Buzz-Killing The Atheists Are Awesome Videos

George dissects the atheism videos we featured earlier today which showed just how awesome atheists are and how much everyone would miss us if we took our awesomeness away.  George kills some buzz with a little fact checking:

I am going to begrudgingly play devil’s advocate here so don’t panic, I have not gone off my rocker.
A few points…
1. The statistic in the first video that the crime rate, teenage pregnancy rate, etc. would increase is very poorly explained in the second video. Statistics are wonderful things, and I am sure that the instances of criminal activity, teenage pregnancy, etc. is higher among the religious population, but that needs to be firmly established to use the argument in the second video with the “beer drinkers”. I know that some will argue that the prison population statistic from video 1 put s hole in my argument, but many prisoners convert while in prison, call them a “captive audience”. I think two or three additional frames making this firm correlation would have been helpful.

Yes, I thought that he didn’t adequately clarify the concept of per capita very well either with one unclear example—but nonetheless at least the stats were not false.

2. The Correlation between national wealth and atheism is tenuous at best. My first logical step was to find the country GDP rankings and atheism statistics cited in the video. Sadly I could not find the same statistics on atheism that were cited, but using another published study on atheism by country…
#2 per capita GDP Norway has a conservative 31% Atheism rate
#3 Switzerland has 17% Atheism rate
#4 U.S.A. has a pathetic 3% atheism rate
Highest percentage of Atheism?
VIETNAM…any guess where they rank for GDP?
….#125 of 163 listed nations.

There is a lot of hubbub over Denmark’s de facto atheism which is masked by nominal Christianity.  The real issue, I think, is probably one of comparing secularists to religionists.  What I think we really need are ways of measuring people along several axis that are hard to discover.

(1) Political Secularism vs. Political Religiousness (regardless of people’s private or cultural secularism, how much do they support or oppose keeping religion out of public policy and government ritual)

(2) Cultural Secularism vs. Cultural Religiousness (regardless of how they feel about church and state issues, do they believe in public cultural expressions of faith/converting people/orienting their lives around their faith community, etc. or do they keep any religiosity entirely private)

(3) Private Secularism vs. Private Religiousness (regardless of whether they like political or cultural religious expressions, and regardless of whether they might weakly posit the existence of some sort of God or higher power, how devout are they in their actual private life?  Are they theist in theory but not only politically and culturally but even privately not very religious?  Are they de facto complete secularists despite nominal religious affiliations and a willingness to assent vaguely to some religious or philosophical God beliefs?)

(4) Default Non-Believer vs. Default Believer.  It would be interesting to compare those who run on automatic pilot as nominally religious vs. those who run on automatic pilot completely irreligiously.  What are the different effects between these two groups?  Those who relate to religion self-consciously get different benefits and harms from either adopting it explicitly and thoughtfully or rejecting it explicitly and thoughtfully.  I wonder about the mushy middle, what the effects of not caring about religion as a non-believer are as opposed to not caring much about it and still believing vaguely.

(5) Self-Conscious Atheist/Agnostic/Humanist vs. Committed Believer.  What are the tangible differences between lives consciously constructed with belief or non-belief as key parts of one’s sense of identity.

Distinguishing people along these 5 axes and then studying their behavior and attitude differences would be most interesting to me and I think more revelatory than the catch-all dichotomy of “atheism vs. everything else.”  And, finally, it is tricky to figure out what to do about the communists since they’re technically atheists but they suffer from the same exact dogmas and irrationalities that the contemporary American “new atheism” movement is explicitly designed around opposing first and foremost.

3.The humorous/scary/sad comments used in the second video are far from representative of the Christian commentary of the YouTube video. I checked. In some cases there is even constructive discussions of the issue going on. I couldn’t believe it either…Constructive dialogue on a site virtually created for the LCD. Go see for yourself; admittedly though, there is a lot of tripe.

Encouraging news (and admirably fair of you to investigate and report it.)

I must say though that the quotes from former presidents and founding fathers was delightful and helps to illuminate the true “Christian nature” of America. I believe that there was quite a few good arguments put forth and it is nice to occasionally be entertained by ideas.

Indeeed.  Indulge some more.

I found the picture of the guy with Down Syndrome pretty offensive though…

As we all should.  Sorry it didn’t register with me before I posted it.

Your Thoughts?

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://Thinkingsapiens.wordpress.com Robster FCD

    Just trying to get ahold of you, Daniel. There is a post for you in your email. Later, rob

  • George

    I didn’t mean to “buzzkill” the video in the least. I think it has more truth and more facts backing it up than most creationist arguments I have encountered over the last year or so (see A Contemporary Case for Humanism for a brilliant example). I agree with the premise of the videos as well as all the comments you made in this thread, many of which are wonderful food for thought. I suppose I disagree more with the medium than the message.

    I understand fully WHY the medium was what it was, science and the humanities often are what make the arguments around atheism “unsexy”. As much as I enjoy to watch theists, creationists and their ilk eat their words, I also know that a not-entirely-insane Christian could have made the same points and claimed the whole premise to be false. She would have made the same stupid argument that if every piece of evidence points to a singular fact and I can disprove even one of those pieces of evidence….the singular fact must be wrong. I once turned to my creationist friend and said “If you take a slice of cheese and poke a few holes in it, it is still cheese…just ask the Swiss”…he laughed for one of the first times since we reacquainted. The fact remains that these people are spoon fed by AIG how to “win” an argument by lying, overstating, and twisting.
    We need to present clear and concise arguments that are beyond reproach. As we all know, that won’t stop them from lying, twisting,and overstating but it does force them to hurt their own credibility. Logical Christians are out there…I know because I was one, and they can see through a weak argument. If we are trying to take “hearts and minds” we should avoid giving them the legs to stand on.

  • Daniel Fincke

    Well said, as usual, George. I agree and I understood the spirit of what you did (so much so that I decided to profile it in its own post).

    When I originally posted the videos the propaganda style of them led me to make the tongue-in-cheek remark about how awesome atheists are as a way of acknowledging the genre we were dealing with and the need to take things in perspective of that.

    So, when you fact-checked it, I responded to it in the same tongue-in-cheek manner as you “buzz-killing” my “atheists are awesome” high. But I really appreciate your attitude and approach greatly.


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