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 Post subject: Discouraging News…
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2007 10:17 am 
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There has been a spate of recent articles in the news lending credence to my questioning the thrust of the Freethinker "Movement" in my FREETHINKERS? essay and elsewhere. A recent Newsweek Poll was certainly telling regarding what they are up against in America, where 90% are believers. An AP article Atheists split over message points out the strong disagreements within the tiny minority self-identifying as unbelievers.

The most sobering by far, however, is the extensive Wired Magazine feature, The Church of the Non-Believers by Gary Wolf. He interviews Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, et al and his conclusions are not encouraging, although they are certainly thought provoking. The included 16-minute podcast of an interview with him about the article is also worth the listen. -Dave

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2007 3:15 pm 
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“The Latest Newsweek Poll shows that 91% of American adults surveyed believe in God”

Such grim news might make any self-respecting Atheist feel pretty much alone.
Further, claims Newsweek, “87% say they identify with a specific religion. Christians far outnumber members of any other faith in the country, with 82% of the poll’s respondents identifying themselves as such.”

Now, let’s look at the poll from a different perspective. (I’ll dismiss the 82% Christians; most of us probably already assumed that.)
First, what was the question? Did the poll ask, “Do you believe in God?” Which implies “There is a God. Do you believe in him?” But suppose the question had been phrased in a more impartial way; “Do you think there is some form of god?” Might it have elicited a different answer?

Another interesting finding: Although one in ten (10%) of Americans identify themselves as having ‘no religion’ only six percent said they don’t believe in God at all.” Note the capitalization. Newsweek is clearly speaking of a specific god. Was this clarified? “The god of Abraham” perhaps, or the god of the Bible? Or did they just assume everyone was talking about the same god? But everyone clearly wasn’t. The poll also finds “Another five percent say they follow a non-Christian faith, such as Judaism or Islam.” Islam? Excuse me, but I think that’s a different god from the Jews and the Christians, isn’t it?

And now, put two numbers together: Five percent are Jews or Muslims, while six percent say they don’t believe in a god at all! In other words, “non believers” outnumber Jews and Muslims combined! Problem is, non-believers (the dreaded “atheists!") seem to fear the scorn of the believers and don’t much publicize how they feel. So “everyone” can identify a bunch of Jews, and probably, by now, a few Muslims, but many probably have no idea they know just as many Atheists.

No; Newsweek’s poll, clearly intended to make us think that the whole damn country believes in God, doesn’t say that at all!

And here’s the best reason of all for Atheists to stand up and be counted; the 4% of that 10% who claim “not to have any religion at all.” What are you willing to bet that nearly all of them are isolated and unhappy non-believers who are just waiting for some encouragement – someone who’ll tell them, “Hey, there are a lot of us! It’s OKAY to admit you are rational, and grown up, and don’t need to cling to the myths anymore!”

Oh, and one last thing; 61% of respondents under 30 view society as more accepting of Atheists than it used to be. Maybe it's time for us all to come out of the closet.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2007 2:57 pm 
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For the purposes of discussion, in case these data disappear from their source, I have excerpted the religious questions from the NEWSWEEK Poll of March 31, 2007: Conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

It is curious how folks love to quote polls when they support their positions, and how quick they are to dismiss them as flawed if they don’t. Of course, the thoughtful among us are well aware of “push” polls, and the importance of how a question is asked, but I find it useful to keep in mind that 50% of the respondents in a random poll will have an IQ below 100.
Powder wrote:
First, what was the question? Did the poll ask, "Do you believe in God?" Which implies "There is a God. Do you believe in him?" But suppose the question had been phrased in a more impartial way; "Do you think there is some form of god?" Might it have elicited a different answer?

It might have, but I don't find the question manipulative at all, quite the contrary. Do you believe in Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy? A yes or no response would tell me all I needed to know about the respondent, and were the questions to be worded as you suggest, introducing reasonable doubt into the propositions, I would have seen that as evidence of an agenda. The fascinating thing was that fully 3% couldn't answer the question!
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Another interesting finding: Although one in ten (10%) of Americans identify themselves as having 'no religion' only six percent said they don't believe in God at all." Note the capitalization.

Please bear in mind that the questions were asked by telephone. It is politically correct to capitalize god in America, and the wrath of said god would have befallen Newsweek had they not done so in their reporting, but this cannot be done vocally.
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Newsweek is clearly speaking of a specific god. Was this clarified? "The god of Abraham" perhaps, or the god of the Bible? Or did they just assume everyone was talking about the same god? But everyone clearly wasn't. The poll also finds "Another five percent say they follow a non-Christian faith, such as Judaism or Islam." Islam? Excuse me, but I think that's a different god from the Jews and the Christians, isn't it?

In America, it is a fair assumption that when one refers to "god" one is referring to the god of Abraham, or that this god is subsumed within the concept of "god" held by New Age mystics. I am surprised at your misunderstanding of Islam. Allah is one and the same god as Yahweh. Muslims view Jesus as a prophet of Allah, just not the most recent, and final one. That honor goes to Mohamed, but Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same god, regardless of what they name it.
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And now, put two numbers together: Five percent are Jews or Muslims, while six percent say they don't believe in a god at all! In other words, "non believers" outnumber Jews and Muslims combined! Problem is, non-believers (the dreaded "atheists!") seem to fear the scorn of the believers and don't much publicize how they feel. So "everyone" can identify a bunch of Jews, and probably, by now, a few Muslims, but many probably have no idea they know just as many Atheists.

There is no doubt that the Jews and Muslims have political clout far exceeding their numbers, in spite of all the effort by the media and academia to marginalize religious political power in America. The poll shows, however, that 49% of respondents personally know an atheist. Even more encouraging, only 26% of Americans think an atheist cannot be a "moral person." That speaks volumes to me.
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Newsweek's poll, clearly intended to make us think that the whole damn country believes in God…

I must disagree that this was their intent; but it is a fair description of the conclusion one is likely to draw from it.
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And here's the best reason of all for Atheists to stand up and be counted; the 4% of that 10% who claim "not to have any religion at all." What are you willing to bet that nearly all of them are isolated and unhappy non-believers who are just waiting for some encouragement - someone who'll tell them, "Hey, there are a lot of us! It's OKAY to admit you are rational, and grown up, and don't need to cling to the myths anymore!"

I wish… but one has to put the New Age mystics somewhere, and I suspect most of them fall in here. They reject religion, but not the concept of god.
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Oh, and one last thing; 61% of respondents under 30 view society as more accepting of Atheists than it used to be. Maybe it's time for us all to come out of the closet.

Actually, the news is even better than that statistic. 47% overall, of any age, agree that it is more accepting, but I don't see the value judgment. One can agree that it is more accepting without thinking that is a good thing. A more important indicator would be to notice that 29% said they could vote for an atheist, and another 9% had no opinion on the question. I would call this major progress, although the 60% of Democrats saying they would not ought to be sobering.

I also find it encouraging that only 31% think organized religion has too little influence in American politics; but then only 32% think it has too much, so not much is likely to change in that regard anytime soon. What was most fascinating, were the answers to the first two religious questions regarding the creationism vs. Darwinism issue.

It boggles the mind that only 45% of non-believers think god had no part in creation, and only 73% of them agreed with the proposition that it was well supported by evidence and widely held by the scientific community. This supports the data that only 3% of Americans are actually atheists, or roughly half who say they don't believe in god. Obviously, many were saying they did not believe in the god of Abraham, but still have some mystical attachment to the supernatural.

When looking at the internal numbers here, I would suggest that the place one is more likely to save minds from religious dogma is among the Catholics and non-evangelical Protestants. There just aren't that many New Age mystics, and if they haven't figured it out by now, they are unlikely to be persuaded by reason; and the 35% calling themselves evangelical or fundamentalists are just too afraid to think for themselves. -Dave

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