Why Atheists are still a minority
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27-10-2011, 08:50 PM
Why Atheists are still a minority
I've been thinking, as all of us on here do. Lately I've been trying to figure out why, despite all the advances in civilisation and education over the past century or two, the Atheist element of humanity is still very much the minority.

I've concluded that to be an Atheist you need to be both 'educated' and 'rational'. By educated I don't mean we all need to have degrees in physics or intimate knowledge of all aspects of the universe and its content. I mean educated enough to be capable of reading, writing, researching and questioning (and have free access to all sides of the argument).

By rational, I mean the ability to put aside inherent or supernatural beliefs, personal bias and superstitions and look at the evidence at hand in an objective manner.

I believe that the absence of one, or both, of these attributes will lead most to a religious path.

With so much of the world in poverty, education often lacks. Children are required to work, not go to school - they need to put food on the table. Naturally, these areas have very few 'free thinkers'!

Others have their education severely censored. Many are fed what their government want them fed, that is rarely information that would lead one to question religious dogma.

Those who are educated, yet persist in complete faith in their god, tend to be unable to think rationally. I know many highly intelligent people who simply refuse to acknowledge the possibility that there is no god. They have been raised to believe it, they look for his presence in everything and take comfort in the idea of him. To them, putting aside this belief on the back of contrary evidence is too confrontational to truly contemplate.

So, looking at it statistically, there is a lot against the possibility of an Atheist dominated planet! There are 4 types of people (based on my theory) possible -
1. Uneducated and Irrational.
2. Educated and Irrational.
3. Uneducated and Rational.
4. Educated and Rational.

In theory, this makes the chance of a free thinker about 25% (ok, I know there are a lot of factors that will effect this figure, but I will leave the pure mathematics to someone far more qualified than I!). We are working against some serious odds here! Even if we can educated the masses (impossible with certain religious and political groups that rely on oppression of thought), it is another thing entirely to get people to truly THINK!

Flavoured condoms are not proof that a vagina has taste buds! Tongue
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27-10-2011, 09:06 PM
RE: Why Atheists are still a minority
One of the largest reasons we are a minority is because our position is looked down upon in society. Many people do not wish to be disrespectful to religions, even when knowing the religion likely does not deserve said respect.

It is simply taboo to question religion in many societies, which is why our numbers seem low in many regards. However, I do not look at see myself as a lonely atheist, rather I consider anyone who is non-religious to be on my team, if you will.
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27-10-2011, 10:09 PM
RE: Why Atheists are still a minority
(27-10-2011 09:06 PM)mysticjbyrd Wrote:  One of the largest reasons we are a minority is because our position is looked down upon in society. Many people do not wish to be disrespectful to religions, even when knowing the religion likely does not deserve said respect.

It is simply taboo to question religion in many societies, which is why our numbers seem low in many regards. However, I do not look at see myself as a lonely atheist, rather I consider anyone who is non-religious to be on my team, if you will.

It would be interesting to get really honest answers from those people who state that they are Christians or that they believe in God.

I strongly suspect that the percentage of non-believers is enormously higher than we are led to believe and that people's answers about their religious beliefs are affected by societal norms and expectations.

Certainly the number of people attending church regularly is falling dramatically in many countries. If this is anything to go by then Christianity is most definitely losing its grip.

"To think of what the world has suffered from superstition, from religion, from the worship of beast and stone and god, is
almost enough to make one insane."

Robert G. Ingersoll
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01-11-2011, 10:24 AM
RE: Why Atheists are still a minority
It is easier to believe for a lot of people. You know, sometimes I think it actually would be nice to believe and have somebody to blame stuff on. Too bad there is nothing to believe in out there.
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01-11-2011, 01:55 PM
RE: Why Atheists are still a minority
I'm an atheist; here's what I got:

Morality is zero-state. Identity is dual-state. The Moral Will is being Unity of these two. All is Pure Number.

There's another 4 so I know this is universal law. Big Grin

Failure? Oh yeah, it's likely to be "nearly impossible" for a member of the commons to have faith in the beauty of Pure Number. Wink

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01-11-2011, 06:09 PM
RE: Why Atheists are still a minority
As kacenka said above, it's much easier for the general population to just believe some sky-daddy did everything than read a book and understand how the world around us works (and the Universe for that matter). Personally, I'm deeply proud to be able to think for myself and come to logical and rational conclusions that don't involve some supernatural/magic being up there "poofing" everything into existence!
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01-11-2011, 10:05 PM
RE: Why Atheists are still a minority
(01-11-2011 06:09 PM)Alaskan Atheist Wrote:  As kacenka said above, it's much easier for the general population to just believe some sky-daddy did everything than read a book and understand how the world around us works (and the Universe for that matter). Personally, I'm deeply proud to be able to think for myself and come to logical and rational conclusions that don't involve some supernatural/magic being up there "poofing" everything into existence!

Yes, indeed! "poofing" everything into existence is so quick and easy compared to the reality of things!

I think the science of things is much more interesting!

"To think of what the world has suffered from superstition, from religion, from the worship of beast and stone and god, is
almost enough to make one insane."

Robert G. Ingersoll
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02-11-2011, 11:53 PM
RE: Why Atheists are still a minority
(27-10-2011 08:50 PM)Nye Wrote:  I've concluded that to be an Atheist you need to be both 'educated' and 'rational'...

With respect, I believe putting much stock in a conclusion like this could itself lead to irrational biases and ultimately end up generating far more heat than light. It presumes, for example, that educated, rational Theists do not exist which does a disservice to Theists and Atheists alike. When any Atheist contends, as this conclusion implies, that everyone would reject god if only they were as intellectually gifted, any self respecting believer would be right to dismiss them out of hand.

Don't get me wrong here. I agree that the more educated one becomes the more likely they are to question and ultimately reject any pre-existing notions of god they may have had. As Dan Dennett, who studied people in the clergy who have lost their faith suggests, even the education received in seminary can ultimately lead to laying aside belief. This should not lead us to conclude, however, that if someone still believes that they lack either the education or rational capacity.

(27-10-2011 08:50 PM)Nye Wrote:  By rational, I mean the ability to put aside inherent or supernatural beliefs, personal bias and superstitions and look at the evidence at hand in an objective manner.

I believe that the absence of one, or both, of these attributes will lead most to a religious path.

This seems misses an important fact - we are not born with superstitions and supernatural beliefs, these are learned from the people around us. We are born Atheists. What leads most of us down the religious path is that we are taken by the hand and lead down it, many right from the time we are able to comprehend language. Beliefs formed at such an early age, before we have the capacity to question them or consider alternatives and re-enforced by parents and role models, can become entangled with the whole of our world view and our very sense of who we are. I think the loss of these things would seem inconceivable to anyone, and if they were bound up with notions of god then the idea that god doesn't exist would seem equally inconceivable. When faced with a believer's intractable notions we'd do well to recognize that it is most likely this and not some intellectual deficit that accounts for the contortionist rationalizations they may be willing to go through to avoid conceding what is to them the impossible alternative.

I am of course generalizing here. Each individual and their circumstances vary as do the strength and meaning of each individual's belief. In my own case, I was raised lapsed Catholic but when the rest of my family relapsed when I was about 13 it took very little effort on my part to decide I was having none of it. On the other hand there are those who's path to non-belief took far longer and was much more traumatic. Was it easier for me back then because with my grade 8 education and in the throes of puberty I could claim to be more educated and rational or was it just that I didn't have quite so much to shake off?

I think what we can say about education (our rational capacity is largely learned so it too is tied to education) is that the better the system over a longer period of time the less hold religion will tend to have. What we can't do, and should take great care to avoid even implying, is point to anyone and suggest they'd stop believing in god if only they were smarter.

- Joe
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03-11-2011, 01:29 AM
RE: Why Atheists are still a minority
(02-11-2011 11:53 PM)Eye Sage Wrote:  I am of course generalizing here. Each individual and their circumstances vary as do the strength and meaning of each individual's belief.

Ever since I was baptized Irish Catholic, I've never drifted very far from atheism - although it took me 43 years to become an atheist.

I don't consider that "one is born atheist" (and there has been research to indicate the opposite is more likely the case), I consider that I am "natural-born mathematician," a state of emergent affairs. Which is to say the Question still outranks the Answer - and humans still live to question - it is adults who make conclusions.

As a writer, I only make conclusions in order to write. As a man, I have never been other than child - why!?!? Big Grin

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03-11-2011, 11:59 AM
 
RE: Why Atheists are still a minority
This is mostly an issue with parenting. We are born with a clean slate and that slate is gradually carved by influence and experience. As young children we trust our parents' guidance as they trusted their parents to guide them. If something isn't broken, why fix it? My parents were divorced early in my life and my mother considers herself southern baptist. I was raised by her and, fortunately, was never force fed any of the koolaid. I think that the extent in which one gets exposed at an early age to these superstitions is the largest single factor in what molds their life philosophy. Some of us start to question things and some of us do not; I think it's a matter of comfort. If you are comfortable believing in something and you are too ignorant to see the negative aspects of that belief as a whole, then why change it because some asshole (usually) nonbeliever tells you otherwise. Perhaps if atheists, like myself, could build a level of trust with Christians before starting to tear them down, we would be much more successful in converting them to real people. Big Grin One thing that the church is doing more effectively than nonbelievers.... building trust. People buy you before they buy your ideals. That's just my opinion.
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