Posts Tagged ‘Atheists’

Good advice from Penn Jillette

June 27, 2017

Say what you mean, even when talking to yourself.
==Penn Jillette, Ten Commandments for Atheists

The USA’s Christian majority is shrinking

May 13, 2015

PF_15.05.05_RLS2_1_310pxAlthough there are more avowed Christians in the United States than in any other country, the U.S. Christian majority in the United States is shrinking, Pew Research Center reports.

About 5 million fewer Americans identified themselves as Christians in 2014 than in 2007, and the percentage of self-identified Christians declined by nearly 8 percentage points.

The decline was most noticeable in the Millennial generation—those born in the period from 1981 to 1996.   Only 56 percent of this group identified themselves as Christian in Pew’s 2014 poll.

Evangelical Protestants are the strongest segment of American Christianity.  They grew in absolute numbers from 2007 and 2014, and declined only slightly as a percentage of the U.S. population.

But they are growing at a less rapid rate that the religiously unaffiliated.  And growth in that segment comes from the “nothing in particular” group, not the avowed atheists or agnostics.   I suppose this includes a lot of people who say they are spiritual, but not religious.

I don’t claim to know why this is so.

I can think of possible reasons.  One is the sexual revolution and the decline in the belief that marriage is a sacrament received through a church wedding.  Another is the growing awareness that scientific belief is incompatible with the literal belief in the Bible.  A third is the identification of Christianity in the public mind with conservative politics.  The so-called religious right, which is strongest among evangelical Protestants, is a backlash against these trends.

I would be interested in your thoughts.

For the full Pew report, click on America’s Changing Religious Landscape.

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Are religious people less intelligent than atheists?

August 13, 2013

IQbyreligionA recent study by a team of psychologists at the University of Rochester concludes that atheists are more intelligent than religious people.

This is based on a review of 63 studies conducted between 1928 and 2012.  In 53 of the studies, religious people were found to be less intelligent than atheists and, in 35 of the studies, significantly less intelligent.  In 10 of the studies, religious people were found to be more intelligent, and, in only two, significantly more intelligent.

The three psychologists carrying out the review defined intelligence as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly, and learn from experience”.

Religiosity is defined by the psychologists as involvement in some (or all) facets of religion.

According to the review, other factors – such as gender or education – did not make any difference to the correlation between intelligence and religious belief.

The level of belief, or otherwise, did however vary dependent upon age with the correlation found to be weakest among the pre-college population.

The paper concludes that: “Most extant explanations (of a negative relation) share one central theme —the premise that religious beliefs are irrational, not anchored in science, not testable and, therefore, unappealing to intelligent people who ‘know better’.”

via The Independent.

I have the same kinds of misgivings about this kind of study as I do about studies purporting to show IQ differences among whites, blacks and Asians or between rich and poor people.  My first misgiving is the uncertainty about what intelligent tests measure, given that they change across the generations.  My second misgiving is that, whatever they measure, the results are distributed along a Bell curve, with most of the populations overlapping.  You really can’t tell anything for sure about the intelligence of an individual based on race or religion.

The UR study is behind a pay wall, but I did a little Internet research, and the range of differences seems relatively small.  That is what I take away from the results of the study summarized in the chart above.

I have a good friend who is both much more intelligent and much more religious than I am.  She has an understanding of thinkers such as Noam Chomsky, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, which is far deeper than anything of which I am capable.  At the same time she is a much more spiritual person than I am.  She engages in meditation and other spiritual practices and gets a lot out of it.   I don’t do any of these things on a systematic basis.

I’m not sure which of us the UR researchers would consider the more religious person, because she is not a member of any religious group while I am a faithful attender of First Universalist Church of Rochester.

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A homeless man conducts a survey

May 4, 2013

religion.homeless

Click on Homeless man’s A/B test of generosity based on faith for the result.

Not that this proves anything.

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.