Why Atheists Are Irrational

In today’s Huff Post, Psychologist Nigel Barber writes about his research on the link between material comfort and atheism. According to his data, it seems like the belief in God is stronger in poor countries where you are more likely to die young than in wealthy countries with modern health care and social welfare. The reason for this is, in Barber’s own words,

It seems that with better science, with government safety nets, better health, and longer life expectancy, there is less fear and uncertainty in people’s daily lives. As a result there is less of a need for religion to help people cope with the otherwise uncomfortable feeling that they have little control over their lives.

This seems like a plausible theory to me, although I feel Barber fails to notice what this says about atheism – that this attitude is highly situational, and for that reason also highly irrational.  If we assume that the idea that atheism is rational then the rational person would stick to it regardless of the situation. But according to Barber’s data, countries without material safety have hardly any atheists at all. This suggests that most atheists rely on external factors rather than rational thought in arriving at their atheism. In other words, they are irrational.

Another possible conclusion that can be drawn from this theory is that most atheist revert to religion when facing imminent death. There is of course no reliable data on this, but if the theory is correct, then it makes perfect sense that those who are atheist because they have a sense of safety and security will revert when these prerequisites are gone.

 

 

 

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60 Responses to Why Atheists Are Irrational

  1. atheistslut says:

    If someone only believes something because it is convenient for them, then its not a true belief (or lack thereof). For example, it can be argued that being good, generous and ethical because one fears the wrath of God in Hell or desires the rewards of Heaven is not truly moral. They are just reacting to fear or favor. Anyone whose core beliefs change based on socioeconomic status needs to re-examine why they believe them. Thanks for the post!

  2. “this says about atheism – that this attitude is highly situational, and for that reason also highly irrational.”

    It seems to say it equally about religion.

    “But according to Barber’s data, countries without material safety have hardly any atheists at all. This suggests that most atheists rely on external factors rather than rational thought in arriving at their atheism. ”

    Correlation does not equal causation.

    You would have to ask the atheists themselves their particular reasons for being atheists.

  3. Staffan says:

    atheistslut:

    Not sure how what you are saying relates to Barber’s theory or the conclusions I’ve drawn from it. A person whose behavior is dictated by perceived rewards and punishments is not standing by any principals, rational or otherwise, sure. But my point is that atheism is mainly the product of material safety and not rational thought.

    • atheistslut says:

      I can see the merit to what you’re saying, but I disagree based on personal experience and that of many other atheists who I know. A passion for rational thought and not just taking every belief on the grounds of untested faith. I have numerous friends for whom atheism has even shifted their focus to far more meaningful things like personal growth, and removal of extraneous material comforts from their lives and homes.
      You should speak to more atheists about why they don’t believe in a God before drawing theoretical conclusions. You may be surprised. We’re not as superficial as Barber makes us sound.

      • Staffan says:

        I live in Sweden, one of the most atheist countries in the world. So I’ve met and talked to plenty of them. And I don’t doubt their passion for rational thought, I simply doubt that they can uphold it if the safety net is removed.

  4. Staffan says:

    NotAScientist:

    “It seems to say it equally about religion.”

    True, I don’t view religion as a product of rational thought. But that seemed more obvious.

    “Correlation does not equal causation.”

    Also true, but how likely is the reversed causation? That would mean people got drastically more atheist in the modern era and that this would then cause the material wealth and safety. How would that come about, a genetic mutation?

    “You would have to ask the atheists themselves their particular reasons for being atheists.”

    From what I’ve read about attitudes in psychological research it seems no behavioral scientist would just take someone’s word for it. There is implicit bias, social pressure and all sorts of factors most people are unlikely to admit or even be aware of.

  5. Hail says:

    link between material comfort and atheism

    You are absolutely right, Staffan, Mother State becomes a god.

    The Welfare-State tends to undermine the institutions that had previously provided social support and sense of coherent identity: the family, churches, and sorts of civic groups. The Welfare-State allows for hyper-individualism, recklessness, irresponsibility, laziness, immigrant parasitism, and… atheism (it would seem).

    • Staffan says:

      That’s usually the case when you abandon religion – some person or ideology takes its place. Although that never happened in Sweden for some reason, so it’s not a given.

      I think the Welfare State could embrace traditional institutions, or human nature if you want to go to the root of it. Australian philosopher Peter Singer has suggested something like that, and I agree with that. But sadly the political left is still ingrained with Marxist dogma so it will take some time.

  6. Alan says:

    I will suggest that a better model could make religion recognizably rational and, in a short-sighted way, make this modern apostasy rational as well. Consider that religion is an institution of leadership, albeit an expensive one – figure 10% of your time plus 10% of your income to be donated to support the cause. Leadership can provide many useful things, as inspiration, motivation, direction and teamwork. Organized religion works to a large degree by bringing people of the community together on a periodic basis and reminding them how they were expected to behave and what they were expected to accomplish with their lives.
    Then came the industrial revolution and people started getting jobs which had managers and a hierarchy of leadership. Leadership which reminding them how they were expected to behave and what they were expected to accomplish with their day. To the limit of social behavior and an-the-job productivity this system has proven superior to the leadership of religion – domestic violence has dropped as dramatically as industrial productivity has risen. People feel this in their bones and in their guts. Dropping religion often feels like a no-brainer. Why pay for an institution of leadership when they now have one paying them?
    The short sightedness of this shows when you look at the longer term consequences – something our guts are not evolved to respond to. Industrial leadership and its motivations end at the office door when the workers slip out for happy hour and all manor of self indulgence. Countries with high atheist populations are nearly all in population and military decline. Not a problem, you may say as they have America to continue protecting them and plenty of religious immigrants to buffer the population. That works so long as you only worry about yourself – the decline is slow and your country will probably outlive you. Perhaps by a generation.

    • Staffan says:

      I’m not sure I follow you. I was talking about whether atheism, as a personal attitude, is based on rational thought or not.

      You talk of the pros and cons of atheism from a political and societal standpoint. You are right in that atheists, and liberals in general, are having less babies than religious and conservative groups.

      • Alan says:

        Nestled in the comment was the ‘rationale’ – you need not pay for religious leadership when your job provides leadership and pays you. Humans appear to require leadership to function productively (my hypothesis). But I suggest also that atheism is a rational (in the short-term) gut reaction, rationalizing thought follows the gut decision. So I suggest that rational thought justifying atheism is a sometimes consequence of atheism, not a cause of it. As you pointed out – people often do not know why they make the decisions they make, but rationalize them later. Many studies show that.

  7. Staffan says:

    Well, humans need leadership, that much we agree on. As I said to Hail, when atheists abandon God some ideology or person or both usually takes its place.

    But I fail to understand how atheism could be the result of a gut reaction. In my experience, atheists are mostly analytical people, high on the trait psychologists call Need for cognition – the sort of people who like to think things through. But they are unaware of their own irrationality – it’s in their nature to never admit it – so that’s where they go wrong.

  8. Alan says:

    Whether rational depends on the model you use to assess religion. If it is simply to hide from your fears, any reason to leave seems rational to me, which is why I suggested an alternate model. Also, humans can hold any number of ideologies at the same time – there is no need to drop religion to pick up any other.

    Very few decisions are thought out ahead of time. Most come from the gut (the subconscious), a few of those get thought about later. I suspect atheism to be one of those – sometimes thought about later, and then their arguments are borrowed from other atheists. I suspect very few think about it first.

  9. Staffan says:

    Strictly speaking, it doesn’t matter on how I assess religion. The lack of rationality consist in having an attitude that has material comfort and safety as a prerequisite when it is supposedly a product of rational thought. As for ideologies, my point is that those who drop it tend to compensate with ideologies and idolize certain persons. No president of America has been made of cult of like Lenin, Stalin, or Kim Il Sung.

    While I agree that people are more instinctual and visceral than they care to admit, again, I don’t see atheism as a good example of that. Atheist tend to be intellectual, geeky and scientifically minded. It perhaps for that reason they fail to see their own irrationality.

  10. Staffan says:

    Yes, I doubt they’ll agree with either of us : )

  11. Agnosticism is actually the only rational position in the God exists / God doesn’t exist debate. God’s existence can’t be proven in an objective, verifiable manner. But the lack of objective, verifiable proof doesn’t automatically establish God’s non-existence as fact … although many folks insist it does. And since proofing a negative, proving something doesn’t exist, God or otherwise, is either all but theoretically impossible or actually impossible, the question from the atheists side is likely never to be answered. For the believers, they all have to wait until God the Father appears in the heavens and announces in a booming voice the New Jerusalem. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to happen, and you know both sides of the debate won’t. They’ll be using all their air to yell at each other. And so it goes. Happy Halloween!

    • Staffan says:

      I agree. They sometimes make the excuse, “well, it’s hard to prove a negative”. As if someone else laid that burden on them.

      I sometimes wonder if there is also an element of coping strategy in atheism, a way to avoid the sense of uncertainty.

      And a happy Halloween to you too!

    • adambnoel says:

      To be fair, I think atheists misunderstand the component of faith that makes up most non-evangelical religions. Faith and doubt are important components of religion and I can even see this faith and doubt allowing for the more mystical components of it all. In the end… evangelicals know there is a god, strong atheists know there isn’t a god, agnostics admit they don’t know and weaker theists have faith that there is but in the end they too have their doubts.

  12. ZARVOE says:

    This will; be long. I added in the usual objections to what I have to say to make sure people know that yes I am aware of these claims.

    I actually question why we set this up as Atheism VS Religion, as if Atheism and Religion are opposites. Religion really shouldn’t be seen as the opposite of Atheism, as Religion is not the same thing as Theism. There are plenty of Atheistic Religions that exist. I’d actually argue that everyone is Religious, as Religion is nothing more than a Philosophical understanding of the world we live in. The attempt to create a distinction between Philosophy and Religion to me are unconvincing, and I certainly don’t get the idea that Philosophy is naturalistic and Religion holds tot he Supernatural, as too many Philosophers actually argue for God or the Supernatural, and too many Theists say God is not Supernatural.

    Most of the Atheism we see today isn’t really mere Atheism. Its not just a belief there is no God. Or as its become popular to say, “Lack of belief in a god”. The latter definition has become the standard retort but tis wrong since you can’t lack belief in something once the idea is introduced, though you can reject or accept it.

    Still, most modern Atheists are some form of Humanism, and even more at least hold tot he basic tenets of the Enlightenment. If you talk to enough western Atheists, you soon see a common mythos draped around Atheism. From the Ubiquitous claim that Science and Religion are irreconcilable, hostile forces, and Atheism is choosing Science over Religion, to the idea that Reason alone is supreme, to the idea that Religion is the opposite of reason. Heck, even the modern Claim that Faith is belief without evidence and must be rejected by all that are Rational can make this list. By the way, Faith is not belief without evidence when discussing Religion. Faith has six definitions, and most Religious Writers mean Trust or Confidence, not belief without evidence.

    But that’s the thing, while Atheism in and of itself is not a Religion, what most people really mean by Atheism, or professing themselves to be Atheists, is. This Atheism is not an opinion on a singular topic but an entire philosophical framework by which the whole world is understood. It is a Religion in its own Right. It’s a Religion that claims to not be a Religion, but a Religion all the same. In fact, Humanists use to call their beliefs a Religion, and al one need do to confirm this is to look up the First Humanist manifesto. It was only in the US that this became a problem as Humanists fought for a “Secular society free of Religion” and thus sued to rid Schools of prayer and Bible readings and Public Spaces of any Religious Symbol. The problem was, they wanted their Humanist values taught in Schools, and if Humanism is a Religion, then it can’t be. So they slap the word “Secular” onto it and say they reject Religion, then conflate Secularism with their specific beliefs and Ideals, thus making a Secular society a society that operates on their own beliefs, and in which Religious Beliefs should be kept private and be made subservient.

    The History is a bit more complex than this, but for our purposes, this is why Humanists deny being members of a Religion. There’s also the fact that “Religion” became synonymous with “Christianity” so a lot of works that belittled Religion in the 19th Century really only attacked Christianity. This includes the writings of Draper and White on Science and Religion being at odds.; And one of those men only say Catholicism as hostile to Science, whilst saying Protestantism was OK. The Myth grew over Time.

    Therefore, I see the Modern Atheism we observe in society to be a Religion in its own Right. To me, explaining why Atheism is more common in Prosperous Nations isn’t that hard at all, under this Paradigm. This is simply where it flourished.
    It’s not that Material comfort brings Atheism about, or material hardship brings about Theism, or “Religion” as this article says, its that the Enlightenment happened in Europe and the Modern Atheistic Philosophies we see today are principally derived from the Enlightenment.

    One could just as readily point out that all of the wealthy western nations have deep roots in Christianity, and claim that Christianity is the reason we have so many Atheists.

    The Truth is, as society and members of society began to debate, or even accept, some or all of the Enlightened ideals, they became modified, added to, and expanded upon throughout he 19th Century and were finally codified into things like the Humanist Manifesto in the 20th Century.

    If you examine the History of Atheism in the Western World, or even in places like China, you’ll see that rather than Atheism being a result of dispassionate examination of Scientific Evidence and an increase in the Standard of Living, it comes about by the propagation of certain ideas, by men like Voltaire, or Diderot , or Rousseau, and continued with men ike Marx, not used here as a pejorative, or Huxley, or Ludwig Feuerbach, the last name here wrote the basic Anthropological framework of God as an invention and Christianity as a form of Wish Fulfillment. Men like Bertrand Russlel, H. G. Wells, and A. J. Ayer in the late 19th and Early 20th Century continued to popularise and advance this belief system. It’s had quiet a well documented and observable History in our records.

    I would argue that, instead of Atheism being the result of comfort and learning about Science, what we’re seeing is Humanism, or some permutation of it, being spread in the same way that Religions spread, and would argue that it is, in fact, a Religion in its own Right.

    The reason its not in the poorer countries is because it originated in Europe and spread mainly to Europe and the Americas.

    Rather than see Atheism as merely not believing in a god, I see it as entrenched in a Philosophy that accompanies it into our world and almost invariably is in all Atheists we speak to.

    It is, in short, simply a new Religion that like Christianity became locked into a Geographical and cultural Milieu. It needs no other explanation. The reason its common in the West is because its a child of he West, in the same way that Christianity is rare in Cambodia or Thailand, so is this.

  13. Staffan says:

    I agree that modern – or militant? – atheism is a religion in its own right. It has its god – Rational thought/Science, it’s prophet Darwin, and it’s preachers, Dawkins and others. And it is arbitrarily linked to Enlightenment and a general leftism that embraces values that ultimately can’t be proven or disproven.

    But the reason it is strongest in wealthy countries can’t be just a matter of originating in Europe and therefor being exported to America. In Japan, a consistent majority claim to be part of no religion at all – not just rejecting theism but all religions.You can also see that the richer countries in Scandinavia have much more ateists than the poorer countries in the south, in spite of largely sharing the same culture and history – and DNA.

    You can also see this within a country like America:
    http://www.pewforum.org/How-Religious-Is-Your-State-.aspx

    There are some exceptions but the overall pattern is still clear – the richest states are the least religious.

    • ZARVOE says:

      I don’t think you need a god to be a Religion. Indeed, I accept that they don’t have a god, but Religion doesn’t really require one. They do have Preachers and suchlike, and even do the same things they say Religion does that they hate, such as being dogmatic and having principles your not supposed to question, and producing intolerance. They argue their Intolerance of Religion is caused only by its destructiveness, but I’d argue that conflicts caused by Religion are really caused by conflicts of Ideals. EG, if Muslims and Christians go to war, it may nominally be called a Religious War, but the real cause will be differences of opinion. But the same thing is at play if Ayn Rand’s Objectivists go to war with Secular Humanists. The idea that Religion causes conflict in itself and that if we didn’t have Religion there would be no conflict is just absurd. Not only will we always have Religion, since in the end Religion is just beliefs about the world we live in, but we’ll always have different values and ideas about how to live, so even if I accepted that Atheism was the opposite of Religion, I’d then be forced to conclude their idea about Religion being the cause of conflict to be balderdash. If the whole world were Catholic, there would be no conflict over Religion. It’s just as sensible to argue that we need to have a Catholic society with all our laws based on Catholicism and the schools run by the Church as to argue we need a Secular society based on Humanist Values.

      I also don’t think Religious claims are in the end always unprovable or that they must be taken without evidence. The idea that Faith is belief without evidence is popular, but again this isn’t how most Religious writers Historically used the term nor how its used by most today. Or even most people in general today.

      That said, you mention Japan. I think Japan proves my point. For starters, Japan, and for that matter China, are actually heavily influenced by the West. F you look at the Enlightenment and the Secular Ideals we now preach, they really have become global. But even so, if you really examine the Japanese culture, you’ll also realise that you don’t have a Japanese equivalent of Richard Dawkins. Japanese Atheists don’t tend to bark about how awful Religion is and don’t seem to target temples and shrines as hotbeds of social disorder.

      In fact, I have seen figures that indicate some of the “non-religious” Japanese are actually not as Atheistic as we may think. Some of them still believe in Ancestral Spirits, or a life force.

      Still, I never said Atheism could only develop the context of the Enlightenment, only that modern Western Atheism pretty well did.

      As for Scandinavia, like Russia they too have adopted the same idea of what Secularism is and the same ideas from the Enlightenment. Again, just look at the History. The ideas clearly spread. To them too. It’s not like Scandinavia was completely Isolated from the rest of Europe. The Scandinavians still got books and learned from professors who went to Oxbridge or Harvard or somewhere. The ideas still came from the same place.

      In fact, the same can be said of Democracy. Monarchy was the most common form of Government in the world 200 years ago, and now almost the whole world has embraced Democratic ideals and Principals, even Japan. While some countries retain a Monarchy, few have any real power and most are figureheads, and most nations now are Republics. Again, if you want to look at Japan as an example, the Emperor has little to no power and Japan is described as a Democracy.

      Do you honesty think this came about by accident? That all the countries embraced the same Republican principles and values, and the same Democratic Ideals, all on their own? That Scandinavia, and Asia, and the Western nations of Europe and North America all came up with these ideas independently?

      Both Republicanism and modern Secularism were invented by the Enlightenments Philisophes, and both of them were originally confined to Europe and the Americas, but in the course of the 19th and 20th Centuries were exported round the globe so that they now are found to have taken root in all parts of the globe.

      I doubt the argument could be made that this is True of Democracy, but not True of the Enlightenment and that the Enlightenments ideals had to remain confined not just to Europe and the America’s, but also must somehow omit Scandinavia.

  14. Staffan says:

    I’m not sure how these godless religion works so I can’t comment on that.

    I would reduce the issue of war one step further and say that war is largely a tribal thing, a part of our DNA. Religion works fine as a way to distinguish your group from outgroups, as does physical appearance or political ideals. Both WW1 and WW2 were fought more over political ideals and other things unrelated to religion.

    “That said, you mention Japan. I think Japan proves my point. For starters, Japan, and for that matter China, are actually heavily influenced by the West. F you look at the Enlightenment and the Secular Ideals we now preach, they really have become global. But even so, if you really examine the Japanese culture, you’ll also realise that you don’t have a Japanese equivalent of Richard Dawkins. Japanese Atheists don’t tend to bark about how awful Religion is and don’t seem to target temples and shrines as hotbeds of social disorder.
    In fact, I have seen figures that indicate some of the “non-religious” Japanese are actually not as Atheistic as we may think. Some of them still believe in Ancestral Spirits, or a life force.”

    Could be but according to most surveys the majority claim to have no religion.

    “As for Scandinavia, like Russia they too have adopted the same idea of what Secularism is and the same ideas from the Enlightenment. Again, just look at the History. The ideas clearly spread. To them too. It’s not like Scandinavia was completely Isolated from the rest of Europe. The Scandinavians still got books and learned from professors who went to Oxbridge or Harvard or somewhere. The ideas still came from the same place.”

    Yes, but Scandinavia then went on to become the most atheist and the most wealthy region in Europe. Coincidence? France at the center of the Enlightenment is still more religious.
    “Do you honesty think this came about by accident? That all the countries embraced the same Republican principles and values, and the same Democratic Ideals, all on their own? That Scandinavia, and Asia, and the Western nations of Europe and North America all came up with these ideas independently?
    Both Republicanism and modern Secularism were invented by the Enlightenments Philisophes, and both of them were originally confined to Europe and the Americas, but in the course of the 19th and 20th Centuries were exported round the globe so that they now are found to have taken root in all parts of the globe.”

    No, I think democratic ideals and atheism can both be situational in the same way. Remember that the money came first, with the industrial revolution. Then came atheism and democracy. Both could need comfort and security as preconditions. After all, it’s well known that in times of distress people look for a strong leader rather than a stronger democracy. Putin being an obvious contemporary example.

  15. ZARVOE says:

    But what does not having a Religion mean to the Japanese? Westerners usually mean they are Atheists, but sometimes even in the West people say they have no Religion only to say they believe in God, or at least something.

    In Japan, many people associate Religion with a specific Faith. For example, if I were Japanese, and didn’t formally belong to the Buddhist, Shinto, or Christian Faiths, but nonetheless believed in parts of each, accepting tat God existed, but also embracing the idea of detachment as a means to ending suffering, would that make me an Atheist?

    The Japanese Non-Religion is a lot different from the European or American Non-Religion.

    Godless Religions work the same way Godly ones do. They tell you what morals to hold, who you are, where you came from, and what the nature of the world you live in is.

    I also think you missed my point. I think both modern Democratic principles and Modern Atheism came abotu due to the same types of Philosopy embraced 200 years ago. Also, both Atheism and Democracy as we understand them today predate the Industrial revolution. The ZFrench revolution was in 1789 based on them, whilst the Industrial Revolutiion was in the mid 1800’s.

    • Alan says:

      The research referenced is not looking at the origins of the ‘modern ideas’, but is looking at the modern mass conversions which have been post WWII, during this Pax Americana. I don’t think the Japanese version is much different than the European – their ‘religions’ may be different, but I suspect there atheism is the same.

      • ZARVOE says:

        Most of the world has been affected by the spread of Western Values by American media and Education. The Enlightenment beliefs are no different, and to that end, Atheism today is really linked to that Philosophy, which I see as just a Religion in its own Right.

        Still, my point about Japan is that some Japanese say they aren’t Religious, but they still pray art Shrines to various gods or the Spirits of their Ancestors. The question isn’t if the Atheism is the same, but hat they mean by saying they have no Religion. They need not mean that they are Atheists.

      • Alan says:

        I think we concur that individuals who frequent shrines and continue to pay homage to ancestors should be considered ‘religious’ and not ‘atheist’. Religion in the East has developed quite differently than in the West, and many who ask such questions may not recognize that. As far as atheism in the west, we appear to fundamentally disagree. From the distribution of atheism as noted in the article, it is the ‘good times’ that promulgate atheism. The Enlightenment ideas and the notions of democracy I would argue are adequately spread worldwide. Atheism is not lagging throughout the world for want of Enlightenment ideas, but for want of peace and prosperity.

        I also disagree that any atheism should be seen as some type of religion. I see as a fundamental requirement for religion that it incorporate gods or spirits in an authoritative or judgmental position.

      • ZARVOE says:

        First off, I didn’t claim that Atheism was a Religion. In fact, I went out of my way to say it wasn’t. But at the same Time, its wrong to define Religion in such a way as to make the incorporation of gods into its belief system a requirement. There are plenty of Religions that do not require Theism, that we still call religions. Zen Buddhism for example is a Religion with no gods, and so is Raelianism if you want to get technical.

        The truth is, using Theism as the marker for Religion, and thus seeing Atheism as the opposite of Religion, is more of a tool used by Atheists in the modern discussion on society to guide us into thinking a Secular Society means an Atheistic one, and to remove themselves from the criticism they levie at others. Look at he well worn claim that Religion causes warfare and social division. Is it really Religion that causes conflict? If Religion is reduced to nothing more than belief in, and reverence of, gods and supernatural powers, then I’d have to disagree that Religion is at fault. No wars have ever been fought in the name of Religion, either. No one has killed in the name of Theism. Sure, you can point to the Crusades, but the Crusaders didn’t go to the Middle East because they believed in and revered god and supernatural powers and their opponents didn’t. If you think I’m being silly, keep in mind that this is my intent. Whenever Atheists say that no one has killed in the name of Atheism, thy create excuses for the Times when this actually did happen, such as in the various purges of the Soviet Union in which, in the name of State Atheism many Orthodox Clergy, Jewish Rabbi’s, and Muslim imams were killed. Shifting the blame by saying it was in the name of Communism, not Atheism ignores the central role of Atheism in Marxist Communist Doctrine.

        The Truth is, social division is created by disagreement, not by “belief in gods”. Even if the whole world embraced Atheism, you’d still have disagreement between Ayn Rands followers and Secular Humanists, which run as deeply and can be just as heated as any despite between a Christian and a Muslim, or a Christian and a different kind of Christian.

        Most of the Time, when men like Dawkins or Russell or Lennon dream of a world with no Religion in which we all get along, they assume that when Religion dies out, everyone will embrace the same kind of Humanism they have embraced, but there’s no real guarantee of that. Not that it’d matter since interpreting Humanism and how to live our lives according to a Humanist Ideal is still subject to interpretation, and will inevitably see disagreement that becomes just as heated and just as hostile as any Theistic groups.

        The only difference is, the moral, ethical, social, and pragmatic concerns at issue will be Atheistic. But is it really better to have an Atheist impose his morals on us than for a Theist to? Is it really better to be told how the world works and what the meaning of life is from an Atheist than from a Theist? Not really.

        While Atheism isn’t a Religion in itself, neither is Theism. Nor does Religion really require belief in gods or a god. Religion in the end is just a Philosophical understanding of our existence. It tells us who we are, where we came from, and what, if any, is the meaning of our existence. It tells us how we should live, what is important, and what the nature of our existence is.

        I’m not saying Religion supplies answers to those most fundamental of questions, answers that Science or Philosophy may one day also answer instead of Religion, I’m saying that any Answer to those questions, no matter how it is arrived at, is a Religious Answer.

        When all is said and done, the Alternatives to Religion we are presented, each and every Non-religious Philosophy or Non-religious World-view, is nothing more than a Religion itself. We just don’t call it that, and its members often refuse to be called that as they have developed an animosity towards the word “Religion”.

        But in the end, I see no difference.

        I also see no correlation between Wealth and Atheism. I’ll tackle that in my next post though.

      • Alan says:

        I completely agree that the problems to peace are humans, not religions. Humans have long been the world’s top predators, and as such, are detriments to peace. Blame evolution for that one.

        I have to go along, however, with rejecting as religious all non-religious Philosophies and Non-religious World-views as they do not appear to fill the functions of religion, with or without any animosity.

        Religion, at its core, is a social institution – particularly organized religion (post Paleolithic religions which incorporate priests and build temples). While there are innumerable social institutions that are not religions, in my research, none are fully adequate substitutions.

        Zen Buddhism and Raelianism both incorporate a variety of supernatural agency that is no different than a knowing spirit. They may be ‘non-theistic’, but I do not see them as lacking a reliance on otherworldly spirits or agents. Atheism, at least in its modern guise, rejects spirits as well.

        The difference between religion and the secular alternatives is that religion has been demonstrated to work, where the alternatives have not.

        While I see a strong correlation to peace + prosperity and atheism, there is a competing phenomenon of anti-religion that is common in archaeology and I think includes the French Revolution as well: Failing societies. The Mayan, Easter Islanders, Minoan and Pueblo all appear to have killed off their priests when their societies collapsed – just as did the French. Following the French anarchy, both crown and cardinals were restored, the crown only temporarily.

        The conversion away from religion under communism was directed by the state, and such societies are experiencing a resurgence of religion as state suppression is released.

    • Staffan says:

      We can always debate the exact period of time but it’s clear that economic growth in Europe was dramatic under the 1700s (and even more so after that). So there was first increased wealth, and the optimism of a growing economy – and then democracy and atheism.

      • ZARVOE says:

        Correlation is not Causation. That said, I also disagree. The French Revolution did not occure during a time of Economic growth and prosperity, it occrued when France wa sin debt and the costof food was increasing.

        I think that Nigel Barber is simply massagign the facts to make his conclusion. The Truth is, Atheism and “Democracy” grew in Europe durign a Tiem fo Civil Unrest, and Economic uncertainty, with high ubnemployment and increasing cost of Living. not in a Tiem of general prosperity.

  16. Staffan says:

    It’s true that correlation is not causation, but it does support the theory unless you can find some other reason for the correlation.

    The French revolution didn’t introduce the idea of atheism (or democracy). It was introduced gradually through Enlightenment thinkers of the 1600s and 1700s and they it didn’t become established properly until the 1800s – when the economic growth that had begun around 1500 and accelerated since then kicked in.

    • ZARVOE says:

      But that’s between 100 and 200 years of these ideas existing but being confined to a very small number of persons. Most people didn’t embrace either Democracy or Atheism in the 1600’s. Most people weren’t gung ho for Atheism or Democracy in France even half a decade before the French Revolution.

      If one is to argue that an increase in Prosperity and stability spread the ideas of Democracy and Atheism, one has to explain why these ideas existed for about 200 years yet won only widespread dispersion in Times of Revolution. It isn’t good enough to note that they existed. They were not massive social ideas till much later.

      • Staffan says:

        That’s because the 1500s and 1600s meant increased wealth for the new middle class of merchants and businessmen, a limited group of people. As wealth gradually spread so did atheism. Even the French Revolution was primarily a project of the Bourgeoisie. Then in the 1800s the common man got some share of the wealth and as a consequence atheism became more popular, and the trend has continued to present time.

  17. BWM says:

    The less fear and uncertainty you have in your life the more time you can devote to thought and contemplation. Similar to “Guns Germs and Steel” where Dr. Jared Diamond argues that people who’s geographic location gave them access to better food crops such as wheat were able to feed more people with less effort, thus freeing up other people to devote their time to intellectual pursuits. I would hardly call that irrational. If anything it would seem to indicate the opposite, the less time that a society has to sit back and think the more religious that society tends to be.

  18. Staffan says:

    What I’m trying to say is that if atheism needs material wealth as a precondition then atheism can’t be a rational view for most people. Having a supposedly objective view on reality that depends on how well off you are is irrational.

    • BWM says:

      Yes I understand what you’re trying to say, it just doesn’t work. Material wealth is also a prerequisite of space programs and other forms of higher technology, that doesn’t make these things irrational. If anything you could argue that it makes them more rational, the less material wealth one has the more time one has to spend time devoted to thought. The less material wealth and comfort you have the more time you need to spend simply on survival, the more you have to simply throw up your hands and say “I don’t have the time to figure this out, ‘insert name of spirit here’ did it”.

      • Staffan says:

        You need a budget to build a rocket ship, but do you need a budget to think? I don’t think it’s a matter of having the time for contemplation either. People who do manual labor have lots of time to think about things.

  19. ZARVOE says:

    I actually disagree with the premise. I don’t’ think that Atheism is really connected to being Materially ell off. If you study History, you will see that at other Times of Great prosperity, in which the Economy was booming and in which the people lived in relative safety, Atheism didn’t go hand in hand with it.

    The only reason Atheism is becoming common in today’s world is because we are taught to be Atheists. I really don’t’ think its because people stop, think about the issues, and realise that Religion is foolish and give it up on their own, much less that it’s because they have Time and material security to do so.

    I see no evidence for this. Yes we see material prosperity in the Western World and we see a rise in Atheism, but we also saw a rise in Atheism under the Soviet Union, and in today’s Peoples Republic Of China. Do you really think a Chinese Sweat Shop Worker is an Atheist because his life is easy and materially rich?

    The truth is, Atheism is a belief. I know a lot of Atheists say its not, and insist its a lack of belief in gods, but its not. You really can’t lack belief in anything you have a concept of. You can believe something doesn’t exist, but you can’t lack belief. Atheism is also not the opposite of Religion like we often say it is. Atheism is the opposite of Theism, but Religion is not a Synonym for Religion. Atheism is not a Religion in its own right, but neither is Theism. Both also exist in the context of other beliefs. No one is ever just an Atheist, or just a Theist. In Theism you have things like the Abrahamic faiths, but also many forms of Buddhism, Tao, and Shinto, you have Hinduism, you have Native African Religions, and so fourth, all of which Atheists will say are only followed because people are taught them. I’d contend that this is correct but True of everything else. The only reason people in today’s world love Democracy, for example, is because they are told to love Democracy and taught to associate it with Freedom. In the Middle Ages, people loved living under the Feudal System. We often imagine it in our Democratic minds as a time of oppression and Tyranny that only the Aristocrats liked, but there’s evidence that the common people enjoyed this lifestyle as well. It’s what they were raised in and often the only thing they knew. The only reason anyone believes in Evolution is because someone else taught them about it. The only reason anyone believes in Relativity is the same. Conspiracy Theories are the same as well. 9-11 truthers are 9-11 Truthers because the original founders of said movement out certain ideas out there that have become a structures narrative of “what really happened’ that has been accepted by certain people. I would contend that the same is True in today’s world with Atheism and Secularism.

    The reality is, had society developed differently, we would likely have seen the same technological progress but not the Rise of Atheism. Had the Enlightenment not happened, but the invention of Industry occurred, we may well see the King of France as a patron of the Sciences, but the majority of Frenchmen being practising Catholics.

    Most Atheists I have met aren’t deep thinkers. Nor do most Atheists have an inordinate amount of Time to think about these issues deeply. In today’s world,we actually have less Time to think about issues than previous generations. That’s been the case ever since the Industrial Revolution. Again, we may think of the Middle Ages as a harsh struggle to survive but the reality is, people had to work much fewer hours and had far more holidays than we do today. They had more Time to reflect upon the world they lived in that the average American or European who has to work a 9-5 job, figure out what bills to pay, and then meet certain social obligations.

    But even if we have an independently wealthy man as an example, say he won the infamous 5000 a week for life from Publishers Clearing House, and no longer works, the average person still won’t go out and buy books on Philosophy and primarily watch the news and Documentaries, and spend days pondering the Universe and meaning of Life. The average person who is independently wealthy, and not working, would pretty well just have fun.

    Most people in general aren’t deep thinkers, and after meeting numerous Atheists, I sincerely doubt any claim that most Atheists are deep thinkers. Please don’t take offence at this, I don’t think most people of other opinions are deep thinkers either, and I am not denying that some are. I respect Noam Chomsky for example, he is an Atheist and a deep thinker. But the average Joe Blow Atheist that I encounter isn’t a deep thinker at all. They are pretty well like most people I meet and just don’t give matters any thought, and are too concerned with their own lives to ask about the Big Picture.

    I am not arguing that Atheism is Irrational. But Atheism is also not Rational. Atheism is a conclusion, an opinion, a belief. How one arrives at Atheism can be rational or Irrational, but not Atheism itself. The same can be said of Theism. Theism is not Rational or Irrational all on its own, but one can hold to Theism for Rational or Irrational reasons.

    But both are bundled with certain ideas. Modern Atheism really got its start in the Enlightenment. It’s the beliefs and perspective of the Philisophes like Voltaire and Ambrose Beirce and Jean-Jaques Rousseau and Denis Diderot, John Locke and Thomas Paine, along with several others advocated. Though, not all of them agreed with one another (For example, Locke was a Christian) they all contributed to forming the new general belief system that was embraced after them. This belief system would permutate over Time and especially through the 19th Century and become Humanism. It’d also serve as the basic cultural narrative in many ways, and Truth be told, modern Evangelical Christians have more in common with Modern Militant Atheists like Richard Dawkins than either have in common with either a Mediaeval Christian, or Mediaeval Atheist. And yes Atheists existed in the Middle Ages.

    Basically, this generalised Philosophy emerged from a specific cultural context, and the idea of the Supremacy of reason, and our association of Reason with Atheism and with Religion and Faith belief somewhat at odds with it, stem from this.

    Also, as I said earlier, we can’t use the East to prove me wrong either. The idea that Eastern beliefs are utterly different from the West is like the idea that they are the same. The East developed differently and has different ideas, but its also absorbed the West’s thinking on numerous issues as well. Just like Christianity spread from Palestine to the whole Roman Empire to, eventually, the world, the Ideals of the Enlightenment and Western Civilisation have spread to the world; And in the same way.

    Mao derived his ideas from Marx, who was a European, for example,and most of Asia goes along with UN resolutions, which are admitted already to be rooted in the Enlightenments beliefs.

    It is my contention that we live in a Tim of greater technology and Wealth that just so happens to have seen a cultural trend towards Atheism developed, I don’t’ think the Atheism was the result of material wealth and prosperity. Rather, I think it just coincided with the development of Industry so that modern Atheists could lead lives of increased security.

    I don’t’ think that Material Wealth and prosperity lead inevitably toward Atheism.

  20. Staffan says:

    “I actually disagree with the premise. I don’t’ think that Atheism is really connected to being Materially ell off. If you study History, you will see that at other Times of Great prosperity, in which the Economy was booming and in which the people lived in relative safety, Atheism didn’t go hand in hand with it.”

    I think the overall pattern is pretty obvious. Africa has very little atheism, Southern Europe a little more, Scandinavia much more. In Latin America poor countries like Colombia and Peru have few atheists whereas richer countries like Brazil, Chile, and Argentina have more. But there can of course be rich countries with few atheists (like Switzerland) since the connection is in the form of a precondition.

    “The only reason Atheism is becoming common in today’s world is because we are taught to be Atheists.”

    By whom? You can’t teach atheism in many countries. If we are being taught atheism that means there is an acceptance of atheism.

    “I see no evidence for this. Yes we see material prosperity in the Western World and we see a rise in Atheism, but we also saw a rise in Atheism under the Soviet Union, and in today’s Peoples Republic Of China. Do you really think a Chinese Sweat Shop Worker is an Atheist because his life is easy and materially rich?”

    The Soviet Union was an oppressive regime, when people there said they were atheists it was because they were pressured to say it.The sweat shop worker is at the bottom of the social order. China as a whole is a relatively rich country.

    “The only reason people in today’s world love Democracy, for example, is because they are told to love Democracy and taught to associate it with Freedom. In the Middle Ages, people loved living under the Feudal System We often imagine it in our Democratic minds as a time of oppression and Tyranny that only the Aristocrats liked, but there’s evidence that the common people enjoyed this lifestyle as well.”

    And people loved communism for the same reason? A shame they fought it so hard then. We have fedual societies today, most of them are Muslim, and it seems to me that there are plenty of people there who want democracy.

    “This belief system would permutate over Time and especially through the 19th Century and become Humanism.”

    We’ve already been through this, like I said earlier,

    It was introduced gradually through Enlightenment thinkers of the 1600s and 1700s and they it didn’t become established properly until the 1800s – when the economic growth that had begun around 1500 and accelerated since then kicked in.

    “It is my contention that we live in a Time of greater technology and Wealth that just so happens to have seen a cultural trend towards Atheism developed, I don’t’ think the Atheism was the result of material wealth and prosperity. Rather, I think it just coincided with the development of Industry so that modern Atheists could lead lives of increased security.”

    It didn’t actually coincide since the material wealth preceded the spread of atheism. Is this also a coincidence?

    “I don’t’ think that Material Wealth and prosperity lead inevitably toward Atheism.”

    Neither do I. There are many factors involved but overall it does look like a precondition.

  21. ZARVOE says:

    You know, I think you’ve already decided that the Huffington Post article is Right and are just arguing for it now. The Conclusion is reached already and now you work backwards to defend it against any challenge.

    You are also mistaken in several facts. For example, you said that we have many feudal societies today, most are Muslim. The Truth is, we don’t have any Feudal Societies, the last one was abolished in 2007 and was actually Christian. It was the Tiny island of Sark. Though it should be noted that many people on Sark preferred life under Feudalism than under the newly minted Democracy that was forced upon them by the European Counsel of Human Rights. No Muslim Nation is actually Feudal.

    That said, people may not like the type of society they lived in, but there is usually a reason for this. The reason people didn’t like the Soviet system was because it was oppressive, but it also lasted only 75 years. The Feudal System lasted over a thousand Years and was not fought against at all. The Feudal System ended with the advent of the Modern Era due to economic factors. Notably because the land based economy was itself abolished and the Feudal system hinged on a land based economy. It didn’t fall because people hated it and actively fought against it.

    I just don’t’ see material Wealth as a precondition for Atheism. Atheism can emerge or spread in poverty stricken lands. You may say China is relatively wealthy, but the average Chinese Citizen is not. The average Chinese citizen is actually poorer than the average European who is poorer than the Average American. In fact, America has a Higher rate of both Church Attendance and actual belief than does Europe and also has a higher standard of living than Europe as a whole or any individual European Nation. It’s obvious that the “precondition” of material wealth didn’t lead to Atheism in America on a predominant level.

    If you look at most Atheists today they were influenced by the writings of other Atheists or by cultural considerations. Most of what the average person believes is picked up by cultural osmosis. Social trends develop when an energetic, motivated minority strives hard to make heir view dominant and over Time begin to control the talking points, much like the quote from Lenin. “The Lie told often enough becomes the Truth”. This actually agrees with Napoleon’s own observation that History is just the Lies we tell ourselves. I’m not quiet as Cynical as Lenin or Napoleon in this regard but I do notice that talking points have changed Historically, and most are picked up either from the media or some other prominent cultural outlet. It’s sort of like advertising. Milk was not often drunk and Milk sales were really low once upon a Time, then someone cooked up the advertisement “Got Milk?” Milk Sales boomed. Place Dr. pepper in a popular TV show and sales increase too. Cultural ideas move in the same way. The ideas are introduced and promoted, and are subsequently absorbed by their respective clients in the general population.

    Who teaches us to be Atheists? Simple, other Atheists. Bertrand Russell, Draper ad White, Rousseau, they taught us to be Atheists. Neitche taught us to be Atheists. Thomas Paine, though a Deist, taught us to be Atheistic. They introduced ideas that gained a following that gradually began to control bow terms were defined and how debates were framed than in turn eventually became the dominant cultural paradigm.

    But cultural paradigms shift all the Time. Ideas mutate. Philosophies Evolve.

    Had the Enlightenment not happened, Atheism may itself not have become a dominant cultural force even with the Industrial Revolution. Even if it did emerge, if it came from other thinkers, it may have never developed into the Humanism we see today.

    All we see in today’s world is the dissemination of new Ideas and how ideas spread. Atheism spread the same way Christianity did. Not as lack of religion or lack of belief, but a part of a package deal in a generalised Secularist Ideology. It’s essentially a part of a Religion that began in the 1700’s. Its permutated into differing sects, but so has Christianity over the Years.

    The reason we see Atheism spreading is because of the printed word and television and the Internet and such, not because of wealth. Wealth and prosperity never leads to Philosophical conclusions.

  22. Staffan says:

    “You know, I think you’ve already decided that the Huffington Post article is Right and are just arguing for it now. The Conclusion is reached already and now you work backwards to defend it against any challenge.”

    The pattern is visible in North- and South America as well as Africa and Asia. And within the US and probably within other countries too, certainly within my country of Sweden. You claim it’s all coincidence and that I’ve just made my mind up. I don’t think we will get much further.

    I think most people can understand why I and others refer to countries like Saudi Arabia, where the royal family own everything and make the rest work for them, feudal societies. Feudalism was a peripheral issue that doesn’t hurt the theory in question. At any rate this looks like a diversion.

    “Atheism can emerge or spread in poverty stricken lands. You may say China is relatively wealthy, but the average Chinese Citizen is not.”

    Whether atheism can emerge in poverty stricken countries or not is something of an open question. But we know for a fact that there is an overall pattern in which poor countries and regions have few atheists.And the Chinese citizen is fairly well off globally speaking. If you could show me an African country with lots of atheists, then you would have a case.

    “In fact, America has a Higher rate of both Church Attendance and actual belief than does Europe and also has a higher standard of living than Europe as a whole or any individual European Nation. It’s obvious that the “precondition” of material wealth didn’t lead to Atheism in America on a predominant level.”

    Again, does not break the overall pattern. Both USA and Europe are wealthy and have plenty of atheism. You should also take into consideration that USA has less economic equality so lots of their wealth is in the hands of a few. And there are of course other factors involved, I never said there wasnt.

    “Cultural ideas move in the same way. The ideas are introduced and promoted, and are subsequently absorbed by their respective clients in the general population.”

    This is just a theory stated as if it was a fact. If this was the case then atheism should have preceded the economic growth following industrialization. But it didnt.

    “The reason we see Atheism spreading is because of the printed word and television and the Internet and such, not because of wealth. Wealth and prosperity never leads to Philosophical conclusions.”

    And since these technologies are being made accesible in poor countries too we should see a big rise in atheism there as well. But we are not.

    Generally speaking, I find this idea that wealth and security has no consequences on how humans think about reality to be very theoretical and detached from the real world.

  23. ZARVOE says:

    If you think Saudi Arabia is feudal, then you don’t know what Feudalism is. Whole Feudalism may conjure images of poor peasants forced to work for a powerful King, actual Feudalism is a decentralised Governing Philosophy in which landed interests have a share in the overall decisions of the nation and the King in a feudal Society actually has little real power. Feudalism is not Monarchical Absolutism. Feudalism is mainly based around Regional Autonomy and loose confederation.

    It’s also not a diversion to mention it, since Feudalism emerged in Japan at about the same Time as in Europe, though this seems to have been an independent development. Oddly enough, in both Feudal Japan and Feudal China, Atheism emerged and spread. In fact, Confucianism can be seen as a lead in to Atheism and many Confucian Philosophers were Atheists. Whether Master Kung was or not. This means that, while in Europe Atheism was rare in the Middle Ages under Feudalism, in China and Japan Atheism saw a sort of flourishing in the same period of Time. This was True even when China or Japan had lower economic status.

    Speaking of which, it is inconsistent to look at the Modern Chinese Citizen and claim that they re fairly well off, only to talk about America being filled with Economic Inequality. Do you really think the Average American has to face greater Economic Inequality than the average Chinese? All this does is illustrate my point about your perception on the topic. Your clearly massaging the Data to fit the conclusion, fitting the evidence to the Theory rather than the Theory to the Evidence. You want this theory to be True, as you invested in it. This is why neither Atheists who protest being called Irrational because they happen to be born into Wealthy Nations, nor I, can really make much headway in a discussion. You won’t listen to alternate interpretations or flaws to the thinking you have presented.

    The overall patterns you keep seeing are still the results of the spread of ideas. The reason Atheism isn’t common in Africa is because Africans weren’t by and large acculturated in the Atheistic beliefs held by Westerners. The ideas themselves did not spread. Christianity is Rare in Japan but you can’t say this is the result of Japan being wealthy and Prosperous, it’s simply a matter of its History. Japan was never Christianised and the First Missionaries went their in the 1500’s, only to be expelled and Christianity suppressed. In Modern Japan, Christianity is no longer suppressed but the Ideas that constitute Christianity never made much of an impact.

    It’s the failure to take root and spread that causes Japan to see fewer Christians than there are in Europe or America, not the economic status of Japan.

    The same is True of Atheism. The ideas simply found an audience and began to shape the way people understood the world. The ideas didn’t spread everywhere, and have been interpreted and altered in different regions, and never took root in others, but its not really solely the result of being wealthy and prosperous. Its the result of the ideas being presented and accepted.

    By the way, my views aren’t mere opinions presented as facts. They are facts. This is how Advertising works, for example. There’s a Science behind it.

  24. Staffan says:

    “This means that, while in Europe Atheism was rare in the Middle Ages under Feudalism, in China and Japan Atheism saw a sort of flourishing in the same period of Time. This was True even when China or Japan had lower economic status.”

    Remember when you said Japan was influenced by the Enlightenment and atheism there was also not so atheistic? Now it’s the other way around because you feel it supports your theory. I’m not into debating just for the sake of it.

    “Speaking of which, it is inconsistent to look at the Modern Chinese Citizen and claim that they re fairly well off, only to talk about America being filled with Economic Inequality. Do you really think the Average American has to face greater Economic Inequality than the average Chinese? All this does is illustrate my point about your perception on the topic. Your clearly massaging the Data to fit the conclusion, fitting the evidence to the Theory rather than the Theory to the Evidence.”

    We were comparing America and Europe. You explicitly said,

    “In fact, America has a Higher rate of both Church Attendance and actual belief than does Europe and also has a higher standard of living than Europe as a whole or any individual European Nation.”

    So it was perfectly reasonable to point out that the difference in economic inequality can explain this inconsistency. (Also, there are plenty of European countries that are wealthier than America. But I’m not making a diversion of it just a note.) Now you switch to a comparison of America and China. Maybe better luck there? Thing is I’m talking about the overall pattern so obviously there are exceptions but just look at a map of atheism and of gdp and you or anyone else who might be reading this can see for your self. I don’t need to “massage” the data.

    “The overall patterns you keep seeing are still the results of the spread of ideas.”

    Only the ideas came before the wealth but atheism didn’t.

    “The reason Atheism isn’t common in Africa is because Africans weren’t by and large acculturated in the Atheistic beliefs held by Westerners.”

    And now they are but nothing happens.

    “The ideas didn’t spread everywhere, and have been interpreted and altered in different regions, and never took root in others, but its not really solely the result of being wealthy and prosperous. Its the result of the ideas being presented and accepted.”

    Like I said before, the ideas were around for a long time but only when the economic growth created a substantial wealth in the 1800s did it start to catch on, and looking at the spread of it today we can see the same thing – in North America, South America, Europe, and Africa as well as between southern and northern Europe, the South in America etc. I think by now Italians and others have heard about these ideas

  25. ZARVOE says:

    You seem unwilling to really listen to what I am saying, or for that matter what others are saying. For example, you said I contradicted myself by noting Atheism in China and Japan and then saying Atheism want so Atheistic in them earlier. But I didn’t say this exactly. What I said was that the average Japanese will think of Religion in a different way as a Westerner. Someone in Japan may say they aren’t Religious, but mean by this that they don’t belong to a formal Religious affiliation such as Shinto or Christianity or Buddhism. They may still believe in a god of some sort, or Reincarnation, or praying to ancestral spirits, but they don’t specifically belong to a set Religion. I also said that Atheism was not the opposite of Religion. This is not saying that Atheism was introduced to Japan only recently. In fact, one of my central points is that Modern Atheism is not mere Atheism and is in fact really Humanism. Atheism has been around since Time immemorial, and we have Ancient Greek Atheists and Atheists from Mesopotamia going back centuries, but they had little in common with the modern Richard Dawkins style Atheist.

    The point I am making is that Atheism is bundled with certain ideas in modern society, and those ideas, the general Philosophy that comprises modern Secularism, is in essence a Religion, and spreads the same way other Religions spread. Sure, it doesn’t always take root somewhere for some reason, but where it does take root the reason is because the ideas are preached and taught and accepted by the population. The only impact wealth and prosperity has on this is in the ability to spread that message.

    Also, your wrong about Africa. You said they are now inculturated with Western ideas and still nothing happens. Well, your wrong. Africa is mainly influenced by Anti-Colonialism these days, and a rejection of Western values. Africa is attempting to identify what an African Values system looks like. Anti-Colonialism is so strong in Africa that they resist Western ways as a consequence. Pretty well the same thing exists in the Middle East. The reason Al Queda even came into existence was to resist the decadent and evil West lead by the Great Satan, America, and a part of that is defining yourself as the opposite of that Great Satan.

    Heck, you even poitned out that Southern Europe doesn’t have a huge influx of Atheism. But Southern Europe isn’t exactly poverty stricken,. Sure, Greece has seen riots and is in debt, but most of Europe is in some kind of Debt and so is America. Still, the average Greek has it way better than the average Ugandan or average Kenyan. The fact is, Southern Europe really is wealthy.

    Also, ideas always precede their wide acceptance. It took Christianity 300 years to become the dominant force in the Roman Empire and by extension Europe. Its not like Jesus came, started the Religion, and then the next decade everyone was Christian. If it took Christianity 300 years to develop into a dominant force, without the benefits of Industrialisation and the Printing press to assist it in spreading its message faster and more efficiently, why should we believe that the rise of Atheism in the industrial Revolution occurred because of the rise in Wealth and prosperity all on its own? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to see the Enlightenments ideals becoming dominant over Time? The fact is, the model doesn’t even work anyway since Atheism saw an increase in France before Industrialisation. When French schools began to teach Enlightenment ideals, the Children adopted hem and became essentially Atheists.

    The ideas that formed the Enlightenment took about 100years to really become social norms. The Industrial Revolution, along with the printing Press , enabled the ideas to spread faster than previous Religions had. All ideas come before their acceptance.

    Heck, even Einstein and Gandhi said this. First you are ignored, then mocked, then violently opposed, then its accepted as self evident truth.

    The fact is, the Rise of modern Atheism is simply the product of the ideas coming along and being disseminated. your evidence against this, that the ideas existed before they were accepted and they only became accepted in the 19th century when wealth increased, doesn’t really prove your point. That’s how most Religions developed. Buddhism developed that way. Christianity developed that way. Heck, even Mormonism developed that way. Ideas become acceptable to younger generations after older generations rejected them all the Time. Things usually take Time to develop.

  26. Staffan says:

    “For example, you said I contradicted myself by noting Atheism in China and Japan and then saying Atheism want so Atheistic in them earlier. But I didn’t say this exactly. What I said was that the average Japanese will think of Religion in a different way as a Westerner.”

    You said a little more than that earlier,

    “Japanese are actually not as Atheistic as we may think. Some of them still believe in Ancestral Spirits, or a life force.”

    And then later you said,

    “This means that, while in Europe Atheism was rare in the Middle Ages under Feudalism, in China and Japan Atheism saw a sort of flourishing in the same period of Time. This was True even when China or Japan had lower economic status.”

    So it’s atheism when it supports your theory even though you previously said it’s not exactly atheism.

    “Sure, it doesn’t always take root somewhere for some reason, but where it does take root the reason is because the ideas are preached and taught and accepted by the population.”

    And acceptance coincides with wealth. There is no way around it. Look at maps of atheism and gdp.

    “Also, your wrong about Africa. You said they are now inculturated with Western ideas and still nothing happens. Well, your wrong. Africa is mainly influenced by Anti-Colonialism these days, and a rejection of Western values.”

    No, I say they know about these ideas but don’t accept them. Again following the global pattern of poor people rejecting atheism. Like in the Middle East.

    “Heck, you even poitned out that Southern Europe doesn’t have a huge influx of Atheism. But Southern Europe isn’t exactly poverty stricken,.”

    It’s culturally similar to the rest of Europe so most variables are the same. Showing again how wealth is linked to atheism.If you want to see the connection you should look at comparable countries like within Europe or the West or within Africa.

    “Also, ideas always precede their wide acceptance. It took Christianity 300 years to become the dominant force in the Roman Empire and by extension Europe.”

    And this is why Chile has more atheists than Peru? Peruvians are still waiting to hear about it? Not likely.

    “The fact is, the Rise of modern Atheism is simply the product of the ideas coming along and being disseminated. your evidence against this, that the ideas existed before they were accepted and they only became accepted in the 19th century when wealth increased, doesn’t really prove your point. That’s how most Religions developed. Buddhism developed that way. Christianity developed that way. Heck, even Mormonism developed that way.”

    No, there was no wealth preceding the development of Christianity. The first Christians were poor.

  27. ZARVOE says:

    Er, I was talking about Japan 1000 years ago in the latter post, not Modern Japan… do you really think nothing has changed at all in 1000 years? Atheism was more common in Japan In 1000 AD than in 1500 AD. That’s not forming things to suit my theory that’s talking about different eras all together. This is like if I told you the Southern United States vote mainly Republican, then tell you that in the 1960’s they were mainly Democrats. Its not a contradiction, its a different Time Period. Even in Religion the same applies. England is not known today as a Highly Devout nation and less than `0% of the population attends a CofE Church. But if we’re speaking of Victorian England then about 40% attended CofE services regularly.

    Japan is not any different. Different trends exist at different points in its History.

    As for “Acceptance Coincides with Wealth’, there is still no clear evidence that Wealth produced acceptance. All you can show is that Atheistic Ideas began to be more widely accepted at about the same Time as wealth became more abundant and widespread, and even that can be challenged. It’s not like the Atheistic Ideas set fourth in the early to mid 18th century didn’t see anyone adhering to them except a meagre few, then saw a massive explosion of converts after Industrialisation. The spread of the Atheistic ideas actually showed marked increase over Time, well before Industrialisation. It went form a handful of Philisophes to large segments of society in France all before the Year 1800. people in the Americas and in other European Nations were already beginning to accept these ideas more widely even before Industrialisation.

    Also, poor people reject Atheism is not really demonstrated either. Plenty of Millionaires are actually not Atheists. Plenty of impoverished people are. In Europe you will find many who are both Atheists and poor, and plenty who are Christian or Jewish and Rich.

    The Average American Businessman, Banker, or Industrialist is actually not an Atheist, and the same applies to the average Middle Class American.

    Further, maps of Atheism show many Eastern European Nations are Atheistic, and when compared to the GDP aren’t wealthy. This contradicts the idea of the poor rejecting Atheism. Even if you sidestep the Soviet Era by saying they only claimed to be Atheists, you can’t use that excuse now. Ukraine, Latvia, Georgia, all have high levels of Atheism, as a result of 75 Years of Soviet Education and cultural breeding. There is no law now against belief in God and no risk of persecution. Orthodox Christians parade literally in the Streets on specific occasions. Yet you still see a High Level of Atheism and, a high level of Poverty. Eastern Europe simply doesn’t fit your pattern. Poor people aren’t rejecting Atheism in Poor Eastern European Nations.

    There was no Wealth proceeding the first Atheists, or even wealth proceeding the Enlightenment Era atheism we see today. It began before that, and even spread before that. Industrialisation happened to coincide with its gaining ground, but clearly it was already gaining converts over the Years beforehand. This is the fatal flaw to this assumption.

    • Staffan says:

      So there was a genuine atheist in one era and a sort of spiritual form in the other?

      “The spread of the Atheistic ideas actually showed marked increase over Time, well before Industrialisation. It went form a handful of Philisophes to large segments of society in France all before the Year 1800.”

      What are the evidence of atheists being a large segment of society in France or anywhere else at that time?

      “Also, poor people reject Atheism is not really demonstrated either. Plenty of Millionaires are actually not Atheists. Plenty of impoverished people are. In Europe you will find many who are both Atheists and poor, and plenty who are Christian or Jewish and Rich.”

      It’s a statistical law, an overall pattern. Again (and again…) look at the spread of wealth and atheism on a map. Plenty of people can be plenty of things without violating the law. Ask a statitician if you don’t believe me.

      “Further, maps of Atheism show many Eastern European Nations are Atheistic, and when compared to the GDP aren’t wealthy.”

      And it shows many are very theistic. It looks to me as they are on the average more theistic than the West – Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland are all highly religious. Again, you can’t break the pattern by cherry picking a few examples.

      “There was no Wealth proceeding the first Atheists, or even wealth proceeding the Enlightenment Era atheism we see today. It began before that, and even spread before that. Industrialisation happened to coincide with its gaining ground, but clearly it was already gaining converts over the Years beforehand. This is the fatal flaw to this assumption.”

      There is no evidence of major atheism in Europe before 1800. So the evidence we do have my theory fits that data. Then and today, globally.

      I don’t think this discussion is leading anywhere. I don’t wish to repeat myself. If any third party wants me to clarify anything I’ll do that, but by now we both made our cases pretty clear.

      • ZARVOE says:

        I didn’t say there were no Genuine Atheists in Japan. I said that the Japanese don’t always understand terms like not having a Religion in the same way Westerners do. Westerners association not having a Religion with Atheism, Asians often don’t. Someone in Japan can say they have no Religion if asked this question, only to believe in a variety of gods. The Japanese often define having a Religion as formally belonging to a Religious community somehow, and its not uncommon in Japan for people to believe in parts of many Religions, but not to be formal members. This isn’t saying they aren’t Genuine Atheists, tis saying that many aren’t Atheists at all and hat Eastern Religious ideas developed very differently than Western ones.

        Incidentally, I have to ask what you mean by “Genuine Atheists”. My point about Atheism is that today’s usage of the term is often not quiet accurate. An Atheist is simply someone who doesn’t believe there are gods. Atheism is the opposite of Theism. But, Theism is not a synonym for Religion, nor does Religion require Theism. The discussions in which Atheism is set up as the opposite of Religion is faulty. All Atheists are also Religious. This isn’t saying that they aren’t Genuine Atheists, its saying that they have a Religion. Religion is really nothing more than a Philosophical understanding about the nature of our existence. Most Atheists in the modern Western World are some form of Humanist. Their beliefs developed through the Enlightenment. Not all, but most. I am also not calling Atheism in itself a Religion, any more so than I would call Theism in itself a Religion. But Secular Humanism is a Religion.

        Also, you seem to have not studied History or read what I wrote. I didn’t so much say that Atheism was a large segment of society, as I said that the ideas of modern Atheists were spreading before Industrialisation. Even if Atheists didn’t form a large segment of society during those periods, the ideas were already gaining traction and gaining new followers and a wider base. The Thesis that it won’t until Wealth came into the picture that the ideas spread, and that the ideas sat on the shelf until society became wealthy, simply isn’t True. The ideas were being spread already and gaining a following before then. The Trend toward Atheism already existed before the Industrial Revolution. Also, the French Revolution had many Atheists actively involved, and one group, the Cult Of Reason, had enough manpower to literally scour the countryside and cities killing Priests and people who refused to stop attending Mass. This little fact is often ignored when you hear that no one has ever killed in the Name of Atheism, since the Cult Of Reason clearly did, and seems to be ignored by you. Atheism was also gaining ground in the American Colonies and other European Nations at the Time.

        The ideas we see that go into Modern Atheism, which I remind you is not Mere Atheism, were being spread and gaining cultural acceptance in the 18th and early 19th Century.

        As to the Eastern European Nations, I’m not cherry picking anything. There are still more poor people in Russia that Rich and Russia is not known as a powerhouse economy, and yet Russia has a very high rate of Atheism. The same is true of Ukraine, and Georgia. Eastern European Nations have a higher rate of Atheism than do the average Western Nations, with some even eclipsing France. 75 Years of Communism and the Children of yesteryear becoming the Adults of today while still relying on their Soviet Education can’t be ignored.

        As for their being no evidence of a Major Atheistic drive before 1800, that’s nonsense. The French Revolution was driven by leaders who wee either Atheists or Deists, and even had a major cell within it called the Cult of reason which was explicitly Atheistic. Many adherents of the French Revolution forewent Deism and simply became Atheists and plenty of Atheists Revolutionaries existed to spill blood in the Streets of Paris and Versailles.

        There are also German Schools of thought driven primarily by Atheism before 1800.

        And even pockets of growing Atheism in America at that Time.

  28. Staffan says:

    Like I said before, I don’t wish to repeat this discussion over and over again. At the heart of it lies a fundamental difference: While you believe in cultural transmission regardless of material wealth and security I believe this to be a major factor. You say,

    “Wealth and prosperity never leads to Philosophical conclusions.”

    I say when a farmer knows that the bad harvest will kill at least one of his children that affects how he thinks about the world. When an epidemic wipes out half your family it changes how you think. When the stock market collapses and you go from upper middle class to soup kitchen it changes how you think. Even among poker players it’s well known that many suffer a loss of rationality when the stakes are increased. But to you, human thought is unaffected by any outside pressure. Or at least the “philosophical conclusions” of it.

    We have fundamentally different views on human nature. I don’t think this discussion is going to change that.

  29. Andrew says:

    This is the most conclusory “logic” I’ve ever seen. Pure drivel.

    Even if your conclusion (situational beliefs are simply stated to be irrational) were sound, you have to realize that it works two ways. Indeed, the more obvious way to look at that data is that people turn to God when they have a sense of insecurity. Thus *belief* is exactly as “situational” as nonbelief, and thus just as irrational – even under your ridiculous “logic.”

    Games like this always fail. Nonbelief is as rational as it gets, because it is based on the fact that there is no evidence for God. You don’t believe in Thor for the exact same reasons, and no amount of word games and logical leaps will make you think that non-belief in Thor is irrational. Give it up, dude.

    • Staffan says:

      I can see a few problems with your argument too ;

      Firstly, you state that my “logic” is conclusory and then go on to point out that my conclusion misses the point in that it works again belief as well. To try to prove something under what you yourself say is ridiculous “logic” is itself ridiculous and illogical.

      Secondly, you assume that I don’t think belief is situational without any grounds whatsoever. Logic – ridiculous or not – will not get you anywhere if it’s built on false assumptions.

      Thirdly, atheism is belief. It’s belief in absence. Which based on lack of evidence is just as irrational as belief. The rational view here is agnosticism, admitting that we can’t know either way in lack of evidence. Dude.

      • Andrew says:

        Classic lame argument. (1) You use flawed logic. (2) I point out that your logic is flawed. (3) I also point out that – even IF your logic made sense, your argument doesn’t work. (4) You criticize me for using your flawed logic. I’m not acquiescing to the soundness of your logic; if you truly don’t understand my point here, you are not worth debating.

        Then you say that my points rest on false assumptions. (More flawed analysis and conclusory drivel.) No.. my criticism of your logic rests on the only reasonable inference one can draw from your criticism of atheism as irrational. If atheism is irrational because it’s situational, then you’re necessarily ignoring the same “situational” nature of the other side of the coin, theism. Whether this is intentional or not doesn’t matter. The point is that you can’t say that both theism and atheism are irrational, especially based on this LAME redux. Look, you can correlate people’s belief in gun control with some factor (pick one: race, social status, economic status, whatever). Then you could pick whichever side of the argument you disagree with, say it’s “situational” because it depends on someone’s financial status or whatever, and say that view is irrational. Not only is your argument hypocritical, but it’s also nonsensical and based on flawed reasoning. That’s my point.

        Finally, atheism is not necessarily belief in absence. Check your facts, dude. I’m a pretty firm atheist, but I don’t absolutely declare that there is and never was any kind of creator – how could I possibly know that? All I know, from reason, logic and evidence, is that the story of Zeus is a myth. So’s the story of Shiva. And Yahweh. And Jupiter, Apollo, Osiris, Mithra, the Kraken, the Loch Ness Monster, etc.

        If you have a problem with this view, then I ask you this: Do you believe in Bigfoot? Well, belief in Bigfoot quite probably correlates with socioeconomic status. Therefore belief – and unbelief – is “situational.” Therefore, your belief or unbelief is irrational. See how that doesn’t work?

        FAIL.

    • ZARVOE says:

      I know that members of the modern Atheist Community love to link Atheism to Reason, but the argument that there is no evidence at all that God exists is not True. I had a Philosophy Teacher, who was himself an Atheist, who even told me this.

      he was, in fact, confronted in class by another Atheist who, when we were discussing the existence of God, a favourite in Philosophy, said what you said. He said its simply Irrational to believe in God as there is no evidence, and all the arguments for God’s existence are just based on Pure speculative reason, not evidence. The Teacher, who I remind you is himself an Atheist, disagreed, and He explained it this way. When studying Philosophy, Science, or Theology, you should always be aware of why people arrive at the conclusions they do. Rational arguments for the existence of God, and Rational people believe in God, and unlike what Dawkins may say, they aren’t Rational in all other area’s of their lives but Irrational here. While he was not himself convinced that God existed, he did recognise that the arguments for God by and large rested on evidence. He simply interpreted the evidence differently than a Theist.

      The well worn claim that there is no evidence at all that God exists is simply false. There is evidence. it’s not conclusive proof,and counterarguments have been made to fit the same Evidence, but there is still evidence and, as a consequence, Rational Warrant. The no evidence Mantra is simply that, a Mantra, not a fact.

      That said, I do agree with your overall premise. The thinkign presented in this article, and for that matter in the Huffington Post article, are deeply flawed.

      • Andrew says:

        Simply stating that there is evidence for God’s existence does not make it so. Even if another alleged atheist said it. Anything that can be rightly considered “evidence” for God’s existence really boils down to “then how else did ____ come to be?” It’s always an argument from ignorance. (The illusion of design, the special mix of cosmological constants that allowed this form of the universe to exist, etc.) But these grand unknowns aren’t evidence of God’s existence any more than they are of Zeus’ existence. And this list of unknowns is rapidly shrinking; we used to think that disease was caused by supernatural forces, and we didn’t understand (and Bill O’Reilly still doesn’t understand) why the tides come in and out, etc. (Moreover, postulating a “God” does not really answer anything – then who made God?) Arguments from ignorance, god of the gaps, all of these things have been covered extensively in the works of Dawkins, Harris et al. and need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say that there isn’t any evidence in support of the Yahweh of the Bible, or any other specific god-myth that man has invented. AND there’s plenty of evidence against him/it/them. Geological, biological, cosmological (and just plain logical) analysis confirms that much of the Bible (especially the Old Testament) is simply allegory/myth/bullsh*t. For one, if the Genesis creation story is not literally true (which it undeniably isn’t – unless you’re a moron), then there is no “original sin” and the very purpose of the Christ’s death and resurrection did not exist. Not to mention the fact that the first gospels were written 45 years after Jesus’ supposed death, by people who never even knew him, etc., etc. The whole thing is so obviously false it’s ridiculous.

      • ZARVOE says:

        Andrew, you’ve just proven my point in terms of not all Atheists are rational. It’s just a Pavlovian reaction from you at this point. The claim that all “evidence’ for god’s existence is “then how did X happen?” isn’t simply not True. Most arguments for the existence of God aren’t “How did X happen”. Even the purely Philosophical ones like the Ontological argument aren’t like that. You state that all arguments for God’s existence are arguments from ignorance, in essence saying that God is used as an explanation for the unknown. But the only people who actually use those kinds of arguments are Atheists, in order to produce straw men they can knock down.

        Your what I call an ideological atheist. You’ve decided to be an Atheist. You’ve decided that God doesn’t exist. You’ve decide that no argument for God’s existence can be made rationally. So, you argue for a series of presumptions. You haven’t seriously considered what actual Theologians and Philosophers say, you just pull stock arguments from other Atheists that tell you why all their arguments are wrong, and the Atheists who tell you why Theists arguments are wrong don’t really understand the actual arguments made by Theists either.

        Why on Earth should we blindly accept your claim that all arguments for God’s existence are rooted in ignorance when clearly this is not the case if you read even classical works such as Des carte or Aquinas, and is certainly not True if you read Flew, who is a Deist yes I know, or ward or Williams.

        Also, your repeating rubbish History. People didn’t think Diseases were caused by supernatural forces in the past. This is like when people claim that people used to think the Earth was flat, a Historical myth. Its not True.

        No one assumed the Tides were directly caused by God either.

        What your saying is that all arguments for God’s existence are rooted in God being a god of the gaps filling in our ignorance, but God of the gaps has been rejected by actual Theologians for over 200 years and wasn’t even popular in the Middle Ages. In fact, n the Middle Ages the idea was that God made the Universe to function on Natural laws we could understand if we applied ourselves, and that the Universe worked like a machine on set principles. No one presumed that diseases or the tides or the sunrise were direct actions by God or Daemons or whatever.

        Nor does anyone use those assumptions as arguments for God’s existence.

        Rather than show Theism as foolish as it simply argues from ignorance, your show yourself a hypocrite. Your own Atheism is argues for by ignorance of what Theism even is.

        Then you recommend idiots like Dawkins and Harris. You do realise that they aren’t real thinkers right? They’ve been ripped to shreds. Dawkins has been specifically criticised for not understanding Theology or the arguments he tired to debunk in The God Delusion and Harris makes so many sweeping generalisations as to be utterly useless. Dawkins and Harris wrote polemic on a subject they didn’t bother to study as they assumed there was nothing to study.

        Try reading an actual academic whose studied Theology and Philosophy, then try to read Dawkins and Harris again. You’ll discover that, even if you remain an Atheist, you can’t take them seriously.

        Nothing Harris or Dawkins wrote is convincing and they didn’t blow holes in Theism, they argued against a field of scare crows they had erected.

        As for the Bible, Historians disagree with you, as plenty of Archaeology exists to cooberate large segments of it. Please read an actual Historian and not websites hat cite 19th century discredited nonsense. Just because something tickles your fancy doesn’t make it True.

  30. Staffan says:

    “Classic lame argument. (1) You use flawed logic. (2) I point out that your logic is flawed. (3) I also point out that – even IF your logic made sense, your argument doesn’t work. (4) You criticize me for using your flawed logic. I’m not acquiescing to the soundness of your logic; if you truly don’t understand my point here, you are not worth debating.”

    My point is that IF you feel the need to argue that my argument doesn’t work even if my logic would make sense then you leave the possibilty of my logic making sense open – which doesn’t make any sense by your own assumption.

    “If atheism is irrational because it’s situational, then you’re necessarily ignoring the same “situational” nature of the other side of the coin, theism. Whether this is intentional or not doesn’t matter. The point is that you can’t say that both theism and atheism are irrational, especially based on this LAME redux.”

    No I’m not. I just didn’t spell it out, although I did say that this was a false assumption – that should have been a hint. I can say they’re both irrational since they are both situational. A rational view would be one that merely looked at the facts and the logic without being swayed by personal circumstances.

    “Look, you can correlate people’s belief in gun control with some factor (pick one: race, social status, economic status, whatever). Then you could pick whichever side of the argument you disagree with, say it’s “situational” because it depends on someone’s financial status or whatever, and say that view is irrational. Not only is your argument hypocritical, but it’s also nonsensical and based on flawed reasoning. That’s my point.”

    That would all depend on what factors are correlated. Cause and effect could go two ways or a third factor could be behind it. This theory makes sense to me. If you have an alternative explanation, I’m all ears. But the general idea that anything can correlate with anything is not very compelling.

    “Finally, atheism is not necessarily belief in absence. Check your facts, dude. I’m a pretty firm atheist, but I don’t absolutely declare that there is and never was any kind of creator – how could I possibly know that? All I know, from reason, logic and evidence, is that the story of Zeus is a myth. So’s the story of Shiva. And Yahweh. And Jupiter, Apollo, Osiris, Mithra, the Kraken, the Loch Ness Monster, etc.”

    Wiki: Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.

    What you express seems to be a mix of atheism and agnosticism.

    “If you have a problem with this view, then I ask you this: Do you believe in Bigfoot? Well, belief in Bigfoot quite probably correlates with socioeconomic status. Therefore belief – and unbelief – is “situational.” Therefore, your belief or unbelief is irrational. See how that doesn’t work?”

    No, again, I can see how they are both irrational and how agnosticism is the rational choice.

  31. shin says:

    Man, this post would have been so much less controversial if it didn’t claim atheists as irrational.

    That said, I don’t think the data that has been posted it is convincing as atheism, modern economic ideas and marxism (and socialism in general) is all linked and correlations are hard to separate the comfort atheist model apart in a memetic spread model.

    That said, even if we take the original claim on cause and effect, that does not really say very much about “rationality.” If we look a beliefs in terms of their utility to the holder, then some level of belief (or at least lip service) in religion is valuable under many environments otherwise religion, looking at is high costs, is unlikely to have persisted. In many societies, religion forms a important part of social life, producing social capital and it also transmits sets of useful memes (highly harmful religions tends to die out). On the margin, there is very little good reason to become an atheist in a religious society and become isolated and thus less safe.

    In modern society with greater security, claiming atheism is no longer as harmful, and one can freely follow ideas from intellectuals without serious real life consequences. It can even act as a type of signalling for (self claimed intellectual) elite status that separates out from old fashioned theists.

    Now the incentives are set, a large toolbox of self deceptions, biases and cognitive dissonance management tactics can lead one to the useful set of beliefs regardless of evidence either way. Proper “rational” and “logical” thought is not natural and requires training to get into.

    If the human mind is systematically “wrong” in a easy to correct manner, it is likely because its “meta-rationality” works better then simple rationality that merely produces accurate beliefs and nothing else.

    • Staffan says:

      I take rational to mean in accordance with observable data and logic. Not doing or thinking something that will give you a benefit of some sort, which of course can be thought of as rational too, but I don’t think it applies here.

      It’s true that it’s dangerous to be an atheist in some countries. In those cases we can’t really tell who is religious or who is atheist. But we can see this pattern in EU countries too where you can be an atheist openly. Or within the US in which the poor states in the South has the fewest atheists. And research suggest that the link between religion and intelligence is pretty weak. So in absence of that, I think plain misery/comfort is a likely factor in determining this attitude to a large extent.

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