What Bush Said About Us:
Please Tell Me It Isn't So!
I just found your site, while surfing the web. I've been an atheist since age 11 or 12 (now 42). It is so nice to see an intelligent site that does not allow rudeness. I've enjoyed other sites, but this one I intend to visit, often.
George W. Bush mentioned in one of his speeches, recently, that 95 percent of Americans are believers. Please tell me this is not true. When I was at the Naval Academy, I was a member of the 5 percent club. It seems that I can't get above 5 percent, anywhere. (The Naval Academy 5 percent club, consists of midshipmen who didn't really belong. We just slipped in accidentally).
I would like to believe that with advances in technology and understanding of science, we would leave theism in the dust. My hope is that we can put enough doubt in the minds of children, that as they reach the age where they begin to think for themselves, they will come to the same conclusions I did. When people ask me why I am an atheist, I answer: religion doesn't make sense, or I'm not brainwashable, or I think for myself. It's becoming more difficult to "fool" children. They're too savvy.
Unfortunately, Western Kentucky, where I live, is still very backwards, and still producing poorly educated children. Media is where we can reach the minds of children. Is anyone contemplating a web site for children with questions about god? I'm not ready to start one of my own, but I'd love to help, possibly contribute.
Maybe as the elderly theists die off, so will their religions. The future belongs to the children. I have cautious hope.
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Mary Lamble"
Subject: Re: I appreciate the site
Date: February 26, 2002 6:40 PM
It is so nice to see an intelligent site that does not allow rudeness
Well, we discourage gratuitous rudeness, but we do acknowledge that there are times when certain people are just plain asking for it.
George W. Bush mentioned in one of his speeches, recently, that 95 percent of Americans are believer. Please tell me this is not true.
It would be morally wrong for me to tell you it was not true if it was true, but I am happy to tell you that I can say, with a clear conscience, that it is simply not true!!! Gee-Dub is wrong -- very wrong -- wrong on an order of twice the figure he gave. (And that's pretty wrong, I tell you!)
According to the most recent "American Religious Identification Survey" put out every ten years by the City University of New York, those American adults who put down "Not Religious" constitute a little over 14 percent of adult Americans. (We're not just talking about those hoity-toity Christians who think their religion is so real that they actually distinguish it from what they call "religion," this category further identified itself in the survey with language such as, "secular humanist," "atheist," "agnostic," and a few others -- just to make sure.)
We have listed this survey in our Web Guide under People, in case anybody forgets and ever wants to look it up, just go to our Web Guide and it's right there. We also covered that survey and what it means to us in our November, 2001, issue, in what was a revision of an e-dispatch we issued shortly after the survey was released to the public.
I will give you one small fact that should put it in perspective, and you will see just how far off the mark the leader of our nation actually is when it comes to this matter (so far off that it can only mean that he's deliberately misrepresenting the truth or that he's listening only to those who would misrepresent the truth, because any look around will show that there are more than five percent atheists -- even in North Dakota and Alabama! But the truth is that even if his figures were accurate, he's still a bigot for thinking that percentages mean anything substantial. Furthermore, he is being grossly incompetent in his responsibility of representing all the people if he'd gloat over the "fact" that 95 percent of the people are just like him!
Here's your fact (or fact-set, if you will):
If atheism (nontheism; the lack of a god belief; whatever) was a religious denomination, we are, both in numbers and by percentages, the fastest growing denomination in America. We are head and shoulders ahead of second place in both respects, even approaching an order of ten for each of these figures.
If atheism was a religious denomination, we'd be the third largest denomination in the land, behind only the Baptists and the Roman Catholics.
If atheism was divided into two separate denomination, those under age 30 and those age 30 and above, the 30-and-above denomination would still be in third place, but the group of adult atheists under 30 would now be the sixth largest denomination in America.
I don't know where George Bush is getting what he tells us is "information" (real information has the distinction of being factual, or at least being strongly verifiable, such as having a thorough-going, exhaustive survey backing it up), but CUNY's ARIS is the most thorough survey of religious affiliation and identification going: it is the authoritative study of this area of American social life. If George Bush is our President, and if he is going to even pretend to make statements of fact -- and -- if he doesn't at least compare his statements to what this survey has said (of course, justifying why his pronouncements would deviate from it), if not obtain his information verbatim from this survey, then his irresponsibility borders on deliberate misleading and misrepresenting. In other words, for contradicting this study and failing to explain why, he would be hard-pressed to convince us, at this point, that he's not deliberately lying to the public for the purpose of either making atheists look bad or making people like himself look good. That, I think, is how authoritative this information happens to be. I looked at some of the raw data from it and was quite impressed: this study makes a Gallup poll resemble the old "man in the streets" reporting they used to do in the early days of television, when the reporter would stop people on the sidewalk and ask them a question.
I would like to believe that with advances in technology and understanding of science, we would leave theism in the dust.
The Enlightenment-era Rationalists (Deists) made this error, too. It's very tempting, and most of the writers up through Ingersoll, even, tended to think that religion was rolling over and breathing its last. As close as I can come to thinking I have an explanation for that is that the human mind has several distinct weaknesses, and that the monotheistic religions have spent the past 2,500 years perfecting techniques for exploiting these weaknesses. Also, we've only been free from the tyranny of The State Church for two-and-a-quarter centuries or less (and most of this, only conceptually, not physically). Another factor is that in America (the only country where the problem still exists to any degree at all), we have not seen the destruction that comes from a fundamentalistic government having absolute power. Even the Soviet Union, who operated under the guise of atheism, was clearly religious in its approach to atheism, and this is easily seen by anybody who bothers to look at the situation very hard at all.
Finally, we need to keep in mind that if there is a genetic factor at all, the predisposition toward credulity has been rewarded by the state church for thousands of years, while the predisposition toward independent thought has met with persecution that all but resembles natural selection. The tendency to buck against the Church has been "unnaturally selected" our of the European races for thousands of years. Still, I cannot place very much weight on this argument because we have seen how the Europeans have systematically shunned religion throughout this past century. Was it the patently wasteful World War I, as PAM reader Ruth Saunders suggests, or was it the all-out destruction of World War II, as I have pondered? Whatever it was, the almost wholesale rejection of religion by Europeans discredits, considerably, the notion that a genetic factor could play much of a role at all. If it plays a rule (and certainly it plays some role), it's not, by any means, the prominent factor that I and others have though it might be in the past, simply because evolution does not work that fast: natural selection is not likely to have caused changes as widespread as Europe has seen them as quickly as Europe has seen them: the changes are, for the most part, culturally inspired, and any genetic effects are negligible, if detectable at all.
In any event, religion (particularly the Christian religion) has, for thousands of years, enjoyed vast benefits that not only the rest of us have not enjoyed, but they have enjoyed these benefits at the expense of the rest of us! Any time one of my ancestors or ideological predecessors was burned at the stake, guess who got to place his or her estate directly into their treasury? The Church, that's who! This is why the feeble attempts to "apologize" just make me want to retch! The Church can barely bring herself to admit fault, to say, "We're sorry, we did wrong!" But where is that money? Where did my ancestors' and predecessors' money go? The American states confiscate millions from the tobacco interests for producing a product that people ingested voluntarily, knowing it was dangerous since way back in 1964 and before. They take this money for a product that's still legal in all 50 states! But where is the money that was taken, forcibly, from my ancestors and ideological predecessors? And where is the admission, on the Church's part, that they were wrong, ideologically, that my predecessors had a point in suggesting that the Church was pulling the wool over the eyes of the people?
Year after year, decade after decade, century after century, the church has gained advantage after advantage, being allowed to engage in business but then being allowed to hide her capital gains in accounts that the various Revenue Departments cannot even look at! Meanwhile, we pay her freight! And you think we have enough time at the end of an exhausting day, supporting our families and then supporting the Church that we don't even agree with, much less belong to, to wage an informational campaign in the hopes of giving our children a fighting chance against her indoctrination machine!?
And we wonder why America is so religious!? It's because we are PAYING the Church to proselytize and we're paying her again to prevent the other side from being heard! And since, after that, we haven't the capital left to take care of our own responsibilities in feeding our poor and rehabilitating our wayward, we gleefully palm those responsibilities to a Church eager to exploit this situation to gain more converts. And we wonder why America is so religious!
I think I should stop right here, as the sweat pours from my brow and off my back just typing this into the terminal. Thanks for the opportunity to think about this a little more. Please write again real soon! I'll post this as soon as I have a few free moments from all the other responsibilities of keeping this project up to par (I found and fixed the "fat pictures" bug in the Big List of Quotes today! Yay!!).
Is anyone contemplating a web site for children with questions about god?
Since Christians produce virtually all the censorware programs, which all, inevitably, pretend to protect our children (and adults) from "dangerous ideas." (And who else distrusts their own philosophical outlook so much that they'd even care about "dangerous ideas" or would go beyond protecting from exploitation? but this is where Censorware has come to.) So how would you get such a project past their "flaming sword turning every which way" if the Democratic National Committee can't even get through most of this stuff?
I wouldn't do anything for kids on the Internet, but would, rather, advocate doing it locally; that is, to offer after-school classes in history and science (featuring heavy emphasis on Liberal Scientific Method with a side dish of identifying rhetorical fallacy). This is something that even most Liberal Christians would support if we did it right. For this reason, I have repeatedly recommended that atheistic activists invest in projects that do not have a religious test (in other words, avoiding "atheists only" groups and projects except small, important but superficial projects addressing the needs of those who are already out-of-the-closet atheists).
The most I might do on the Internet might be to market a software program for kids on CD-ROM. Hey! You get these game CDs for kids in Lucky Charms, and (I kid you not) they all have The Holy Bible stuck prominently in the CD-ROM ("prominently" meaning you gotta go past the link to the Bible program to get to the good stuff). Meanwhile, creationists are exploiting children's natural interest in dinosaurs for the purpose of planting doubt in real science: let's take science back where it belongs and help foster that natural human curiosity that gets all kids (all humans) questioning anything they're told by anybody (including us).
There's a handful of ideas for you (for someone who has the resources that I don't, who can either make these ideas fly or use them to initiate a more productive brainstorm than my feeble mind is capable of holding on its own).
But anything directly on the Internet dealing with kids would, I think, need to be hosted and handled by the most trusted and most prominent agencies going, some group such as the National Academy of Sciences, who has already erected a fine response to creationism in their page called, "Science and Creationism." The Smithsonian is another natural, I'd think, considering Smithson's pronounced lack of orthodoxy! One of the better science foundations would work, such as the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in San Diego or Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Oregon (who has already taken some flack for an evolutionist display recently).
Getting endorsement and sponsorship and hosting from a big agency such as these would eliminate the distrust folks have (and ought to have) for the Internet, and this distrust is precisely why we have shied away from doing much for the kids under middle school-age. As far as I can tell, our readership stops at about 12 and that's fine with me: any younger and you'd better make sure the parents approve. Even if we think the parents are out-and-out nuts, it's still their right and their responsibility to educate their kids the best they know how.
In any event, the bottom line would be to teach some foundational skill, such as liberal scientific method, that doesn't necessarily polarize theism against atheism. I don't see how we could possibly go wrong with that, and I don't see how such an agenda could do anything but better equip our kids against the wiles of the real enemy of education and free thought: fundamentalism and the notion of the supremacy of doctrine and dogma over autonomous thinking and pure, unadulterated doubt.
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