Which Does Technology Benefit More: Christianity or Atheism?

Which Does Technology Benefit More: Christianity or Atheism? June 21, 2019

I attended an atheist conference in Seattle about seven years ago and met a woman who was falling away from religion. In the early years of her marriage, she and her husband had both been conservative Christians. Decades later, he still was. She wasn’t.

Openly reading The God Delusion to explore the other side of the issue wasn’t an option—at least not as a conventional book. But using a Kindle, no one could see if she were reading Richard Dawkins or Billy Graham. This was the first time the advantage that technology gave to the spread atheism became clear to me.

Cambrian Explosion, Technology Explosion

Daniel Dennett compared the effect modern technology is having on religion with the Cambrian Explosion. This explosion of new life forms is thought to have been triggered by oceans finally becoming transparent. Evolution could then select for eyesight, and prey could see predators and vice versa. This led to an arms race of not just improved eyesight but camouflage and armor (on the defensive side) and strength and teeth (on the offensive side).

Compare the sea beginning to become transparent 543 million years ago with the early Web in 1991. Now, 28 years later, technology has brought transparency to religion with Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and other technologies, plus the smart phones and computers with which to view it. Secrecy has become much more difficult.

Technology has played a role in religion for centuries. Just decades after Christianity’s beginning, scribes began to create codices (books) instead of scrolls, first on papyrus and then on parchment. The printing press (1455) made Bibles, the Book of Hours, and other Christian books more widespread. The Bible became available in local languages, not just Latin.

As revolutionary as Gutenberg’s press was, its design didn’t change much for close to 400 years until the early days of the Industrial Revolution. But with the steam press in the early 1800s, printing rate increased tenfold. With the rotary press shortly afterward came another tenfold increase. Religious books and tracts of all sorts became economical.

Then radio, then movies, then television—each was used by Christianity to drive its message.

Technology harnessed by atheism

Technology has changed the landscape. Atheists have recently begun getting the message out with books (perhaps the most important “new” in New Atheism is the new bestseller status of some of their books), but with many thousands of new titles per year for the last few hundred years, atheists have always had a voice here.

Instead, it’s the new technologies that have really changed things: podcasts, blogs, e-books, print-on-demand technology, and the searchable internet to let doubting Christians (or even just curious or studious Christians) bypass the traditional gatekeepers of pastors or parents to find the often-embarrassing truth.

Of course, Christians can use this new technology, too, but they’ve always had the technological edge. They’ve had no competition in radio or TV, for example. But with the internet, all voices can get a hearing. The barrier to entry is now much smaller. Information that flows easily is a disadvantage to the group that discourages questions, values faith or unthinking obedience, or has skeletons in the closet.

Sure, potential Christians can search for arguments for Christianity online, but what non-Christian in the West hasn’t heard the Christian message? By contrast, there are plenty of Christians who until recently had no easy way to get a second opinion. The free flow of information helps atheism.

Faith statements vs. reality

Consider that many Christian organizations have faith statements that bind their professors, researchers, or staff. As a personal example, I’ve considered attending Frank Turek’s Cross Examined Instructor Academy for Christian apologists, but it had an obligatory faith statement that I couldn’t sign. (This makes me wonder how these future apologists will fare against someone like me in the real world if they must be protected from arguments from actual atheists in the classroom.)

The constraints of faith statements were highlighted in 2011 when Christian scholar Mike Licona got into hot water over a book in which a single brief topic didn’t come to the conclusions predetermined by his faith statement. Imagine that approach to reality trying to compete against Google and Wikipedia. “But you can’t say that—it contradicts my faith statement!”

How will things change in the future? Technology is infamously hard to predict. (My favorite quote on this subject: “When you get the urge to predict the future, better lie down until the feeling goes away”). Nevertheless, business will continue to demand ever easier access to information and freer flow of ideas. Advancing technology can only make it more difficult for religion to keep secrets.

We’ve seen how this plays out

A few years ago, the man in charge of the Mormon Church in Europe recently faced questions from parishioners. In answering them, he had to deal with how his church’s story differed from what he found on the internet, and his faith failed. The church recently responded to the crumbling dike with honest information about Joseph Smith’s polygamy—common knowledge to historians but startling news to many Mormons.

Or consider Scientology. The church’s story had been doled out to students who paid thousands to learn Scientology’s secrets. Now that uninspired story is available for free on Wikipedia.

In some surprising candor, Christian apologist Josh McDowell sees the situation just as we do, that the internet levels the laying field and that Christianity doesn’t like a level playing field.

As another example of Christianity’s pushback against open access to information, consider the response to each of Bart Ehrman’s bestselling books that shine a light into Christianity’s dirty recesses. Christians can’t attack his credentials, so they often try to dismiss the information by saying that this isn’t new. Seminaries have been teaching this to religious scholars and pastors for centuries, they tell us.

Uh, okay, but then why did your flock have to hear this from a non-Christian? Why is Bart Ehrman spilling the beans to the world instead of you? It almost sounds like you’re embarrassed by this information. And for every bestselling Bart Ehrman (or Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris), there are ten thousand podcasters, bloggers, and self-published authors adding to the conversation.

I expect that this clash of orthodoxy and internet is a growing problem for every large Christian denomination in the West and will become one in the developing world as the internet becomes more available.

A Christian response

What if religion simply absorbs the new truth and keeps going? So what if Joseph Smith was flawed and the church covered that up? So what if the New Testament story stands on a poor historical footing? So what if the virgin birth story is false, the Old Testament has two completely different versions of the Ten Commandments, the Jesus in the New Testament had no concept of the Trinity, or Christianity is full of contradictions?

If Christianity adapted by becoming less interested in reality and evidence, it would have abandoned the intellectual question, Is Christianity correct in its claims? If Christianity must simply withdraw from reality because it can’t compete in the intellectual town square, pause and consider what that means. It’s already easy to find apologists who make, “Yeah, but which story would you rather be true?” as an actual argument.

Changes to Christianity over time

I recently wrote about demographic changes predicted for Christianity and other religions. The make-more-babies growth phase is waning, and Christianity will soon have to compete in the marketplace of ideas. It will not be pretty, and technology will hasten the exit of religion. There might even be an unanticipated tipping point where falling Christian belief triggers the growth of the Nones to accelerate.

The Nones in the U.S. have recently become as large a belief system as Evangelicals and Catholics. The difference is that, while Evangelicals and Catholics have been to slowly shrinking, the Nones fraction continues to surge. There’s an interesting chart that tracks the rise in Nones with the fraction  internet users.

What does it say about Christianity that it survives best in a hypoxic environment that enables censorship and discourages questioning and straying? Expect technology to continue to provide increasing access, showing religion for what it really is.

Bible Belt near-Christianity is teetering.
I say let it fall.
Russell Moore, president of the
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 6/3/15.)

Image from Sue Clark, CC license

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  • carbonUnit

    A huge factor as to be the personal technology wherein everyone is carrying a device capable of audio/video recordings. Secrets get recorded and revealed. Gets a lot harder to deny hypocrisy, bad actions or even abuse. The global news media insures that leaders that get busted for crimes and such will become widely exposed. The international aspect of the internet guarantees that most will be exposed to the plethora of differing belief systems and all of their foibles. Yet most are believing in one supreme being which must therefore be the same god.

    • A good example. In that vein: fixed-location security cameras. Any church that actually cared could put them up in areas where church leaders could be alone with children.

      • Bastard Gringo

        with the parishioners footing the bill lol

      • Kodie

        In the wake of the abuses of USA Gymnastics, the similar venue in which I work has rules against an adult being alone with a single child, i.e. adults have to announce they are entering a changing area, and devices with camera capabilities are forbidden in changing areas or bathrooms. An adult can be the sole adult in a group of several children, but not one. For one child, you need at least two adults, whereas a single adult is unlikely to abuse a child in the company of other children either.

        Not sure where they would put cameras in the church situations, since you can’t put them in places where children are most vulnerable in sports situations, because that crosses into child pornography, filming or photographing them changing or using the bathroom.

  • carbonUnit

    FYI, the “his faith failed” link is to the NY Times which is a paywall site. Do you have an alternate link?
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/us/some-mormons-search-the-web-and-find-doubt.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    I don’t have time to dig too deeply now, but interesting starting point:
    http://blog.evidenceministries.org/some-mormons-search-the-web-and-find-doubt-evidence-ministries-take/

    EM’s Take: If the LDS Church is led by prophets, seers and revelators who are in communion with God, then why would this be a challenge? Investigators are challenged to pray about receiving an answer from God as to whether or not Mormonism is true. Why can’t LDS leaders set the example and find these things out from God? Doesn’t He know what is reliable, true and worthy for us to base our lives on? Again, if the LDS Church is really led by prophets, why is this a problem in the first place?

    This is where the stuff of other religions can rub off on those of other beliefs. Thanks media & Internet!

    • Yes, paywall. All I can suggest is to open an incognito page with your browser, and then drop that NY Times address in.

      • carbonUnit

        They and others have caught on to the private window trick.

        The EvidenceMinistries site (I don’t know who they are) has all sorts of goodness on this: audio recordings and transcripts.

        There are many other sources (New York Times, Mormon Stories Podcast, MormonThink) which cover the details of the story, so I will not go into them in depth here. What I want to do is discuss the questions that came to my mind as I was studying through this issue. The most eye opening resources regarding this issue comes from a fireside meeting in 2010 when two Mormon Church historians (Elder Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley Jr.) came to Stockholm in an attempt to answer some of the troubling questions. You can read the transcript of the meeting here. (The transcript is copied as is, including typos.) The other, and in my opinion most important, resource concerning this issue is the audio
        recording of this fireside meeting.

        Again tech: an audio recording. (I haven’t had time to listen.)

        • I’ve signed up for the NYT electronic version, thinking that it’s a small step against the “fake news!” BS, but yeah, I forgot about the no-more-incognito thing.

          As NS Alito mentioned, you can use up one of your free monthly views to see it.

      • NS Alito

        The NYT allows a certain amount of free views, which it keeps track of in cookies. Try deleting the cookies.
        [NB: I subscribed to the NYT once, and cancelled the subscription after they took on some climate change doubtmonger in their opinion pages for “balance”.]

  • Seems there’s an error:


    with the early Web in 1991. Now, 24 years later

    • Greg G.

      He did mention that it was an update, just not completely updated.

      (This is an update of a post that originally appeared 6/3/15.)

      • I added a modest amount of new stuff to this update, but things do slip through. The boys in Proofreading Division are going to hear about this one.

    • Michael Neville

      That’s 24 years for a high value of 24.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Exceeding the limits of the equation…

    • Thanks!

  • Ficino

    Today a former student, now around 29 yrs old, told me she is considering converting to Judaism. Her father was Jewish, mother not, no religious tradition to speak of in the home. I got the sense she is attracted to the idea of community, family and family traditions, a milieu in which to raise children. She is very pro-feminist, LGBT, etc. I think religion pretty much only has rituals, a sense of community, maybe some overall values to offer. There are some who claim they convert because they were convinced via arguments, but I think those are relatively few.

    While the internet has played a big role in the weakening of religious orthodoxies, I wonder whether it also helps weaken communities. So people want to find some place where they feel they belong. ???

    • NS Alito

      I knew an atheist who fully embraced her Jewish heritage, complete with kosher pantries in her kitchen and weekly Torah readings with a group. She was one of the most innately charitable people I ever met.

      • Ficino

        Did she also embrace classical theism? Some other former students, and other people I’ve met, are in the Reconstructionist movement, where they seek the goods of community, ethics, family, etc. within the tradition but don’t hold doctrines about God – or even don’t believe in God at all.

        If your friend ditched her atheism, did she disclose what led her to change her mind?

        • NS Alito

          She was an atheist the whole time.

      • Kodie

        So she embraced her Jewish heritage by behaving superstitiously even though she knew there was no reason to?

        • NS Alito

          She behaved ritualistically, like college fraternities or ya-ya sisterhoods or the Freemasons or military subgroup traditions.

        • Kodie

          I still don’t know what to make of it. It doesn’t hurt me at all, but it’s less weird to me to attend Torah meetings, if that’s what floats your boat, than it is to avoid foods and food combinations because a religion forbids it, which seems more of a fixation. Like, you know how some people throw their cans on a shelf and some have to alphabetize their canned foods and spices… I mean, that serves a purpose, it’s not how I do, but I do group foods by kind. I put all the frozen things in the freezer, for example. People who think they are not going to be able to find their garlic powder if it’s not alphabetical, it serves some purpose. Someone who is a vegan or who might be lactose intolerant, while the rest of the family is not, needs to be careful. Someone who is an orthodox Jew needs to be careful. Someone who is not an orthodox Jew is just doing orthodox Jewishness in the home to be traditional to a faith they don’t believe, but what happens if that system meets an error, especially if there is no god to account to?

          Like, say, if a vegan makes some sort of pledge to themselves, and things are rolling along for a great while, accidentally eating something with animal product doesn’t make that person any less a vegan. It’s like a challenge they set up for themselves, but unlike GMOs and gluten (which like, some meats will label “gluten-free”, but something like V-8 juice or vegetable soup has some meat product in there), most products do not declare any pure vegan status. To some people who are trying to maintain a perfect record, accidentally failing to uphold their own standard is crushing when it shouldn’t be. Perfection is its own superstition – nothing happens bad to you if you fail, unless it is an allergy situation, which is totally different. That’s just to say, being weird about food like being kosher is silly compared to caring about animals, and definitely compared to food allergies, and yet, being an orthodox kosher-keeping Jew has the worst consequences of failing, right? That’s why I wonder about your friend’s fixation. If there is no afterlife, this habit has no reason at all except what your friend likes, almost like never buying a food that starts with H, or only eating foods that only come in circular shapes (including tubes like sausage or cucumuber).

        • MR

          Perfection is its own superstition

          (Pockets this, turns, and slowly walks away quietly whistling.)

        • NS Alito

          I still don’t know what to make of it.

          She embedded herself in the heritage of the tribe. In the world of Furries and Star Trek uniforms on jurors and people getting themselves tatooed with brand names, this doesn’t move the needle for me. In any case, she was a lovely, lovely woman.

          ETA: She was an oddball, and other oddballs loved her.

    • Jim Baerg

      There are organizations like ‘Atheist Society of…’ which people set up & join in order to have community without having to pretend to believe BS. Maybe she could find such a group.

    • abb3w

      For those interested in religious conversion and deconversion processes, I generally recommend Altemeyer and Hunsberger’s “Amazing Conversions” book, and Ebaugh’s “Becoming an Ex”.

      The main impact of the internet is that it facilitates exposure to information for those searching to address initial doubts.

      While the internet may weaken some sorts of communities, it also facilitates building sorts that would be far more difficult otherwise.

  • JBSchmidt

    First, I find it amazing that a non-theist chooses to compare the created event of a technological boom with that of the cambrian explosion. In order to make it accurate, must give evolution agency as a creator. Is the technological boom just a set of processes randomly organizing themselves into what we have?

    Second, I completely challenge your premise. The easy access to all information is not creating atheist because of some sort of enlightenment. Rather, we are watching the slow death of thought. For example, the school systems are all about STEM. Must get everyone into STEM, it is the future and the best way to educate. Except, when Google decides to research who in the company is the most likely to progress up and who is best suited for upward movement, assuming it would show the great progress of STEM. However, the STEM employees were not those that progressed, rather, it was those with the traditional liberal education that were most likely to get promoted and advance up the ladder.

    Why? Because STEM teaches by supplying the answer and giving the facts. You learn the equations, the code and the information needed to complete a task. What it fails to teach is how to learn. The students taken in the info and use it to complete assignments, but they don’t understand how they learn. The liberal education teaches an ability to learn by the gathering of information and logically drawing a conclusion. This is why they pose the best candidates for advancement. The liberal education has provided those with the process by which problems can be solved and how to navigate human interaction. STEM itself isn’t bad, STEM dedicated creates an over specialization.

    That brings us to the internet. The web has become STEM. You can find any answer you want and never have to learn. Further, anyone can now write on any topic and never have to truly prove the premise. Instead, write to your audience, gather followers and suddenly you are the authority. Confirmation bias reigns supreme. If I was purely information driven and chose to move to [insert ideology of choice], in under 2hrs I could convince myself of anything.

    I know this is a long short, but do you have any proof of your assertion?

    • First, I find it amazing that a non-theist chooses to compare the created event of a technological boom with that of the cambrian explosion.

      You’re amazed? You’ve been around idiotic atheists enough to know that their idiocy knows no bounds. I’d have thought you’d be inured to it by now.

      In order to make it accurate, must give evolution agency as a creator.

      Well, yeah, obviously. I mean, there’s no possible explanation for evolution except some sort of Creator™.

      Is the technological boom just a set of processes randomly organizing themselves into what we have?

      It’s not, but then “a set of processes randomly organizing themselves into what we have” doesn’t describe evolution either.

      For example, the school systems are all about STEM. Must get everyone into STEM, it is the future and the best way to educate. Except, when Google decides to research who in the company is the most likely to progress up and who is best suited for upward movement, assuming it would show the great progress of STEM. However, the STEM employees were not those that progressed, rather, it was those with the traditional liberal education that were most likely to get promoted and advance up the ladder.

      Sounds like some item in the news has you hot under the collar?

      Why? Because STEM teaches by supplying the answer and giving the facts.

      Well, yeah! The R in “STEM” stands for “Regurgitate facts without understanding”! I think the Achilles Heel is right there in the open for anyone to notice.

      You learn the equations, the code and the information needed to complete a task. What it fails to teach is how to learn.

      You seem to imagine a particular rigid STEM curriculum. What you need to do is show that this is inherent in focusing on STEM subjects.

      That brings us to the internet. The web has become STEM.

      I would never have made that equivalence. Wow.

      Your brain is a marvel. I could sit and watch the wheels spinning for hours.

      I know this is a long short, but do you have any proof of your assertion?

      You’re asking me? You’re the one who created the Mountain of Unsubstantiation.

      • MR

        You’re asking me? You’re the one who created the Mountain of Unsubstantiation.

        😀

        I particularly like where he says:

        Confirmation bias reigns supreme. If I was purely information driven and chose to move to [insert ideology of choice], in under 2hrs I could convince myself of anything.

        If he’s so gullible he could convince himself of something in under two hours, imagine what a lifetime of religious indoctrination will do!

        • Maltnothops

          “…will do.”

          Has done. It’s comments are gibberish.

      • JBSchmidt

        Your sarcastic non-answers prove my point. Those that choose to accept your view point follow regardless of the swallow intellectual thought. While the opposing viewpoint plays on the other side of the fence.

        The change is not about an introduction to new enlightened information. It’s about finding an ideology that one likes and being able to find any kind of support for it. For example, take away the internet, does Alex Jones have any kind of following? Nope. Does that make his information new and enlightened?

        This article takes a very surface look at the issue and confirms your bias. Other than an anecdotal story about a confused woman, do you have any empirical data to back up your claim? (No, the Pew survey doesn’t prove that access to information via technology is pushing the change) There is plenty discussing the failure of STEM and how the access to instant information actual suppresses the ability to think critically.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          “Your sarcastic non-answers prove my point. Those that choose to accept your view point (sic) follow regardless of the swallow (shallow?) intellectual thought. While the opposing viewpoint plays on the other side of the fence.”

          You certainly have a low opinion of Bob’s readers. I hope it isn’t because we merely disagree with you?

          If, upon scrutinizing Bob’s “shallow intellectual thought,” I find that it outweighs your arguments to the contrary, at least that thought can be analyzed, refined and extrapolated to form my viewpoint.

          Sometimes opposing viewpoints need to be relegated to play on the other side of the fence as very few opposing viewpoints are evenly balanced by the existing data.

          “The change is not about an introduction to new enlightened information. It’s about finding an ideology that one likes and being able to find any kind of support for it.”

          If confirmation bias is what you’re looking for, I agree. But if you wish to learn new things, the internet has been amazing. Anyone who says different, just hasn’t been paying attention.

          “This article takes a very surface look at the issue and confirms your bias. “

          Perhaps, but you have yet to present any cogent arguments to the contrary backed-up by the same empirical evidence you blithely demand from Bob. If you wish to criticize the article, at least have some citations that directly refute his premise. Otherwise, you’re just stating your biased opinions, like anyone else.

          What’s all this about STEM? I don’t remember seeing that in the article above.

        • NS Alito

          FWIW, many schools are embracing a STEAM philosophy: STEM=Arts

        • You don’t like something. I’ve picked up that much at least.

        • JBSchmidt

          Brilliant

        • NS Alito

          Those that choose to accept your view point follow regardless of the shallow intellectual thought.

          I come here because Bob has a deeper background than I have on theology, and especially because there are commenters who have a deeper background than Bob, and who will both expand on or correct Bob’s presentation as needed.

          And if/when the subject ventures near my areas of…less ignorance, I would not hesitate to call Bob out on some poopyheaded* concept.
          ____
          *Pardon the epistemological terminology.

        • abb3w

          It’s about finding an ideology that one likes and being able to find any kind of support for it.

          More finding an ideology that one finds of net “benefit” compared to alternatives, and being able to live (long and prosper) with it.

      • ThaneOfDrones

        In order to make it accurate, must give evolution agency as a creator.

        An analogy is an analogy, not an identity. Not all characteristics of the two subjects need to be comparable. If I say “the sky is like a blueberry, in that both are the colour blue” it would be a complete dumb-head who would object because the sky is not a small round fruit. You made an analogy, you pointed out which characteristics you were comparing; ifa reader willfully misreads the comparison in the dumbest possible way, the onus is on him.

    • epeeist

      In order to make it accurate, must give evolution agency as a creator.

      Not the you will respond, you never do when you are asked to justify your claims.

      Now Darwin’s original formulation of the theory and its inter-theoretic reduction into the modern synthesis work perfectly well without a “creator”, this being so could we please have some actual, physical evidence of your creator’s causal influence in creation, how your creator’s influence works and how this improves both the explanatory power and empirical fit of the theory.

    • Michael Neville

      First, I find it amazing that a non-theist chooses to compare the created event of a technological boom with that of the cambrian explosion. In order to make it accurate, must give evolution agency as a creator.

      Why does evolution need a “creator”? Evolution is a natural process, lifeforms changing over time due to mutation, gene transfer and natural selection. Contrary to your apparent misapprehension, evolution is not a directed process.

      The analogy between the growth of the internet and the cambrian explosion is merely that of change and expansion in a relatively short amount of time. The internet is directed, the cambrian explosion was not. As an aside, the cambrian explosion, despite the name, actually took several million years (I’ve seen estimates of between 13 and 25 million).

      • Another thing that takes the “But golly–look at the Cambrian Explosion!” claim down a peg or two is the observation that it’s just about the animals. This is a burst of phyla in a short time just for animals. Not fungi, plants, archaea, bacteria, and other parts of the tree of life that I’m too stupid to know about.

        We can take an animal-centric viewpoint, since we’re animals, but that’s not a fair viewpoint. we should look at life in general.

    • If there’s something behind evolution or even the formation and evolution of the Universe (especially on this later case) is very unlikely to be that typical Bronze/Iron age deity obsessed with sacrifices and blood, and who knows very little, if anything, beyond the world of their worshippers. Believers will always identify the former with the entity they worship instead of thinking it could be something else.

      If you cannot also grasp the differences between the explosion of Internet usage and the Cambrian boom in the analogy, we go badly.

      I’ll pray Mielikki, the Forest Queen, for you.

    • ThaneOfDrones

      What (STEM) fails to teach is how to learn. The students taken in the info and use it to complete assignments, but they don’t understand how they learn.

      Sorry if that was your experience. Mine was different. A person memorizing “facts” would not have gotten very far in the science education I underwent on my way to being a scientist. You seem to be confusing teaching philosophy with curriculum content. Without even noticing that you are doing so.

      Further, anyone can now write on any topic and never have to truly prove the premise.

      So true, and thank you for the demonstration.
      BTW, you might want to examine your unquestioned premise that corporate advancement is based on merit.

      • ThaneOfDrones

        1 in 5 CEOs are psychopaths, study finds

        All you need to do is prove that psychopaths are more likely to have undergone a liberal education, and you are on your way to a proof!

        • JBSchmidt

          You only prove my point. You found a fact, did little to no critical thinking and deposited it because it confirms your bias. The study saw psychopathic tendencies in 20%. There is big difference between working for a psychopath and working for an aggressive or less than empathic boss.

        • Greg G.

          You only prove my point. You found a fact, did little to no critical thinking and deposited it because it confirms your bias.

          When you point a finger like that, three are pointing back at you because that is what you did when you didn’t fully comprehend what the article said.

          The study saw psychopathic tendencies in 20%.

          The article said “The study of 261 senior professionals in the United States found that 21 per cent had clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits.”

          The underlined part was underlined in red. You dismissed the part I bolded. You only saw what you wanted to see and your cognitive dissonance apparently blinded you to the rest.

          There is big difference between working for a psychopath and working for an aggressive or less than empathic boss.

          If the boss is aggressive and less than empathetic because he/she is a psychopath, then it is identically the same. In any case, it is very much like working for a psychopath.

        • JBSchmidt

          I understood correctly. You apparently read it but didn’t understand it.

          Only traits/tendencies not diagnosis of being a psychopath. Further, other psychologists argue that many of those traits/tendencies benefit business. Further, having the some of or even all the particular traits does not mean you can be clinically diagnosed

          Additionally, other studies have found the number of senior executives that show increased traits to be closer to 4%.

          Either way, my point stands. The headline is being used without any critical thinking involved.

        • Greg G.

          Only traits/tendencies not diagnosis of being a psychopath.

          Again, it says clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits.

          Further, other psychologists argue that many of those traits/tendencies benefit business.

          But not the employees.

          Further, having the some of or even all the particular traits does not mean you can be clinically diagnosed

          If you act like a psychopath, you treat others the way a psychopath does. It doesn’t matter much whether you are actually a psychopath or just act like one.

          James Silver, co-author of Almost a Psychopath: Do I (or Does Someone I Know) Have a Problem with Manipulation and Lack of Empathy? writes: “Almost psychopaths differ from true psychopaths not in the types, but, rather, in the frequency and intensity of their remorseless and damaging behaviors.”

          Additionally, other studies have found the number of senior executives that show increased traits to be closer to 4%.

          That is still four times the rate of the general population. You may have taken your figure from the Wikipedia article on Psychopathy in the workplace https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopathy_in_the_workplace#Incidence says right after that:

          A 2011 study of Australian white-collar managers found that 5.76 percent could be classed as psychopathic and another 10.42 percent dysfunctional with psychopathic characteristics.

          Either way, my point stands. The headline is being used without any critical thinking involved.

          You seem to be arguing against it as a knee-jerk reaction with no thought at all involved. You are trying to split hairs over actual psychopaths and near psychopaths. Get some perspective. The issue isn’t the label but the harm they cause in the real world.

        • JBSchmidt

          “clinically significant levels of psychopathic traits”

          This is not found in the text of the study.

          “But not the employees.”

          Another false statement not born from the study. Since the study only looked at supply chain executives, the study admitted that actions taken do to the traits associated with psychopathy could be needed in that role. ‘It is, however, important to consider that there may be some positive and adaptive qualities that psychopaths possess that can be highly advantageous in a corporate setting. These adaptive qualities include a disinclination towards suicide as well as being creative, decisive, confident, strategic and skillful communicators who often possess strong personal presentation skills.”

          “If you act like a psychopath, you treat others the way a psychopath does. It doesn’t matter much whether you are actually a psychopath or just act like one.”

          Again false. Do to the absence of studies done on non-criminal psychopaths, the study found that those in the study also had a fair amount of empathy for their fellow coworkers. ‘The key outcomes of this study provide a clear rationale for further investigation into this emerging area of research’ and ‘participants showed activation of the emotional brain structures similar to that of non-psychopathic participants when instructed to engage in an emotional processing task’ thus ‘may indicate that corporate psychopaths have the ability to imitate emotion at will’

          “Get some perspective. The issue isn’t the label but the harm they cause in the real world.”

          If you have a study showing psychopaths in the business world and the harm they cause, please provide. My perspective is closer to reality then anything you are claiming.

          “You seem to be arguing against it as a knee-jerk reaction with no thought at all involved.”

          No, I am clarifying the ignorance of those that continue to prove my point. ‘Given the infancy of this research area, it will be important to conduct future research in a variety of areas to increase our understanding of this unique population.’

          The 20%, is of people that fall in a range, not diagnosed psychopaths. Further, that may be irrelevant as they interact with the rest of the business world.

        • ThaneOfDrones

          The headline is being used without any critical thinking involved.

          I gave you the headline, with a link so you could check out the entire article. Now let me count the links you provided in your multiple replies: 0

          We’re just supposed to take your “facts” for granted, I guess; despite your growing history of dishonesty and cluelessness. @#$%@#$% you.

      • JBSchmidt

        Becoming the best scientist in your department vs advancing up the corporate ladder or being capable at cross confunctional problem solving are competely different. The latter is where STEM is proving to fail.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          The best scientists are those who can come up with both good ideas and tests for the ideas.

          So they need to be cross-disciplinary.

    • NS Alito

      The easy access to all information is not creating atheist because of
      some sort of enlightenment. Rather, we are watching the slow death of
      thought. For example, the school systems are all about STEM.

      My adaptation of an old observation:
      Those who refuse to do the math are condemned to talk nonsense.
      Those who only do the math are condemned to talk nonsense, too.
      Some of the rest of us are condemned to talk nonsense in any case.

      😉

    • NS Alito

      The easy access to all information is not creating atheist because of some sort of enlightenment. Rather, we are watching the slow death of thought.

      What has changed in the last 20 years or so is the increasingly interactive nature of public communication, rather than the passive absorption of broadcast news and opinion. One of the most passive occupations a brain can have is watching television.

      With the Internet, unlike watching television, people are more likely to encounter and interact with someone who actually has studied the intricacies of mercantile dynamic leading to the Boston Tea Party, or someone who measures methane emissions from thawing permafrost, or someone who understands the many different classes of components that go into making modern pharmaceuticals, or someone who understands John Locke’s influence on modern philosophy of jurisprudence, all of whom I have personally had the privilege of interacting with in the past two weeks alone.

      • It’s a shame when the “Science” Channel or the “History” Channel can’t be relied upon as impeccable sources of information.

        • carbonUnit

          “Reality” shows were the undoing of reality on TV.

        • Len

          Different meaning of the word “reality”. Could almost be evangelical*.

          * In that they seem to re-define words as they go.

        • NS Alito

          They’re atrocious, to be sure.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      First, I find it amazing that a non-theist chooses to compare the created event of a technological boom with that of the cambrian explosion.

      Your amazement is neither surprising nor relevant.

    • Kodie

      You haven’t learned anything so far, so…? STEM is the root of careers moving into the future. I heard something kind of vaguely on the internet about specializing vs. generalizing, but if you want to get a job in the future or would you rather be unemployable, it’s better to go with STEM than not. I think you’re on the internet, on a computer you don’t understand how it works, and so am I, but I acknowledge someone with STEM knowledge made it possible. Do you at least acknowledge that? Do you want to gripe how STEM is a lie? That no one who is into science, Technology, Engineering or Math has got anything going for them, and THEOLOGY DOES????? Go ahead, try.

    • abb3w

      Is the technological boom just a set of processes randomly organizing themselves into what we have?

      Not exactly. However, technological development is itself also a process of variations facing competive selection. See Basalla.

      Due to some mathematical properties of random walks, “intelligence” in variation my change speed to reach some degree of “solution”, but does not increase (and may even decrease) range of solutions explored, potentially leading to sub-optimal local maxima.

      The easy access to all information is not creating atheist because of some sort of enlightenment.

      More clearly, it’s not because of the World Wide Web, as the underlying logistic curve shift to irreligion on generational cohort predates it (and may predate the internet outright).

      STEM teaches by supplying the answer and giving the facts. You learn the equations, the code and the information needed to complete a task. What it fails to teach is how to learn.

      Depends on the STEM program. Some avoid that.

  • RichardSRussell

    Theory: The Internet is a vast global trove of knowledge, where people can find information on lots of different things.

    Reality: Your web browser and search engines serve up mainly stuff you’re already known to be interested in or agree with.

    • As the internet has gotten wider, the view we see into this marvelous hyperdimensional world of information has gotten bigger as well.

      Or at least that’s what we’d like to believe. As you point out, maybe not.

    • If you’re someone who thinks science is BS and all the truth is in the Bible, it’s hardly likely you’ll visit those atheistic sites that leave God outside, except maybe for preaching. Same in the opposite direction, especially if you value your sanity.

      That said, it’s a two-edged sword -sure, you can find online resources about your beliefs, down to the sacred texts (same for skeptics, I’ve the usual three, one on its two main versions plus the Book of Enoch downloaded), but at the same time you can see how insane are some of your brethen and at the same time how and why some question them

  • Norman Parron

    The information technology helps atheist more as it is still risky to be very public about it, so the tech allows some anonymity that the printing press did not allow. So there are many times more voices now say BS to religion then before.

    • A nice non-technology change has been removing atheism from the list of capital crimes.

      • Norman Parron

        True! BUT…that does not stop religious nutjobs from terrorizing an atheist if they are isolated from a benevolent environment.

    • abb3w

      the tech allows some anonymity that the printing press did not allow

      That seems more quantitative than qualitative shift, and not much of one at that.

      Note, for example, that the Federalist Papers were published pseudonymously.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    Daniel Dennett the effect modern technology is having on religion with the Cambrian Explosion.

    Except that the Cambrian “explosion” took literally millions of years.

    • abb3w

      The Gutenberg explosion might be a closer analogy.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    ” Expect technology to continue to provide increasing access”

    And also expect the fundies to everything they can to push back against technology and information. ‘Fake News’ is yelled more and more when people see/hear things they don’t like.

  • ThaneOfDrones

    All truth value aside, the Internet is an aid for any interest which is of notable size worldwide, but insufficient interest for a quorum of people to meet locally. For example, is the Internet better for round-earth or for flat-earth? We know the latter have some serious problems with accepting and interpreting evidence, but the Internet has provided them a medium to consolidate their interest and spread their message.

    Likewise, I think that truth-value aside, the Internet has been better for atheism.

    • MR

      I like you’re point about the flat- earthers. I’ve said that in terms of debating Christianity and atheism there’s really only one way for the pendulum to swing. Virtually everyone (I’m speaking Western countries here) has heard of Christianity and, most are/were Christian. You’re not going to convince many more people to accept it, but you will erode belief simply by laying out your case. If you convince 10% of Christians, those raw numbers compared to convincing 10% of atheists (even if you could do that) is much larger. Christianity has another disadvantage when having that debate because they have an ontological claim they can’t defend with empirical evidence (an astonishing thing to consider when you supposedly have an active agent that so loves you and wants you to know him).

      Flat earthers have a similar advantage percentage/pendulum-wise (especially when you consider the number of uneducated, gullible people out there), but they have a stronger disadvantage because empirical evidence exists that undermines their claim. I don’t see them gaining a sizable following.

      • they have an ontological claim they can’t defend with empirical evidence

        The problem is rather what they’ve to defend it, besides the usual threats.

      • Kodie

        I can’t really think flat-earthers are doing any damage on the scale of anti-vaxxers or climate-change deniers, who find what they’re looking for, or fall into cults/conspiracies, on the internet. There are conspiracies and then there are conspiracies.

        • MR

          Ooh…, good point. Not all conspiracies are created equal. Fear is a powerful motivator.

  • Damien Priestly

    The internet and ubiquitous information on our devices is highly corrosive to entrenched religious majorities. Generally positive for women’s and LGBT rights too. But only atheists in the US and other places whose numbers start from a low base will see growth. Other minority viewpoints, good and bad will also see expanded acceptance..including, sadly, anti-vaxxers, flat-earther’s and even store-front Pentecostalists and new-age religions, Wicca, Satanists, etc.

    So the Internet is essentially a great leveler. The decline in religious affiliation and growth of atheists in the US is certainly at least partly due to the Internet. However in Europe, where non-believe was already common, this is less so. Hindus in India, Muslims in the Middle-East and SE-Asia seem especially threatened by online religious material they object to.

    The single most heartening religious effect of the Internet and cheap devices is the growth of Atheism in the Islamic world including in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran. It is hard to measure in these closed societies, but Atheism is scaring the daylights out of the religious authorities to the point where it is a crime to be an Atheist. So don’t believe the low numbers of Atheists reported by Pew, etc. for around the world…nobody will admit it — if life and limb are on on the line.

    • Ficino

      Turkey, too.

    • Some of those groups after sadly as Wiccans aren’t as bad as Pentecostals. At least with exceptions.

      • Damien Priestly

        Edited and clarified.

  • NS Alito

    For decades that newfangled satellite technology gave televangelists a way to get their grift messages to more people, with little opportunity for dialog or feedback. Now that people can interact on the Internet, alternative ideas have a fighting chance.

    That’s not to say there are not still hundreds of thousands of older people sitting for hours with their mouths agape at the television, absorbing what they watch with little consideration, but they are a quickly shrinking demographic.

    • abb3w

      For decades that newfangled satellite technology gave televangelists a way to get their grift messages to more people, with little opportunity for dialog or feedback. Now that people can interact on the Internet, alternative ideas have a fighting chance.

      More exactly, televangelists relied on a medium with high entry costs that therefore favored established ideas.

      However, that seems to have only been a temporary advantage, and not much of one. Even during the 1980-1993 era, there was a logistic curve on generational cohort lurking as harbinger in the demographic data.

  • carbonUnit

    Or is a mirage…
    CFI investigation of Earth’s curvature undertaken with a group of flat earthers at the Salton Sea.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnrjdD08dWg

    In June of 2018, the Center for Inquiry Investigations Group drove out to the Salton Sea southeast of Los Angeles to put the curvature of the earth to the test. They designed two experiments to
    earth’s spherical nature in front of well over a dozen flat earthers.
    Did the earth-is-a-disc crowd believe their own eyes? See for yourself…

    Great quote from the comments:
    you can lead a horse to water but you cant make it think.

    • al kimeea

      maybe flat earthers are the ones fish eyed

    • Kodie

      The deep issue seems to be suspicion of science. That big guy with the beard and man-bun accusing the experimenter toward the end of the video of believing what they are told, and the experimenter saying he just showed them experiments, but of course, they have answers ready for the experiments. To be truthful, these experiments didn’t seem very wow to me either. If I were a flat-earther, but I’m not, it wouldn’t be enough to show me how I was wrong, and easily defeated by my schmuck logic. Even that airhead woman who said she’d never seen a shooting star go up, only down, these experiments/demonstrations were hardly spectacular for these morons.

    • “Oh, yeah–we predicted that” was pretty obviously the go-to response from the flat earthers at the outset. They should’ve interviewed them before the experiment to get a very precise and unambiguous statement of what they predicted would be seen by the experiment and why. That would pin them down to at least something.

      • Kuno

        Have you watched the flat earth documentary Behind the Curve on Netflix? They show two experiments by “prominent” flat-earthers and they get them on record what the results on a flat earth and a globe should be.

        Surprise, surprise. The results were those for the globe. And then the filmmakers caught them talking about keeping those results secret from their followers…

        • The human mind likes to delude itself. I want an upgrade.

        • Greg G.

          Do you want the Sphere™ upgrade or the Oblate Spheroid™ upgrade?

        • I’ve already got the Pointy Head skeletal upgrade, so I that may constrain which one will fit.

    • carbonUnit

      Doesn’t the balloon target at 3:26 bear a striking resemblance to the FSM??
      https://youtu.be/CnrjdD08dWg?t=206

  • Polytropos

    Christianity is already having to compete in the marketplace of ideas, both with other religions and with non-belief. In my opinion one of the key changes happening now is that non-Christians are numerous enough, and visible enough thanks to information technology, that Christianity no longer seems like the default choice even in countries where it once held cultural dominance.

    • Maltnothops

      I find it increasingly jarring when Christians regard atheism as their main competitor rather than other faiths.

      • Kodie

        I was eavesdropping on a conversation on a city bus some years ago, it was a woman talking to someone else, either there on the bus or on the phone, I can’t remember, about her conversion from Catholicism to some other branch of Christianity. She remarked on the weirdness that they didn’t have all the superficial stuff, or expressed somewhat of missing that spooky decorative Catholic vibe, etc. Anyway, when you see Christians on this or some other blog, they are not at all interested in the variety of Christian denominations, or arguing against another Christian input. I don’t think I have even seen them argue against another believer of any religious sect.

        I was not brought up Christian, but from what I can gather, there is strong propaganda against not believing that does not agree with people who actually disbelieve Christianity, and, to some extent, they would label anyone who doesn’t believe exactly what they believe “atheists”, for example a strongly devout Muslim or Hindu is an atheist as far as what they believe. Other Christians are merely “not true Christians” who are easily misled by human charlatans because they are humans seeking something, but they don’t reflect on this tendency as far as their own beliefs in their version of Christianity. What they never seem to do is argue with those other Christians, at least here. Seems believing Jesus to be the lord and savior is all they care about, and however that manifests in another Christian is small potatoes (or no potatoes) compared to people who just won’t let them be foolishly superstitious and wield their authority over everyone. No Christian wants to count their denomination as a minority, they will take anyone who believes in Jesus, and while they are not often crazy about Muslims in particular, they are here to bother us with us bothering them, mainly. Muslims and other faiths aren’t a majority, they might take Muslims to be dangerous terrorists, but every other faith is minority and not a threat. Is a Christian likely to switch to another faith entirely, or to realize god isn’t real? There are nonsense passages in the bible against people who are foolish enough to deny the reality of Jesus Christ, according to them, which would include Jews at the time and place.

        • Maltnothops

          I was raised Missouri Synod Lutheran (LCMS) which is pretty fundamentalist (and they mostly deny being fundamentalist). There is a blog on the Evangelical channel (and they deny being evangelical too, BTW) called Cranach, which I drop in on occasionally. Long story short, they are adamant that only LCMS got Christianity right. I often get the impression from the regular commenters there that they think all other Christians are bound for hell.

          One of my aunts, LCMS, told me how relieved she was that I was “only” atheist and had not converted to any other religion. As she said, it would be easier for me to return to the LCMS fold from atheism than from some false religion such as Methodism or Judaism or, heaven forfend, Catholicism. I mentioned this on Cranach. One of the regulars, with what seemed like great reluctance, admitted that my aunt was wrong and that it would be better for me to adhere to some faulty interpretation of Christianity than to be not “under the umbrella of Jesus” at all. Pretty funny.

        • Kodie

          Well, it seems like both your aunt and the commenters of that other blog have a faulty comprehension of what atheism is, such as most Christians seem to. I really don’t know what it feels like to have a religion either! I think some think of atheism as satanism, so that would be worse, while some think of it as taking a break… I can think of any teens, as they call it, “rebelling” and calling themselves an atheist for a little while, usually come back to the same religion. They can notice that god doesn’t seem to exist, or start to mature and notice that god doesn’t interfere with tragedies and catastrophes and that’s cruel, and for shock value, but deep down really believe there is a god, so as far as your aunt, probably thinks it’s like that. It’s not like satanism where your mind was trapped in another dimension by a demon, unable to free itself to choose to worship god.

        • Khanh Ho

          I’m a Satanist, yet I don’t believe in demons. I choose to believe neither Satan nor god nor supernatural of any kind. I have nothing but utter contempt for the act of worshipping, FYI.

        • Why call yourself a Satanist then?

        • Khanh Ho

          I am a member of the Satanic Temple. To us, Satan is a symbol of rebellion against tyranny. We are religious in a sense that we believe reason, kindness, and compassion towards our fellow humans and nature is the best way forward. We believe that religion without superstition is possible. Also, we demand that religious freedom is applicable to all religions, ours included.

        • I’m a member, too (or at least I’ve given my support to the 7 tenets). They’re taking a clever approach to church/state separation issues.

        • Susan

          Why call yourself a Satanist then?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Satan

        • Right, but I believe Khanh Ho is a member of the Satanic Temple, not the Church of Satan. Very different.

        • Susan

          a member of the Satanic Temple, not the Church of Satan. Very different.

          Right. My mistake.

          I had the right thing in mind but the wrong link.

        • Kodie

          I don’t believe in Satan, so I would not call myself a Satanist. The way religious people mishandle labels like atheist or Satanist, as I understand it, Satanism has been reclaimed by some atheists, but that doesn’t seem like a thing I would do, and I might be mischaracterizing your take as well.

          What I’m talking about is when religious people, and especially Christians, because they do believe the devil is real and tricks people into falling away from god or wanting to have fun being bad more than they want to go to heaven when they die, so that they mischaracterize atheists as having fallen under a wicked spell by an actual Satan, and that’s the only plausible reason they don’t believe in god or Jesus. It’s because they say we want to be wicked, we want to be immoral, we don’t want to follow a good path. They are assuming that makes them good and moral, and without a religion, immoral, or following an actual Satan. They cannot comprehend living without superstitions or beliefs in the supernatural. They don’t really seem to understand. They are fed misunderstanding and lies at church about what happens if you stop believing, so that their characterization of non-believers is that we’re all worshiping Satan, which accounts for all the “sin,” things they think are bad like being gay or using birth control, etc. This allows them to be judgmental, and also to superstitiously cling to their faith because they fear what awaits them if they even dare to think about it too hard.

        • Khanh Ho

          I understand that the point you raised is valid, but what recourse do I have against their mischaracterization? Tyrants will always be tyrants, they will band together to oppress. The way I see it, we fight fire with fire. They wail for religious freedom, they better allow Satanic invocations in public meetings, After School Satan clubs in public schools, Satanic Adopt-a-highway signs along public roadways etc. They finally get a taste of their own medicine& feel what it is like at the receiving end. Just hopefully, some of them see that we will back down if they back down (ie. no invocation at public meetings) and that is a win-win-win: we win, they win, the public win. To that end, my felow Satanists and I have tried, are trying, and will always try with utmost determination (stubbornly, if you will)

        • We keep having to repeat this. Atheists get shut out of Christmas displays on public property, then they protest, then they get let in, then the Christians whine, then they don’t have anything on public property but move to churches instead.

          Having seen how this plays out, why do they need to see the lesson repeated? “Golly, I burned myself by touching the hot stove last week, and that sure did hurt! But I wonder what would happen if I did it again … ?”

        • al kimeea
        • Ficino

          I often get the impression from the regular commenters there that they think all other Christians are bound for hell.

          Wow, I knew the Missouri Synod was hardcore, but I didn’t know they were that hardcore. They would think Calvinists are going to hell?

        • Michael Neville

          Even some Calvinists think Calvinists are going to He‍ll. The strictest interpretation of predestination has only 144,000 people (or maybe just men or possibly only male virgins) going to Heaven, the rest of us need not bother to pack an overcoat for the hereafter.

        • Maltnothops

          I don’t know their attitude about Calvinists, to be honest. Their big thing (and I’m referring here to the regular commenters on that site) is being “confessional Christians”. Deviation from the confessional creeds = “not Christian in any meaningful sense of the word”. That is a quote, or a very close paraphrase, of a regular there. RCC is confessional but has some “obvious” defects (the anti-Christ pope; not sola scriptura, not faith alone but faith and works.) The progressive Lutherans are essentially pagan.

          To the extent that a Calvinist thinks faith is unnecessary because god has already chosen, such a person is likely hellbound, in their view.

        • In Catholic school, I was told that I was not a “Christian”, I was a Catholic and that only hellbound heretic Protestants called themselves “Christian”.

        • Maltnothops

          When I was in high school (public), a very argumentative Catholic kid told me that Martin Luther was “just a bad monk”. I think I said — I hope I said — something to the effect that the Reformation probably wouldn’t have happened if ML was just a bad monk.

          Anyway, “just a bad monk” became an inside joke for certain friends and me over the ensuing decades. I once wrote a letter from Europe to a woman I wanted to be my girlfriend (spoiler: she married me just 6 years later and we are still together; 30th anniversary is next year) and affixed a stamp that had Luther on it. It must have been around the 500th anniversary of his birth. I wrote “just a bad monk” next to the stamp. She doesn’t remember anything about that letter, nor do I, except for the stamp.

        • Maltnothops

          I just remember that I lived in a central American country for a while in my 20s. At one point I rented a room from an evangelical Christian and she kept asking me if I was Christian. Only later did I realize she wanted to know if I was Catholic or Protestant.

        • Maltnothops

          I love this one. It is so effing true.

      • For some reason, Christians give a pass to the other theists. “Well, at least they’re believers in something” seems to be the attitude.

        • Maltnothops

          My sister, a Lutheran, said that in almost those exact words.

        • al kimeea

          I overheard a religious pro say something very similar to an elderly Cockney lady in response to her belittling of his profession.

      • Greg G.

        I think at some level, they have a feeling that believing in invisible beings is wrong but someone who doesn’t believe in invisible beings draws the feeling toward the conscious level. Or something like that. At least it was that way for me.

      • Michael Neville

        This is especially surprising considering that Christians, particularly evangelicals, mainly try to recruit people in other forms of Christianity to join their specific sect.

        • Connie Beane

          No big surprise to me. The major sales pitch has already been accepted, all they have to do is sell their specific brand of toothpaste….er, denomination….by demonstrating that it tastes better than the prospect’s previous brand. With atheists, you have to overcome the obstacle of their not believing in the concept of toothpaste–or religion–in the first place.

  • Maltnothops

    First a joke, then a (stolen) observation.

    A man gets stranded on a remote island in the late 1980s and is finally rescued in the 2010s. He notices that everyone has a small handheld device. ‘What is that?”he asks. A smartphone, he is told. What does it do, he asks. ‘With This, you can access all the information known to humankind!” That is amazing, he says. What do you do with it?” Oh, mostly look at videos of cats and argue with complete strangers.

    Stolen observation: The number of Bigfoot sightings dropped as the number of smartphones increased. Documented miracles are in short supply too.

      • Greg G.

        I’m not so sure. How many times has someone walked by a ghost or a bigfoot but didn’t look up from their phone? Who looks up at the sky anymore?

        • MR

          “First consider the clear and pure color of the sky, and everything it contains–the stars wandering here and there, and the moon and the splendor of the sun with its bright light. If all these things were now suddenly and unexpectedly presented to us mortals for the first time, what more wonderful could be named than these, or that mankind could less venture to believe would exist? Nothing, I think. So wonderful to behold would this sight be. But now, bored with seeing it so often, no one bothers to look up at the shining regions of the sky.” –Lucretius

        • Greg G.

          Lucretius was wrong. I think it has been mentioned in this forum that when there was a big power outage in Los Angeles, people called the police to report a strange glowing cloud in the sky because they had never seen the Milky Way before. People would want the wandering planets arrested for loitering.

        • MR

          Actually, I kind of think it shows that he was right. One of the Hitchhiker’s books had a similar take as I recall. Some world (that wasn’t London) shrouded in mist and had never seen the sky.

        • Michael Neville
      • Maltnothops

        I’m pretty sure that’s where I stole it from. Although I only remember Bigfoot.

        Thanks!

  • The Forbidden Word of the Day was promotion! You win today’s prize, sir!

  • Thanks4AllTheFish

    I don’t have any data that supports this theory of mine but I suspect that many of the Christian folks who visit us here in non-believer land, find us infinitely more interesting than the dull, “don’t draw outside the lines”, pious prune-faces they face on a daily basis. Disagreeing with pretty much anything we have to say is likely mandatory in order to stay in Big G’s good graces. In any case, injecting a healthy dose of Jesus juke certainly sets us all straight. 😉

  • eric

    I sometimes like to consider the science-fiction idea that we discover a method of looking back in time; any time, any place. What a wonderfully amazing invention; you can use it to help solve crime. Missing kid? Bam, we know exactly who took them and where they went. But you could also watch Lincoln give the Gettysburg address. Watch a T-rex hunt a triceratops. Discover the origin of life on Earth. See the first human use of agriculture. You name it, you can watch it. Now, there are some clear privacy issues that would need to be worked out when using it to look at the recent past, but it’s doubtful those concerns would apply to any event that was, say, over 110 years ago.

    And then I think: guess what groups of people would oppose using such a tool? Corrupt officials. Criminals. And religious people with doubts as to whether their miracles claims might actually be true or not.

    No such invention will ever occur, I don’t think. But that’s really just an extreme version of Bob’s ‘technology’ discussion. The general principle is the same; technology advances that help us understand what is happening and has happened are, in general, the friend of science. And the enemy of the corrupt or the religious.

    • And religious people with doubts as to whether their miracles claims might actually be true or not.

      Which would be a factor if the religion had not taken off yet. But once it has some inertia (like after it was the official Roman religion!), facts don’t matter so much. Sure, many of the people caught up in the 1844 Millerites’ End of the World thingy walked away from The Day After the Earth’s Last Day poorer and wiser. But some doubled down.

      More evidence that the human brain is pretty stupid. Who designed this thing, anyway? I’m losing faith in the idea of an omniscient Designer.

    • Greg G.

      Now, there are some clear privacy issues that would need to be worked out when using it to look at the recent past, but it’s doubtful those concerns would apply to any event that was, say, over 110 years ago.

      It’s not just time you would have to travel, it is returning to the location in space where the earth was 110 years ago, which is about 1.3 trillion miles from here.

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    Technology benefits whatever group has the enthusiasm to get out and use it.

    Of course, what’s put out there must be true or else it’ll be debunked.

  • stevie68a

    China has been cruel to people who want to be religious.
    I wish they’d only be tough, which is different than cruelty.
    Since China is anti religion, they are sure to overtake us in the not too distant future.
    The little human wisdom in the bible, is overtaken by the gibberish that it contains.
    Superstition and delusion will not create a powerful future.

  • “Faith statements vs. reality”

    The ready access to information – and by that, I do mean having information at the tip of your fingers – is indeed the primary factor in the growth of skepticism toward the pervasive bogus claims of religions and in the growth of greater awareness of the pervasively fallacious nature of religious rhetoric in general.

    However, following very closely behind that is how the Internet merely “opened discussion.” In previous decades, Christians in the U.S. had established a broad cultural hegemonic mindset – literally the only “good” atheist was an atheist who kept his damned mouth shut – and if you didn’t, then woe unto you for all the abuse Christians were going to send your way. (Heck, even in the 21st century, just a few years ago, Christians were giving all kinds of abuse – including death threats – to atheist Jessica Ahlquist for daring to open her mouth and upset the Christian established apple cart.) It’s literally just the fact of how atheists have merely opened their mouths and added open critique of irrational religious beliefs – and the inherently irrational nature of religious belief in general – and refused to just keep their mouths shut as Christians want – that has changed the equation quite critically in terms of cultural influence.