…but “nones” don’t. This is according to a new Pew study on religious knowledge.
The exercise of reason requires unbiased, factual information; so it’s no surprise that atheists are the most knowledgable. Those who care to reject religion in favor of rational secular ethics have typically studied it before they made that decision. So, as the LA Times points out,
American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.
“These are people who thought a lot about religion,” he said. “They’re not indifferent. They care about it.”
What interests me is that the “nones” have some of the lowest religious knowledge, lower than white mainline protestants, even. Given what the LA times said about atheists, this implies that the “nones” are people who don’t think a lot about religion and don’t care about it. And that’s OK, too; while it’s always better to think hard about your ethics, if you’re going to make a decision without engaging in a lot of reason and analysis, it’s better to disbelieve passively than to believe passively.
Aside from the religious leaders voicing support was Danita Kilcullen, the founder and organizer of the Tea Party in Fort Lauderdale. She vows to get the Tea Party behind the suspended teachers.
“Because it’s a breach of the First Amendment and because we so strongly believe in the Constitution in the United States of America,” Kilcullen said.
And what about the atheist teacher’s first amendments rights?
“Yea, but she hasn’t been punished for speaking out yet,” Kilcullen said. (NBC)
Let me get this straight… You think it’s protected religious speech to sprinkle holy water on a nonbeliever in front of a classroom of students? You think that the constitution supports bullying someone of a different religious view? Because that seems to be the opposite of the intent of the first amendment.
Kilcullen demonstrates the ignorance of the Tea Party on constitutional issues.
In other news, I need to write something that’s not just newsfilter blogging.
A Catholic school fired an 8th grade math teacher for being an atheist on Facebook. For the record, she says she’s not an atheist in reality — but she’s not sure about organized religion. She’s a classic Doubting Thomas, and somehow I doubt this is going to inure her to faith. Once again, the Apostolic Church proves its inflexibility, hypocrisy and lack of forgiveness.
(Plus, it shows how harmful the new Facebook privacy setting changes are.)
On one hand, it’s the school’s right to fire anyone they want especially because she signed a contract saying she had to “uphold the faith” while being a teacher. Pre-algebra has as much to do with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as it does with George, Paul, Ringo and John, but they have the right to think God is in the quadratic formula if they want. As a religious institution that’s funded by tuition and church tithes rather than tax money, they can freely fire atheists without breaking any discrimination laws — in fact, they could even argue first amendment protection here. Legally and contractually, I believe the school is entitled to fire her.
But legal right isn’t the same as ethically right.
Pascal’s wager is never officially brought up. However, the questioner asks basically the same question: “What if you’re wrong?” (that God does not exist) to Richard Dawkins. She implies that there is a consequence to his unbelief and wants him to discuss his thoughts on that. His reply is a bit more scathing than I would prefer (see my previous post about that). But he does make it funny, and he isn’t entirely heartless.
Pascal’s wager, by the way, basically goes like this: If you’re religious, you expend some effort to avoid hell. If there is no hell, you have wasted some effort for zero gain; if there is a hell, you have used some effort for an immeasurable (infinite, according to Pascal) gain. The flaw, as Dawkins points out, is that there are other options (Pascal’s wager was invented in relatively religiously homogeneous Europe). What if — just to throw one out there — right-wing Muslims were right, and the unconverted (e.g. Christians) are doomed to infinite torment?
A discussion on a previous post inspired me to look around for an entertaining essay that also distinguishes strong atheism from weak atheism. Penn Jilette does a great job of it on his NPR audio essay for This I Believe.
Quick news notes on Freethinkers in the White House last week:
The Secular Coalition of America — a mix of humanists (including a secular Jewish organization) and atheists (including the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers) — met with senior White House staff to discuss three topics: Child medical neglect, military proselytizing, and faith-based initiatives.
Story at USA Today
Atheism is a hot potato for free thought. Most freethinkers are atheists or agnostics, but sometimes atheists are not freethinkers, and their message comes across harsh and dogmatic. (Though atheist defensive vitriol may be understandable.)
I don’t claim to be the Pope of free thought or anything, but I think I can formulate a freethinker position on atheism. I want to address the freethinker reasoning that leads to atheism first, then the practice of freethinker atheism second. On reasoning atheism, I will discuss why atheism is just one of several philosophical positions that one can arrive at by reasoning freely, but it is the clearest for me. On practicing atheism, I will address avoiding speaking from authority, stressing the meaning of atheism, and encouraging reasoning freely without crassly “selling” atheism.
The Problem of Evil is one of the main challenges of theism. It does not necessarily disprove the existence of a god, so this is not an atheism post per se (but enough so that it gets the atheism tag). I contend that the problem of evil must be addressed by secular thinkers as well as by theists. But the problem of evil is much easier for the secular, because we can admit that evil exists without shaming an omnipotent being. I offer secular definitions and resolution to the question of evil.
Last month, I read god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. I found it engaging and entertaining, and I would recommend it to anyone who is an atheist, agnostic, or freethinker. There is one kind of person above all that I think would love this book, and that person is not really an atheist or freethinker. She is that person you hear saying “I’m not a fan of organized religion” though she may espouse some faith in a deity, she considers the Second Estate cumbersome, self-serving or straight up corrupt. Hitchens does not offer a strong argument that god does not exist. He argues that it is ridiculous to follow the major religions, and leaves open the question of whether some prime mover exists or not (though he repeatedly states that such a deity is unnecessary and irrelevant).