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Atheists are the most despised minority in America

A 2006 University of Minnesota study revealed that atheists are the most despised minority in America. But this is not news to atheists, it’s just the most recent in a long series of surveys showing that Americans are very bigoted and prejudiced against atheists. For as long as organizations have been asking Americans about atheists, Americans have been responding that they wouldn’t treat atheists as equals to theists and Christians.

Sample question from this most recent survey:
This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society…

Atheist: 39.6%
Muslims: 26.3%
Homosexuals: 22.6%
Hispanics: 20%
Conservative Christians: 13.5%
Recent Immigrants: 12.5%
Jews: 7.6%

There is a lot of anti-atheist bigotry in the US and around the world, in spite of the fact that atheists are among the most moral people. Statistics consistently show that atheists (on average) are smarter and display more tolerance toward others than theists. They are also more likely to stay married and are less likely to end up in jail or commit crimes.

Divorce rates by religion (1999):

Jews: 30%
Born-again Christians: 27%
Other Christians: 24%
Atheists, Agnostics: 21%

The Federal Bureau of Prisons keeps statistics on religious affiliations of inmates (1997):

Catholic: 39.164%
Protestant: 35.008%
Rasta: 1.987%
Jewish: 1.773%
Church of Christ: 1.744%
Pentecostal: 1.463%
Jehovah Witness: 0.890%
Adventist: 0.831%
Orthodox: 0.502%
Mormon: 0.399%
Atheist: 0.209%

Atheists consist of about 10-15% of the US population but are only 0.21% of the prison populations. So, the vast majority of atheists are morally sound without the need of a supernatural watchdog. It is important for atheists to stand up and be recognized in order to break the negative and wrong stereotypes of atheism.


16 thoughts on “Atheists are the most despised minority in America

  1. Nicholas says:

    Ok. So.

    1) You are smart enough to be able to criticize religion on your own without stooping to misinterpret this survey. The survey question says absolutely NOTHING about “despising” anyone or treating anyone as “unequal.” It merely asks which group has a vision of American society that is different from the respondents’. Considering that only three of the options come close to being actual ideologies as opposed to ethnic or sexual categories which have nothing to do with a “vision” for society, it only makes sense that the two in the lead would be ideologies. Or would you have preferred / expected that people vote “Hispanics”?
    It’s a dumb survey, anyway, because A) it FORCES people into targeting a group since there is no “none of the above” option, and B) it pretends that a coherent “vision of society” can be attributed generally to all “Muslims,” “conservative Christians,” and “atheists.”
    I mean, even ask Brian on this one. He is as much of an atheist as you are, but there is no doubt in my mind that he, having studied experimental methods, would laugh this so-called “study” out of the ballpark.

    2) It is too bad that Christians have such a high divorce rate. Of course, a majority of US Catholics think the Church is wrong on divorce, abortion, and contraception, so they’re not exactly “model Christians.” If the study had shown that Catholics who actually followed their religion (or at least professed to agree with it) had a 24% divorce rate, THEN that might be proof that the Church had something wrong with it.
    And besides, atheists also have a lower marriage rate and are far more likely to cohabitate or never to commit in the first place. I don’t know how much of an effect on the numbers that would have, but it’s sure to twist them at least somewhat.

    3) As for the crime thing, I have several remarks.
    First of all, when you compare the population of the US who are atheists and the population of prison inmates who are atheists, you are using two different studies, which doubtlessly have wildly divergent reporting standards. For example, someone who is less likely to be in trouble with the law will also probably have a higher education, and will feel comfortable reporting herself as an atheist, whereas that is not the kind of label an uneducated criminal is likely to even think to apply to himself. Prison populations are extremely complicated, and you need to ask about more than just their label. Are there more PRACTICING Christians in jail than there are FUNCTIONAL atheists? Every first-person account I have heard has reported that most criminals who might once have identified themselves as Christians have long since given up on God. Ask any prison chaplain: it’s not as though they have a lucrative business with hundreds of people attending services and lining up for Confession. Not at all.
    Secondly, many people in prison FIND religion AFTER being forced to look into the depths of their souls while in jail. If you look at studies of recidivism rates, they are far lower among religious one-time offenders than among those whose time spent in jail was barren of offers of faith, hope, or love.
    Thirdly, the fact that religion is prevalent in many of the same areas that have higher crime rates does not prove that one causes the other. These are independent variables. Any statistician will tell you that you need a much more in-depth analysis to prove there is any causal relation at work here.
    Fourthly, and finally, that one little spread only covers arrestable offenses. It says nothing about abortion, adultery, or any number of other daily peccadillos like arrogance, rudeness, promiscuity, narrow-mindedness, unpeaceableness, gossip, impatience, and the like. Our different personal experiences will no doubt tell us different things, but I will state flat-out that MOST of the MOST moral people I know are Christians. Perhaps I am a little biased, but freshman year I was a functional agnostic, and it was precisely the different quality of the kindness and concern of the Catholics I met that made me reconsider the claims of the Church.

    4) That hateful post on the ThinkAtheist forum is unfortunate, but come on — one rude, ignorant, disgruntled lunatic (or even one million) doesn’t prove the rule.

    5) Finally, as for that “Christianity: Makes perfect sense” joke, it is typical of many atheists’ attempt to ridicule the entire system by poking holes in its absolute weakest argument. I don’t believe in a rib-woman, a talking snake, or a magic tree, thank you very much; nor do I believe that God created the world in six days and then took a day off. Neither does the Catholic Church. Neither do most Catholics. As for the “cosmic Jewish zombie” thing, well, you can make anything sound stupid by putting it in a stupid way. (“Sure, I believe that a billion years ago, all the strong monkeys stopped being monkeys and became man, while all of the weaker ones who were unable to magically transform themselves died. Makes perfect sense to me.”)
    If you can’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God for metaphysical reasons, then I can certainly respect that; it is a difficult claim to accept, and even the apostles at the time of Christ had doubts. But to pretend that intelligent Christians don’t have good reasons to believe what they do? That is either spiritual ignorance, or intellectual cowardice, or a little of both. And THAT I have no respect for.
    (No more than I do for atheists when they complain about how mean Christians are to say that they have differences of opinion with atheists and then turn around and accuse the Christians of being, on the whole, criminals, lousy spouses, and unintelligent dupes…all on the basis of a bunch of non-surveys.)

    Ok, that’s all for me tonight. Let the games begin. 😉


  2. JorG3 says:

    There is absolutely no question, without a doubt, that I honestly and with all my person believe….

    that I am a nonbeliever in all this.

    Loved the Bill Mayer DVD that you recommended. Almost hurt myself….

  3. Cindy says:

    This was a large study that was published in American Sociological Review and was based on Gallup Polls & Other Surveys over a 40 year period. Every single survey showed Atheists are despised and distrusted, with massive amounts of bigotry and prejudice in America. Here is part of the studies conclusion right from the American Sociological Review article:
    The core point of this article can be stated concisely.
    Atheists are at the top of the list of groups
    that Americans find problematic in both public
    and private life, and the gap between acceptance
    of atheists and acceptance of other racial and
    religious minorities is large and persistent. It is
    striking that the rejection of atheists is so much
    more common than rejection of other stigmatized

    If you do a google search, you’ll find many articles and references to this study.

    Regarding marriage, this commitment is so important in our society (even for the non-religious like me), the point I wanted to make was that atheist are as trusting or more so than Christians based on marriage statistics alone. Atheist’s ethics just as high or higher when it comes to marriage. I think many religious people think because atheist do not believe in god, then they must have no morals, which of course is not true and this is one of many examples.

    Prison stats are another example. The point is that there are few atheists in jail, so the hate and distrust of atheist is totally unfounded.

    Interesting that you always mention the Catholics who are a fairly small minority. Many of the evangelicals do take the bible literally. President Bush for example did believe in a talking snake. Going back the the reason I even speak out at all, people like W. base their public policies on their religious beliefs. This is scary stuff. Sarah Palin said that God was on our side in Iraq! This is what I’m fighting against, the separation of church and state.

    Of course, you are free to believe whatever you like, however when someone else’s beliefs effect all of us, then it’s time to speak out. That said, how can atheist make any difference if we are despised and distrusted, and for no good reason? Hey, true that some atheist are arrogant, rude, narrow-minded, etc., but at least we are not killing anyone over our beliefs. Also, the religious right is just full of hypocrites. I’ll take an arrogant atheist over a hypocrite any time. I think your beliefs are sincere Nick, but as you said yourself, few Catholics actually followed their religion. I think this is true of must religious people in the US, they do a lot of preaching, but they don’t practice what they preach. Atheist can be moral without the fear of God.

  4. Nicholas says:

    I did Google the study, and I stand by my objections: unless the study questions are worded, “Whom do you DESPISE the most?”, we cannot extrapolate that atheists are despised — only that many Americans disagree with them, distrust them, etc. And again, the crucial failing of this study is that it pits the atheists against other groups. Who in their right mind would say “I distrust Hispanics more than I trust atheists”? Atheists have an ideology, and it is totally respectable to distrust their ideology while accepting their worth and integrity as people. Or are you saying that you wouldn’t vote for “conservative Christians” in this poll? Yet we are “good people,” etc etc, all the things you bring up about atheists.

    The best version of this study, I think, would be to say, “How much do you dislike (or despise, or distrust — a whole range of questions) atheists?” And you could specify — “…in such and such an arena (politics, family life, friendship, etc.” And then give a range of 0-10. That would be far more effective than forcing people to choose between anti-atheism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia.

    I do see what you mean — that what you object to is when conservative Christian politics bump into yours. I just wish that you would restrict your criticism to Republican Christians, or SOMETHING — just narrow it down a little. Remember, 60% of Catholics voted for Obama. Otherwise, I could very easily say (and this is why I would vote for “atheists” on the survey, assuming I were forced to choose) “I object to atheist politics.” On the one hand, you could very justifiably say, “What does that mean? We don’t think alike.” On the other hand, you could very justifiably say, “Well, it means support for abortion; unthinking support for stem-cell research and other dangerous biotechnology that threatens the integrity of the human being; overly lenient views on marriage; an ideology of ‘church versus state’ that goes beyond mere neutrality and actually persecutes churches; etc.” And much of that would be true.

    I disagree with your analysis of the prison situation; I don’t think you addressed my points…

    One final point on which I DO agree with you… 😉 Yes, I mention Catholics all the time. I mean, I am Catholic, and I believe ours is the true Church, and most of the negative stereotypes about Christians come from the evangelists who, as you say, may well believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. So I will say two things. The first is, I am as eager as you are to reduce the role of evangelical Protestantism in American life. We have different “backup ideologies,” but I agree with you that those who think that there actually was a talking snake are…confused, at best.

    But I will also say this, in (measured) defense of that viewpoint. Although they are confused (in my opinion) on so many important matters, I nonetheless believe that at the core of what they practice is love. I remember watching an interview with Dan Savage, who’s a sex columnist and gay activist…not exactly my hero, but whatever, he’s smart, principled, and honest. Anyway, he was talking about a visit he made to the Deep South where he shared his sexuality with a bunch of Baptists across several states. And here is what he said: First of all, he had never met so many people in his life who thought he was going to Hell. But secondly, he had never met people in his life who treated him so WELL…so lovingly, so hospitably. So why this cognitive dissonance? Well, they come from a faith tradition that is very stern on the issue of homosexuality, which everyone in the media sees and demonizes — but whether you agree with that theology or not, you have to be honest enough, at least, to acknowledge that they also come from a faith tradition that is liberal in its idea of love, compassion, and forgiveness. And THAT SHOWS. So you and I can both criticize evangelical Protestantism for its theology, but in all fairness we have to admit that there is something to this Jesus guy, in most of the traditions in which He is adored.


  5. Nicholas says:

    I meant to say, in the first paragraph, “I distrust Hispanics more than I distrust atheists.” And in the second paragraph, “We don’t think alike” means “all atheists don’t necessarily think alike.”
    Sorry, didn’t read that one over too well. :-/

  6. Cindy says:

    I’ll see if I can dig up more specifics on this study. I agree that there should be an option “none of the above” and maybe there was, I’m not sure. But I still bet Atheist would be right up there with the none of the above. We already know they would beat out all the other minorities for the most distrusted. As for despised, this was the word used in the article. I’m not sure what the specific questions were for this study, but I do know the study was based on several different polls. I only used a couple of examples that I was able to find. But according to the University’s research, the results were undeniable. Based on my own experience, I see no reason to challenge their conclusions.

    As I said before, I should probably go back into the closet, now that Obama is in the white house and we can start moving forward. Bush put the country on a backward track for 8 years and I blame this in part to his religious beliefs and the fact that 80% of evangelicals voted for him in 2004, even when it was clear he was not a good president. Without this support, Kerry would have won. And of course Bush actually did lose in 2000, but that’s another post…

    For a politician to admit he/she is atheist or even agnostic would be political suicide. Just look at the flack Romney got for being a Mormon, and of course Mormons are more “trusted” than atheists. There is a lot of prejudiced against atheists, that is clear. Evangelicals certainly have no love for atheists, unless they can convert them;-) How can you love someone and say they are going to hell in the same breath? Confusing stuff. BTW, do you believe in hell?

    True that we should try not to generalize about any group of people, there are too many variables, But “generally speaking”, I do put all people who believe in a god into one big category, since they all believe in something supernatural. All religious people think that their religion is the one “true” religion. Regardless of what religion you believe in, most of the world disagrees with you. A growing number of people are saying, that they are all wrong.

    If there really was a Jesus, I would guess that he really did think he was the son of God and he had followers. There are people today who actually think they are the second coming of Christ and have followers too. Do you think Jesus actually walked on water, healed lepers, turned water to wine, etc. If so, is this really very different from believing in a talking snake? Religious people seem to make up their own rules as to what they believe and what they don’t. It’s all unbelievable, if you ask me.

    If you really think about it, it’s hard for freethinkers not to make fun of these magical gods and all of the stories, myths and rituals that go along with these gods, all of which have no proof. But humans seem to have the need for a higher power hard-wired into their brains and so this is the path of least resistance. I have another interesting article about this that I will post soon.

  7. Nicholas says:

    I actually agree with you that it’s a shame atheists cannot be elected president. That is not very democratic at all. And there are definitely a lot of atheists I would trust more, on general principle, than I would trust a lot of Christians.

    I do think that many elected officials are a lot less religious than they’re willing to admit. I have a hard time believing that John McCain had a pious bone in his body, for instance, and what saved his presidential bid (for a while) was that he was canny enough to know that if he pretended to be pro-life, the Christian right would support him. I was so angry when everyone on the right talked about him as some sort of pro-life crusader…uhh, hello, he is as pro-stem cell research as Obama and he wanted to make Lieberman or Lindsey Graham, both pro-choice Republicans, his vice-president. Obviously he hoodwinked the Christian Right, and that is their own fault for being so ideological and blind and ignorant.

    I am getting off-topic, but anyway, on these things I would agree with you.

    Do I believe in Hell…that is a good question. It is one that I have struggled with. I cannot believe that a loving God would sentence anyone to everlasting torment, no. But I do believe in a kind of Hell which is based on what the Catholic Church currently teaches: a) that it is freely chosen, not an imposed punishment; and b) that it is a state of eternal separation from God. The Church is very vague about what that could mean. I myself am what you’d call an annihilationist: I believe that Heaven exists for those who choose it, whereas those who choose to reject God simply die, vanish from existence. That’s a little how Jesus talked about Hell. He talked about eternal fires (in my opinion, as a metaphor) but also talked about it as “death,” opposing it explicitly to “eternal life,” and if the Church is right that Hell is eternal separation from God, then I don’t see how it can be anything other than death, because God is life; God’s love is what sustains existence itself; and if you are separated from God, then you are separated from life.

    As CS Lewis said, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, Thy will be done, and those to whom God says, Thy will be done.” I believe we’re free to choose our own eternity. And I have definitely met people who hate the idea of God so much that I think they are capable of choosing nothingness over eternal happiness. How many people have I talked to who have said, “I don’t believe God exists — but if He does, I hate Him for it.” It’s pride, and it’s sad. Honest disbelief is one thing, but ordering one’s life around an apathy towards or hatred of the origin of existence are another thing.

    Anyway, that’s all just a personal belief. It’s not the foundation of my faith, since it will always be a hypothesis, and it’s risky to base a lifestyle on guesses and hypotheses.

    As for Jesus and miracles, yes, I do believe that He did those things: well, if I believe in the Resurrection, then healing the sick and lame and handicapped shouldn’t be too hard for Him.

    I believe that Jesus’s coming was a once-in-history event. I won’t rule out the possibility that other miracles have occurred over history, but for that possibility to be honest, I think we have to admit how incredible they are. (Incredible, in the literal sense of “hard to believe.”) As soon as we pretend that the reality of Jesus’ divinity should be obvious, I think we start to detach ourselves from reality, as well as to take Jesus’ divinity for granted. Faith is based on reason — we do have testimony, we do have witnesses to the Crucifixion, and we do have our own personal experiences — but it’s also based on the reality of doubt.

    The first time I was at the monastery in Taize I was having a really hard time believing that Jesus could be the Son of God. After all, a belief in miracles is pretty incredible, and you are right, there is no proof of it. And I was really starting to doubt myself: why choose that religious story and not any other to accept on pure “faith”? Well, at around this time, we were reading John Chapter 9 in Church. In that chapter, Jesus heals a blind boy, and after Jesus leaves, everyone starts arguing about it. Some people say it’s clear that He has worked a miracle and must be the Son of God; other people, the super-educated Pharisees, say no, that’s silly, either the blind kid is lying or the “miracle-worker” tricked us somehow or there is a scientific explanation with the mud He used to wipe the kid’s eyes…and besides, Jesus is a sinner (because he doesn’t keep the Sabbath), and how could a sinner (aka, the Church which you think is responsible for so much evil and hatred and warfare) be divine?

    When a Christian reads the story, it usually seems totally clear that obviously the Pharisees are wrong, they don’t have faith, they’re putting Jesus to the test and that’s bad, etc etc etc. But this time I started seeing MYSELF in the Pharisees, and seeing that their doubts were completely reasonable….and seeing how modern the Bible is, really, because it is precisely a record of the same kinds of debates that go on today regarding a fantastic story that reason tells us could not have occurred. (It’s not like in the Bible everyone just falls down on their knees in worship without any second thoughts and so therefore we should do the same thing…the Bible is not a book for the gullible, it’s a book for those who question.)

    Anyway, it wasn’t until the next day in Church that we read the end of the story. In the second half of the story, the people are still fighting. It seems there will be no end to their argument. Finally, one of them says, “Hey, let’s ask the kid what he thinks.” So they turn to the kid who used to be blind, and they say, “Hey, kid, what about you? What do you think? Was this guy really the Messiah?” And everyone turns towards him and listens, and you can sense the tension in the text as they wait for his response. Finally, the kid says two things. First of all, he says, “I don’t know.” I don’t know — I think those words are very important for Christians, and we don’t say them enough. We pretend we know everything, we pretend we’re so sure, rather than admitting that what we have experienced can only be as incredible as it is if it is difficult to believe in. And both in science and religion and in relationships and everywhere in our lives, of course, doubt is a fundamental element of our existence…

    So “I don’t know,” says the blind kid, as everyone else is listening. “All I know is” — so, he does know SOMETHING, he does feel confident enough to testify to SOMETHING — “All I know is, I was blind, and now I can see.” Simple as that. Now, I have never miraculously regained my sight after praying to Jesus, so I can’t have the same kind of argument. But I do know that a belief in God helps the world to make sense to me — I believe the Catholic Church is right about practically everything, so even though that’s not PROOF that they’re right about Jesus, it is certainly something to consider. And when I am religious, when I pray, when I go to Mass, I feel more at peace, I feel more loved and loving, I feel more connected to humanity — and so even though that’s not PROOF that I’m not just deluding myself, it is certainly something to consider. Christianity, in more ways than one, helps me to see.

    So that is what I would say when you ask me about miracles. Do I need to believe that every smudge in every window and grilled cheese sandwich is the Virgin Mary? No. Do I nonetheless profess a belief in the miraculous nature of one historic event 2000 years ago? Yes. And probably I will always have doubts about it — so have all of the saints, prelates, theologians, Catholics throughout time — but so far, my faith has never failed to fill me with the sense that I am drawing closer to eternal life…that I am seeing things more clearly than in times when I haven’t believed.

    There’s more to be said, of course, but that’s as short an answer as I can manage. 😉


  8. Cindy says:

    “And when I am religious, when I pray, when I go to Mass, I feel more at peace, I feel more loved and loving, I feel more connected to humanity — and so even though that’s not PROOF that I’m not just deluding myself, it is certainly something to consider. Christianity, in more ways than one, helps me to see.”

    This is one reason why I think the need to believe in God is hardwired into our brains and this is a good reason to believe. For me, I believe what makes sense to me. If Jesus came to Eric and made him walk, that would certainly convince me that their is a God.

    Is there a God? I don’t know either, but I’m pretty sure there is not. This goes a step beyond agnostics who really don’t know and think we will never know. But I think there is a scientific answer to everything, although we may never be able to figure it all out.

    My personal feeling about God is that if I’m wrong and there is a God and a Heaven, I’ll get there. If God is truly loving and forgiving, than He will let me in, because I’m a good person. Rich says this is not so, but hey, we all believe what we want to believe. So, I’m not worried about were I’m going when I die and I’m not going to pretend I believe something that I don’t. He would know that anyway, wouldn’t He?

    I have a really interesting book for you to read. It’s Bear’s version of the Bible. I just finished it and love it! It’s funny, but not in an insulting way.

    P.S. Hi George. Glad you enjoyed the movie:-)

  9. Nicholas says:

    I see what you mean about it being hard-wired. Well, it’s a hypothesis, anyway. You haven’t given me any proof that it’s so, but I haven’t given you any proof that it isn’t.

    Sometimes Christians talk about people having a “gift” or a special “calling.” I might accept that when we measure these sorts of things in human people, we observe them in genes or in neurons…that these are the building blocks out of which we are made by God. After all, even those who don’t believe we are “hard-wired” have to believe we get our personalities from SOMEWHERE. Right? So in the end a neurologist’s take on the composition of the human psyche poses no new philosophical challenges that haven’t been around since people first started asking, thousands of years ago, “why am I the kind of person that I am?”

    Of course, the question then is whether we are completely determined by this hard-wiring. Do you believe that everything we do or believe or feel is hard-wired? Do you believe in free will? That is a big one.

    “Rich says this is not so, but hey, we all believe what we want to believe.” haha. Well, you believe what you want to believe, too! I certainly hope that everyone that I love is going to Heaven. I secretly believe that God is a lot more merciful than Christians sometimes make Him out to be. But I think that we need to be worried about pride. I’m not sure anyone is entitled to say, “I am a good person.” I have friends who have done some horrible, horrible things…like, seduced married men twice their age, just for fun….like, really horrible things that destroy lives. And I have heard these very same people say, with their very own mouths, and believing in it completely, “don’t worry about it; I know it looks bad, but really, I’m a good person.”

    I’m not saying you’ve done anything terrible like that (!), but I do think that line is sort of lame, to be completely honest. I don’t think it’s a serious argument at all.

    I believe that the purpose of life is not to be “good enough.” As long as we are content with being good “enough,” we will never be good “enough.” And I think that religion really challenges people to be better. Maybe even opens their eyes to ways that they could improve themselves, but which they never noticed because they never bothered to “go to the doctor’s,” so to speak — to get a check-up, to see if they were really as “ok” as they thought they were.

    And also, like I said, I don’t think life on earth is a test, and we either pass it and go to Heaven or fail it and go to Hell. I think life on earth is a choice. If someone is here on earth putting all his energy into loving God, then I think his life will be better and richer and God will let him live like that for ever because it’s the kind of person he’s chosen to be with the time he’s had on earth. (This is a hypothesis.) If one doesn’t feel like choosing God here on earth, then I’m not so sure how convinced he can be that when he dies he’d know how to recognize God if he saw Him…but anyway, who knows. Anyway, we’re all responsible for our own souls…it’s a big responsibility, that’s all I’m saying.

    I would like to read Bear’s Bible very much. 😉 I read certain parts of the “Bloody History of the Fertile Crescent,” and thought they were fairly insulting, but I will give anything a try. And besides, I would still like to make that documentary about him someday, if he’s up for it…”Naked in the Road” has already given me many ideas…so I am sure that this one would, too! 🙂


  10. Cindy says:

    I do think we have free will to a certain extent, but there are some things we can’t control. For example, what happened with the twins. Their disabilities changed my life completely and forced me to change. I’m definitely not the same person I used to be. But I think this was just random bad luck and not any sort of “plan” for me. As for hard-wiring, I think we all have this, but it’s not exactly the same in everyone and we can certainly go against the grain, but it’s not as easy. I think believing comes more naturally to humans. Add this to the indoctrination that most kids get early on, and it’s so much easier to believe. I think this is why religion is so prevalent in all societies.

    I think we can challenge ourselves to be better without religion. And I do think I’m a good person. I’ve never done anything that has hurt anyone else (at least not that I know of) and I try to follow the golden rule. Not to brag, but I’ve helped hundred’s of people in my 20 year nursing career and now in the disability community. Plus, I’ve reached thousands more via the web. I understand that the joy in life comes from helping others and trying to make a better world for our children. The day I stop trying to better myself will likely be the day I die, because improving ones self is the real challenge in life, certainly not collecting things. Which I think is why so many people are unhappy. Now I’m getting off track.

    The brain itself is still very much a mystery with so much more to discover. I think the more we learn the less we will rely on the supernatural. I do think that some people are gifted in certain areas or have a “calling”. This can be religious or just about anything else. People talk a lot about “the called” to nursing. I know I didn’t have that;-) But I think these gifts are inherited through evolution, not something god put in there.

    You know, it is possible that my hard wiring is messed up. I had a very rough time as a baby, having a trach for a year and several anoxic episodes. The neurologist still does not know why I have brain damage, but the older I get the less I worry about things like MS. I think the reason I have brain lesions (and the reason I’m dyslexic) has to do with lack of oxygen as a baby. Perhaps my god neurons were killed off;-)

    I agree that life is not a test, but I think this is the only one we are going to have, so we should make the best of it, regardless of the cards we are dealt. Imagine if I’m right, what do you think of all the time you’ve spend praying to a god that is not there? Is that time well spent? I guess it can’t hurt. Again, I have no problem with you and your beliefs, since they are harmless, when looking at religion as a whole, I think it causes more harm than good. It’s good for you, but certainly not good for many oppressed people around the world.

    Bear’s Bible book is the “Bloody History of the Fertile Crescent”! I didn’t know you had read that. You found it insulting, huh? Well, it was meant to be funny. I thought it was quite entertaining, but I think it had a good message too, regarding environmental and social issues, the evils of money and that we should try to be like Jesus.

  11. Nicholas says:

    hehe…I am picturing all the God neurons popping away like bubbles on bubblewrap in baby Auntie Cindy’s brain…hehe. Well, even if those neurons got killed off, you got left with some good ones…you are a formidable opponent…

    I agree with (almost) everything in your first two paragraphs; I don’t think it’s off-track at all! I guess I still believe, in my heart of hearts (now who do I sound like?), that religion can only make someone better…if it’s pursued in the right way. So while I can’t bring myself to say that we don’t “need” religion, I will absolutely agree with you that you do more to better yourself, and society, than most of the people I know…I even brag about you from time to time for that very reason. hehe.

    As for your second-to-last paragraph…it’s funny, because there is this famous argument called Pascal’s Wager (you’ve probably heard of it)…which says that if God doesn’t exist, then the religious person will have lost a lifetime, and that’s it…but if God does exist, then a non-religious person will have lost his soul. And Pascal weighs a lifetime against eternity and says, meh, I’ll gamble my soul on the probability that God exists.

    …well, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but I think there’s some core truth to it: especially since being religious HASN’T kept me from enjoying life, or growing in love and knowledge, then I feel a lot more comfortable gambling that God exists than throwing all of that away. I was laughing in your last post because you completely turned Pascal’s Wager on its head…you were like, meh, if God doesn’t exist then I’d be throwing my soul away pretending he did all my life, and if He does exist, he’ll let me into Heaven anyway.

    And I’m not sure the illustrious philosopher ever thought of that. haha.

    I only read the first few pages of Uncle Bear’s book, and it was a long time ago, so I don’t remember it too well. Maybe if I reread it I’d find it funny or understand its message better. With age comes wisdom…supposedly…! (I forget whether you ever saw my documentary The Soul of Genius? One of the main ideas in that film is that with age does not necessarily come wisdom…which I tend to agree with…from a certain perspective, anyway.)


  12. Ann says:

    I like this Nick guy 🙂 (I’m assuming this is Cindy’s nephew, yes?)

  13. Cindy says:

    Hi Ann. Yes, Nick is my nephew. You’ve heard me talk about him. Awesome young man who keeps his old aunt on her toes. 😉 I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up in the priesthood.

  14. aware says:

    If religion is one great big pile of hooey so be it I personally believe in the power of good(notice there doesn’t NEED a second O morality only has 1) god should be in the form of humanity loving creatures whom all was brought forth) I may be an overly progressive individual (a liberal christian) but there is at least one fictional character we should design our system of morals after

  15. Cindy says:

    ‘aware’, thanks for stopping and for your comment.


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