Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

Exploring Reasons Why “Atheists” Have Extreme Moral Prejudice Toward Atheists

167 Comments

In a recent study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior (2017), an international team of researchers found extreme intuitive moral prejudice against atheists.

Attitudes were measured in 13 countries (including secular countries) on 5 continents. What was disturbing to me was that “atheists” also suspected atheists as being “potentially morally depraved and dangerous” more than they suspected Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists.

“Notably, anti-atheist prejudice was even evident among atheist participants around the world. The results contrast with recent polls that do not find self-reported moral prejudice against atheists in highly secular countries, and imply that the recent rise in secularism in Western countries has not overwritten intuitive anti-atheist prejudice. Entrenched moral suspicion of atheists suggests that religion’s powerful influence on moral judgements persists, even among non-believers in secular societies.”

 

Phys.org notes the co-author of the study, Will Gervais, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky in Lexington:

“It is striking that even atheists appear to hold the same intuitive anti-atheist bias. I suspect that this stems from the prevalence of deeply entrenched pro-religious norms. Even in places that are currently quite overtly secular, people still seem to intuitively hold on to the belief that religion is a moral safeguard.”

 

So what’s going on here?

Except for a very recent comment I read from an “unbeliever,” I’m not aware of any atheists who think the religious have the upper hand on morality.  A study published in the journal Science (2014), found that religion does not make people more moral. They also found that both believers and unbelievers reported committing, or being a receiver of, a moral act rather than an immoral act.

Other studies have found religious people to be less moral.

The Middle Ground

This past March a study was published in the journal Religion, Brain, and Behavior.  The study was a meta-analysis of 100 existing science articles on people’s experience with death anxiety.  Researchers analyzed data on over 26,000 people between the years 1961 and 2014. They found that the super-religious believers were not afraid of dying.

But they also found that to be the case with strong atheists. From Inverse:

“The far right side of the graph takes the super-religious people into account, and atheists are acknowledged on the left. This model suggests that the people who are most afraid of dying are the people who aren’t quite sure — the people in the middle ground between staunch atheists and believers. Sure enough, almost 100 percent of the studies that were robust enough to test this idea supported the theory.”

“What seems to protect atheists and religious people from their crippling fear of dying isn’t what they believe but the fact that they believe in anything at all. The researchers note that this is the central concept in “Terror Management Theory,” which has been proposed to explain how exactly humans deal with the crippling reality of wanting to live but knowing they’re going to die. The theory says that we do so by bolstering our “worldview”: When we’re faced with the terror of death, we try to root ourselves as firmly as possible in what we believe (regardless of what it is), and this staves off our fears of dying.”

 

Plot twist ahead!

In another study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science (2015), researchers found that death anxiety played a role in the stigma against atheists:

“We propose that pervasive and pronounced anti-atheist prejudices stem, in part, from the existential threat posed by conflicting worldview beliefs. Two studies were conducted to establish that existential concerns contribute to anti-atheist sentiments.

Experiment 1 found that a subtle reminder of death increased disparagement, social distancing, and distrust of atheists.

Experiment 2 found that asking people to think about atheism increased the accessibility of implicit death thoughts. These studies provide the first empirical link between existential concerns and anti-atheist prejudices.”

It makes me wonder if there’s a link between the first study and this one. Does this stigma towards atheists by other atheists have more to do with “religion’s powerful influence on moral judgements” or more to do with the influence of religious teachings about the afterlife?

Don’t get me wrong — I think religious indoctrination has played a significant role in perpetuating disparagement, disdain and distrust of atheists.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14

Could it be that the self-described atheists in the first study I linked, who stigmatized other atheists, were actually “in the middle” — claiming to be atheists but lacked a strong worldview that curtailed death anxiety?

 


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Author: NeuroNotes

Victoria predominately blogs about religion, and the brain's role in religious type experiences.

167 thoughts on “Exploring Reasons Why “Atheists” Have Extreme Moral Prejudice Toward Atheists

  1. Atheist of all walks of life have arrived at their conclusions from differing directions. My reasons are different from yours, so mine carries a higher moral standard. How can I trust you if you aren’t on the same page as me as to why? But the same is true for the religious, and any wise person knows not to do business with the most pious christians or your likely to get cheated.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. As an atheist myself, I’m not like that with other non believers. Then again most of the ones I meet are on line. As a deconvert, I am very suspicious of Christians though. I have learned that the progressives aren’t much different than the evangelicals in the grand scheme of things. I think I’m hesitant with them all because they either try to charm others into salvation or arm wrestle them into it instead. I’m not looking to be brainwashed any time soon. I’ve had decades of that mess and I’m done.

    Liked by 5 people

    • “As an atheist myself, I’m not like that with other non believers.”

      Same, Charity, which was why I found the findings striking and a bit suspicious. Not the data, per se, but of those who called themselves atheists. Yes, atheists can be serial killers, but for atheists to believe that atheists are twice as likely to be a serial killer than a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu makes me question whether they were actually atheists. Also, another angle: Were these “atheists” in the study assuming that fear of punishment would make believers less likely to be a serial killer? Serial killers are psychopaths. Do they believe that belief in a god inoculates people from this mental disorder? If so, then they appear to me to be uneducated. I mean, we can go in several directions with this, which is why I wanted to explore these findings with others — get their opinion.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Victoria, I so agree with all that you just said!

        I know when my preteen son went to Camp Quest he was so relieved to hear people talk about the pledge and scriptures in a way he doesn’t hear around here. It was all open and honest discussions, not sugarcoating nationalism, racism or theocracy as he has grown accustomed to here in western Tennessee. It was the best of curiosity and honesty. While among other secularists he didn’t feel bullied or shamed, nor did he feel he had to hide any part of himself in any way.

        I can’t begin to get into all of the love, patience and wisdom that has been shown to me by you, Nan, Violet, Ruth, Zoe, Carmen, Noel, Ark, Scottie and so many other non believers for years. And Arch does live on forever, not in heaven or hell, but in my heart. He showed me acceptance. That’s something I’ve never really received from Christians, not even while I was one myself.

        Liked by 7 people

        • I like to think Arch had the best time ever traveling the (figurative) Highway to Hell, and everytime I hear that song by AC/DC I smile and think of him. In the end we’ll all get to join him in the stardust.

          Does anyone know if the expression “Rest in Peace” has any religious connotation to it? I’d hate to have to give that expression up, but I refuse to use religious verbiage anymore.

          Liked by 3 people

      • ” … but for atheists to believe that atheists are twice as likely to be a serial killer than a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu makes me question whether they were actually atheists.”

        People will do what they will do no matter what label they’ve been given or what they’ve assumed for themselves. It’s our core nature that prompts our actions. We may, for various reasons (including religious ones), carry out or avoid certain acts. But these actions are not based on what others call us … or we call ourselves.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “…Not the data, per se, but of those who called themselves atheists…”

        “… makes me question whether they were actually atheists… ”

        This what first came to mind for me, the super religious certainly aren’t above intentionally lying to skew the results of a study about the morality of atheists.

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  3. What an interesting post and discussion (as always when it comes to your blog, Victoria). Personal prejudice can be a hard thing to examine in ourselves let alone in others. As a deconvert who had a highly traumatic deconversion, I find myself extremely suspicious of everyone who shows the slightest religious inclination. Logically I know they’re no better or worse than atheists or anyone else, but I can’t drop the baggage I carry. Most other people can’t either.

    My hubs is “in the middle” of the the belief spectrum, and if I had to classify him as something I’d lean toward calling him a deist. He has told me many times the middle is a scary place to be and it unnerves him that he can’t make up his mind. So I would agree with you that his “middle place” causes him higher anxiety…certainly higher anxiety than I’ve had at the extreme ends of the belief spectrum.

    I do also believe religion leaves it’s insidious stain forever upon our hearts and in our culture, to the point where it can’t be extracted. I was just watching my neighbors (protestants) bury a st joseph’s statue in their backyard because they thought it would help them sell their house. This is generally a catholic ritual, but they figured “it might help.” I was pleased with myself for simply nodding and passing by instead of going on a torrid rant regarding my hatred of religious rituals. This kind of thing is an everyday battle for a deconvert, as many of us here know so well.

    —and on a side note, I’m ready to f’ing kill spellcheck software everywhere, which STILL refuses to recognize that DECONVERSION is an actual word, and no, we in fact did NOT mean to write REconversion. Maybe they’ll figure that out by the year 5050. Or not. *snort*

    Liked by 8 people

    • Do your neighbors who buried the statue know you’re not a catholic anymore? Personally, I’d try to convince them that unscrupulous catholics sell fake statues to protestants all the time. The fake ones can cause some really bad things to happen…

      I mean, what’s the point of not being religious if you can’t have fun with it?

      Liked by 3 people

      • These neighbors live far enough down the street that I don’t think they know I’m a minion of satan (yet). Your idea is good…and then I should have said that I have a *real* st joseph’s statue which I’d sell to them for $100, and included in that price I’d also say a novena for them. $100 is a small price to pay when you’re looking at a major financial deal like selling your house, don’t ya think? 😀

        Liked by 1 person

          • You being a lawyer and all, you don’t think I could get arrested for fraud for doing that? Or maybe fraud is protected under religious rights. Come to think of it, the catholic church has perpetrated more fraud than any other institution on earth, so I’d probably be fine.

            Liked by 1 person

            • It’s theoretically possible, but if you stay away from asking for money, you would be fine. Keeping it within the bounds of a practical joke would be safer. For example, if you could get a statue that looks just like theirs, you could take it to different places and take pictures of it (like at a bar, strip club, restroom, etc.). Then, print the pictures out and put them in a basket and set it on their front porch.

              The possibilities are endless.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Well damn, and here I thought I’d found a new way to make a living! It’s just not as fun if I’m not making cash.The prosperity preachers do this kind of thing all the time. They pray over a blanket and then sell it to desperate people who think it’s holy. They “bless the water” and ship it off in tiny bottles saying it will heal the sick. The pope even blesses rosaries and then sells them in the Vatican gift shop for a small fortune. I’d just be selling a cheap plastic statue to help other people sell their property for a lucrative profit (and taking a tiny cut for myself)! 😉

                Though I do like the idea of taking pics of a holy statue in a strip club…but I’d probably have to drive to Wisconsin to find a den of perdition. We’re short on dwellings of the devil in my neck of the woods.

                Liked by 1 person

        • Just don’t go out in those goat leggings.

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    • Yes on the spell check for deconversion! My phone’s so used to the word it accepts it now. It took the longest time to lowercase the g in god automatically too.

      Violet, it sounds as though your husband may be in some sort of a deconversion experience himself. It honestly took our blogging friend, Ashley, from the UK on this very blog to help me see that I went through a 20 year process myself! He considered my history and told me it sounded as though I went through it for that long. I was about three or four years out at that time and realized he was right. I had convinced myself it was only two years. Now during those last two years I did quit allowing others, trophy bible verses and books talk me out of my questions.

      I think I was ashamed of taking that long to deconvert. I found it embarrassing and felt foolish for being so stupid. I stayed in the faith because I was ashamed of my doubt. I begged Jesus to help my unbelief for years. Once that conversation with Ashley came up, I was suddenly more ashamed than before for being a Christian for that long! It took some time for me to work through it.

      Deconversion almost always puts a major strain on a serious relationship. I don’t care if it’s both people at the same time, one gradually after the other other or one to remain in a faith while the other leaves….it turns everything upside down. Suddenly, your life, your thoughts and even the premise of your marriage is questioned. Multiple issues are dragged out and there’s sometimes an enormous disdain for god, Christians, yourself and even each other. I guess that’s why I won’t shut up about my secular therapist. Now we’re about to see a couples therapist as well. I believe she is secular, but I’m not sure.

      I hope you and your husband can work this all out for what’s best for you individually and as a couple/family. I’m sorry about the struggle. It’s the most painful sense of betrayal when we see the man behind the curtain. We can no longer accept the pageantry because we now know the reality.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m not sure he’s on the path to deconversion, Charity. If anything I think he’s leaning into religion in reaction to my rapid and chaotic break from it. Thankfully I’ve accepted that discussions about belief are not good for either of us, and by refusing to get into it I can prevent a lot of fights. Him and I agree on most other things in life, so I can let this one slide.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Aw, I do now remember something you said on your old blog about this. Was it that while you were still a devout Catholic your husband seemed uninterested in anything religious? Then all of that changed when you deconverted? He was taken back by that and suddenly seemed interested in god. I’m sorry if I have the details wrong. I understand why you try not to discuss it with him. However, I know it would be nice if you could. I’m sorry that’s the way it is, I really am. I hope it changes soon, Violet.

          Liked by 1 person

          • You have the details right. He had no interest in my religious activities when I was super devout, then was shocked and utterly horrified when I deconverted. This is a testament to his “middle position” though…he is not a man of extremes. He’s moved a bit closer to religion since I claimed atheism, but I suspect this is more in reaction to the chaos my deconversion threw our family into.

            Yeah, it would be nice to talk about my move from faith to atheism with him, but that’s just not meant to be. I find other deconverts are the ones who really get me when it comes to those issues though, and I’m happy to have good support here on WP.

            Liked by 1 person

    • “He has told me many times the middle is a scary place to be and it unnerves him that he can’t make up his mind. “

      This is illuminating, Violet, and adds some validation to my hypothesis. I think there are people who call themselves “agnostic atheist”, me included, who do not have a belief in gods, any gods, but are open to changing their minds if sufficient evidence is found. That also doesn’t mean I would owe my allegiance or worship this deity/creator just because there’s evidence of its existence, but I really don’t consider that a middle ground position.

      “—and on a side note, I’m ready to f’ing kill spellcheck software everywhere, which STILL refuses to recognize that DECONVERSION is an actual word, and no, we in fact did NOT mean to write REconversion.”

      I’m sorry if this comes across as devaluing your frustration, but it made me snort out loud. Seems there’s discrimination on every corner for people like us. Lol

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Violet, how are you doing? I always appreciate your contributions to the blogging conversations.

      About the software frustration, can’t you add the word to your spellcheck dictionary? On my (Android) phone that happens automatically when I re-correct things (once or a few times, IDK). On many PC programs, you can select the word, right click, and “add to dictionary”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Ratamacue0! I sure could add the word “deconversion” to the dictionary to reduce my daily irritation, but I don’t feel like I should have to. Maybe that’s just me being picky, but it’s 2017 and that damn word shouldn’t be so much of a mystery anymore. If reconversion is common language, so should be deconversion!

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        • So you’ve added it to your dictionary, so that it knows both words, but it’s just guessing that you mean the other?

          I don’t feel like I should have to. Maybe that’s just me being picky, but it’s 2017 and that damn word shouldn’t be so much of a mystery anymore.

          Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like common knowledge among the population at large. Not terribly surprising, IMO, in light of religion’s self-preservation mechanisms.

          I also wish it were more common knowledge.

          If reconversion is common language, so should be deconversion!

          Hear, hear!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. This kind of stuff is troubling, and I wish there were more answers behind why atheists might not trust other atheists. Do these people consider themselves “nones” and despise the term atheist? Are they quietly religious while vocally proclaiming some religiously neutral stance? Have they just interacted with jerks who happened to be atheists?

    I’m still troubled by a conversation I had a year ago with a woman who didn’t believe in deities but felt that calling yourself an atheist was a bad thing. Even trying to say that the labels aren’t that big a deal received some blowback.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Those are some good questions, SB. This is just conjecture, but I honestly don’t think they are actual atheists — especially the ones from secular countries.

      “I’m still troubled by a conversation I had a year ago with a woman who didn’t believe in deities but felt that calling yourself an atheist was a bad thing.

      It is indeed troubling. It sends up huge red flags for me. She’s either bought into the lie, lacks education, doesn’t know any atheists, and/or, like the death anxiety study showed, just thinking about atheism may remind her of her mortality, unconsciously or otherwise.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I agree, one major problem could be that in the midwest and in the SE of the US, you might not be able to find an open atheist in real life. I only know online atheists and I’ve been deconverted for over three years. Maybe if you’ve never met another one in person you might not be inclined to trust them. It’s still weird though…I’d take an atheist over a mystic any day of the week.

        Certainly calling yourself an atheist in my neck of the woods is social suicide, and I can easily see why people would avoid it. Luckily I’m too old and worn out to give a fuck what people think of me. It also helped that I found this wonderful group of online atheists, who helped me stand up against the verbal assault from my very religious midwestern community.

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  5. I have to say it smells very fishy to me. I know many atheists, and without doubt, every single one would trust another atheist over any religious believer. It a mark of sanity for most. This is in the UK though, and we are a small island that doesn’t have the extreme prejudice against atheists which is clearly prevalent in the U.S.

    Either the study is bollocks and contrived specifically to try and discredit atheists and/or drive a wedge between them, or U.S atheists are a different breed to ours. And, having met a fair few online, I believe the former to be the case, as they all seem to be perfectly rational, nice folks to me. I’m surpised people are so quick to take it being true actually.

    – Esme sat with a Blue Whale upon the Cloud

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    • “I have to say it smells very fishy to me. I know many atheists, and without doubt, every single one would trust another atheist over any religious believer.”

      Ditto. When I was a Christian, I was indoctrinated to see atheists as wicked, but where I live, I’d never met one, and if I did, they were closeted. But, I still deconverted anyway, not knowing anything about atheism except the BS I was fed in church. You want to talk about surreal? At this time, I didn’t know there were discussion forums about belief vs unbelief. Then, several years after I denounced Christianity, I was doing research for my neurotechnology business and I came upon a multi-subject forum where many atheists participated and I remember thinking “Wow, these people are not anything like I had been told.”

      It’s embarrassing to even admit that, quite frankly, but if you’ve never met them in your life, and the only thing you have to go by is what your culture is saying, how would you know? I have found that my relationships with unbelievers have been far richer and more authentic than any relationship I had with Christians, and I was a Christian for 4 decades. I don’t want to stereotype because I know there are some fine Christians, but it’s not because they’re Christians.

      *Victoria hoping Esme is having a blast scraping off whale barnacles*

      Liked by 4 people

      • No need for embarrassment, circumstance holds everyone back, and you only truly find these things out through personal experience.

        The thing is – atheists have no agenda when they meet you. I mean, sure, they may want you to like the same music, or enjoy the same humour, or even buy their book, but their aim isn’t to instantly find out if you are a religious sort and then convert you out of it. They’ll discuss it if asked, but they aren’t zealous. So often you don’t even know they are atheists! (Apart from Ark, he wears a T-shirt saying he’s a great atheist and has a hat to match. )

        – Esme laughing and making room for Victoria upon the Cloud

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        • Interesting. This is a difference between our countries. Here in Minnesota religion is discussed within the first 5 seconds of meeting someone, usually in the form of “what church do you go to?” Then if you don’t participate in all the “amens” or “have a blessed day” or “there by the grace of god I go,” you would be regarded with a huge degree of suspicion. You can’t fly under the radar as an atheist here, and if you want to, you’ll have to be a damn good liar.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Grim stuff that. I’d hate to have my religious faith or lack of it in religious

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          • Not sure if my reply was published there. Do tidy it up for me if so Victoria.

            Violet, – grim stuff that. I’d hate to have my religious faith or lack of it be the first stick folks judge one by. There’s something rather uncivilised about it, as though they haven’t advanced as far as some other countries have. It really is interesting. *nods and smiles*

            – Esme Cloud

            Liked by 1 person

            • It’s *definitely* uncivilized. Unfortunately we don’t get to choose which country we’re born into, so there’s not much that can be done to change it…other than out yourself as an atheist and commit social suicide. Which I have done. And would do again.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Good woman. And necessary by the sounds of it. It’s the only way others who remain quiet, or even lie about their atheism will realise there are others out there. This could so easily be a discussion on straight V LGBT it’s fascinating. And sad too.

                – Esme Cloud shaking Violet’s hand and everyone else’s there

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                • When I first deconverted and didn’t realize there were online atheists who could help me, I got a lot of comfort from reading LGBT forums. I didn’t participate in the discussions because I didn’t want to intrude, but I could really relate to a lot their issues.

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            • “Not sure if my reply was published there. Do tidy it up for me if so Victoria.”

              Hey Esme, not sure what reply your referring to. Nothing is showing in my spam file or moderation.

              Liked by 1 person

          • I thought about you earlier this week, Violet. My therapist gave me a handful of names of other therapists who counsel couples. She knows that I’m pretty persistent about not seeing a religious one. One of the people she named is new to this area and is from Minnesota. I emailed her right away and said to never refer secularists to her, especially deconverts. This woman had degrees from two Evangelical Christian colleges: Azusa Pacific University and Bethel University (per her own website). On her LinkedIn page it stated that she was the regional director for years at the non-profit Luthern Social Service of Minnesota. Her profile on Psychology Today listed religion: Christian immediately under the title of the client focus section. On top of that, she’s a decent bit younger than me, so, I know not much time has past at all since those major religious commitments.

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            • I tried like hell to find a secular therapist here and failed. I even tried the website that helps atheists find secular therapists, and that didn’t work out either (none of them ever got back to me). This place is a nest of religious vipers.

              At least that therapist you contacted openly admitted to having a christian bias. Can you imagine going to someone you thought was at least somewhat neutral, and then after you tell your story you find out she’s a religious zealot? Ugh. Thank goodness you dodged that bullet.

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              • If you’ve got a local UU church, you might ask the pastor for a reference to a secular therapist.

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                • Have mercy, I wouldn’t trust a pastor of any church for anything! You don’t know my story, but trusting religious authority for psychological care is what brought me crashing into a horrific situation (horrific to me, at least)…which in turned burned my faith to the ground. It doesn’t matter if they’re religiously progressive or conservative, I want nothing to do with them.

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                  • So did you eventually find a secular therapist, or are you still looking?

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                    • I never found a secular therapist and stopped looking after a year. At this point it’s been three years since the hurricane of deconversion, and I’ve managed to piece myself back together for the most part. It sure would have been nice to have a therapist during the worst of it, but that was never going to happen in this religious part of the country.

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                    • My “deconversion” happened after my father, a Salvation Army captain/minister, got involved with another woman and ended up in a murder/suicide. Prior to that I had always assumed I’d be a minister myself. But, faced with Hell, eternal torment, as a reality for my father, I eventually concluded that there was nothing anyone could do in a finite time on earth that could justify even getting your knuckles rapped for eternity. At some point, the punishment would far surpass the crime, and you’d still have an eternity to go. So I decided that such a God could not, must not, exist.

                      I was still in jr. high school and attending church, but over the next few years I talked my mother into letting me skip church, and I also spent more time in the public library, looking for answers in philosophy texts.

                      Evaluating my church experience, I decided there were a lot of benefits from growing up in a Christian environment, even though I no longer chose to believe in God. Years later, when I was in college, I attended a friend’s Unitarian wedding, and was very impressed. So, when I eventually got married, we had the same UU minister perform the ceremony. But we never attended church.

                      After my divorce, and living alone, I ran across a fellow in the same apartments who went to the UU church here. I attended a service, complimented someone in the choir, and got invited to choir rehearsal. Loving music was one of the things I acquired from church.

                      Anyway, today I call myself a Humanist, which is by definition atheistic, and still get the benefits of singing in the choir.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • I read your about page on your blog a bit ago and saw your traumatic story there. I’m sure that was terribly difficult to live through as a child and I can see why it would have shaken you to the bone. No one would get through something like that unscathed.

                      I did attempt to see if I could feel ok in more progressive sects of christianity (like the unitarians and quakers) before I fell all the way into atheism, but I simply couldn’t tolerate the tiniest level of woo. However, I do know several online atheists who still go to church for the social benefits and so they can participate in music. I see nothing wrong with this. Going to any kind of church is not right for me, but I can see how it would have benefits for others. Thanks for sharing your story.

                      Liked by 1 person

              • Oh, she never admitted it to me because I never contacted her. There was no point in reaching out to her once I saw all that Jesus stuff about her in my research.

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                • Ah yes, I see. I think Quixie had something similar happen. She was referred to a local therapist, but after she did some research it turns out he had a seminary degree and had even written a christian book. I find it disheartening that a therapist would recommend another therapist to a deconvert without actually knowing their religious status. I worked as a psychiatric nurse for over a decade and feel that’s just plain irresponsible. Thankfully you and Quixie did your homework before paying money to see these practitioners.

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                  • I think my regular therapist meant well. I think she referred me to that couples therapist because she was so new to the area that there wasn’t much out there about the Minnesota therapist locally. She was also excited to learn that therapy for my marriage was my husband’s idea! My therapist is a also a lifelong secularist with a great supportive family here. Whereas, I’m a deconvert, far from estranged relatives with just my little immediate family here. Though she’s a phenomenal therapist, she’s not going to understand my exact predicament any time soon.

                    It took me three years of intense research to find my therapist. I was reaching out to therapists all the way out in Little Rock, and Nashville. There was nothing within a couple of hours from me. Last April in 2016 a therapist I contacted through the secular therapy project emailed me. He was just outside of Nashville in Murfreesboro. He let me know about his good friend in Memphis. However, she was on maternity leave.

                    At the time I saw a therapist online through one of those online services. She was a deconvert herself. I didn’t like the arrangement. It was like seeking medical attention through email and chat. After two weeks I stopped it and got the remainder of my money back.

                    Finally, I met my therapist for the first time Memorial Day weekend in 2016. I’ve basically been seeing her about every week since then. It was either our first or second session when she said “forgiveness is overrated. Not everyone is worthy/deserves your forgiveness.” I knew I finally found the therapist for me.

                    She didn’t even know about the secular therapy project. She just about immediately began to reach out to them. She said that acceptance doesn’t just happen with them. They make therapists go through a good bit to be approved for their listing. By the time her info was posted she already had a full schedule. (She’s the only one on the website within my area. The other therapists are still as far as Little Rock and Nashville.)That’s why I’m very blunt with her about local therapists. I know she tries to give people names when she tells them she’s booked. She also still can’t get over the idea of therapists pushing beliefs unto people in any way at all. She tells me it’s unethical and anytime anyone encounters that they need to report the therapist. I told her she wasn’t thinking like a Christian. They answer “his call” before “man’s”.

                    Liked by 2 people

  6. This is fascinating, and I’m quite puzzled because these studies don’t seem to apply to me whatsoever. Maybe I’m a rare exception, or maybe some irresponsible E.T. dropped me off on this planet by intention or mistake.

    In any case, let me explain. I’m passionately at odds with religious fundamentalists because I am staunchly secular; but, I get along with ordinary religious folks quite nicely. As an empiricist, I self-identify as agnostic even though I view the concept of god(s) as absurd and far-fetched at best. However, I do sometimes have conflicts with atheists because I am not nearly as concerned as they are about trying to refute the notion of God. Ardent atheists have accused me of being indecisive, non-committal, and even dishonest. I have accused them as being as obsessed with God as religious fanatics. Does this really put me in the “middle” of religiosity? I think not. I have never believed in the notion of god(s) even as a child who attended Catholic school and church.

    Regarding morality, I see no distinction between any religious or non-religious demographic. It is the individual who determines their own ethical and moral composition regardless of whether they construct it internally or from external sources. Therefore, I see morality as a completely subjective process. Supposed objective moral constructs, such as the Ten Commandments, are generally irrelevant. If Christians can regularly violate THOU SHALT NOT KILL, which they most certainly do violate, then how effective can it be?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Correction: “Ten Commandments”

      Like

    • Well, I think I might put you more toward the middle, but not smack in the middle. It appears you didn’t have a traumatic experience with religion (correct me if I’m wrong on that), and that probably helps you be more accepting of people with religious inclinations.

      I admit I have a tendency to think anyone who is not completely against religion is for it. I also admit this is not always the most sensible or productive position to take, but if you’ve been traumatised or victimized by religion, it’s hard to take any other position. In the end I think someone like you might be able to make more progress on important secular issues than I can, simply because you don’t carry the same amount of religious baggage as a deconvert.

      As for me, I’m alllllllll the way on the side of atheism, and no one has ever accused me of being “in the middle.” That’s both good and bad at the same time.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I hear you, Violet. The only trauma I experienced with religion was purely physical. Those Catholic nuns back in the 60s did inflict some serious pain on me. I recall hiding my hands from my mom because she would’ve blamed me for the bruises the nuns gave me with their chalkboard pointers (solid pinewood). But, since I never internalized the Trinity and other biblical stories, there was no emotional trauma. I simply went through the motions (I was an altar boy, too) without believing. By age 12, I was in public school and never looked back.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Both my parents are catholic and even they tell me horror stories about the nuns in the 40s-50s. My mom was left handed and they smacked her with a thick wood ruler every time she she tried to write with her left hand. My dad said they whipped him with a switch on a regular basis. Both of them tell me this was necessary to “build their character.” I do so detest the “spare the rod and spoil the child” scriptures.

          Liked by 2 people

    • I am a firm atheist and a self-confessed troll of religious sites and argue every issue I can with the insufferable task of encouraging theists to think. Personally, I get on with Christians and all religious people I meet because it is not the person I dislike but their beliefs.

      I also understand something about religious indoctrination and the neuroscience behind these beliefs, therefore I also understand it is human conditioning as much as anything. It is a brain changing process that can be identified by scientists and atheists can attribute as much blame to the religious organisations and the processes rather than just the individual.

      The fact that religion impacts on our lives whether we want it or not such as schools, churches, crucifixes, meetings, funerals, weddings and the indoctrination of adults and children is what I am totally against. Especially Children who are indoctrinated, I find this disgusting and I guess I am obsessed to some extent.

      Liked by 5 people

      • As I told Violet, sklyjd, I do understand. You will find no stronger secularist than myself. Religious indoctrination, especially on children, is a grave threat to civil society. That’s why I’m so passionately opposed to religious fundamentalism. Where you prefer to encourage theists to think, I prefer to fight them on the political battlefield because that’s where the most tangible outcomes will be determined. Right now in America, the Fundies – emboldened by Trump – are assaulting secular public education and the nation’s constitutional Separation of Church and State. We better not lose those battles or we’ll be in very big trouble.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Not to mention the “Little Sisters of the Poor” and Hobby-Lobby nibbling away at Obamacare by objecting to covering birth control for female employees. Coverage through insurance is about as indirect as you can be, nearly the same as buying shampoo in a pharmacy that also sells contraceptives. But you don’t see them boycotting pharmacies.

          They are free to excommunicate any congregant who breaks their edict, but they should not be free to influence what medical services are provided as basic services through health insurance. It is literally not their business.

          Liked by 2 people

        • I am fortunate Robert, that I live in a very secular Australia. Aussies and the Kiwis, in general terms do not express or progress Christianity as anywhere near as seriously as Americans do. Religious fundamentalism on the political level is not normal and there are very few religious groups that try to push the politics through local governments and communities.

          Having said that things have heated up, our country had a majority acceptance and was on track for marriage equality, however this has been cunningly derailed by the Liberal–National Coalition conservative government implementing what is an expensive postal vote knowing it will cause disruption and a lot of divisive expression and abuse.

          With many of the fundamental religious communities supporting the “NO” vote and siding with the government they have now started a shit fight with both sides spending copious amounts of money on advertising their views with all the controversial issues that are inescapably about LGBT people being dragged through the mud again.

          I can almost predict with certainty that unless the Labor opposition party upsets the general public this government will at the next election will be voted out partially for this decision.

          I do hope you can reign in those Trump supporters and most importantly I hope someone is able to prevent Trump from starting what may be the last and final war on planet Earth.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Robert, I can understand why these studies wouldn’t apply to you. You clearly have a strong worldview. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I broke out laughing when I saw the Death Anxiety chart. But I don’t think death anxiety is the reason why atheists are morally suspect. Both atheists and believers would agree that church (any church) provides moral instruction, encouraging and supporting the desire to do what is right, on a regular weekly basis. We would expect people who explicitly profess morality to behave morally.

    But the term “atheist” implies only a lack of belief in God. It carries no suggestion of morality (or immorality for that matter). On the other hand, the term “Humanist” suggests a moral orientation, a valuing of human beings and their welfare.

    Morality seeks the best good and least harm for everyone. It is in this spirit that we seek the best set of rules, the ethics, that would be most likely to achieve that result. Moral judgment compares any two rules (or courses of action) in terms of the likely benefits and harms to result by selecting one rule rather than the other. And, to the degree that benefits and harms can be objectively measured, morality itself becomes objective.

    So, the key for atheists is to become humanists, to profess a natural basis for reaching the same goal as the religious: peace on earth and good will to all.

    Liked by 3 people

    • As an atheist I do classify myself as a humanist, but I don’t necessarily feel this has helped religious people view me in a better light. The problem lies in the fact that religious people also call themselves humanists, and many tend to believe it’s impossible for an atheist to even be a humanist (they haven’t thought through that argument as well as you have). Thomas More, who was a personal adviser to King Henry VIII, was a staunch catholic and humanist, and how many people did he burn at the stake?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_More

      Liked by 1 person

      • There’s several distinctions that need to be made there. Many traditional fundamentalist religions today attack humanism’s secular approach to values, and would never apply the term “humanist” to themselves. However, back in Thomas More’s time, humanism was a movement toward the application of science and human values to social problems, and the term could be used by theists or atheists back then. Today, with the American Humanist Association, there would be few theists that would use the capital “H” version of the word.

        Now, within modern humanism, we have both religious and non-religious Humanists. However, both the religious and non-religious Humanists are atheistic, and reject the supernatural and the superstitious.

        In my own case, I decided I didn’t want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. I could not honestly reject the benefits of a community, the ethical lessons we were taught as children, the music, and so forth. So I began thinking of what Church and Religion would mean in the absence of God and superstition.

        Church is where people seeking to do good and to be good could support and reinforce this morality in each other. Religion would be those procedures used to accomplish this, whether through music, sermons, education, community projects, and other means.

        In a world where the selfish prosper, often at other’s expense, we may be tempted to do the same, to follow along with the crowd, adopting the morals of greed and self-interest above the common good. Church and religion counter that influence. They provide “spiritual/emotional support”, a kind of morale, for morality.

        The Unitarian Universalists provide such a community for atheists, wiccans, christians, and others who are willing to share a similar set of humanist values, even though they may have different theological views. And our local UU church participates with traditional churches in community projects, like PACEM, which provides overnight sleep space for the homeless in winter, and other programs.

        Oh, and Jesse Jackson spoke here at TJMCUU in Charlottesville, a few weeks ago, and I got to shake his hand.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I like your distinctions between little h and big H.

          “Church is where people seeking to do good and to be good support and reinforce this morality in each other.” Well, you don’t need to go to church for that. Of course you can do that in church if you want to, but there are plenty of other places and ways humans can do good things and support each other.

          People handle trauma in different ways. For me, throwing the baby out with the bathwater was the only way I could survive. The idea of being trapped in a church with wiccans, christians, and others with theological viewpoints I strongly oppose is not something I can suffer. This is why I wear the label of being an “anti-theist.” I do not see religion as helpful…I see it has hugely damaging and dangerous. I know most others, even most other atheists, do not agree with my very strong viewpoint.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Okay. In my family it was a mixture. Mom remained Christian, but switched to Methodist, because they do not believe in a Hell of eternal torment. After she broke her hip 5 years ago she moved in with me, and I took her to the Methodist church till she passed away earlier this year. My little sister is a fan of “A Course in Miracles” and goes to Unity. My older sister flirted with Mormonism, and ended up living with an atheist Jew, and they sing with a choir in the synagogue. After mother passed, I returned to the UU choir, because I love to sing. My son is an atheist who married a Catholic. Not sure where my grand-kids will end up.

            But my general view is that every moral person, is an ally of every other moral person, regardless of their theology.

            Liked by 3 people

            • “But my general view is that every moral person, is an ally of every other moral person, regardless of their theology.”

              I agree with this in theory, but there’s danger in that statement. Plenty of people think they’re a good moral person doing good moral things, but throw theology in there and it can go to hell fast.

              Let’s go back to Thomas More, who thought he was bringing people back to “real religion” when he burned protestant heretics at the stake. He even died for his theology and was beheaded by the king because he wouldn’t approve Henry’s break with the catholic church. Theology is not benign, it’s dangerous. Yes, it’s possible to be dangerous even if you don’t have theology, but IMHO it’s an accelerate to dangerous behaviors.

              I suppose the religious think the same about atheists, who they believe aren’t moral because they don’t have a belief in god. And so theists and atheist will forever lock horns. You guys in the middle can pretend like it’s all ok and everyone can be peaceful with each other, but for those of us on the more extreme ends of belief or disbelief, our ideas are diametrically opposed.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Well, they say that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. In More’s time there was just the one church, and I presume he wanted to keep it that way–nice and simple. But today we have every possible denomination (hmm, perhaps atheism now has its “denominations” as well?), including those that embrace openly gay (or openly female) priests like Episcopal Bishop Eugene Robinson.

                And, while some preachers enjoy influence over millions, everyone was quick to pounce on Joel whats-his-name when he initially resisted opening his facility’s doors to Harvey’s flood victims.

                When my little sister (she’s 68 now) was explaining she believed in miracle healing at a family luncheon, I suggested she had a moral duty to head down to the Hospital and start turning out patients, and she started making excuses. But I made my point.

                As a practical matter, everyone, regardless of their beliefs, has to deal with the same actual reality in ways that actually work. Christians professing faith in God will still take their children to the doctor. In those rare cases where they don’t, they are likely to have their children taken away and be arrested for any harm they cause.

                On the other hand, atheists may fall victim to other superstitions, like fear that childhood vaccinations cause autism.

                So, as a practical matter, I question how many specific beliefs, about real matters, are actually “diametrically opposed”. A belief in God has no practical implications in the real world except for spiritual comfort, emotional support, and general optimism. And these are all free for the taking without a deity.

                Liked by 2 people

                • Marvin, it sounds like you live in a more progressive area of the country. In my area people lose jobs over being an atheist, and they are SHUNNED by family, friends, and the entire community if they openly admit to not believing in the right deity. Maybe you’re able to think religion and atheism aren’t diametrically opposed because you haven’t experienced this.

                  Liked by 3 people

                  • Most of my life has been in Richmond and Charlottesville, both are university towns (VCU, UVA). So I guess I’ve been lucky in that way. And I worked mostly at the computing center at UVA. The only weird thing I ran into was one employee who became psychologically disturbed to hear I was an atheist, but the staff recognized that he was out of line rather than me.

                    Most of the time, it never comes up. But I remember my mother, who was a big hiker in her 50’s, telling me about a guy she met on the trail who she was surprised to hear was an atheist. She said he was very peaceful and really into nature, and she was having difficulty sync’ing that with her prejudices. 🙂

                    So, there is plenty of prejudice out there. We just need to keep in mind that we have our own prejudices as well.

                    Liked by 2 people

                    • I’m well aware I have major baggage when it comes to dealing with theists. But there is a rather distinct difference in “knowing about prejudice” and actually living under it.

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                • “When my little sister (she’s 68 now) was explaining she believed in miracle healing at a family luncheon, I suggested she had a moral duty to head down to the Hospital and start turning out patients, and she started making excuses. But I made my point. “

                  Mic drop!

                  “A belief in God has no practical implications in the real world except for spiritual comfort, emotional support, and general optimism. And these are all free for the taking without a deity.”

                  Well said.

                  Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Marvin, welcome! You wrote: “So, the key for atheists is to become humanists, to profess a natural basis for reaching the same goal as the religious: peace on earth and good will to all.”

      That made me laugh. Now we are even. 😀

      I understand where you’re coming from, for the most part. You seem to be suggesting that atheists should be holding up showy banners proclaiming a prosocial (humanist) stance? Well, in the South, and the Midwest, an atheist billboard, doing just that, will get vandalized and/or protested until they’re taken down, by those “good will to all” believers. Atheists adopting a highway and keeping it clean? The road signs are vandalized and riddled with bullet holes.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/04/10/these-atheists-are-leaving-their-vandalized-adopt-a-highway-signs-in-place-to-send-a-message/

      http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/texas/article/Atheist-Adopt-A-Highway-signs-undergo-series-of-6702139.php

      Are you suggesting atheists need to build buildings and hold camp meetings and seminars to train atheists to go out into the world and preach the “good news” of humanism? Go out into the streets and knock on doors and proselytize? Hand out tracks? I’ve not met a single atheist online or in offline communities who hasn’t made it apparent that they are pro-good will and hope for peace on earth. Many have tried to get involved with charities and soup kitchens, and they were rejected, considered doing the “devils works.” Only those blinded by religious indoctrination couldn’t see the humanists acts of atheists, or simply reject any good acts associated with atheism. Also, to suggest that the main goal of the religious is peace on earth and good will to all is simply not true, and especially if, for example, they are Christian who are biblical literalists which makes up the majority of protestant believers in the U.S.

      and

      Rejecting monetary donations from atheists because “it’s against Christian principles.”

      http://www.theblaze.com/news/2016/08/31/christian-childrens-home-rejects-atheists-100-donation-then-this-happened/

      I appreciate your feedback, I really do, but I think, in some ways, you have a naive worldview about the challenges atheists face regarding “reaching the same goal” as you put it.

      Liked by 3 people

      • There was a song we learned in church. “Dare to be a Daniel. Dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose firm. And dare to make it known.” It’s another way of suggesting that we “speak truth to power”. Of course this was a protestant church rather than catholic.

        And rather than whine about a few people taking offense and defacing the road clean-up signs, I was happy to see the groups finding creative ways to keep their signs readable, so they could continue to “bear witness”.

        In the case of the donation, you forgot to mention one key thing in the article: that several traditional churches supported the atheist gift to the children’s home. And it is not too outrageous for a Baptist children’s home to refuse a gift from an atheist organization if they had chosen to publish a list of their contributors, as was suggested at the end of that article.

        Coming out is a challenge. I never advertised my atheism at work. And I certainly would not want anyone to put their life on the line if they feel threatened.

        Some of us have it easy. The UU church I attend has a “We Support Marriage Rights” sign on the outside of the building plus a prominently displayed “Black Lives Matter” sign both outside and inside the church. And in Virginia this year we have a trans named Danica Roem running for the state legislature. I don’t think she’ll win, but I was happy to donate to her campaign, because she was brave enough to put herself out there.

        I’m pretty sure that the UUA played an active role in the push for gay marriage right from the beginning of the movement. So, I’m not going to back down on my suggestion that we find allies among all good-willed people, regardless of their faith.

        If someone professes morality, then one can challenge them to demonstrate it. And pretty much all churches, especially Christian churches, profess morality.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Marvin, I think where we might be having some disagreement is over the idea of “goodwill and morality,” and how much of it religion holds. You go to the UU church and see lots of goodwill and morality, but surely you’re aware UUs make up only a tiny percentage of people in the US? Wiki puts their numbers at just below 200,000.

          Here’s the number for catholics, the religion of my birth: There are 70,412,021 registered Catholics in the United States (22% of the US population) as of 2017, according to the American bishops’ count in their Official Catholic Directory 2016. There are 1.2 billion catholics in the world.

          Now I know all about catholic goodwill and morality as I was a member for 41 years. Catholics want to burn rights for homsexuals to the ground and prevent women from having access to birth control or being in positions of power. They teach that atheists are the hand of satan. They’re doing a record number of exorcisms in the US, which suggests they think people (mostly women and children) are being possessed by the devil at an alarming rate. They also spread a doctrine of hell and purgatory and teach these things to very young children.

          Yes, my former religion holds some goodwill, but by no stretch of the imagination can I say catholicism was a bastion of love and acceptance, goodwill and morality.

          Do you think I’m wrong about this?

          Liked by 1 person

          • I can’t question your own experiences with your church. I was raised in the Salvation Army. They were a very practical church, addressing homelessness, alcoholism, poverty as a major part of “faith with works”. As a child, I was also influenced by the positive messages of Oral Roberts (before he went over the edge) and Norman Vincent Peale. Conversion was a commitment directly to Christ, at the alter, on your knees. Afterward, you would grow in the faith by Bible study and attending church. Every sinner was valued as a person, worthy of love and redemption. And that’s why we were there, to help save the world.

            I’m no expert in Catholicism. But didn’t the Pope recently come out in favor of tolerance for Catholic homosexuals? The Episcopaliens (Catholicism lite?) have already welcomed openly gay Christians to their congregations and their church hierarchy. And even Jerry Falwell softened up his stand as soon as one of his closest managers came out to him.

            There was a group of traveling nuns I read about a couple years ago arguing for women’s rights in the church.

            There is a group called IMPACT that includes all the major religions here in Charlottesville, including Catholics and UU. They work to organize groups to take on action projects for a number of humanitarian projects. (webite: https://impactcville.com/ )

            I don’t think you’ll be able to dismantle Catholicism, but you may be able to introduce changes by providing evidence of abuses, immoral actions, and failure to live up to the work and teachings of Christ. If you agree that forbidding contraception is evil, then you could make that argument to them.

            Choose your battles. But appeal to their moral core rather than making enemies of them.

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            • Ok. Well. I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I find your viewpoint so out of touch with what I’ve seen, I’m practically speechless. However if it works for you, and you really believe religion is all unicorns shitting rainbows, then who am I to argue. 😉

              Hey Victoria! We have an atheist who doesn’t trust another atheist here! Maybe disagreements like this is how that study happened. Lord help us all.

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              • But that’s what the study described at the top of this article said! Atheists had the same prejudice against the moral judgment of atheists as religious people. So don’t blame me for the study result.

                I don’t agree with the bottom of the article, where it is suggested that it has something to do with the fear of death. That’s an interesting fact, but unrelated to the problem, in my opinion.

                The simplest explanation for this prejudice is that we all see religious people going to church on Sundays, actively engaging in moral and ethical education, but we never see atheists doing that. It would be reasonable to conclude that those who participate in moral and ethical training are more likely to be moral and ethical than those who do not.

                And that’s the dilemma for atheists. That’s why everyone, including fellow atheists (according to the study) find them more morally suspect than those practicing a religion, where they actively take a moral stand.

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                • You’re the one here who believes religion is helping educate people in moral and ethical behaviors. I do NOT.

                  At this point I’m doubtful you’re even an atheist. You may say you don’t believe in god, but you’re sure as hell worshipping everything He stands for.

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                  • I can only tell you of my own experiences. I went to Sunday school. We heard Bible stories about temptation, perseverance, standing up for one’s beliefs, caring for the poor, forgiveness, redemption. We were also warned of Hell if we sinned and did not repent and ask forgiveness (nice little OCD neurosis from that one!) , but were promised eternal life in Heaven if we were good. As a bonus we got this imaginary friend we could talk to.

                    And then there was Summer and youth camp and band camp (I played a baritone horn, SA is pretty much all brass and percussion, except the piano, but no woodwinds or strings, kinda an English thing).

                    So, like I said, there was moral and ethical teaching, the expectation of good behavior, and so on. ‘Course I was a virgin till I was 20, so it did have its downside.

                    Overall, it was a positive experience for me, until my father shot the woman and shot himself, and then I had to confront the whole Hell as eternal torture thing. That was not what I judged to be from a good God. It was something rather horrible and evil that could not be justified. It was very unChristian!

                    But enough about me. How did you get your moral and ethical training as a child? Did you go to church? Or did you learn from other sources, like parents, books, TV, etc.?

                    Like

  8. I agree and my opinion is that many who call themselves atheists are not atheists but hardly meet an agnostic at best. “Atheism” is thrown around and claimed for just about anyone who comments against a god. Therefore, I often use the term “real atheists” for the committed “without any doubt” people such as on your blog and I use “unbelievers” when I lump all non-theists types together.

    I have blogged people on YouTube whom claim to be atheists because they believe in a god but not a religion or believe in a higher power or some kind of creator that is inevitably in the spiritual world. These people need a category exclusively their own and I have a few good words in mind.

    We also have the people who claim to have been fervent and dedicated atheists until some detail such as reading the Bible or an event convinced them of a god and changed their mind in a short time span. It is impossible that they were real atheists.

    We should be aware of someone claiming atheist status, for some people the underlying superstitions or the terror of death and eternal hell will never leave them, unfortunately this may highlight mental issues and it puts these types of studies in serious doubt.

    Liked by 4 people

    • oops, I hit the wrong reply button. I commented to you below.

      Like

    • “We should be aware of someone claiming atheist status, for some people the underlying superstitions or the terror of death and eternal hell will never leave them, unfortunately this may highlight mental issues and it puts these types of studies in serious doubt.”

      Well said.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think there’s some truth to what you’re saying, but…

      Therefore, I often use the term “real atheists” for the committed “without any doubt” people such as on your blog and I use “unbelievers” when I lump all non-theists types together.

      I’m not a fan of the phrase “real atheists” (or “real Atheism”), at least not as you’re using it here, since it can too easily become a “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

      Strictly speaking, at least, Atheism is the answer to one question: “do you believe in a God or gods?” Yes? Theist. No? Atheist.

      IME, most of the Atheists we discuss with on blogs like these are also skeptics, and their skepticism is what led to their atheism, thus they have good reasons for being atheists. Not all atheists are skeptics, and not all have good reasons / not all have examined the issues.

      I have blogged people on YouTube whom claim to be atheists because they believe in a god but not a religion or believe in a higher power or some kind of creator that is inevitably in the spiritual world. These people need a category exclusively their own and I have a few good words in mind.

      Odd. I don’t think I’ve encountered that. I have encountered non-believers who reject the “Atheist” label due to lack of understanding or cultural prejudice.

      Anyway, if these objects of your internal scorn are god-believers, then you’re right, they’re not atheists (by definition).

      We also have the people who claim to have been fervent and dedicated atheists until some detail such as reading the Bible or an event convinced them of a god and changed their mind in a short time span. It is impossible that they were real atheists.

      I am particularly skeptical of religious apologists who claim to have been Atheists before converting, so I agree that not everyone who says so is honest and correct. However, a (“real”) Atheist may become a god-believer. It’s just for bad/fallacious/etc reasons, and they’re probably not a skeptic.

      I think skepticism is the more important thing, since it’s a useful tool in many arenas. Atheism is just one thing it produces.

      We should be aware of someone claiming atheist status, for some people the underlying superstitions or the terror of death and eternal hell will never leave them, unfortunately this may highlight mental issues and it puts these types of studies in serious doubt.

      (Included for completeness.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do like the distinction of saying an atheist is a skeptic (vs “real” atheist). I’ve never really thought about how some atheists might not be skeptics, mostly because the majority of atheists we hang around with on WP are extremely skeptical. However, there are clearly some exceptions.

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  9. “I have blogged people on YouTube whom claim to be atheists because they believe in a god but not a religion or believe in a higher power or some kind of creator that is inevitably in the spiritual world. These people need a category exclusively their own and I have a few good words in mind.”

    LOL… I believe these people are most closely defined by the word “deist,” but I’m chuckling to think what you might call them.

    I agree, tons of people screw up the meanings of atheist and agnostic, and it makes for a lot of confusion when trying to figure out where people stand. I like your idea of classifying the hardcore atheists as something like “real atheists”…because these people are not able to go backwards into belief again. One cannot unring a bell, so to speak.

    I consider myself to be the hardest core atheist there is, but I still have some fear of hell. This is not becuase I believe in the supernatural, but because of decades of indoctrination burned so deep in my psyche that I don’t have the means to unlearn it. This is religious trauma, not mental illness.

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    • Yes Violet, I understand what you say about trauma. That is why I used the word “issues” rather than illness or trauma. There is a difference, however these and many other mental health issues are affecting the cognitive processes in our brain.

      I sincerely hope you get over your trauma and know that everything religious, past and present, has never and never will be real and comes solely from our own brains, the Bible is just violent, sexist, dominant, joyful and loving drama but really a poorly written Harry Potter novel.

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      • There is one point of distinction though…religion did not come from “my own brain.” Other people force fed it to me from birth. Yes, as an adult I choose to go down that same road, but by then the path of ignorance was already forged. I well understood at the point of deconversion that none of it was real…but by then I’d already made terrible decisions based on faith and suffered the consequences of them. This life is not a Harry Potter novel…lives are destroyed by religion.

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      • I see sklyjd from another comment you posted that you do understand the process of childhood indoctrination and the cognitive process the brain goes through with that. I misinterpreted you comment when I responded below.

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    • Yes Violet many folk attest that the fear of Hell is the last thing to lose after deconversion.

      It certainly worried me for quite a while, but I feel I am getting over it now. I am starting to be able to get over the fear factor and looking at it more objectively and seeing it is a complete and utter nonsense from any logical or moral perspective.

      Of course the whole idea of fear is to try and stop people thinking logically about it.

      A sincere christian once asked Richard Dawkins, ‘what if you are wrong?’ Dawkins replied with incredulity, this troubled me in my immediate deconversion days, but the passage of time makes me see things more from Dawkins perspective as it was a very silly question and just another way of bringing up Pascal’s Wager.

      In the end we can’t force ourselves to believe and if we have tried in the past and no longer believe then any moral deity would realise that.

      But as events in the world show time and time again the way the world works makes so much more sense if there is no God.

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  10. Could it be that the self-described atheists in the first study I linked, who stigmatized other atheists, were actually “in the middle” — claiming to be atheists but lacked a strong worldview that curtailed death anxiety?

    Absolutely. We are a neurological circus, and it’s quite safe to say it all stems from death anxiety… which was made possible by the circus tent in the first place.

    The ability for abstract and predictive thought enabled man to cast his thoughts out over the horizon, and over there, somewhere in the morrow, death was there looking back; an all-pervasive light, observed Louis de Jaucourt, spreading its flames on the objects it will soon consume . And once seen, it can never be unseen. Never. It is what it means to be human; a rigid, historical partition standing between that moment when man was not quite man, and that moment, shortly after, when he was.

    If you want to see the best/worst case of human distrust, just look at how people respond to antinatalists/antinatalism. I’ve only recently come across this small group (on Twitter), and you should read the threads from their posts. The degree and depth of fear projected onto these people is quite shocking. I guess it strikes to the very heart of life/living. People accuse them of being suicidal, which they say they’re not. People accuse them of being clinically depressed, which they say they’re not. What they are is desperately honest, and that honesty seems to terrify the average person.

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    • “If you want to see the best/worst case of human distrust, just look at how people respond to antinatalists/antinatalism. I’ve only recently come across this small group (on Twitter), and you should read the threads from their posts. The degree and depth of fear projected onto these people is quite shocking. I guess it strikes to the very heart of life/living.

      It’s hard for me to understand why people are so pro-birth or pro-natalist in an overpopulated world, with exception to countries where the population has plummeted, and yet Japan, who has pro-natalist policies, has to hire people to literally cram their citizens into trains during rush hour.

      Also, it seems that pro-birth — pro-natalists would rather children suffer a horrible death by abuse, birth defects and starvation, in the100s of millions, year after year, than to educate and support universal birth control and reproductive rights for women. You know, John, it never occurred to me until I read your comment that death anxiety is probably what’s really behind the anti-abortion /pro-life / pro-birth movement. Politicians are clever bastards. Wow!

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      • I don’t doubt it, it seems to drive almost all human behaviour, but how do you think it is? If I were to guess, I’d say an endorfin shower by ‘working against’ death.

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        • Given that all our environmental and global warming woes result from a population growing past sustainability, I have no problem calling the Catholic position against birth control immoral. And since it is immoral, God, if he exists, would disapprove of their position.

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        • Great question, John. My thoughts are going in several different directions. The first thing that came to mind was our survival instinct, and the second thought was empathy. For example, our emotions have evolved to our greatest survival benefit. Surprise, fear and disgust are experienced instantaneously and powerfully.

          The emotions signal an imminent threat to our survival which then initiates urgent action — fight or flight. This exemplifies the negativity bias we have (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negativity_bias), so with regard to the “feel good shower” you mentioned, I’m thinking that may be secondary. We know from research that emotions related to joy and love typically take longer to be felt and are usually less intense initially because there isn’t a pressing need to experience them right away. Relationship researchers have found that it takes 5 positive acts to the other partner to negate one negative act. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200306/our-brains-negative-bias

          Regarding the empathy, I had a thought a while back when I was in a discussion with anti-abortion bloggers — they were literally coming unglued (you know what I’m talking about). I thought, wow, they are actually (unconsciously) seeing themselves as an aborted fetus. It had nothing to do with the well being of the fetus, and everything to do with them. But I didn’t equate the empathy part with pro-natalist part until your comment.

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          • They do! They have so much invested in thinking something is being “killed” that when you calmly (rationally) show them that they’re wrong, and nothing is being “killed,” they loose it completely. Branyan’s daughter went ballistic and spewed such vitriol that I almost got splashed through the computer screen.

            So, when you talk about survival instinct, you think it’s a species thing, a hardwired trigger?

            When you get a chance, this is a great article on antinatalism. It’s an amazing subject, and astonishing that a biological organism has reached a stage where such a conversation can even be had.

            http://www.thecritique.com/articles/we-are-creatures-that-should-not-exist-the-theory-of-anti-natalism/

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            • I like to describe it this way: DNA contains a blueprint for building a person. The zygote begins as one cell, then becomes two, then four, then eight, etc. Two cells is not a person, nor is four or eight. It is more like “a person under construction”. The neurology of the fetus does not even have the capacity to experience pain until sometime between the 20th and 28th week. And it would only be when the fetus can experience itself that we could call it a “person”. Prior to that it is just a building, without an occupant. According to Wikipedia, all but about 1.4% of abortions occur before 21 week. (See Gestational Age and Method in the article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion ).

              Hope that helps.

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            • Dude, WTF?! Your link is to an article suggesting that we should end all life. Are you serious??

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              • Does he say that? Isn’t he just presenting the case for antinatalism? As a purely academic exercise, it’s fascinating that it’s even a subject.

                Me personally, i think overbreeding/overpopulation is immoral, but as a Humanist I would like to see our species survive. Sadly, the only way that’s probably going to happen (short of some mass die off, which would probably ruin civilisation, too) is if we get off this rock and into space in a permanent and meaningful manner.

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                • Yes, that seems to be what “anti-natalism” is, a philosophy explicitly advocating the extinction of life by ceasing to have any children at all. It’s not about controlling population growth, but about eliminating us altogether. Heck, it’s right there in the friggin’ title, “We Are Creatures that Should Not Exist”. I think you’ll pick up on it if you give it a second read.

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                  • Maybe we shouldn’t exist? What good have we done to the planet? We’re a bad parasite, and a bad parasite kills its host.

                    Still, here’s hoping we can change.

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                    • The planet is covered with living organisms, but it is not itself a living organism. Among the living organisms, we’re the ones with the potential to work out the best living arrangements for ourselves and other species. Hmm. But this also reminds me of a quote on a placard that my English teacher hung on the wall: “Discipline thyself, or the world will do it for you.”

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      • That video! It made the infection control nurse in me nearly pass out. The communicable disease risk of stuffing that many people on a train is simply gasp inducing.

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  11. Very interesting thoughts, Victoria! This is something that has been on my mind lately. When it comes to family attempting to pull me back, the argument is always “I don’t want you to go to hell” or “I don’t want the devil to get you.” It has never been about that I have or will turn to a lack of morals.

    Just this morning I had a new neighbor confuse me for being an LDS Relief Society President (a high calling for an LDS woman to have in the church) – ha. And this wasn’t the first time I’ve been told something similar.

    I used to fear Hell. But I’ve decided that if there is a Hell and that is where I’m heading, I’ll just be the best Demon I can be 🙂

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    • Thanks Claire. What a pleasant surprise to see you here. Welcome my friend.

      “When it comes to family attempting to pull me back, the argument is always “I don’t want you to go to hell” or “I don’t want the devil to get you.” It has never been about that I have or will turn to a lack of morals.”

      Very interesting. Do you think they feel that way about all unbelievers, or just you? I mean, I feel pretty certain that your family cares about the “eternal souls” of strangers, but do you think they might assume that when these strangers leave the faith that they will turn to a lack of morals, and I mean that in the sense of harming others, as noted in the OP.

      “I used to fear Hell. But I’ve decided that if there is a Hell and that is where I’m heading, I’ll just be the best Demon I can be.”

      Haha — if we’re headed there, may as well make the best of it. 😀

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  12. I think you’ve definitely got some solid explanations here Victoria. After reading the study some other questions came to mind that I was unclear on or make me question the validity of the study in it’s robustness.

    Atheism is a generally small percentage of people in any group. How big is the sample size of atheists? That’s not really clear. In countries like India surveys show that atheists are only 0.7% of the population. Even if that is a bit higher, the amount of people who are atheists in the sample is probably big enough (around a few hundred atheists) but some other questions I have wonder if this is big enough. Especially since, from understanding, the choice of B) Teacher who does believe in God or B) Teacher who believes in God varied half and half among participants.

    Did they define what atheism meant or was this left up to the person to decide for themselves what atheism means. Were people given the choice of saying they are atheist, or was it an option that says “no religion”? From the paper I couldn’t find out how people’s atheism was determined. It also seems to me that the definition of what it means to be atheist might differ from country to country even among atheists. Perhaps some who reject the main religion of a country consider themselves atheist, even though they still believe in God, but simply reject the popular religion.

    Also while they correctly point out that answering B is a logical fallacy, nevertheless, if I am given the option A) teacher B) a teacher who does not believe in God’s. I might say to myself “B shouldn’t make any difference, or that information doesn’t seem relevant.” But I might also ask myself “Why did they put that extra bit there. Is the belief (or in some participant’s case the non-belief in God relevant in some way? Are they depicting someone who is driven by ideology in some way?” It just struck me as such an odd choice that by giving us additional information about the teacher that one might think that the information was important in some way, even if the experimenters wanted it to be arbitrary. People will often view extra information as being given for some particular reason.

    Finally I thought one of their follow up experiments seemed telling regard child molestation.

    “people intuitively assume that a priest who molests young boys for decades is more likely to be a priest who does not believe in God than a priest who does believe in God”.

    This was interesting to me because it made me wonder again about cultural differences in how we regard intentions for doing bad things. Whether or not you believe in God, if you think that that the tenets of a particular religion should lead to a certain moral outcome, then anybody who strays from that moral outcome is therefore not religious. Ignoring the fact that such people would easily identify as religious and believe many of the tenets of their religion to be true….even in the face of their own sins. My cousin Chris once described evangelicals in the southern U.S. as atheists…in that they behave like there is no God, on the pretense that if they understood their faith they wouldn’t do the things they do. I guess I just find myself wanting to understand how atheists in other countries might view themselves and to what degree critical thinking and knowledge led them to a position of identifying as atheist.

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    • “Did they define what atheism meant or was this left up to the person to decide for themselves what atheism means. Were people given the choice of saying they are atheist, or was it an option that says “no religion”? From the paper I couldn’t find out how people’s atheism was determined. It also seems to me that the definition of what it means to be atheist might differ from country to country even among atheists. Perhaps some who reject the main religion of a country consider themselves atheist, even though they still believe in God, but simply reject the popular religion.”

      All valid points, Swarn.

      “Also while they correctly point out that answering B is a logical fallacy, nevertheless, if I am given the option A) teacher B) a teacher who does not believe in God’s. I might say to myself “B shouldn’t make any difference, or that information doesn’t seem relevant.” But I might also ask myself “Why did they put that extra bit there. Is the belief (or in some participant’s case the non-belief in God relevant in some way?”

      Exactly!

      ” My cousin Chris once described evangelicals in the southern U.S. as atheists…in that they behave like there is no God, on the pretense that if they understood their faith they wouldn’t do the things they do.”

      Very interesting, and yet evangelicals say the same thing about people who are moderate to liberal Christians, or from another conservative denominations (not True Christians™).

      Thanks for looking over the study, and for your detailed feedback. Much appreciated. Sorry about my delayed response.

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  13. FYI, I found a link to the Science Magazine article (vs LiveScience) for the “Morality in Everyday Life” article here, in case you want to download the full PDF of the article written by the authors of the study: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265606809_Morality_in_everyday_life

    It can also be downloaded from the Science Magazine site is you have a subscription: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/345/6202/1340/tab-article-info

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  14. Twenty or thirty years ago there was a news story of a boy who was not allowed to join the Boy Scouts because he was an atheist, and would not include the reference to God in his Boy Scout pledge. I wrote a letter to the editor, but can’t seem to put my fingers on it now. The gist was that the boy believed in a Good that was larger than himself, and that this was similar to a belief in God.

    In my blog, I describe the relationship between God and Good this way:

    God and Good

    We are born into a world of good, which we did not create. Not just material things, but ideals, like justice, liberty, and equality. And spiritual values, like courage, joy, and compassion.

    We benefit from what others, in good faith, have left for us. In return, we sacrifice selfish interest when necessary to preserve this good for others. For the sake of our children, and our children’s children, we seek to understand, to serve, to protect, and perhaps, humbly, to enhance this greater good.

    It is an act of faith to live by moral principle when the greedy prosper by dishonest means. It is an act of faith to stand up for right when the crowd is headed the wrong way. It is an act of faith to return good for evil.

    We have seen Hell. We have seen gang cultures whose rite of passage is an act of mayhem or murder. We have seen racial slavery, persecution, and genocide. We have seen revenge spread violence through whole communities.

    We envision Heaven, where people live in peace and every person is valued. It can only be reached when each person seeks good for himself only through means that are consistent with achieving good for all.

    If God exists, then that is His command. If God does not exist, then that is what we must command of ourselves and of each other. Either way, whether we achieve Heaven or Hell is up to us.

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    • Marvin,

      Are we born into a world of good?

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      • Well, let’s put it this way, no mammal survives birth without experiencing the love and care of its mother. Actually, this is where I think the concept of God comes from:

        Where Did ‘God’ Come From?

        A newborn child, cold and hungry, cries out to the universe for food and warmth. He is gathered up in his mother’s arms, and is comforted, and fed.

        We don’t remember this experience, but it is one we’ve all shared. I believe it leaves us with a sense that we might implore a greater being to come to our aid in time of trouble, and that it is likely the seed of the idea of ‘God’.

        On a cold day, I walked out of the apartment ready to shiver. Stepping out of the shadow and into the sunlight, I felt a warmth and comfort, as if I were loved by the Sun. And I understood how easy it was for our ancestors to view the Sun as a god.

        In early history people worshipped multiple gods, prayed to them for favors and offered them gifts so that the rains would water their crops, and the river would not flood their homes. By coincidence, this sometimes appeared to work. Psychologists have since discovered that behavior that was intermittently rewarded was more difficult to extinguish than behavior that was consistently rewarded. And so superstition flourished.

        But then something new was added. Monotheism took the strong position that there was only one God.

        And not only was this the God to pray to and worship, but this God also expected you to follow rules. If you followed the commandments, you would prosper, if not in this life, then in the next.

        I remember the preachers from my youth, Oral Roberts and Norman Vincent Peale, teaching that God is a Good God, and that following Him brings both blessings and expectations. I remember the prayer at dinner, “God is Great, God is Good …”.

        God became a way to make being good and doing good both valuable and sacred. And that is why the idea is still useful today, even by those of us who use the term in a literary rather than a literal sense.

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  15. Marvin you wrote: “Well, let’s put it this way, no mammal survives birth without experiencing the love and care of its mother.”

    Including those conceived by rape, whose mother is forced to carry said mammal to give birth and then never hold it to care for and love it?

    Including mammals born into sex-trafficking who are themselves present due to yet more rapes and never ever know the love of a mother and only know the abusive care of their captors?

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    • Sorry Victoria. I forgot this theme doesn’t support

      .

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    • Hey, “I didn’t promise you of a rose garden”. However, from an infant’s perspective, it is loved and cared for, or it dies. What happens as the child grows, and what culture he or she experiences, is up to us. When Jefferson spoke of our God-given inalienable rights, he was speaking rhetorically. When a stray bullet from a gang shooting went through a window and killed the infant in her crib, there was no God to step in to protect her right to life.

      Heaven and Hell are metaphors for the best and worst conditions on Earth. As the proportion of people who seek to profit at the expense of others increases, we move closer to Hell. As the proportion of people who seek good for others as well as for themselves increases, we move closer to Heaven. The only God or Devil that exists is within us.

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      • You write as though what you’re saying is “Fact.” This immediately raises red flags to anyone who doesn’t see things in the same way. We each have our personal perspectives of the world around us, but that doesn’t mean we are 100% correct in our interpretations. I trust you agree?

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        • Yes, I do write that way. Not sure what to do about that. I read someplace that it was bad literary form to constantly use “in my opinion”, since it was obvious that everything we say is our own opinion. Perhaps I should use more “active listening”?

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          • There are ways to get around saying, “in my opinion.” For example, “I read where”… or “Someone once said …” or “It’s been suggested that …” or even “I think …”

            Then anything you say after that, unless you state your disagreement, is generally taken that you agree, thus, it’s “your opinion.” 🙂

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          • “Well, let’s put it this way, no mammal survives birth without experiencing the love and care of its mother.” – Marvin Edwards

            It appeared you were saying this as an absolute statement. Factual as Nan alludes too. So I questioned your take on it to see if it would hold. It didn’t. As you came back with,

            “However, from an infant’s perspective, it is loved and cared for, or it dies.”

            You’ve moved from “mother” to someone, somewhere must have loved and cared for the infant because the infant is still here.

            Do you think the babies born into sex trafficking are loved and cared for?

            I hear you making what sounds like absolute statements.

            Baby lives – must have been loved and cared for by its mother.

            I see a statement like that and consider the babies used in sex trafficking. They are alive. So from what you are saying here, they must have been loved and cared for by someone somewhere to still be alive. Maybe we have different “opinions” about what is meant by “loved and cared for” and what is meant by “alive?”

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            • You are saying that we are not all “born into a world of good” as I suggested, but that some children are born into a world where they are used and/or abused. You bring up the example of children born as sex slaves, who only experience “the abusive care of their captors”. We can also expand that to children born into racial slavery. And also those born into a world where they will be murdered by genocide because of cultural differences.

              You’re right, of course. Those are all examples of where we, as human beings, have failed to protect each other from … well, from each other.

              Whether a child experiences a “world of good”, a “Heaven on Earth”, or whether a child experiences a “world of evil”, a “Hell on Earth”, is in our hands.

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  16. I keep thinking about how ingrained stereotyping is in human nature. Indeed past studies have shown that people reject stereotypes about themselves whilst applying, without any sense of irony, stereotypes to others.

    My own (unscientific) theory is that stereotyping is a process used by the mind to avoid us having to think too deeply. It might be as much mental laziness as prejudice.

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  17. Victoria I was interested in your observation about the belief in an afterlife. It is a bit of a two edged sword. On one hand a belief on post life accountability could stay the hand of some, but as we see with religious motivated terrorism it can also encourage violence (in the name of religion).

    When I was a Christian I argued that the move to atheism in society was a factor in declining moral standards. But in retrospect I think many folk of my age look back to a time in the 50’s that was probably abnormal by world standards and as I was not born then my viewed is probably overly influenced by an idealised television/movie version of the time.

    Looking back further to Europe in the 16th century, it was one of the most religiously observant societies in history and the level of bloodshed was at a level that dwarfed the death toll in WW1 and WW2 (as a % of population). There were some pacifist groups, but they were in the minority and ruthlessly persecuted by other religious people.

    I am still a little vexed on this whole matter as the religious folk I know are good folk, not hypocrites and are very moral on the whole.

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    • “But in retrospect I think many folk of my age look back to a time in the 50’s that was probably abnormal by world standards and as I was not born then my viewed is probably overly influenced by an idealised television/movie version of the time.”

      Very interesting, Peter. My mother still idealizes the 50’s and yet she divorced my dad because he held those 50’s values, that curtailed her ability to realize her own dreams and aspirations. The 50’s were one heaping pile of propaganda.

      “Victoria I was interested in your observation about the belief in an afterlife. It is a bit of a two edged sword. On one hand a belief on post life accountability could stay the hand of some, but as we see with religious motivated terrorism it can also encourage violence (in the name of religion).”

      Peter, in the study “I would kill in God’s name:” role of sex, weekly church attendance, report of a religious experience, and limbic lability.” (M.A. Persinger, Perceptual And Motor Skills, 1997, 85, 128-130), the researchers administered a set of questionnaires to 1480 university students in Canada that asked about a wide range of religious beliefs, habits and behaviors. It also asked about how often the subjects had more common, ‘altered state’ experiences, like deja vu, the sense of a presence, electric-like sensations, etc. Taken together, these latter experiences gave a measure of a person’s “limbic lability.”

      The statistical analysis involved taking each questionnaire that included a ‘yes’ response to an item that asked if they would be willing to kill for God (“If God told me to kill, I would do it in His name.”). All the questionnaires that included a ‘yes’ to this were examined to see what other items emerged in association with a willingness to kill in ‘His’ name. Four factors emerged.

      1) Having had a religious experience.

      2) Weekly church attendance (religious orthodoxy).

      3) Being Male.

      4) Limbic lability

      The next step was to look at all the questionnaires that showed all four traits, creating a second group. Of the men who reported a religious experience, attended church weekly, and displayed limbic labiity, 44% stated they would kill another person if God told them to do so. According to one behavioral scientist, if generalizable, then about one out of 20 Canadian university students would be willing to kill another person if they were to attribute the instruction to God. That’s data from believers living in a secular country. I wonder what the results would be if the study had been administered in the U.S. or other religious countries.

      “I am still a little vexed on this whole matter as the religious folk I know are good folk, not hypocrites and are very moral on the whole.

      With regard to conservative Christianity, I’m not so sure if biblical literalist should be considered moral or ethical if they believe that women were made for men, but not the other way around, and that they should submit to and obey their husbands; or that homosexuality is an abomination; or the fact that they worship Yahweh (the Father), knowing how hideous their god’s behavior is in the bible, not to mention the behavior of the patriarchs.

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      • These comments related to killing another for god reminded me of the discussion on Mel’s blog related to dying for “Christ” even if it meant putting Him ahead of family members (as Jesus supposedly instructed).

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      • A Christian is taught that God is justified in his actions. Therefore they never view his acts as “hideous”. An apologist might say that God is the only being that knows in advance the ultimate results of his actions. Therefore, he knows that his act will ultimately bring about more good than evil. What I mean is that no Christian worships God and at the same time views his behavior as anything other than good. — It’s sort of like the Civil War Monuments… 🙂

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        • To remove all the fluff, this is from a Calvinist I was in a discussion with about 3 years ago on another blog. I, and other unbelievers, brought this “hideous behavior” up to him, and this was his response:

          “God, that is, THE God, who in the beginning created the heavens and the earth, is Himself the standard by which ALL things are measured. That means when he commands Joshua to kill every man, women, child and beast in Canaan that that is PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just and good. It means that when he causes Israel to eat their own children as reported in Jeremiah 19 that that is PERFECTLY holy righteous, just and good.

          It means that if He has decreed all of the horrific human misery, suffering and death in all of history that that is PERFECTLY holy righteous, just and good. It means that if He has decreed the existence of billions of human beings for the expressed purpose of casting them into the lake of fire in judgement for sin that He also decreed that that is PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just and good. It means that if He has purposed that everything we consider to be bad, immoral and unthinkably terrible shall be so ordered by divine mechanisms known only to Himself, to His own glory for reasons sufficient unto Himself that that is PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just and good.

          It also means that His not caring one bit how you (or I) feel about that is most assuredly PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just and good. I sleep like a baby knowing that every time I hear about some gut wrenching blood curdling act of barbaric depravity, that my Father God has from eternity seen fit to assign purpose to it that is PERFECTLY holy, righteous, just and good. ”
          ~Tiribilus

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      • Victoria one of my pet annoyances is the Postmodern move towards downplaying differences between men and women and arguing that the differences are mainly based on socialising factors rather than biology. The reality (in my opinion) is that in general men are far more prone to physical violence than women and have a very different attitude to sexual relations than women.

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        • By the way I should clarify that I don’t in any way think that these differences excuse the behaviour of predators like Mark Driscoll. The guy seems to be a creep and a bully.

          The Bible says, ‘by their fruit you will know them’, which to any discerning Christian would surely be a sign to be wary of the guy. But really should we expect such discernment given the strong Christian endorsement of Donald Trump?

          Like

  18. Very interesting Victoria. I often wonder to myself that there is a general confusion amoung the words “atheist”, “non-believer” and “agnostic”. There are certainly some deliberate mischaracterizations as to what the word atheist even means, with many a religious demagogue (and secular demagogues too for that matter) promulgating the view that it means that a person knows absolutely for certain that god doesn’t exist. This of course isn’t true, but it allows the apparently “moderate” non-believer or agnostic to be seen as the happy middle ground alternative. Not as strident or “angry” or “intolerant” as the evil atheist. I have a hypothesis that the traditional religions (Christianity, Islam, etc) are being replaced with a new kind of religion. The PC (Political Correctness) religion, which can take on various forms (hysterical 3rd wave feminism, Marxism, post-modernism, et, etc). The atmosphere on many college campuses today (like say EverGreen State College) is similar in that the students have been infected with a similar religious type mindset (rejection of facts, reason, reality, etc) in favour of a strict narrative that must be adhered to, lest you be considered an outcast. Instead of shouting “heretic”, they shout “misogynist”, “racist”, “bigot”, “islamophobe”, etc. at anyone they don’t like the look of and don’t agree with and certainly don’t want to listen to.
    We humans like our illusions and comforting lies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ashley.

      “We humans like our illusions and comforting lies.”

      Psychologist Tom Pyszcynski advocates in his “terror management theory” that humans need to delude themselves to survive — that delusion is adaptive. Psychologist Cordelia Fine in her book A Mind of its Own: How Your Mind Distorts and Deceives” is another case in point: her term for this behavior is our “deluded brain.” While it may be adaptive, it’s become a liability on our species, other species and the environment. My pessimistic guess is that we will probably go extinct before humans evolve out of the need for delusions.

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  19. My sincere apologies for not responding in a timely manner to comments here. I had planned on catching up this weekend, but have encountered more distractions. I’m hunkering down in a few hours due to a direct hit from Hurricane Nate tonight. Widespread power outages are expected, so I may not be able to catch up on comments here for a few more days.

    Have a great weekend, everyone. I have my iPod charged, so I’m good to go. Lol

    xx

    Liked by 1 person

  20. This is like reading an article titled the Templeton Foundation’s Guide to Real Science.

    Smells a bit iffy to moi.

    John and I are both atheists and I have an extreme moral prejudice against him because he’s Australian not because he is an atheist.for goodness sake! Though he has partially redeemed himself by moving to another country.
    As I am English, I expect he regards me in a similar light.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “This is like reading an article titled the Templeton Foundation’s Guide to Real Science. Smells a bit iffy to moi.

      Indeed it does.

      “Though he has partially redeemed himself by moving to another country.”

      Lol — John heard that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had a similar experience two months after I arrived in South Africa. Two friends and I went to a small place called Park Rynie on the Natal coast to do a spot of sea fishing. It was overcast with ne’re a glimpse of sun.
        My mates, Nige , and Colin fished on the beach while I dozed off for a while with my feet up on a boulder.
        I was burned so bad I even burned the soles of my feet!

        I have one photo. I look like a bloody tomato!

        Aside from a further shin-burning ( legs accidentally poking out from under an umbrella) ….. also while fishing, this time at a dam, I have never willingly exposed my skin to the sun since that day.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Well, Stalin and many of his supporters were atheists to be sure. I am a third generation atheist, but my morals does not come from my atheism, it comes from my views on humanism, even though much of it is based on there not existing any deities. A religious person may be a humanist, though, there is the risk, that the religious person has misunderstood humanism because of their traditional or selfcreated religious metaphysical guesses for values. However, an atheist may just as well have a bad base for their set of values, though I doubt if it is as likely as with a religious person.

    There is this ridiculous and quite condescending thought, that some people – because they are stupid or simply uneducated – can not know right from wrong without authoritarian dictates and rules. I have met some atheists who held this notion about the believers. Wich is to say, that they somehow must have also thought, that if an uneducated or stupid person became an atheist, that person would not have a moral “compass”, as it were. To an extent they may be right, in that understanding the outcome of our actions and/or inaction we need to learn the skills how to analyse the potential results of our choises. In addition there are religious people who do themselves express, that without the fear of gods, they would be doing highly immoral deeds. I suppose, it should be remembered, that in a world wide culture of religiosity and belief in supernatural agency, much of the morality of the world population comes from their belief in divine retribution of some kind. Or at least, that is to what people are used to attribute their morality on. Hence, an atheist is potentially a person who has lost her/his moral base, without gaining a new one to fill in the gap. The problem in this picture is, that most atheists are somewhat aware of the fact, that religious arbitrary commands about moral do not make anyone moral. Therefore, I am inclined to think that the researchers have somehow missread their data. Untill further research about the subject surfaces in some more secular country, I remain skeptic about the results, that do not please me. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • “The problem in this picture is, that most atheists are somewhat aware of the fact, that religious arbitrary commands about moral do not make anyone moral. Therefore, I am inclined to think that the researchers have somehow missread their data. Untill further research about the subject surfaces in some more secular country, I remain skeptic about the results, that do not please me.”

      Well said. There just seemed to be too many unanswered questions with this study. That’s why I wanted to explore this study with others, to get a broader perspective. Thank you for your contribution here, Rautakyy.

      Like

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