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Why More Nonbelievers Are Openly Identifying - Comments

Zeuglodon's Avatar Comment 1 by Zeuglodon

Interesting cross-reference of studies. In the first study, how were the missing percentage of people answering the question?

If there are more atheists than mormons, jews, and muslims, wouldn't that be a compelling argument for greater political representation? Or has that already been tried and rejected?

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 16:38:03 UTC | #935752

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 2 by Premiseless

What is perhaps less conspicuous is the lack of inclination to enter into identity dialogue.

For the religious this IS their "invitation" to infants, in various forms prior to the later psychological imprinting.

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 16:42:17 UTC | #935755

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 3 by strangebrew

I am of the unevidenced opinion for some time that the non-belief in god is far more widespread in American society then the religidiots would ever want made public.

Peer pressure and family tend to smother any atheist talk, mainly through fear, and methinks there are one heck of a lot of lonely free thinkers trapped in a situation that have little control over. And most are aware of just how awkward it could become for their life and close family if anyone suspected the A word!

18.4 % is very likely on the low side!

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 17:34:58 UTC | #935767

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 4 by rrh1306

That's what I'm wondering.

Pollster: Do you believe in a god or higher power?

Person being polled: No.

Pollster: So you identify yourself as Atheist or Agnostic?

Person being polled: No.

Pollster: But you don't believe in a god or higher power?

Person being polled: Correct.

Pollster: But your not Atheist or Agnostic?

Person being polled: That's right.

Comment 1 by Zeuglodon :

Interesting cross-reference of studies. In the first study, how were the missing percentage of people answering the question?

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 17:38:40 UTC | #935768

btheist's Avatar Comment 5 by btheist

Interesting study.... It would be interesting to see the result of a similar survey done now. Since 2008, there has been a significant rise in the visibility of non-secular and atheistic view points. RD's The God Delusion has encouraged a lot of people to come out of the proverbial closet. Hitchens, Sam Harris and other high profile atheists are been much more visible in the main stream media. I would like to believe that the numbers of non-religious and Atheist and Agnostic would be be much higher if the survey was done today.

It's also encouraging that a higher percentage of college grads are non-believers, as these folks will influence and be our future policy makers.

In the meantime, we collectively need to keep encouraging those caught behind the stigma of the atheist label to self-identify.

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 17:38:44 UTC | #935769

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 6 by crookedshoes

I think that there are more actual non-believers in the pews on Sunday morning than are identified in a survey. It is easier to go to church and daydream than it is to THINK and consider yourself an "outsider"....

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 17:39:43 UTC | #935771

The Jersey Devil's Avatar Comment 7 by The Jersey Devil

...12.1 percent (believe) in a more vague "higher power."

I keep trying to explain this. I try again.

Until these surveys find a way to incorporate the influence of 12-step programs there will continue to be a misunderstanding on American attitudes towards religion, sprituality and god.

'Higher Power' verbiage comes from 12-step programs.

Using the 12.1% figure, we can get about 37.9M people exposed to 12-step memes. Using Alcohics Anonymous' estimate of 2,000,000 members and the spontaneous remission of alcohol abuse of between 3.7% and 7.4% (see footnote 6) gives us an estimated range of 27M and 54M Americans that have been exposed to 12-step memes. Possibly more.

That's a rather large range and I don't have much confidence in my numbers. That is why why these surveys should find ways to ask better and more probing questions about 12-step programs.

In other words, 12-step programs are having a larger effect then the data would seam to indicate. We need better data.

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 18:57:26 UTC | #935794

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 8 by Neodarwinian

1.6% = about 5,000,000 atheists/agnostics, conservatively speaking.

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 21:44:23 UTC | #935838

mjwemdee's Avatar Comment 9 by mjwemdee

Ah....this is all SOOOO reminiscent of how we gays felt back in the 1960-80s... The personal isolation made one feel extremely rare and endangered, until it gradually became obvious that the homosexual community (if 'community' is the right word) was a good deal more numerous than the straight world preferred to believe.

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 21:45:48 UTC | #935840

Reckless Monkey's Avatar Comment 10 by Reckless Monkey

Comment 9 by mjwemdee Ah....this is all SOOOO reminiscent of how we gays felt back in the 1960-80s... The personal isolation made one feel extremely rare and endangered, until it gradually became obvious that the homosexual community (if 'community' is the right word) was a good deal more numerous than the straight world preferred to believe.

Perhaps we need an atheist mardi-gras. I'll get started on a float now.

In all seriousness I think you're right. The acceptance of homosexuality (as it is) is only because you guys made a very big noise about it as feminism did before you. I think we need to be prepared to wear the label (not so hard in Australia than in the US) in spite of the backlash.

Thu, 19 Apr 2012 23:41:51 UTC | #935868

Lonard's Avatar Comment 11 by Lonard

A philosopher once said that 90% of everything is pulp. Following this statement 90% of what people think is pulp. 90% (or 100%?) of religious people haven't got a clue what they actually believe (somethingism?). This is a hopeful sign. It means that people can relatively easily be brought into a state of confusion (like sheep chased by a herding dog) and, given the right people, be persuaded to think otherwise. In America, an openly atheist presidential candidate (the 'Protector of the Constitution') who incidentally wouldn't stand a chance to be elected, could work wonders for the rationalists' cause. I am sure, within twenty years this will be a reality.

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 00:44:02 UTC | #935883

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 12 by QuestioningKat

Comment 6 by crookedshoes :

I think that there are more actual non-believers in the pews on Sunday morning than are identified in a survey. It is easier to go to church and daydream than it is to THINK and consider yourself an "outsider"....

As a really small child going to church was more like a nightmare. That nine foot crucifix with blood dripping out of that nearly naked man was really scary in a seductive kind of way. Maybe it explains my fascination with loincloths.

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 02:29:44 UTC | #935915

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 13 by QuestioningKat

My guess is that most people are "don't care agnostics" or "don't care/unacknowledged atheists."

Before the gay movement, my guess is that many people were unaware or would not acknowledge that they were gay or bisexual. They just followed societal expectations. They married young and just knew something wasn't right or wouldn't allow themselves to consider that they were gay. They'd push back any unacceptable ideas or feelings. People now have options that they can clearly see.

Maybe the first step is getting people to acknowledge that they really don't agree/believe the stories that they were raised on.

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 02:40:44 UTC | #935924

PERSON's Avatar Comment 14 by PERSON

Comment 4 by rrh1306 :

Well, there are things to believe in other than Gods that would prevent you from being atheist as commonly understood (i.e. a hard rationalist, a sceptic about anything beyond common experience) or agnostic (you may be certain there is no God, or are no Gods if you've thought it through). Psychic powers, spirits, astral planes, reincarnation, that kind of thing.

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 11:01:11 UTC | #935986

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 15 by rod-the-farmer

Re comment 4

Pollster: Do you believe in a god or higher power?

Person being polled: No.

Pollster: So you identify yourself as Atheist or Agnostic?

Person being polled: No.

Pollster: But you don't believe in a god or higher power?

Person being polled: Correct.

Pollster: But your not Atheist or Agnostic?

Person being polled: That's right.

Pollster: Why do you not consider yourself Atheist or Agnostic ?

THAT question would reveal a lot, I suspect. Tantamount to admitting you are even worse than a rapist, at least in the U.S.

I think the "coming out" process will take quite a while to reach a foggy sort of tipping point, which will vary by community/area. Some will decide to take the plunge sooner than others. The pollsters need to delve deeper into this question.

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 13:07:17 UTC | #936018

Roedy's Avatar Comment 16 by Roedy

There is a parallel between what happened for gay lib in the 1970s and what is happening now for atheists.

Back then people would repeat preposterous lies about gays. Gays would would not correct them for fear of exposure. Because outrageous myths were passed on unchallenged, they became more and more outlandish.

It all started to unravel when a handful of gays like myself stood up and said "I am a gay person. I don't fit your stereotypes and all these stories are are telling are untrue." That encouraged still more people to come out of the closet. We had a virtuous circle. Real people vs silly stories.

Fri, 20 Apr 2012 17:52:06 UTC | #936078