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An Apology


September 1, 2010 by wcobserver

"the path less traveled"

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.



  1. I’ve taken some time to go though and examine all of Mr. Worden’s claims above very carefully. It’s quite detailed and referenced with charts and pictures and thus too lengthy to post here but folks who are interested can view it on our freethinker forum:

    All comments are welcome.

    Kind regards,


  2. Savonarola says:

    After reading Steve Worden’s article, “An Apology,” I find myself underwhelmed. And unconvinced.

    Even in his “apology,” Worden exemplifies the very issues that caused his vitriolic response. He begins by presenting his tortured logic behind “misunderstanding” the sign. Are we really expected to believe that a “Good without Dogs” billboard could reasonably be construed as an insult to dogs or dog owners? “That’s how I read the sign,” he said. Clearly, Worden has some reading comprehension issues.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The Freethinkers already pointed out Worden’s reading troubles. When they located the source for his claims, they found that not only were his statements not supported by the study, some were contradicted! Yet despite the revealing of his mistakes, Worden chose to repeat the bogus claims in his “final” column on the topic.

    This finality is interesting, too. Worden has a weekly column in which he has been given a wide berth in terms of both topic and – apparently – accuracy. This particular column opens with a response to the Freethinkers’ article, meaning that Worden was supplied with their response first, and he will apparently continue to have a weekly column. The Freethinkers, however, have been informed that no more of their responses will be run because the Observer’s publisher is not interested in “tiring the readers.” This is immeasurably hypocritical: the publisher expresses pride in “offer[ing] a forum for discussion” and will continue Worden’s columns “concerning matters of faith” yet refuses further discussion on matters of faith from the Freethinkers.

    What do the readers get to keep reading? They get to read Worden continue to deceive the readers about the studies he doesn’t bother to cite. They get to read him “apologize” while explaining that he feels that mocking is an appropriate response. They get to read him imply that the billboard said anything negative about him. They get to read that he didn’t really believe the reprehensible accusations that he pointed at the Fayetteville Freethinkers, as if that fact somehow makes the remarks excusable. That is to say, the readers get to keep reading his tripe.

    Worden finishes by “complimenting” the Freethinkers because they challenge the faithful to stand up for their beliefs, but the Freethinkers standing up for their own beliefs is the action that ultimately flipped Worden’s lid. Is there any wonder that — in an environment in which Worden’s actions are both commonplace and tolerated — the local non-faithful might want to band together for support? How dare they, huh Steve?

  3. […] To see Steve Worden’s response click here. […]

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