Equal rights for atheists

We have had movements for equal rights for African-Americans, women, gays.  The next victimized, discriminated against minority who are demanding approval:  Atheists!

The Washington Post has published an op-ed piece by Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman, raising the issue and asking “Why don’t Americans like atheists?”

Long after blacks and Jews have made great strides, and even as homosexuals gain respect, acceptance and new rights, there is still a group that lots of Americans just don’t like much: atheists. Those who don’t believe in God are widely considered to be immoral, wicked and angry. They can’t join the Boy Scouts. Atheist soldiers are rated potentially deficient when they do not score as sufficiently “spiritual” in military psychological evaluations. Surveys find that most Americans refuse or are reluctant to marry or vote for nontheists; in other words, nonbelievers are one minority still commonly denied in practical terms the right to assume office despite the constitutional ban on religious tests.

Rarely denounced by the mainstream, this stunning anti-atheist discrimination is egged on by Christian conservatives who stridently — and uncivilly — declare that the lack of godly faith is detrimental to society, rendering nonbelievers intrinsically suspect and second-class citizens.

Is this knee-jerk dislike of atheists warranted? Not even close.

A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.

via Why do Americans still dislike atheists? – The Washington Post.

First of all, to answer the initial question, the major reasons atheists aren’t well-liked are evident right there in the column:  the atheists’ habit of condescension, anti-religious bigotry, reductionistic snarkiness, and insufferable smugness.

Second, one has to ask, how, exactly, are atheists being discriminated against?  Are they not allowed to vote?  Are they not getting hired?  Is there wage discrimination against atheists?  Are they not allowed to get married?  A complaint here is that studies show that many people don’t want to marry an atheist and don’t want to vote for one.   If someone doesn’t want to marry you, is he or she violating your rights and discriminating against you?  Should defeated politicians be able to sue everyone who voted against them for discrimination?   I realize that the authors are just demanding social acceptance, but can there be an inalienable right to be liked?

The third point is the most important of all.  Notice how the authors are framing the issues.  Atheists are actually MORE moral than religious people, they say.  They then define “basic morality and human decency” not according to a traditional measure (such as the second table of the Ten Commandments) but according to what is primarily (though not completely) a list of distinctly contemporary secularist positions.  Thus, someone who does not believe in homosexuality, who does believe in capital punishment, who sometimes spanks his child, and who is not an environmentalist is EVIL, lacking basic morality and human decency.

This kind of moral and social inversion, if it catches on, would very soon result in actual and probably legal-driven discrimination against an unpopular minority whose human rights would be violated:  Religious people.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I didn’t realize that atheists were being segregated with “Dawkins Crow” laws or anything like that.

    As it has been said before, you have the right to believe what you want; you do not have the right to coerce everybody else into seeing your belief as valid.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    I didn’t realize that atheists were being segregated with “Dawkins Crow” laws or anything like that.

    As it has been said before, you have the right to believe what you want; you do not have the right to coerce everybody else into seeing your belief as valid.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    ^ +1

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    ^ +1

  • Pete

    What alternate universe does this bonehead writer live in? Atheists are PERFECTLY free to, say, join the Boy Scouts. I’m not sure why they would want to join an organization which is committed to the belief (however vague) that commitment to organized religion is, in general, a good thing. The atheist is perfectly free to challenge that assumption and to form his own boy’s group with his own assumptions. The problem is that he’s smart enough to know that that wouldn’t fly – at least not to the popular extent and with the eventual resources of the Boy Scouts.
    I think the real issue is inability to cope with marginalization. It’s okay to have beliefs that are not in the mainstream, such as atheism or (apropos this website) the bodily presence of Christ in Holy Communion, but you can’t go all whiney if these beliefs result in your being marginalized in some way.

  • Pete

    What alternate universe does this bonehead writer live in? Atheists are PERFECTLY free to, say, join the Boy Scouts. I’m not sure why they would want to join an organization which is committed to the belief (however vague) that commitment to organized religion is, in general, a good thing. The atheist is perfectly free to challenge that assumption and to form his own boy’s group with his own assumptions. The problem is that he’s smart enough to know that that wouldn’t fly – at least not to the popular extent and with the eventual resources of the Boy Scouts.
    I think the real issue is inability to cope with marginalization. It’s okay to have beliefs that are not in the mainstream, such as atheism or (apropos this website) the bodily presence of Christ in Holy Communion, but you can’t go all whiney if these beliefs result in your being marginalized in some way.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Wasn’t it Flannery O’ Connor who wrote a book about a Christless “revivalism” church?

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Wasn’t it Flannery O’ Connor who wrote a book about a Christless “revivalism” church?

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    ” On basic questions of morality … the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers…”[Citation needed]

    Yawn.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    ” On basic questions of morality … the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers…”[Citation needed]

    Yawn.

  • Jonathan

    “We have had movements for equal rights for African-Americans, women, gays. The next victimized, discriminated against minority who are demanding approval …”

    No doubt unintentional, but that’s a dismissive description of both blacks and women. Blacks are the only ethnic group that was enslaved in this country, then legally segregated and humiliated. Women were long denied the rights to own property and to vote, and still do not fully receive equal pay for equal work. That blacks and women even had to demand “approval” speaks volumes about American injustice. It’s disturbing and perhaps revealing that blacks and women are so casually listed among groups (gays, atheists) whose demands are not respected by the religious right.

  • Jonathan

    “We have had movements for equal rights for African-Americans, women, gays. The next victimized, discriminated against minority who are demanding approval …”

    No doubt unintentional, but that’s a dismissive description of both blacks and women. Blacks are the only ethnic group that was enslaved in this country, then legally segregated and humiliated. Women were long denied the rights to own property and to vote, and still do not fully receive equal pay for equal work. That blacks and women even had to demand “approval” speaks volumes about American injustice. It’s disturbing and perhaps revealing that blacks and women are so casually listed among groups (gays, atheists) whose demands are not respected by the religious right.

  • DonS

    It’s clear that our mainstream institutions have absolutely no idea what the term “rights” means anymore.

  • DonS

    It’s clear that our mainstream institutions have absolutely no idea what the term “rights” means anymore.

  • Jonathan

    “We have had movements for equal rights for African-Americans, women, gays. The next victimized, discriminated against minority who are demanding approval …”

    It’s disturbing to see blacks and women so casually listed among groups (gays, atheists) who demands are mentioned only to provoke ridicule. Blacks were the only ethnic group enslaved in this country, then segregated and humiliated. Women were long denied the rights to own property and to vote, and still do not receive equal pay for equal work.

  • Jonathan

    “We have had movements for equal rights for African-Americans, women, gays. The next victimized, discriminated against minority who are demanding approval …”

    It’s disturbing to see blacks and women so casually listed among groups (gays, atheists) who demands are mentioned only to provoke ridicule. Blacks were the only ethnic group enslaved in this country, then segregated and humiliated. Women were long denied the rights to own property and to vote, and still do not receive equal pay for equal work.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    ” On basic questions of morality … the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers…”

    Atheists who are confident enough in their unbelief to admit their atheism tend to be smarter than average. They also tend to have their act together. I have a fair number of very nice atheist friends and they are ethical and moral. However, I would say the causality runs from the combination of characteristics (intelligence, conscientiousness) in a given individual to atheism. Atheism doesn’t cause intelligence and conscientiousness. Those traits are more likely risk factors for atheism.

    Militant atheism is mostly anti Christian, which tells you something right there. Christianity is the foundation for modern civilization. So, attacks on it are attacking much more than just religion. The give away is if the atheists are not bad mouthing Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, shamanism, animism, etc. Christians are the most tolerant of atheists. And atheists have enjoyed the most freedom and protection in Christian countries, and far less in the others. Christians are the least suspicious and antagonistic towards atheists.

    Atheists are not trusted

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    ” On basic questions of morality … the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers…”

    Atheists who are confident enough in their unbelief to admit their atheism tend to be smarter than average. They also tend to have their act together. I have a fair number of very nice atheist friends and they are ethical and moral. However, I would say the causality runs from the combination of characteristics (intelligence, conscientiousness) in a given individual to atheism. Atheism doesn’t cause intelligence and conscientiousness. Those traits are more likely risk factors for atheism.

    Militant atheism is mostly anti Christian, which tells you something right there. Christianity is the foundation for modern civilization. So, attacks on it are attacking much more than just religion. The give away is if the atheists are not bad mouthing Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, shamanism, animism, etc. Christians are the most tolerant of atheists. And atheists have enjoyed the most freedom and protection in Christian countries, and far less in the others. Christians are the least suspicious and antagonistic towards atheists.

    Atheists are not trusted

  • Jon

    In the intro to this discussion, it was disturbing to see blacks and women so casually listed among groups (gays, atheists) who demands are mentioned only to provoke ridicule. Blacks were the only ethnic group enslaved in this country, then segregated and humiliated. Women were long denied the rights to own property and to vote, and still do not receive equal pay for equal work.

  • Jon

    In the intro to this discussion, it was disturbing to see blacks and women so casually listed among groups (gays, atheists) who demands are mentioned only to provoke ridicule. Blacks were the only ethnic group enslaved in this country, then segregated and humiliated. Women were long denied the rights to own property and to vote, and still do not receive equal pay for equal work.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s a minor point, Pete (@3), but you are incorrect when you say “Atheists are PERFECTLY free to, say, join the Boy Scouts.”

    I quote from the BSA National Council legal issues Web site:

    All levels of advancement in the Scouting program have requirements recognizing “duty to God”. … Boy Scouts of America believes that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. Accordingly, youth members and adult volunteer leaders of Boy Scouts of America obligate themselves to do their duty to God and be reverent as embodied in the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. … Because of Scouting’s methods and beliefs, Scouting does not accept atheists and agnostics as members or adult volunteer leaders.

    Much more at the link. Of course, as a member of the WELS, I think this atheist’s approach to complaining about their requirements is a bit whiny.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s a minor point, Pete (@3), but you are incorrect when you say “Atheists are PERFECTLY free to, say, join the Boy Scouts.”

    I quote from the BSA National Council legal issues Web site:

    All levels of advancement in the Scouting program have requirements recognizing “duty to God”. … Boy Scouts of America believes that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. Accordingly, youth members and adult volunteer leaders of Boy Scouts of America obligate themselves to do their duty to God and be reverent as embodied in the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. … Because of Scouting’s methods and beliefs, Scouting does not accept atheists and agnostics as members or adult volunteer leaders.

    Much more at the link. Of course, as a member of the WELS, I think this atheist’s approach to complaining about their requirements is a bit whiny.

  • Jon

    “We have had movements for equal rights for African-Americans, women, gays. The next victimized, discriminated against minority who are demanding approval …”

    It’s disturbing to see blacks and women listed so casually among groups (gays, atheists) who demands are mentioned only to provoke ridicule. Blacks were the only ethnic group enslaved in this country, then segregated and humiliated. Women were long denied the rights to own property and to vote, and still do not receive equal pay for equal work.

  • Jon

    “We have had movements for equal rights for African-Americans, women, gays. The next victimized, discriminated against minority who are demanding approval …”

    It’s disturbing to see blacks and women listed so casually among groups (gays, atheists) who demands are mentioned only to provoke ridicule. Blacks were the only ethnic group enslaved in this country, then segregated and humiliated. Women were long denied the rights to own property and to vote, and still do not receive equal pay for equal work.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    The article both contains both some good points and some howlers. I do think Veith’s title for this discussion, “Equal rights for atheists”, tends to miss the point of the article (one might even call it reductionistically snarky ;) ), which is far less about “rights” than it is about “respect” and being “liked” (though, yes, that one line about “one minority still commonly denied in practical terms the right to assume office” was definitely one of the howlers).

    And while the article crows about atheists’ “intelligence” and “scientific literacy”, the author himself shows a disturbing inability to distinguish between correlation and causation (e.g. “Consider that at the societal level, murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States.”)

    I agree with Vieth though, that the author employs fairly circular logic when discussing “basic questions of morality and human decency” for which “the irreligious tend to be more ethical” — what, exactly, is the universally ethical position on “punitive hitting of children”, for example?

    That said, I do think that Christians tend to have ridiculous ideas about atheists — notably, that they aren’t or can’te be moral. I know simply too many atheists, some of whom are almost certainly better people than me, to believe such nonsense.

    Ultimately, the atheists’ “we’re better than you” tone in this article perfectly mirrors what they’ve heard from Christian talking to atheists. Which shows that both the atheists in this article and not a few Christians, to boot, fail to understand the meaning of Psalm 14 (referred to in the article). It refers to the universal human condition, not merely how awful atheists are. Would that Christians would keep this in mind before they try to prove how much better they are than atheists.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    The article both contains both some good points and some howlers. I do think Veith’s title for this discussion, “Equal rights for atheists”, tends to miss the point of the article (one might even call it reductionistically snarky ;) ), which is far less about “rights” than it is about “respect” and being “liked” (though, yes, that one line about “one minority still commonly denied in practical terms the right to assume office” was definitely one of the howlers).

    And while the article crows about atheists’ “intelligence” and “scientific literacy”, the author himself shows a disturbing inability to distinguish between correlation and causation (e.g. “Consider that at the societal level, murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States.”)

    I agree with Vieth though, that the author employs fairly circular logic when discussing “basic questions of morality and human decency” for which “the irreligious tend to be more ethical” — what, exactly, is the universally ethical position on “punitive hitting of children”, for example?

    That said, I do think that Christians tend to have ridiculous ideas about atheists — notably, that they aren’t or can’te be moral. I know simply too many atheists, some of whom are almost certainly better people than me, to believe such nonsense.

    Ultimately, the atheists’ “we’re better than you” tone in this article perfectly mirrors what they’ve heard from Christian talking to atheists. Which shows that both the atheists in this article and not a few Christians, to boot, fail to understand the meaning of Psalm 14 (referred to in the article). It refers to the universal human condition, not merely how awful atheists are. Would that Christians would keep this in mind before they try to prove how much better they are than atheists.

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    So the complaint is basically that people don’t like them. Is it really the best response to argue that people have a moral responsibility to like them and then condemn everyone who doesn’t? Is that really likable?

  • http://www.matthewcochran.net/blog Matt Cochran

    So the complaint is basically that people don’t like them. Is it really the best response to argue that people have a moral responsibility to like them and then condemn everyone who doesn’t? Is that really likable?

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    What tODD said; yes, atheists are at least officially ineligible to be part of the Boy Scouts, and that is a good thing. Most of us, I assume, are in the same way ineligible to join officially atheistic organizations, and in no way resent that.

    Atheist rights? Well, to be judged according to the content of their character according to Psalm 14, of course. And when they start spouting off nonsense about not spanking or driving, just let ‘em know that that works when you don’t have kids or realize that the bus only gets 25 passenger-miles per gallon of diesel fuel–about the same as a Suburban would with a diesel engine, really.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    What tODD said; yes, atheists are at least officially ineligible to be part of the Boy Scouts, and that is a good thing. Most of us, I assume, are in the same way ineligible to join officially atheistic organizations, and in no way resent that.

    Atheist rights? Well, to be judged according to the content of their character according to Psalm 14, of course. And when they start spouting off nonsense about not spanking or driving, just let ‘em know that that works when you don’t have kids or realize that the bus only gets 25 passenger-miles per gallon of diesel fuel–about the same as a Suburban would with a diesel engine, really.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith said:

    The major reasons atheists aren’t well-liked are evident right there in the column: the atheists’ habit of condescension, … reductionistic snarkiness, and insufferable smugness.

    Well, if we’re going to rule out those qualities, then you might as well shut down the comment function on your blog! ;) Er, um, because … other people are like that … not me.

    Also, Bubba (@11), pretty sure your mileage calculations don’t pan out, but that’s pretty darn off-topic.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Veith said:

    The major reasons atheists aren’t well-liked are evident right there in the column: the atheists’ habit of condescension, … reductionistic snarkiness, and insufferable smugness.

    Well, if we’re going to rule out those qualities, then you might as well shut down the comment function on your blog! ;) Er, um, because … other people are like that … not me.

    Also, Bubba (@11), pretty sure your mileage calculations don’t pan out, but that’s pretty darn off-topic.

  • DonS

    I don’t think the dislike of atheists is “kneejerk”, as claimed in the article. Militant atheists aren’t happy with being left alone in their disbelief. They insist on eradicating any public expression or practice of the religious beliefs of others, on the basis of being offended. Litigating to remove memorial crosses from cemeteries and other public lands is not going to make you popular. Nor is litigating to disallow the recitation of the pledge of allegiance, voluntary Bible studies by outside organizations, or private prayers by students, in public schools. Or litigating to remove IN GOD WE TRUST from our currency.

    If you want to be liked, then you need to be likable. Otherwise, accept the fact that you’ve made your own bed and live with it.

  • DonS

    I don’t think the dislike of atheists is “kneejerk”, as claimed in the article. Militant atheists aren’t happy with being left alone in their disbelief. They insist on eradicating any public expression or practice of the religious beliefs of others, on the basis of being offended. Litigating to remove memorial crosses from cemeteries and other public lands is not going to make you popular. Nor is litigating to disallow the recitation of the pledge of allegiance, voluntary Bible studies by outside organizations, or private prayers by students, in public schools. Or litigating to remove IN GOD WE TRUST from our currency.

    If you want to be liked, then you need to be likable. Otherwise, accept the fact that you’ve made your own bed and live with it.

  • Pete

    tODD @8. Ach – you once again display your penchant for producing facts. And, as seems so often to be the case, you are absolutely correct. I didn’t expend the effort to ferret out the official Boy Scout position but figured that it was probably similar to what you found it to be. In noting that an atheist could join the scouts, I was betraying my cynicism and assuming that an atheist who really wanted his or her son to be involved in scouting would simply and disingenuously check the “yes” box under “religion” and not elaborate further.
    One wonders what the scouts might do for someone who indicated that their religion was “Radical Islam”. Might do better with atheists.

  • Pete

    tODD @8. Ach – you once again display your penchant for producing facts. And, as seems so often to be the case, you are absolutely correct. I didn’t expend the effort to ferret out the official Boy Scout position but figured that it was probably similar to what you found it to be. In noting that an atheist could join the scouts, I was betraying my cynicism and assuming that an atheist who really wanted his or her son to be involved in scouting would simply and disingenuously check the “yes” box under “religion” and not elaborate further.
    One wonders what the scouts might do for someone who indicated that their religion was “Radical Islam”. Might do better with atheists.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Pete (@14), the Scouts only insist that you have faith in some kind of deity — doesn’t have to be a popular one, or even a pro-American one. You just have to do your “duty to God”, however you may define “God”.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Pete (@14), the Scouts only insist that you have faith in some kind of deity — doesn’t have to be a popular one, or even a pro-American one. You just have to do your “duty to God”, however you may define “God”.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    As an Eagle Scout, I’m thinking that the ‘screening process’ for scouts and their leaders is pretty loose. Especially when the word ‘agnostic’ is thrown in there. Every meeting I attended (albeit back some time ago) opened with the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout Motto wherein the duty to God part shows up. Agnostics who participate probably let that stuff go in one ear and out the other without complaint.
    I thought the same thing as our host when the article came to the part about the “list of distinctly contemporary secularist positions”. That’s hilarious.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    As an Eagle Scout, I’m thinking that the ‘screening process’ for scouts and their leaders is pretty loose. Especially when the word ‘agnostic’ is thrown in there. Every meeting I attended (albeit back some time ago) opened with the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Scout Motto wherein the duty to God part shows up. Agnostics who participate probably let that stuff go in one ear and out the other without complaint.
    I thought the same thing as our host when the article came to the part about the “list of distinctly contemporary secularist positions”. That’s hilarious.

  • Joe

    @Bubba and tODD – it appears (as common sense would suggest) to be a simple function of the number of people on the bus:

    “A diesel bus commuter service in Santa Barbara, CA, USA found average diesel bus efficiency of 6.0 mpg-US (39 L/100 km; 7.2 mpg-imp) (using MCI 102DL3 buses). With all 55 seats filled this equates to 330 passenger-mpg, with 70% filled the efficiency would be 231 passenger-mpg.[38] At the typical average passenger load of 9 people, the efficiency is only 54 passenger-mpg and could be half of this figure when many stops are made in urban routes.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_efficiency_in_transportation

    But assuming that 9 is the average passenger load as this wiki article apparently did, it looks like Bubba’s figures are not necessarily incorrect.

  • Joe

    @Bubba and tODD – it appears (as common sense would suggest) to be a simple function of the number of people on the bus:

    “A diesel bus commuter service in Santa Barbara, CA, USA found average diesel bus efficiency of 6.0 mpg-US (39 L/100 km; 7.2 mpg-imp) (using MCI 102DL3 buses). With all 55 seats filled this equates to 330 passenger-mpg, with 70% filled the efficiency would be 231 passenger-mpg.[38] At the typical average passenger load of 9 people, the efficiency is only 54 passenger-mpg and could be half of this figure when many stops are made in urban routes.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_efficiency_in_transportation

    But assuming that 9 is the average passenger load as this wiki article apparently did, it looks like Bubba’s figures are not necessarily incorrect.

  • reg

    It is ironic that the article says:

    “On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.”

    Why? Given that atheists believe that there is no transcendent meaning or absolute standard of morality the notion of more moral or more ethical behavior is meaningless. Who says these positions are more ethical or more moral? What is the basis for this claim? In an atheist world the only logically consistent position is worship of power and expedience.

  • reg

    It is ironic that the article says:

    “On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.”

    Why? Given that atheists believe that there is no transcendent meaning or absolute standard of morality the notion of more moral or more ethical behavior is meaningless. Who says these positions are more ethical or more moral? What is the basis for this claim? In an atheist world the only logically consistent position is worship of power and expedience.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “In an atheist world the only logically consistent position is worship of power and expedience.”

    Hmm, what about utility?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “In an atheist world the only logically consistent position is worship of power and expedience.”

    Hmm, what about utility?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility

  • Porcell

    While individual atheists may be good, ethical people, the overall societal effect of them is lethal. Alan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind amply shows how European nihilism ultimately led to the catastrophe of the twentieth century that involved a combination of pacifism and isolationism that took too long to stand up to fascism and communism.

    Chesterton presaged this with his remark that When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing – they believe in anything.

    Of course, Christian sectarian religious enthusiasts are just as woeful in that they lack the imagination to appreciate the great religious thinkers of all the religious traditions.

  • Porcell

    While individual atheists may be good, ethical people, the overall societal effect of them is lethal. Alan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind amply shows how European nihilism ultimately led to the catastrophe of the twentieth century that involved a combination of pacifism and isolationism that took too long to stand up to fascism and communism.

    Chesterton presaged this with his remark that When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing – they believe in anything.

    Of course, Christian sectarian religious enthusiasts are just as woeful in that they lack the imagination to appreciate the great religious thinkers of all the religious traditions.

  • steve

    “First of all, to answer the initial question, the major reasons atheists aren’t well-liked are evident right there in the column: the atheists’ habit of condescension, anti-religious bigotry, reductionistic snarkiness, and insufferable smugness.”

    On the nose! On the bleepitty-bleep nose!

  • steve

    “First of all, to answer the initial question, the major reasons atheists aren’t well-liked are evident right there in the column: the atheists’ habit of condescension, anti-religious bigotry, reductionistic snarkiness, and insufferable smugness.”

    On the nose! On the bleepitty-bleep nose!

  • steve
  • steve
  • Michael Z.

    It started with the homosexual movement. The co-opting of the word “rights” to mean cultural affirmation. Sheesh! whiners.

  • Michael Z.

    It started with the homosexual movement. The co-opting of the word “rights” to mean cultural affirmation. Sheesh! whiners.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    tODD, Joe, my source on transit efficiency is figures from San Jose and the Twin Cities, and the trick is that the bus doesn’t have the sense, as your car does, not to be moving when it’s empty–outbound in the morning, at off peak hours, and inbound in the evening. An empty rate of about 75% is typical for buses, leaving the other 25% to achieve those economies of scale Joe mentions.

    That said, typical bus efficiency is not 6mpg (except on highways), but rather 3.5mpg, and typical bus size is 40 passengers, not 55.

    And yes, you’ll see a higher proportion of atheists arguing in favor of boondoggles like transit than believers.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    tODD, Joe, my source on transit efficiency is figures from San Jose and the Twin Cities, and the trick is that the bus doesn’t have the sense, as your car does, not to be moving when it’s empty–outbound in the morning, at off peak hours, and inbound in the evening. An empty rate of about 75% is typical for buses, leaving the other 25% to achieve those economies of scale Joe mentions.

    That said, typical bus efficiency is not 6mpg (except on highways), but rather 3.5mpg, and typical bus size is 40 passengers, not 55.

    And yes, you’ll see a higher proportion of atheists arguing in favor of boondoggles like transit than believers.

  • helen

    BikeBubba @ 28
    And yes, you’ll see a higher proportion of atheists arguing in favor of boondoggles like transit than believers.

    That may be why we have a “light rail” of two cars containing maybe half a dozen people wending its way from a distant suburb to down town Austin! It travels over 72 level crossings; at each of which that I have been stuck at, a dozen cars have been idling, in each direction, more on the busier streets. I find it hard to believe that the train saves us more pollution than is created by those waiting cars. (We also have another shuttle bus on campus, because that train does not stop anywhere near and so anyone who uses it has to be brought over to us .) The “efficiency” of that particular shuttle would be an interesting exercise!

  • helen

    BikeBubba @ 28
    And yes, you’ll see a higher proportion of atheists arguing in favor of boondoggles like transit than believers.

    That may be why we have a “light rail” of two cars containing maybe half a dozen people wending its way from a distant suburb to down town Austin! It travels over 72 level crossings; at each of which that I have been stuck at, a dozen cars have been idling, in each direction, more on the busier streets. I find it hard to believe that the train saves us more pollution than is created by those waiting cars. (We also have another shuttle bus on campus, because that train does not stop anywhere near and so anyone who uses it has to be brought over to us .) The “efficiency” of that particular shuttle would be an interesting exercise!

  • Ryan

    reg wrote:
    “Why? Given that atheists believe that there is no transcendent meaning or absolute standard of morality the notion of more moral or more ethical behavior is meaningless. Who says these positions are more ethical or more moral? What is the basis for this claim? In an atheist world the only logically consistent position is worship of power and expedience.”

    You seem to be speaking from a position of no experience. The values you describe align more with sociopathy than atheism. When I was a Christian, I thought the same thing. After all, when you’re taught that mankind is born depraved and does good only because of God’s love or else the threat of Hell, it follows logically that anyone without God has no reason to be anything but selfish.

    The reality is that most atheists do what is right *because it is right.* Most people have a basic internal sense of right and wrong, and studies show that, for neurotypical people, violating that sense can have some serious psychological repercussions. Because we are social animals, we must get along with others. Those of us who lack this social sense end up imprisoned or otherwise marginalized by society. Thus those of us with that social sense, or, at the very least, enough intelligence to fake that social sense, are selected for. It is, after all, much easier for a group to ensure the survival of its members than for an individual to survive on their own. Pro-social behavior is evolutionarily smart. This “pro-social” sense is strong enough to override even an individual’s instinct for self-preservation in some cases.

    Societies that emphasize the interconnectedness of all things seem to have lower incidences of sociopathic behavior. Morality is, it seems, more a function of a group’s collective “social sense” than of the group’s religion or lack thereof.

    Porcell wrote:
    “While individual atheists may be good, ethical people, the overall societal effect of them is lethal.”

    You submit that a secular society, or a society composed primarily of non-believers, is fatal to that society? You should tell that to Sweden, Denmark, and Norway: these three countries are largely atheist and agnostic, yet they seem to be doing just fine. In fact, we find that a country’s secularism seems to be positively correlated with its position on the Human Development Index published by the UN, as well as the overall standard of living of its citizens.

    While there have been a number of secular countries that have failed, there has been a greater number of religious countries that have failed. While there has been a number of atrocities committed by atheists, I imagine the world’s religions still have a much bigger body count. But as anyone who has studied genocide can tell you: these atrocities happen independent of a country’s religious affiliation. It is not religion or lack thereof that makes a society go bad.

    Gene writes:
    “Second, one has to ask, how, exactly, are atheists being discriminated against? Are they not allowed to vote? Are they not getting hired? Is there wage discrimination against atheists?”

    Well, yes to those last two. There have been incidents, particularly in the Bible belt, of people getting fired or else not being considered for a position because of their atheism. There is a history in our courts of giving a religious parent child custody over their non-religious partner simply because the courts assume that religion is beneficial. There has been a long history of both personal and institutional discrimination against atheists in the military as well, with the latest institutional salvo fired being the “spiritual” portion of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.

    Here’s a pretty comprehensive list: http://atheism.about.com/od/attacksonatheism/p/AtheistBigotry.htm

    My brother and I have also personally experienced discrimination as atheists. Many people simply assume that because we are atheist we have no morals or ethics. We have both lost people’s trust and respect upon their discovery of our atheism even though, statistically speaking, we are more likely to act in an ethical manner than our Christian counterparts. And we live in the relatively unchurched state of Oregon!

  • Ryan

    reg wrote:
    “Why? Given that atheists believe that there is no transcendent meaning or absolute standard of morality the notion of more moral or more ethical behavior is meaningless. Who says these positions are more ethical or more moral? What is the basis for this claim? In an atheist world the only logically consistent position is worship of power and expedience.”

    You seem to be speaking from a position of no experience. The values you describe align more with sociopathy than atheism. When I was a Christian, I thought the same thing. After all, when you’re taught that mankind is born depraved and does good only because of God’s love or else the threat of Hell, it follows logically that anyone without God has no reason to be anything but selfish.

    The reality is that most atheists do what is right *because it is right.* Most people have a basic internal sense of right and wrong, and studies show that, for neurotypical people, violating that sense can have some serious psychological repercussions. Because we are social animals, we must get along with others. Those of us who lack this social sense end up imprisoned or otherwise marginalized by society. Thus those of us with that social sense, or, at the very least, enough intelligence to fake that social sense, are selected for. It is, after all, much easier for a group to ensure the survival of its members than for an individual to survive on their own. Pro-social behavior is evolutionarily smart. This “pro-social” sense is strong enough to override even an individual’s instinct for self-preservation in some cases.

    Societies that emphasize the interconnectedness of all things seem to have lower incidences of sociopathic behavior. Morality is, it seems, more a function of a group’s collective “social sense” than of the group’s religion or lack thereof.

    Porcell wrote:
    “While individual atheists may be good, ethical people, the overall societal effect of them is lethal.”

    You submit that a secular society, or a society composed primarily of non-believers, is fatal to that society? You should tell that to Sweden, Denmark, and Norway: these three countries are largely atheist and agnostic, yet they seem to be doing just fine. In fact, we find that a country’s secularism seems to be positively correlated with its position on the Human Development Index published by the UN, as well as the overall standard of living of its citizens.

    While there have been a number of secular countries that have failed, there has been a greater number of religious countries that have failed. While there has been a number of atrocities committed by atheists, I imagine the world’s religions still have a much bigger body count. But as anyone who has studied genocide can tell you: these atrocities happen independent of a country’s religious affiliation. It is not religion or lack thereof that makes a society go bad.

    Gene writes:
    “Second, one has to ask, how, exactly, are atheists being discriminated against? Are they not allowed to vote? Are they not getting hired? Is there wage discrimination against atheists?”

    Well, yes to those last two. There have been incidents, particularly in the Bible belt, of people getting fired or else not being considered for a position because of their atheism. There is a history in our courts of giving a religious parent child custody over their non-religious partner simply because the courts assume that religion is beneficial. There has been a long history of both personal and institutional discrimination against atheists in the military as well, with the latest institutional salvo fired being the “spiritual” portion of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.

    Here’s a pretty comprehensive list: http://atheism.about.com/od/attacksonatheism/p/AtheistBigotry.htm

    My brother and I have also personally experienced discrimination as atheists. Many people simply assume that because we are atheist we have no morals or ethics. We have both lost people’s trust and respect upon their discovery of our atheism even though, statistically speaking, we are more likely to act in an ethical manner than our Christian counterparts. And we live in the relatively unchurched state of Oregon!

  • Alien

    Save your soul and mind, free yourself from superstitious rubbish and nonsense, grow up and stand on your feet without calling for help from your “Daddy” — think and use your brain (sometimes). Then maybe you could see that atheism is just an attempt to understand better our own existence without mind intoxication.

  • Alien

    Save your soul and mind, free yourself from superstitious rubbish and nonsense, grow up and stand on your feet without calling for help from your “Daddy” — think and use your brain (sometimes). Then maybe you could see that atheism is just an attempt to understand better our own existence without mind intoxication.

  • http://www.TalkingTimeline.com Kenny Bellew

    I am an atheist. I didn’t see any atheist respond, so hopefully their posts are allowed here.

    Atheists in America are discriminated against out of a lack of representation. It’s a withholding of our fundamental human right to freedom of religion. I know that causes a knee-jerk reaction in your arena, so, please, hear me out.

    When communism instituted a government stand on theism, it was evil. For those who were theists, it removed their representation. It was the government saying–”This is the correct view.” Anyone who disagreed lost a bit of their freedom of religion.

    The same is true when our government says, “In God We Trust.” This establishes a government stand on the issue of theism. This creates the same the same moral problem that the communist had. Granted, it doesn’t prohibit us from not believing, but it still establishes our view on religion as inferior. Which, even if you feel our view is inferior, you must admit that it infringes on freedom or religion.

    If, on the other hand, the government is neutral, we both have freedom of religion with equal representation. Isn’t that fair?

    We’re not asking for the removal of God statements in government because it pisses us off. We’re asking for it because it’s our fundamental human right to have equal representation on issues of freedom of religion. In that we don’t have equal representation, we are being discriminated against.

  • http://www.TalkingTimeline.com Kenny Bellew

    I am an atheist. I didn’t see any atheist respond, so hopefully their posts are allowed here.

    Atheists in America are discriminated against out of a lack of representation. It’s a withholding of our fundamental human right to freedom of religion. I know that causes a knee-jerk reaction in your arena, so, please, hear me out.

    When communism instituted a government stand on theism, it was evil. For those who were theists, it removed their representation. It was the government saying–”This is the correct view.” Anyone who disagreed lost a bit of their freedom of religion.

    The same is true when our government says, “In God We Trust.” This establishes a government stand on the issue of theism. This creates the same the same moral problem that the communist had. Granted, it doesn’t prohibit us from not believing, but it still establishes our view on religion as inferior. Which, even if you feel our view is inferior, you must admit that it infringes on freedom or religion.

    If, on the other hand, the government is neutral, we both have freedom of religion with equal representation. Isn’t that fair?

    We’re not asking for the removal of God statements in government because it pisses us off. We’re asking for it because it’s our fundamental human right to have equal representation on issues of freedom of religion. In that we don’t have equal representation, we are being discriminated against.