If you are looking for confirmation bias, you will have to go elsewhere. -sacha

Where do atheists come from?

...an analysis of the 2008 British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey by David Voas of the University of Manchester reveals that the historical correlation between being educated and being "non-religious" has not only weakened but reversed. Looking at white British people, for example, the findings show that only around 25 percent of men aged between 25 and 34 claiming "no religion" have degrees, compared with around 40 per cent of those describing themselves as religious. For women in the same age group, the difference is less
marked but the trend is the same. The picture is more complicated
across different ethnic groups, although the overall trend remains the
same.  It appears that Enlightenment assumptions about the decline of religion as
the population becomes more educated will no longer do ...

If religion comes naturally to us, why are so many people resistant to it?

What we need now is a scientific study not of the theistic, but the atheistic mind. We need to discover why some people do not "get" the supernatural agency many cognitive scientists argue comes automatically to our brains. Is this capacity non-existent in the non-religious, or
is it rerouted, undermined or overwritten - and under what conditions?

read the entire article here

Time to accept that atheism, not god, is odd

03 March 2010

IF YOU'RE one of those committed atheists in the Richard Dawkins mould who dreams of ridding the world of religious mumbo-jumbo, prepare yourself for a disappointment: there is no good
evidence that education leads to secularisation.
In fact, the more we learn about the "god instinct" and the refusal of
religion to fade away under the onslaught of progress, the more the
non-religious mindset looks like the odd man out. That is why
anthropologists, psychologists and social scientists are now putting
irreligion under the microscope in the same way they once did with
religious belief
The aim is not to discredit atheism but to understand how so many people
can override a way of thinking that seems to come so naturally. For
that reason, atheists should welcome the new scrutiny.

Atheism still has a great deal to commend it, not least that it doesn't need supernatural beings to make sense of the world. Let's hope the study of atheism leads to new insights into how to challenge such irrationality.

Views: 107

Replies to This Discussion

That isn't the type of "education" they are referring to. They were researching the correlation, or lack of, at Oxford University.

but nice try.
"number of educated atheists aren't going down, just getting diluted"

I think you are on to a significant factor there, the question is why then is there a rise in the percentage of the less-educated rejecting theism and religion. The answer, I suspect, is directly related to the meteoric rise in information availability to the masses through the internet. Information is power, and the internet is a firehose of information.

This is one of the reasons to be very concerned with the issue of net-neutrality. As the old line established organizations, from religions to corporations realize that their power is being eroded by broader access to information by the masses, they will start mounting attacks to try to limit this access.
Oxford University is a religious institution, with Jesus College.
I wouldn't consider Oxford to be a "religious institution".

England is not a secular state. It is governed by the Church Of England, and the Queen, of course.


Richard Dawkins is a professor at Oxford.
Further, a third of Monty Python met at Oxford (another third at the notorious hotbed of theists and jesus freaks Cambridge).

Claire, could you point us to one of the reputable Universities you deem acceptable that doesn't have a School of Divinity or Theology ?
from the article:

"...the bright young things at the University of Oxford are among the most godless groups ever studied in the UK. Of 728 students surveyed in 2007, 48.9 per cent claimed not to believe in any god, with 49.6 per cent claiming no religious affiliation. And while a very small number of Britons typically label themselves as "atheist" or "agnostic" (most surveys put it at about 5 per cent), an astonishing 57.3 per cent of the Oxford sample did...."
It’s a quite complex mess of psycho-social and pseudo-logical mistruths and lies, and even smart kids with active hormones and no parent capable of or willing to educate them in how to recognise and repel such bullshit can fall victim. What does it say about Protestant Christian doctrine that one has to ‘die to one's-self’ to attain salvation. It's the voluntary co-erced suicide of one's full intellect and conscious-identity pure and simple.

Excellent dissection, Bruce.
Also from the article, and this comes up in discussions again and again:

"One of the first tasks is to develop a common academic vocabulary. In this article, for instance, we have danced between "atheistic", "non-theistic", "non-religious", "unbelieving" and "godless" as if they were synonyms. They're not."
* I just added a second part to the discussion above.
I think the issue is somewhat confused. I think people tend naturally to be friendly rather than religious and they have been indoctrinated to believe that being religious is conducive to being friendly while being atheist is conducive to being unfriendly. I think atheism needs to overcome the stigma of unfriendliness before it will become the norm.
This isn't about the educated elites becoming more religious. This is about the less educated masses becoming less religious. This reversal in correlation is not surprising in Europe, and almost certainly not yet true in the US. It's simple numbers: The portion of the population with university educations has always been small and increases slowly. When only the educated were aware that religion is empty, the correlation would hold as it does in the US. When the population at large picks up the culturally-transmitted belief that religion is empty, the correlation must reverse, as it has in Europe, because the university-educated portion of the population remains small. Remember that atheism is not a secret revealed only to graduate-level scientists, but something accessible to anybody who insists on evidence and reason to sustain belief, which is a simple idea that can spread rapidly. And religion is obviously not purely a matter of benefits. There are significant costs to religion, entirely apart from the self-delusion involved. By that I mean that religion taken seriously always requires your time, and usually money. Most people simply get more out of watching football on Sunday than going to church. Praying five times a day throws a wrench in a work schedule. Donating to the church takes money out of your pocket out of proportion to the benefits you receive. There are lots of good reasons to not participate in religion, and if the educated elites abandon it without negative consequences, well, shit, that crusty old church starts looking like a candidate for urban renewal.

And I think it is well worth researching how the atheist brain has been able to shake off the chains of delusion that have held humanity for so many centuries. What is it that has enabled us to abandon the animism that makes a thunderbolt-throwing deity sound reasonable? Is it really just education? Is it just that the unwashed masses have access to the Discovery Channel and that after enough phenomena turn out to have no man behind the curtain, logical induction finally kicks in? Or is there something more fundamental going on that prevents an atheist from misapplying theory of mind to inanimate processes? I don't see these questions as insulting at all. I see them as legitimately asking what it is about atheists that makes them able to look at reality without flinching.
And freedom of disinformation is an increasing factor in the brain death of a species.



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