Atheism, Catholism and numbers

Reading America’s Atheists, Believe it or not, the fact that surprised me wasn’t that 30 million Americans claimed "no religion," but rather that Catholicism is America’s largest Christian denomination.  Growing up Catholic, I never felt like I was in the majority (except when we lived in Spain,) and I’m still surprised to find out that friends are Catholic.  I wonder why that is?

The same article also said the United States’ problem with religion is:

  • over-aggressive proselytising in the armed forces,
  • undermining science
    or AIDS programmes,
  • alienating minorities at home and Muslims abroad

and suggested that if America’s atheists were more politically active they could help fix those problems.

More Americans Believe in the Devil than in Darwin!

More Americans believe in the devil than in Darwin!  As someone who definitely believes in Darwin and evolution and thinks the devil doesn’t exist, at least as depicted by most religions, that fact is outstanding!  Here’s the survey data:

  • 82% believe in God
  • 62% believe in hell and the devil (It wasn’t clear if this was an "and" or an "or" question.)
  • 42% believe in Darwin’s theory

I find that last fact amazing.  Should I blame it on society, our schools, churches, the way the poll was done … what?

Atheism on the rise?

A BBC article says that atheism, or maybe agnosticism, is on the rise in the US.  Surprisingly they gave 9/11 as a reason people maybe more likely to be agnostic since they see terrible acts committed "for my God."  They pointed at recent bestsellers as evidence of this growing atheism:

Note that there are three times more atheist in Europe that there are in the US.  Also, Christians are still clearly a majority in the United States.

Would you prefer a homosexual president or an atheist one?

If you are like most people, you picked the homosexual one, but let us know below!  As James Joyner writes:

A recent Gallup poll
reveals that Americans are much more likely to elect a black man or a
woman president than a Mormon or an old man. More interestingly, they’d
rather be governed by a homosexual than an atheist

I continue to be surprised at how anti-atheist Americans are.  It makes me laugh (in an ironic way) because so many people aren’t actively religious, and if people went around preaching, they’d annoy a good many people – probably more than those that are anit-atheist!

The good news is that things are looking good for women and blacks.  See all the data here:

Yes, would
vote for

No, would not
vote for












A woman









Married for the third time



72 years of age



A homosexual



An atheist



What do you think?  Who would you vote for?  Or not vote for?

Atheists, agnostics & charity

I just discovered that "three of the four greatest American philanthropists have been atheists or agnostics" thanks to the New York Times.  They are Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Andrew Carnegie.  John D. Rockefeller is the fourth and he’s the exception.

This struck me for two reasons.  One, I have Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion on my reading list because it has gotten so much publicity.  He argues there is no god and the reason I thought of it just now is because I listened to a radio show where he explains why atheists still contribute to charity.  I can’t off the top of my head recreate his argument for you, but once I’ve read the book, I’ll post again.  (The other reason I have Richard Dawkin’s book on my reading list is because I really like his book The Selfish Gene.  In it he argues that our bodies are just vessels for our genes and that evolution is all about propogating our genes – our intelligence, our humor, our survival rate is all related to how well our individual genes do not our whole being.  Until I read it I’d always thought all of our characteristics had evolved to make our whole being successful.  Thinking about it at the gene level turned everything upside down and inside out.)

The second reason this struck me is that I always have a hard time explaining why I volunteer.  I don’t volunteer because I think I’m supposed to do so for religious reasons.  I don’t volunteer because that’s what I think I’m supposed to for any reason.  I volunteer because I enjoy it.  I enjoy three things about volunteering:

  • learning new things.  I have learned how to train dogs, understand the battered woman’s mindset, build houses (sort of), etc.
  • meeting new people.  Other than work, family and classes, this is one of the main ways I meet people.
  • helping people.  What I can’t explain is why I enjoy helping people.  Why does it make me feel good to make somebody else feel good? 

I believe helping people makes everyone feel good even though a lot of people don’t know it!  I remember leaving a bar late one night with a friend and there was a guy in the parking lot with a car that obviously had problems.  I asked him if he needed a push start and when he did, I made my friend help.  My friend was amazed.  "You are so good!"  I told him at the time that once you’ve owned a car that needs push starting a lot you tend to notice people that need a push start.  But now that I think about it, I don’t think he realized that he felt good because he’d helped.  I can tell you all the times I’ve push started a stranger’s car (a lot!) and each time I felt really good afterwards. (I can also tell you all the times a complete stranger has stopped to help me with something and that made me feel really good too – even when I didn’t think I needed the help.)

But I still can’t tell you why it makes me feel good to help someone who needs it.

Atheist Scientists

Since I just recently blogged about atheists, this article in the Rice Sallyport caught my eye: Natural Scientists Are Less Likely to Believe in God than Are Social Scientists.  According to this study, 38% of natural scientists and 31% of social scientists do not believe in God.  All those surveyed worked at universities, as far as I could tell from the article.

What I found more interesting than the difference between natural scientists and social scientists, was just how high the number of atheist scientists was.  It didn’t surprise me that they were atheist but the number of atheist scientists is surprisingly higher than the average population.  Just for the record, I cannot remember any professor I’ve ever had saying they were an atheist or even talking about religion.

Racism against Atheists

It looks like Americans would rather you believe in a god or gods they don’t believe in than have you believe in no god at all.  Atheists identified as America’s most distrusted minority, according to new U of M study : News Releases: UMNnews: U of M..

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Since we don’t do such a good job with religious and racial diversity now, I can’t imagine what would happen if the 3% of America that is atheist grows or becomes more publicly visible. 

This also seems strange to me since so many Americans do not go to church or actively participate in a religion.  I can’t imagine that an athesist lives a life that’s very different than a non practicing Christian.  I doubt they even that they have widely different values.