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A nightmare for Richard Dawkins: statistics show that atheists are a dying breed - Comments

Michael91's Avatar Comment 1 by Michael91

It doesn't matter; even though we are having fewer children, children still must be more likely to come out of a religious home as an atheist than an atheist home as religious as our ranks have been growing, especially in the youth. Having reality on our side is a distinct advantage as more and more people become educated.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 13:24:00 UTC | #399190

DavidSJA's Avatar Comment 2 by DavidSJA

Uhm, since beliefs are not genetic, but environmental, cultural and intellectual, why would religionists having more children than atheists matter? *I'm* a child of evangelical christians, yet I am not christian...

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 13:28:00 UTC | #399192

gunnarjb's Avatar Comment 3 by gunnarjb

By this logic, educated people have always been a dying breed, since they tend to have fewer offspring. Strangely, education has been proliferating over the past couple of hundred years. Doesn't quite add up.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 13:32:00 UTC | #399195

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 4 by the great teapot

"and besides which this sudden outpouring of bile against Christianity seems clearly motivated by a secret fear of another Abrahamic religion"

Clearly, er, any evidence for that?Richard is "clearly" one of the immature new atheists and he has been banging the drum since the americans were arming the taliban.
I have no evidence for that last statement btw, but that never stops the papers so what the hell.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 13:33:00 UTC | #399196

Dustin14's Avatar Comment 5 by Dustin14

a quick look at his other articles sheds a lot of light, attacks on free condoms, socialism, that other unnamed Abrahamic religion, france and "LIBERALS!!1!"

It seems to me this guy is just doing what he can to secure a guest commentator spot on fox news.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 13:40:00 UTC | #399198

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 6 by Sally Luxmoore

This is not news.

I agree, however, with David SJA. If atheism can be regarded as a meme, then it is not reliant on parental genes.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 13:47:00 UTC | #399201

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 7 by Caudimordax

Personally I find the New Atheists’ anti-Christian aggression tedious: criticising people for their privately-held religious beliefs shows a lack of class and maturity,

"Privately-held religious beliefs" wouldn't be quite as much of an issue if there were no-one laboring daily to get those beliefs inserted into our schools, our laws, and in short, into everybody else's business. "Privately-held religious beliefs" wouldn't be quite as much of an issue if there were no believers taking advantage of their position as parents and guardians to poison the minds of children.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 13:49:00 UTC | #399203

DeusExNihilum's Avatar Comment 8 by DeusExNihilum

Somewhat a misleading title, statistics might be showing that Atheists aren't having as many children...but that certainly doesn't indicate we're a "Dying breed".

And it makes me wonder why the author of this "Article" hasn't realized that he's quite openly admitting that Religion's only real propagation tool is childhood indoctrination.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 13:50:00 UTC | #399205

Slartythefirst's Avatar Comment 9 by Slartythefirst

The tone of this article (and other articles), the comments and responses suggest Athiesm is a belief system. Too many people find it difficult to understand the concept of the free mind.

"Athiests believe there is no God".

I believe there is no Loch Ness monster, no Santa Claus, no Leprachauns, Fairies or Unicorns. That doesn't put me a box marked with a name tag, so why should my belief that there is no God put me in a box marked "Athiest"?

I know what the word means and I understand why people refer to themselves as athiest, but the word has become a tool for religious groups. Its meaning might as well be changed to mean the same as Satanist.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 13:55:00 UTC | #399206

NewEnglandBob's Avatar Comment 10 by NewEnglandBob

Much ado about nothing.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 13:58:00 UTC | #399207

NormanDoering's Avatar Comment 11 by NormanDoering

"...statistics might be showing that Atheists aren't having as many children..."

What are the real stats on that? Is our output less than that of any other highly educated group?

Again, the music I'm pushing:

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 14:09:00 UTC | #399213

Skydromakk's Avatar Comment 12 by Skydromakk

Most atheists I know don't come from an atheist family but a Christian one. I was baptized, yet I'm an atheist. With people like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens putting the arguments out there, I doubt that atheism is going to die anytime soon. In fact, from what I've heard, the two rapidly growing religious views are Islam and non-belief.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 14:12:00 UTC | #399214

oliverbeatson's Avatar Comment 13 by oliverbeatson

Quality not quantity!

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 14:21:00 UTC | #399217

russkid's Avatar Comment 14 by russkid

I know what the word means and I understand why people refer to themselves as athiest, but the word has become a tool for religious groups. Its meaning might as well be changed to mean the same as Satanist.

The religious groups are using the word atheist in the same way that we are using the term religious groups ... categorize, connotate, infer.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 14:25:00 UTC | #399220

Francis Clarke's Avatar Comment 15 by Francis Clarke

Athiesm is simply not a 'breed' so it cannot die out. End of story.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 14:38:00 UTC | #399222

beanson's Avatar Comment 16 by beanson

criticising people for their privately-held religious beliefs shows a lack of class and maturity

god, what a dick

Apparently this social commentator (according to the headline blurb) specialises in something called 'low culture'

I can only reiterate...
...god, what a dick

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 14:41:00 UTC | #399223

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 17 by God fearing Atheist

As many have already pointed out, the article is treating religion as a gene not as a meme.

Given contraception and careers all I can predict is that if "want children" has a genetic component, and if homo technicans persists for a million years a significant number of its members will carry the "want children" genes.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 14:46:00 UTC | #399224

EmJaySena's Avatar Comment 18 by EmJaySena

"Krishevsky got married to her cousin, Yitzhak, just before turning 19."


"The couple brought seven sons and four daughters into the world. In accordance with haredi custom, Krishevsky brought up her children to see children as a great joy. Her children subsequently adopted her outlook and produced 150 children of their own."

If my math is correct, that equals roughly 13-14 grandchildren per child. Forgive my youthful naïveté, but doesn’t that suggest poor parenting, regardless of religious beliefs? In a time where raising one child properly could prove to be difficult, this couple (and there children) decided it would be wise to bear children in the double-digit range? Surely, there must be a better, if not more cost-efficient, way of praising your imaginary friends than producing offspring as though it’s a hobby, right?

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 14:53:00 UTC | #399228

Stephen Maxwell's Avatar Comment 19 by Stephen Maxwell

"this sudden outpouring of bile against Christianity seems clearly motivated by a secret fear of another Abrahamic religion"

Surely it's either seemingly motivated or clearly motivated?

Anyway, has anyone read some of the racist 'bile' that's apparent in the comments section? It's despicable.

West actually makes it sound like people inheriting the beliefs of their parents is actually a good thing. He appears to flatly accept this without demonstrating any disapproval.

Although I generally disagree with any exceptions made... Read his latest column. The guy is a nut:

Spokesperson: Exceptions are made for requirements of faith, but a crucifix is not considered to fall under this category.

West: How can a crucifix, the most recognisable religious symbol and, dare I say it, brand logo of all time, not be recognised as a religious symbol?


They didn't say it wasn't a religious symbol (which it is), they said it wasn't a requirement of faith (which it isn't).

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 14:54:00 UTC | #399230

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 20 by Steve Zara

Comment #417346 by Caudimordax

Privately held beliefs can't be that private if we know about them.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 14:56:00 UTC | #399232

andrew.trapp's Avatar Comment 21 by andrew.trapp

"Its meaning might as well be changed to mean the same as Satanist."

I've seen believers for whom atheist and satanist are indeed synonymous.

The contention that atheists are a dying breed would seem, at least in the US, to be disproven by our growing numbers. Still, one would think that in the long run, religion does have the advantage. First, religious people DO have more children on average. Second, while being raised in a religious family is no guarantee against becoming an atheist, the odds are certainly higher that you'll be a theist (and of the same religion as your parents). In that sense, the religion meme is, perhaps not genetic, but hereditary nonetheless.

"criticising people for their privately-held religious beliefs shows a lack of class and maturity"

This commenter is another believer in the doctrine that atheists need to Sit Down And Shut Up. Silly little atheists; we've forgotten our place!

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 15:08:00 UTC | #399236

JackR's Avatar Comment 22 by JackR

A typically stupid and ill-considered article, based as it is on the highly dubious premise that atheists beget atheists and religious people beget religious people. I, and most of the atheists I know, had religious parents. From what I've seen here at and elsewhere, this is far from atypical.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 15:10:00 UTC | #399237

RationalFreeThinker's Avatar Comment 23 by RationalFreeThinker

The article by Ed West makes some startling and erroneous assumptions - the most startling of which is that people will remain as they are (in thoughts/belief, etc.) throughout their lives.

This is certainly not the case. Since virtually all people are brought up to believe in some sort of religious delusion - where do all the non-theists, freethinkers, rationalists come from?

Or, why are Jews so statistically over represented as Nobel Prize winners? Should these Jews not be Rabbi's or Kabbalistic Masters?

Note, I'm using this as an argument in response to Ed's argument of the Haredi woman who leaves (along with her husband) a legacy of over 1200 direct descendents - all of whom, he presumes - will be Haredi throughout their lives (i.e. Ultra-ultra Orthodox Jews).

I'll take one intelligent atheist offspring (which my wife and I are fortunate to have) than the 5 religious/brain washed offspring that my sister and her husband have raised. Quality over quantity any day.

Ed West seems to think we live in a Lamarqueian universe - where all traits (even those which are not inheritable) will be passed on to our offspring. How sad.

That which is not true requires a great deal of energy to sustain/maintain. That which is true requires much less to sustain/maintain. Since all states in nature prefer states of lower energy consumption - the fact is that over time, people will tend to migrate to systems of knowledge which provide (and/or illuminate) the truth - and require much less energy/effort to sustain.

In the end, most of humanity will eventually migrate to atheism, hopefully in the form of secular humanism - unless we kill ourselves off first, that is.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 15:11:00 UTC | #399239

Caudimordax's Avatar Comment 24 by Caudimordax

20. Comment #417375 by Steve Zara - That was my point. This person is claiming that the beliefs are "privately-held." If that were the case believers wouldn't be shouting them from the roof tops and exposing them to well deserved mockery. He's just trying to make a case for the poor, innocent, defenseless believers, painting an image of nasty atheists going into people's private brains and rummaging through their somewhat dingy mental unmentionables.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 15:14:00 UTC | #399241

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 25 by Steve Zara

Comment #417384 by Caudimordax

Sorry, I didn't mean to step on your toes, if you see what I mean. I just rather liked the irony of publicly shouted so-called private beliefs.

There is another matter, isn't there - that people would only be keeping beliefs private out of some kind of shame. As you say, it is their 'unmentionables'.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 15:19:00 UTC | #399245

ColdFusionLazarus's Avatar Comment 26 by ColdFusionLazarus

So what if Julian Baggini has no grandchildren? None of us here like him anyway, did we?

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 15:35:00 UTC | #399250

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 27 by Jos Gibbons

This article exhibits one common mistake made by the irrational mind* when trying to make claims with stats. Instead of going to ACTUAL stats about whether a trend goes one way or another (if at all), they go with stats that SOUND LIKE they prove that, if you assume certain things about correlation without any evidence. For example, instead of looking at what IS happening to numbers of atheists, he guesses on the basis of a "it's heredity" assumption.

* Of course, genuinely believing that some minds are rational and some minds are irrational, rather than recognising it's linguistic shoehorning, is an example of the tyranny of the discontinuous mind, and therefore would itself be an example of irrationality in action.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 15:44:00 UTC | #399252

zengardener's Avatar Comment 28 by zengardener

Data is rare in this area, but what they do have suggests that atheists are a dying breed.

Rich people are a dying breed.

Well educated people are a dying breed.

Liberal democracies are a dying breed.

Biologists are a dying breed.

Too bad people cannot change their minds after their indoctrination period.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 15:47:00 UTC | #399253

Ivan The Not So Bad's Avatar Comment 29 by Ivan The Not So Bad

He also forgets that the religious are in the habit of killing each other.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 16:10:00 UTC | #399258

Pete.K's Avatar Comment 30 by Pete.K

Why this reference to 'well' educated, the significant point is that there are fewer 'uneducated' people around, who are easier manipulated by religion. In civilised countries t is now the inalienable right of every citizen to have state sponsored education. It doesn't require higher education, just enough education for each and every citizen to be able to inform him or herself through reading.

Add to wider education, the improved communications which allow people to be informed in ways other that the written word. Television is obviously a great teacher, when used properly, and I feel fortunate enough to have had the BBC as one of my greatest sources of information, and an inspiration to expand that knowledge.

In the not too distant past the only educated person in a village or small town was the priest, and since the advent of fast communications and education for all their grip on the populous has waned.

Sun, 20 Sep 2009 16:17:00 UTC | #399259