Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Those God-fearing atheists!

Many folks across the blogosphere are having fun with this one.  The Pew Research Center is typically at least close to hitting the mark, though I've expressed my own skepticism about studies, research, and surveys over the years.  Nonetheless, as measurements go, the Pew is about as good as we have, especially when looking at the topic of religion in America.  It's especially well received in the MSM when it suggests America is becoming less religious, or more young people are saying sayonara to their childhood faiths.  So it has been with much joy and giggling that this summary of key findings has been making the rounds.

The favorite stats are those 10% of atheists who pray, actually pray.  And even more fun, those 21% of atheists who believe in a God, as well as 6% who believe in a personal God!  Yeah, folks could say they meant 'that's the kind of God I believe people mean when I reject God', but that's stretching it that all of the respondents would have meant such a nuanced response.  And pray?  Who in the world do you pray to?

As tempting as it is to make no little amount of hay out of this, it isn't surprising.  Fact is, despite our eternal desire to lump people into groups, folks aren't so easy to categorize.  Whether the early Church, or the Imperial Church, or the Middle Ages, or the Renaissance Church, or the Colonial Church, or whatever, folks are usually not monolithic no matter how hard you try to say otherwise.  Look at Catholics, and how many flaunt the use of birth control, even abortion.  Look at how many Evangelical Protestants claim that you get to heaven the old fashioned way, by earning it.  Or how few Jews believe in a personal God.  Or the fact that King James Only, Fundamentalist, Literalistic Protestants make up a relatively small portion of the Christian community.  All of these are inconvenient obstacles for the one who wants to zealously label everyone remotely associated with a stereotype as part of the big problem.

Am I shocked that 10% of atheists admit to maintaining a regular prayer life?  No.  No more than I am shocked at how many Catholics use birth control.  Us humans aren't known for our fidelity to teaching, no matter what the doctrine.  Just read Genesis.  We also can find ourselves part of something we are only ho-hum about, just because.  Fact is, when I was an agnostic, most of my secular fellows weren't that way for any deep, profound reasons.  A couple could argue religion with the best of them, and I used to have fun playing devil's advocate to hear their reasoning.  But most I knew couldn't have strung together a coherent thought to explain their unbelief if they had to.  They were in it for the parties, the sex, the hedonism and narcissism of the age.  As far as they knew, whatever you wanted to say bad about religion was OK with them, as long as it didn't interfere with the cocktail hour.  And despite the popular culture's attempt to portray things otherwise, that is pretty much the truth today.

Now, the predominant post-modern narrative is basically this:
  • Democrats care, Republicans care about money
  • Liberals are sophisticated and intelligent, Conservatives are boorish and ignorant
  • Non-believers are witty and also intelligent, Religious believers (especially Christian), are dumb and hateful
  • Homosexuals are superior to heterosexuals in just about every conceivable way
  • If you have a British accent, you get double the points
So it tends to be a bigger disappointment to the media producers when a little dose of reality gets in the way, than for your average thinking person who knows that such sweeping generalizations aren't worth a roll of used toilet paper.  Even if our lovely cultural commentators can easily dismiss it, as we often do when research doesn't tell us what we want to hear, there's still that sad reality of complex participants that displays itself whenever one stops and actually listens to what so many of any group has to say.  Especially on the Internet!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Let me know your thoughts