Actually you all here probably do know these things, but this past Sunday the Chicago Tribune ran a fun little “top 10″ list about atheism, springboarding off the “Golden Compass” controversy. Here they are from writer Mark Jacobs:
1. Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley was expelled from Oxford University for co-writing a pamphlet called “The Necessity of Atheism” in 1811. When Shelley drowned in a boating accident at age 29, a British newspaper observed that “now he knows whether there is a God or not.”
2. To 20th Century philosopher Bertrand Russell, dogmatic belief in God was irrational. He said it would be like him demanding that people believe there was a china teapot orbiting the sun between Mars and Earth, too small to be detected by any telescope.
3. A contemporary version of Russell’s teapot is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. In 2005, when the Kansas School Board considered allowing the theory of intelligent design to be taught alongside evolution, an Oregon State University physics graduate named Bobby Henderson wrote a letter to the board demanding equal time for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Since then, the church has become an Internet sensation, embraced by atheists and other skeptics who call themselves Pastafarians.
4. The cover of Time magazine on April 8, 1966, asked a question that many Americans had not considered: “Is God Dead?” The cover attracted considerable attention, and a scene in the child-of-Satan film “Rosemary’s Baby” shows Rosemary reading that famous issue of Time.
5. Books rejecting the existence of God have had a major impact in recent years. Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great” was a finalist for this year’s National Book Award. Richard Dawkins’ Web site says his 2006 book “The God Delusion” has sold 1.5 million copies. But not everyone is impressed. Turkish prosecutors are considering whether to charge Dawkins’ Turkish publisher with “inciting hatred.”
6. A USA Today/Gallup poll in March found that Americans would sooner have a gay president than an atheist one. Gays were rejected by 42 percent, atheists by 48 percent.
7. Ron Reagan, son of the former president, says he can never win elective office because he is an atheist. But attitudes may be changing. This year, U.S. Rep. Fortney “Pete” Stark Jr. (D-Calif.) declared his disbelief in God. He is thought to be the first member of Congress ever to make that declaration.
8. Until a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1961, some states banned atheists from holding public office.
9. Katharine Hepburn, who portrayed a missionary in “The African Queen,” was an atheist.
10. The expression “There are no atheists in foxholes” asserts that even disbelievers come to God in their most needful moments. But a group called the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers would disagree. Author James Morrow once wrote that the expression about no atheists in foxholes is “not an argument against atheism–it’s an argument against foxholes.”