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Atheism, all the rage? June 8, 2007

Posted by Joe in agnosticism, atheism, belief, blogs, books, freethought, god, internet, life, media, religion, skepticism, theism.
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I’ve been an atheist since I was about 14. At the time I didn’t call myself that because I hadn’t even heard the word before. I didn’t believe there was a god though, so when I happened upon the word I snapped it up with no reservations.

In the last few months atheism seems to be everywhere! I see it mentioned on TV in news shows and entertainment shows, there are a number of books out related to atheism on the best seller lists and the authors are doing the interview circuit.


In doing this blog for only a few weeks I have noticed that the atheism posts get a lot more views (10+ times as many) as any other post I make. I bet my posts about morality would get a lot more traffic if I tagged them as being about atheism.

What’s all this hubbub about atheism? Is it just a fad? Does it reflect an American backlash against the current religious right political power or increased religious extremism? Or does it reflect an increased general mistrust of religion in America? Is America becoming less religious?

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1. Greg Jerome - June 8, 2007

Joe
I think America is certainly becoming less religious. This is the trend in the entire first world. Levels of religious participation in Europe are lower than anywhere in the world; I would suspect this directly leads to more atheism. It seems to me that the more intellectual and science based a culture becomes the harder it is for people to reconcile their religious faith with the empirical truths they see science present. It seems to me it is impossible to be an honest, thinking, scientific person and believe in God. Those two things just don’t mix.

2. mysteryofiniquity - June 8, 2007

Hi Joe,
I think the reason atheism is becoming more widespread is because of what Greg writes above, but also because we, as a thinking species, are evolving in our thought processes. Now that we are truly becoming a global community, we can see that others live differently than we do. We can see that we do not corner the market on morality. Morality is entirely a sociological construct. Sure, some things are always the same, such as when we learn that we don’t want others to harm us, so we shouldn’t harm others.

As people become more educated and as they reach out to more people and communicate on a wider scale, we expand our horizons and see beyond our narrow pinhole on the world. Religion doesn’t fill the need it once did, as it did when the universe was a scary place to live in and we didn’t understand weather phenomena or we couldn’t read or write or were at the mercy of those who owned our livelihood.

I see it as the next necessary step in the evolutionary process, but you are right that we are seeing a staggering increase all of a sudden probably because of the apocalyptic President who is now in office and the results of 9/11.

3. Space Kimchi - June 8, 2007

Atheists are one of the last great discriminated against classes in American society. People who are openly atheist will have a harder time securing a job and forget about running for public office, even in some of the more liberal areas of the US. Between this and the religious right running everything, it seems some high-profile atheists aren’t going to take it anymore and want Atheism to be a respected belief as it should be, just like it is in most of the rest of the modernized world.

4. metaljaybird - June 8, 2007

Joe,

I think many are curious about the religion of atheism. Fortunately, for Greg, science and God can and do mix. The greatest thinkers of Western Civilization have, for the most part, professed a belief in God. It is a common tactic for atheists to equate religious people as ignorant nonscientific fools.

I don’t see how Bush’s political system has anything to do with Christianity. In fact, Karl Rove is an admitted atheist. Look at the Democrat’s latest speeches, all proclaiming a strong belief in God. Will you be obliged to vote for them?

Me, I vote for Ron Paul. The only sensible person amongst these pack of wild boars.

5. brian t - June 8, 2007

It’s definitely a hot topic, and it’s easy to keep up with news on it using RSS feeds, etc. (I’m also a WordPress.com user, and subscribe to the Atheism tag feed.)

The USA’s current “foreign adventures” are inextricably linked to religion and how it is used to justify violence, on both sides. From my European perspective, I get the impression that there’s a growing horror in the USA at the way religion seems to be driving government policy, in violation of the US Constitution. Is it right to accuse someone of being unpatriotic, just because they don’t accept the religiously-motivated justifications for the Iraq “War”, and won’t take sides?

6. Joe - June 8, 2007

I wonder if it is just the awareness of atheism that is becoming more widespread, or if the numbers on atheists are actually growing.

It is certainly true that science and religion are not incompatible, but it is also true that the more extreme religious voices often paint them as if they are and attack science or specific theories as atheistic.

I honestly think this works in their disfavor. When they present such a dichotomy any believer that becomes disillusioned might feel that the only other option is atheism. If they presented a more nuanced outlook, those people might simply move to a more mainstream religious stance and would be less likely to move all the way to atheism.

I am not obliged to vote for a theist candidate, but any atheist vote would have to be a write in. The republicans are certainly viewed as the most religious party and some of the extreme religious pundits insist that Christians should always vote republican.

I think the Karl Rove atheism thing has really flown under the radar.

7. Space Kimchi - June 8, 2007

metaljaybird, I don’t think you nor the millions of people who share your attitude truly understand what atheism is about. While there is a segment of dogmatic (and sometimes obnoxious) atheists out there who bring all the negative trappings of religion along with a dogmatic belief that there is no god, there are more people out there who simply don’t believe in any gods for some sound reasons and more or less want to be left alone.

I come from a very religious background, and my life experiences have taught me that there is little enough proof in the divine that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with simply not believing in it. Someone who doesn’t is not broken, or a danger to society, just observant. There are good reasons to be religious and believe as well, but neither position is more valid, relevant, important, or makes the holder of the position an inherently better (or worse) person. Plenty of other modern societies are able to recognize this just fine (Scandinavia, for instance) but for some reason good ol’ Jesusland USA hasn’t quite caught on yet.

8. bookcrazy - June 8, 2007

It is as if I wrote this post. This same thought struck me around a month back and there are three posts on my blog with some really interesting discussion on it. It also led to some serious bookcrazy bashing on about.com by some Austin who presumes himself to know more about atheism than other atheists do, as if atheism was a system of study.
Frankly, it troubles me to see the atheist propounders behaving in the same way as religious pundits. I have been seriously thinking of shedding the tag and keeping the belief, i.e answering people that I do not believe in god, instead of saying I am an aheist.
You are absolutely right about the response to atheist posts on blogs. I was getting an average views of 10 till I posted my first write up on atheism and it shot to 80 a day. Religion has always made good business sense. It looks like now even atheism does.


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