Sunday, February 3, 2013

The causes of atheism

I stumbled across this page at Conservapedia on "the causes of atheism," and I just had to post something.

But first, I should warn you that this is one of the most unintentionally hilarious websites on the internet, from the heading ("The Trustworthy Encyclopedia") on down. It's easy to get lost in the insanity, following link after link.

Luckily, the website went down soon after I started this post, so I didn't waste too much time there. Of course, that meant I couldn't give examples from other pages this one links to, but it was probably for the best.

Anyway, they list 17 different "reasonable explanations" for the causes of atheism, from hedonism to satanic deception. The top cause, though, is Moral depravity. "Moral depravity is certainly one of the prime causes of atheism."

Well, I can't argue with that, can I? We atheists are certainly a depraved bunch. Of course, we hide it pretty well, since atheism is positively correlated with societal well-being worldwide. That correlation holds up in America, too, with our Bible Belt states faring poorly in nearly all measures (including teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases).

The second cause of atheism is Hatred towards God,... but can you really hate an imaginary creature? I mean, atheists don't believe that there is a God - any god. That's the definition of atheism, in fact. So, if you really hate God, you can't be an atheist, I'd think.

Certainly, if you've read the Bible, there would be good reason to hate and fear the god depicted there, but only if you believe it. If you don't believe it - and, again, that's the very definition of atheism - then "hatred" doesn't really apply. You could hate Christian beliefs, no doubt, but not the imaginary deity Christians worship.

Third is Atheistic upbringing, although they're quick to say that most people raised in atheist or agnostic households, or where there was no specific religious attachment, later choose to join a religious faith.

That links to this Pew Research study, which found that "Americans [not just atheists and agnostics] change religious affiliation early and often. In total, about half of American adults have changed religious affiliation at least once during their lives."

In this study, Pew Research noted that 21% of Americans were "raised unaffiliated" (i.e. in households not affiliated with a specific church). Please note that those were not necessarily atheist or agnostic households.

Most were almost certainly raised with some sort of belief in the supernatural, and likely in a specifically Christian 'God,' but just not associated with a particular Christian sect. And, certainly, most were surrounded by Christian believers, raised in a society overwhelmingly Christian, where Christianity and Christian pastors of all kinds were widely respected.

But how does Conservapedia's claim hold up, that a majority of the unaffiliated later join a religious faith? Well, check out this chart from that particular study:

Apparently, a whopping 44% of Americans do not currently belong to the faith they were raised in (and another 9% changed their faith at some point, but returned to the fold later). Of those, 4% are listed as "raised unaffiliated, now affiliated."

Now, again, these aren't specifically atheists and agnostics, so we don't know how many people raised specifically as atheists later become religious believers. However, in this same study, Pew indicated that 21% of Americans are considered "unaffiliated," so 4% is a lot less than a "majority," wouldn't you say?

Note that Pew also says, "The biggest gains due to change in religious affiliation have been among those who say they are not affiliated with any particular faith,... with the vast majority of this group (79%) reporting that they were raised in a religion as children."

Again, the "unaffiliated" include atheists, but aren't just atheists - or even non-believers of any kind. So it's hard to get a real handle on this. Still, the claim that a major cause of atheism is "atheistic upbringing" seems a little hard to swallow, at least in America.

(Need I point out that Conservapedia has an American flag in their logo? They're not exactly cosmopolitan. Besides, they link to that Pew Study, themselves. That's why I brought it up.)

The fourth cause of atheism is "Rebellion: Atheism stems from a deliberate choice to ignore the reality of God's existence." Right. Atheists don't actually disbelieve in God. We just make a "deliberate choice" to ignore reality. (Obviously, we could never accuse conservatives of ignoring reality, right?)

If you're unsure about that, they helpfully quote Dinesh D'Souza: "Look at Satan's reason for rebelling against God. It's not that he doesn't recognize that God is greater than he is. He does. It's just that he doesn't want to play by anybody else's rules. This idea that it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven is Satan's motto, and it turns out that this is also the motto of contemporary atheists such as Christopher Hitchens."

Well, if Dinesh D'Souza says it, it must be true, huh? We atheists actually do believe in God, but we prefer to burn in Hell for eternity, rather than take an hour out of our week to go to church...

Actually, I have to wonder why you'd serve a bully like that, anyway. The idea that God requires slaves to serve him in Heaven,... well, that doesn't describe anything admirable, does it? Especially if he'll torture people for eternity if they refuse? Of course, that's assuming that atheism really is a "deliberate choice." (Can you fool an omniscient, omnipotent god by pretending to believe?)

I'm not going to list all of their "causes of atheism," but I do have some real favorites. For example, there's "Naiveté/Gullibility: Many atheists have embraced a number of far fetched, unworkable, and errant notions and ideologies" - such as evolution - "despite abundant evidence of their falsity."

Yes, indeed. Evolution has been the foundation of modern biology for more than a hundred years, the bedrock on which scientists have made discovery after discovery, despite "abundant evidence" that it's false, huh? Yeah, accepting the overwhelming consensus of scientists, rather than the stories of primitive goat-herders in the Bible, sure shows "gullibility," doesn't it?

Here's another favorite: "Error: Some argue that atheism partly stems from a failure to fairly and judiciously consider the facts."

That's it. They don't even bother to mention those "facts." They don't bother to make their case at all. Heh,  heh. I think I like this one because it's so much like the arguments I usually hear from Christians. God exists because... well, it's just obvious. Just look around.

Um, just claiming that God exists doesn't make your point. The fact that you believe in a god doesn't prove your case or tell us anything at all, except that it's what you believe. So if atheism really is in "error," maybe some details would help.

There are many other causes listed, including "Self-deception" (without any explanation), "Satanic deception" (which at least provides a link to another Conservapedia page), and "Poor relationship with father" (apparently, your mother is completely inconsequential).

I just stumbled across this, because I don't make a point of reading Conservapedia. Funny as it is, it's just a huge time-waster. I'm actually glad the website crashed today, because I've got lots more important things to do.


Jeff said...

You "stumbled upon" Conservapedia? How many times have we told you about "those" websites? Sigh...we'll just have to get the parental lock on you then. :)

"Atheism is Hatred towards God?" "The reality of God's existence?" brain hurts!! (It'll have to come out, Mr. Gumby.)"...better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven is Satan's motto" Good, you've read your Milton. "God exists because... well, it's just obvious. Just look around." George Carlin was right: "This is the type of work I expect from an office temp with a bad attitude."

Today, for my time-waster, I'll watch the hyped-to-death, talked-to-death, Great American Cash-Grab known as the Super Bowl. If I'm lucky, they'll mix in a football game, too.

WCG said...

Do they still play football in the Super Bowl, Jeff? I thought it was all commercials now.