September 1, 2010 by wcobserver
By Steven Worden
First off, I apologize for offending the Fayetteville Freethinkers. I would like readers to know how I read the sign on I-540. If one were to put up a large billboard asking “Good without Dogs? Millions Are,” one might reasonably conclude that its sponsor was voicing an “a-canine-ist” sentiment (being “without dogs”). When I saw the sign “Good without God? Millions are,” I read it as voicing an atheist sentiment, given that the word “atheism” comes from the ancient Greek, “a” (without) “theos” (gods). That’s how I read the sign.
More importantly, based upon social scientific data I found the sign’s message somewhat misleading in two ways: (1) compared to believers, people without God are generally not really all that “good” in the sense that they tend to be less happy, less healthy, live shorter lives, earn less money, are more apt to be involved in deviance, and more apt to be unmarried young white men, and ending up having children that are less well-educated and more involved in delinquency and crime, and (2) only a very small number of people actually are truly atheistic (without God).
I further noted that based upon research conducted over the past 30 years, it seems that people who claim to be irreligious are more likely than believers to embrace paranormal and occult beliefs such as astrology, fortune-telling, Bigfoot, and UFOs. As Christopher Bader and Carson Mencken summarized their research in the book, What Americans Really Believe: “The findings are clear and strong. Traditional Christian religion greatly decreases credulity as measured by beliefs in the occult and the paranormal.”
At no time did I insist that Fayetteville Freethinkers are less likely to be happy, healthy, etc., or more likely to be deviant or believing in UFO’s. The research that I discussed drew upon a national sample of respondents, not on the Fayetteville Freethinkers.
The Fayetteville Freethinkers pride themselves on being “super-intelligent, passionate, articulate, reasonable, rational, curious,” etc., and I have no reason to doubt that they are. So, I assume that they are interested as I am in not simply scoring debating points, but in honestly looking at the growing body of literature in social science, not just a study here or there, but an entire emerging research tradition that points to the positive value of religion. We should follow the example of the former champion of English atheism, Antony Flew, who changed his mind and wrote the recent book, There Is a God, solely because of his commitment “to follow the evidence wherever it leads.”
I am sorry for having mocked the Fayetteville Freethinkers for suggesting what atheist church services might look like with the “Little Atheists.” I guess I thought that the FF were mocking religious groups, it might be fair-play for me to poke fun at them. I’m not perfect. Hey, I am not even “good!” But most Christians I know do not say that they are good, they just say that are better than they otherwise would be.
Lastly, I never thought of the FF as dangerous, Commies, Nazis, etc. In fact, I believe that they add a valuable service to our community by challenging religious people to stand up for what they believe.
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