of America as a secular society. These include members of the liberal Jewish and Christian denominations, who have long practice in accommodating themselves to science and the modern world and who, as the National Council of Churches website tells us, may remain inspired by Genesis while not needing to take it in “literal, factual terms.”

    I would guess that a majority of those that say they «believe in God» have no vital, committed faith, and don’t put much energy into their religion. These people can be swayed by events to question everything that religion stands for. I’ve seen this; I know it to be true. They are the fertile ground for atheism, agnosticism, freethinking, etc.

    Unbelievers are to be found concentrated among those whose professional lives emphasize science or rationality and who also have developed a relatively high level of confidence in their own intellectual faculties. And they are frequently teachers or opinion-makers.

    That’s why I preach one Gospel: I believe in Education, Education, and Education. Amen.

    But over the past generation they [(the non-believers)] have come to feel beleaguered and, except for rare individuals like comedian and talk-show host Bill Maher, voiceless in the public arena. The great success of the New Atheists is to have reached them, both speaking to and for them.

    He’s singing my song.

    They [(the authors)] show little understanding of religion or interest in it . . .

    I am suspicious that this criticism comes from those who are either anxious to impress us with their otherwise useless and unwanted knowledge of the arcane (got to get some use out of that unread dissertation), or are simply grasping for some comeback to counter a polemical onslaught that is well-deserved, long-overdue, and unstoppable. You do not have to recount the «richness» of religion, and get down into the weeds, to kick out the general underpinnings, and to recite the list of offenses, of religion. Such mind-numbing accounts by the devotees of the religious depths often succeed in obfuscating the truth, and delaying the necessary work of religious debunking.

    Where does the work of the New Atheists leave us? I hope they have roused a significant portion of America from its timidity. But to what end? Living without God means turning toward something. To flourish we need coherent secular popular philosophies that effectively answer life’s vital questions.

    This will be forthcoming. First things first. You raze the house before you build again.

    On a societal level, . . . living without God requires creating conditions in which people are free from the kinds of existential vulnerability that have marked all human societies until the advent of Europe’s postindustrial welfare states.

    Huh? Are we to be held back from enjoying life without gods because of material deficits? Poverty and illness and other social ills require religion? I can’t wait for the righting of all wrongs to get rid of the supreme fiction.

  • Karen

    I have picked out what I consider the salient points in the Nation article by Ronald Aronson “The New Atheists” (June 25, 2007 issue) and made brief comments on them.

    Thanks for doing that. How does this article compare to the other New Atheists article that appeared in Wired a few months ago (if you read the earlier one)?

    book authors have still got to promote their wares, and cable-television viewers, which are more than a «small slice of the population,» see and hear the authors talk about and defend their books.

    Yes. And I believe it’s also been shown that the small minority of people who read serious books, and keep up with authors and new ideas, tend to be amongst the people who write, converse and set societal trends. If those people are influenced to question the status quo, they can set in motion larger shifts in thinking that play out over decades in the larger population.

    This will be forthcoming. First things first. You raze the house before you build again.

    I disagree here. Some people do raze their houses because they find them lacking – even if they have no clear idea where else to find shelter. I did it. You did it. We survived. But I don’t think most people are comfortable doing that, even if they see a small group going ahead. It’s way too scary.

    I think, before we see a wholesale leveling of the “house” of religion, we have to build new prototypes – “model homes” if you will – that clearly demonstrate that people won’t end up homeless (i.e., bereft of guiding principles and emotional comfort). That’s where freethinkers must present something positive as an alternative. I don’t know whether that’s rationalism, or humanism or what, because I really haven’t gotten that far on my own journey yet, but it’s becoming clearer to me that it’s necessary.

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