Friday, April 19, 2013

Liberals Aren't Necessarily Atheists, But Most Atheists Are Liberals

We've mentioned  a study several times that "...found that young adults who said they were 'very conservative' had an average adolescent IQ of 95, whereas those who said they were 'very liberal' averaged 106," but we haven't really explored the world of atheism in relation to political convictions until now.

We've also quoted John Stuart Mill, English political philosopher and economist who said in 1866 , "I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it."

But let's alter the quote slightly to say that while "liberals aren't generally atheistic, most atheists are liberals."

And in an article, "Growing Disbelief," by "RM" at the, we see:

"AMERICA is not an easy place for atheists. Religion pervades the public sphere, and studies show that non-believers are more distrusted than other minorities.

"Several states still ban atheists from holding public office. These rules, which are unconstitutional, are never enforced, but that hardly matters. Over 40% of Americans say they would never vote for an atheist presidential candidate.

"Yet the past seven years have seen a fivefold increase in people who call themselves atheists, to 5% of the population, according to WIN-Gallup International, a network of pollsters. Meanwhile, the proportion of Americans who say they are religious has fallen from 73% in 2005 to 60% in 2011.

"Such a large drop in religiosity is startling, but the data on atheists are in line with other polling. A Pew survey in 2009 also found that 5% of Americans did not believe in God. But only a quarter of those called themselves atheists. The newest polling, therefore, may simply show an increase in those willing to say the word.

"This change may have come about because of an informal movement of non-believers known as 'New Atheism'. (See -- The 'New Atheists' attack theism with science.  Joyce, Jnr.)  Over the past eight years, authors such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens have attacked religion in bestselling books, appealing persuasively to logic and science. Mr Dawkins, a British biologist, has especially encouraged people to declare their disbelief.

"Earlier this year he spoke at the 'Reason Rally', a gathering of thousands of secularists on the Mall in Washington, DC. 'We are approaching a tipping point', he predicted, 'where the number of people who have come out becomes so great that suddenly everyone will realize, I can come out too.'

"Some are doing so loudly. When Democratic convention-goers arrive in Charlotte, North Carolina, they will be greeted by a billboard sponsored by a group called American Atheists that claims Christianity 'promotes hate' and exalts a 'useless saviour'. A similar billboard mocking Mormonism was planned for the Republican convention, but no one would sell the group space.

"American Atheists is also trying to block the display of a cross-shaped steel beam at the September 11th museum in New York. The beam, found in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, was a totem for rescuers. The atheists see its inclusion as an unconstitutional mingling of church and state. The museum says the cross is an historical artifact, and that anyway it is not a government agency. Fights like this are unlikely to enhance atheism’s growing appeal in America.

The snide remark in the last paragraph aside, a few things may occur to the thoughtful reader: 1.  Many online activists are atheists, including this poster, and 2.  their vitriol often turns off the liberal theists, including remarks by this poster...but online "marketing" plus these political activists may have influenced some of the theist to reconsider their positions -- from an LA Times article:

"Frank J. Sulloway, a researcher at UC Berkeley's Institute of Personality and Social Research who was not connected to the study, said the results 'provided an elegant demonstration that individual differences on a conservative-liberal dimension are strongly related to brain activity.' Analyzing the data, Sulloway said liberals were 4.9 times as likely as conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts, and 2.2 times as likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy.

"Sulloway said the results could explain why President Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq war and why some people perceived Sen. John F. Kerry, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat who opposed Bush in the 2004 presidential race, as a "flip-flopper" for changing his mind about the conflict.

"Based on the results, he said, liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas. 'There is ample data from the history of science showing that social and political liberals indeed do tend to support major revolutions in science,' said Sulloway, who has written about the history of science and has studied behavioral differences between conservatives and liberals.

Even if liberal theists are unswayed by the atheists' arguments, it is important that they understand the atheists' place in the polity.  From an article:

"These results raise the question about whether changing a person's political outlook might be better achieved not through logical arguments, but rather by changing the way a person thinks. To make a person more liberal, get them to become more open to new experiences; to make a person more conservative, get them to become more rigid and structured in how they think.

"The same might be said about debates between atheists and theists: to change the mind of a theist, get them to be more open to the idea that that other religions, including those without gods, have as much legitimacy and likelihood of being true as their own. Once a person no longer expresses unquestioning confidence that theirs is the only true religion out of all religions that have ever existed or do exist, it's not such a big step to get them to begin questioning whether they can be unquestioningly confident in the existence of some sort of 'god.'

"If you aren't confident that 'god' exists, how can you be sure what this god wants — or even that it wants anything? If you aren't confident that a god would want anything, it's tough to justify living your life according to an allegedly divine code of conduct — much less imposing that code on others. If it's legitimate to live your life as if no gods existed, then what's the point in bothering to believe in any in the first place?

Looking at the historical impact of Christianity on human lives alone is quite a strain on our credulity -->

"Christian, Jew, Muslim, or any other sect, if a person hasn't reasoned their way into a position, it's unlikely that they will be reasoned out of it; that's as true for political matters as it is for religion. This means that logical arguments won't have nearly as much impact as many might assume. Changing the basic way people think and training them in the basic principles of skepticism, though, might have much more impact — although they will surely take longer and require more of a commitment.

Tomorrow: The Atheist Demographics


"Reading made Don Quixote a gentleman, but believing what he read made him

George Bernard Shaw


No comments:

Post a Comment