Reason is on the side of faith Faith works on a different plane, asking questions that science cant – Economic Times

Francis Collins, a physician-geneticist, is the director of Americas National Institutes of Health (NIH). He worked on the Human Genome Project, a 13-year collaborative effort to map the complete set of human genes, which concluded in 2003. Separately, he has also researched the complementarity of science and faith. He was recently awarded the John Templeton Prize for his work on the subject. He explains his world view to Narayani Ganesh:

You were still in medical school when you made the transition from being agnostic, then atheist, to believer. How difficult is it to straddle both reason and faith?

I find it wonderfully rewarding. Science is the way to investigate nature, to ask the how questions like how genes code for proteins. Faith works on a different plane, asking why questions that science cant answer like why is there something instead of nothing, and is there a God? I am interested in all of the questions, and I find science and faith to be complementary.

Did your science background have a vital role to play in widening your perspective to include higher dimensions associated with spirituality?

I was already pursuing a scientific career when, as a medical student, I needed to understand why people believe in God. I approached faith with suspicion that reason would have to be sacrificed to accept the spiritual world view. I found out that was not at all the case. Atheism, the assertion of a universal negative, turned out to be the most irrational of the choices. To my surprise, reason was very much on the side of faith. I ended up being converted to Christianity.

Was your best-selling book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, received well in your peer group?

There are many scientists who believe in a personal God, and they welcomed the book. Many others who are not people of faith were polite but a bit perplexed. A few of the atheist persuasion were strongly critical, arguing that my book revealed intellectual weakness, and a scientist should never write about faith.

Cutting-edge genetics include cloning and transgenetics that have raised ethical questions. How do these align with your religious beliefs?

As a Christian, I believe that we humans are special creatures with a special relationship with God. As such, the potential to reshape our very nature seems to cross a line into dangerous territory. Most ethicists agree with that, whether or not they are people of faith.

America is known for its deep divide over creationism/ intelligent design and evolutionary biology. What are your views on this?

The chronic conflict between science and faith is now particularly evident in this area of origins, and it troubles me greatly to see how this is driving people apart, and even causing young people to walk away from faith. As a scientist who studies the details of living things, including their digital record of past inheritance [DNA], I can tell you that the evolutionary relatedness of all living things, including humans, is absolutely compelling. Some say that evolution is just a theory, but this theory is about as well-established as gravity. As a believer in a Creator God, I find this all makes perfect sense God started the universe 14 billion years ago with matter, energy and a set of natural laws that would ultimately give rise to sentient creatures on a small blue planet. As the Creator is not limited in space or time, the outcome was known all along by God. That doesnt mean we dont have free will we most certainly do. And we can choose to seek God or to run the other way.

You are also a musician, and are known to have promoted music as therapy, especially in treating neurological conditions. Will you be doing further research on this?

I am fascinated by the way music can lift our spirits, inspire us to do great things, and bring us together. I am also impressed by how music therapy can help people with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], Parkinsons disease, or chronic pain and Id like to understand that better to make the treatment even more effective. The NIH now has a research programme to study these issues bringing together neuroscientists, musicians and music therapists. I expect interesting insights to happen.

In the context of Covid-19, how soon do you think we might have a vaccine?

Progress has been remarkable since the ACTIV [Accelerating Covid-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines] partnership came together in early April, bringing scientific talent and resources from all sectors onto the same team. Ive never seen such dedication and commitment. Phase I results from the first US vaccine are encouraging, others are close behind, and large-scale vaccine trials will be getting underway this summer. There are many uncertainties, but having a widely available safe and effective vaccine by early 2021 seems possible.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Reason is on the side of faith Faith works on a different plane, asking questions that science cant - Economic Times

We Are All Atheists – News Intervention

By Leo Igwe

It is now over two weeks since police detectives arrested Nigerian atheist, Mubarak Bala in Kaduna in Northern Nigeria. His arrest was in connection with posts that he made on Facebook. The petitioners said that the posts insulted the prophet of Islam, Muhammad. Mr. Bala was transferred to Kano the following day but since then his whereabouts are unknown. He has been held incommunicado without access to a lawyer and family members. The police have not charged him in court.

Meanwhile, there have been reports that a list of atheists, to be arrested and arraigned alongside Mr. Bala, is being compiled. There is an ongoing witch hunt for atheists, especially in Northern Nigeria. One source said that these were atheists who had allegedly made comments that insulted Muhammad or posted comments that annoyed Muslims.

Some atheists have received calls from strange numbers or from unknown individuals who tried to confirm their identities. Most atheists in Nigeria are in the closet due to fear of being persecuted or killed by extremists. The situation is worse and more dangerous in Northern Nigeria where sharia law is in force in most states. Until recently, the atheist movement in the region has been underground. However, there has been growing visibility of atheism in Northern Nigeria since Mubarak came out as an atheist in 2014.

The emergence of atheism in the region has worried Muslim leaders. And last year an Islamic institute organized a seminar to discuss the disturbing trend of Atheism and Social Media.

Following the arrest of Mubarak Bala, there have been numerous threats to expose and deal with other atheists. But those Muslims who are trying to clamp down on the atheist movement have not thought it through. It may not have occurred to them that they too are atheists. n this piece, I argue that we are all atheists because atheism entails a lack of belief in a god or gods. And everybody is an atheist in relation to one god or another. My submission is that if we are all atheists, why are some Muslims in Northern Nigeria persecuting fellow atheists? Why do they want to deny other atheists their rights to life, freedom of conscience, expression, and association?

First, lets establish how Muslims are atheists or unbelievers. Muslims believe in Allah and in that sense, they are theists. They are believers. There is no doubt about it. However Muslim relationship to the god idea does not end with the belief in Allah. In Islam, there is this saying: There is no other god but Allah. Take note, no other god. This statement is an affirmation of belief in god as well as a declaration of disbelief in other gods. So concerning other gods, Muslims are atheists. Muslims are unbelievers. They are infidels. Like atheists, Muslims do not believe in the Christian god. They do not have faith in Zeus, Vishnu, Osiris, Amadioha, Sango, Ogun, Urim, Tsumburburra, Haptu, and thousands of other gods that human beings have worshipped throughout history.The difference between Muslims and other atheists is that other atheists go one god further in their disbelief. They do not believe in the Allah-god. So all Muslims are atheists, even though all atheists are not Muslims. And to make a clearer distinction between Muslims and other atheists, Believers in the Allah-god will be described as Muslim atheists. n Nigeria, Muslim atheists exercise their rights to freedom of belief and unbelief- their freedom to believe in Allah/prophet Muhammad and to unbelieve in Urim and Ogun. Muslims exercise their right to freedom of expression including their right to express their belief in Allah and their unbelief in other gods such as Odin and Krishna. In declaring their unbelief in other gods, Muslims atheists make and could make statements that others could consider to be insulting, provoking and annoying. n seeking to penalize Mubarak and other atheists for statements and sentiments, posts, and comments that they made on Facebook, Muslim atheists are trying to deny other atheists the same rights that they enjoy. That is not fair. Is it? This inequity has been central to the entrenched Islamic privilege in Nigeria. This injustice has escaped the minds of those who are persecuting Mubarak Bala and other atheists in the region. Blinded by their theism, and forgetful of their atheism, Muslims who are threatening to kill and deal with atheists need to realize that atheists are human beings and the rights of atheists are human rights. More importantly, Muslims in Nigeria need to know that they are atheists too; that they belong to the family of unbelievers and infidels.

Yes, we are all atheists!

Photo by Marcos Paulo PradoonUnsplash

Assistant Editor, News Intervention,Human Rights Activist.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He focuses on North America for News Intervention. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially womens and childrens rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere. You can contact Scott via email, his website, or Twitter.

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We Are All Atheists - News Intervention

I Believed That I Would See Her Again – The New York Times

This months conversation in our series exploring religion and death is with Karen Teel, who has been a member of the department of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego since 2007. Her research and teaching focus on the essential beliefs of Christianity and the theological engagement with the problems of racism and white supremacy. She is the author of Racism and the Image of God. George Yancy

George Yancy: Id like to start with a personal question. What does it mean for you to embody the teachings of Roman Catholicism?

Karen Teel: I grew up Catholic, and I continue to practice Catholicism not out of obligation but because I claim it as my home. I try to live faithfully by what is highest and best in my church. This actually means that my allegiance is not first and foremost to the Roman Catholic Church, a human and imperfect institution, but to Jesus and to his God of love and justice. So, for me, embodying the teachings of my church means trying to love deeply, to live with integrity, to treat every person as beloved by God, and therefore to work passionately for justice in the world.

One way that I have chosen to demonstrate fidelity to my church is by raising my children Catholic. I want them to know in their bones what it means to belong to a faith community, so that when they grow up that is a real option for them. Embodying the teachings of Catholicism means living the truth that I believe, and really believing that this is the truth, while respecting and honoring the fact that others also live according to what they believe is true.

Yancy: What do you consider some of the essential teachings of Roman Catholicism?

Teel: Roman Catholics share the basic beliefs that all Christians hold in common. We believe that God is a Trinity, one god in three persons. We proclaim that Jesus saves. And we use the Bible, both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, as our sacred text.

For me, the most important distinctively Catholic belief is the Eucharist. My church teaches that when we celebrate communion, Jesus becomes present in the bread and wine that we share. The way the people come together every week to be nourished by this concrete reminder of Gods presence with us in the struggle is really beautiful.

Yancy: We are concentrating in these discussions on learning about and understanding religious conceptions of death. How is the reality of death conceptualized in your faith?

Teel: Death is conceptualized as a transition from this life into eternal life. Christianity teaches that God is eternal; this world came from God and will eventually return to God. In that sense, this life is temporary. Moreover, God created humans with immortal souls, so the death of a human being is not the end. The body dies while the soul continues to live.

When this world comes to an end, Christianity teaches, Jesus, who has already been raised from the dead, will return to oversee the general resurrection of the dead and the last judgment. The bodies of those who have died will be resurrected rendered alive anew in a glorious, immortal state and reunited with our souls. The bodies of those who have not yet died also will be transformed into this new state. And Jesus will separate us into two groups, those who will be eternally rewarded and those who will be punished. Christians traditionally believe that heaven is where God is and hell is where God is not, but I like the idea, suggested in the teaching of one of my graduate school professors, Father Michael Himes, that we may all have the same destiny to spend eternity being loved by God. For those who want Gods love, this will be heaven; for those who dont, it will be hell.

For Christians, everything that God created is good, and God will not allow anything that is good to pass away. We are never alone, in this life or in eternity. The death of a loved one brings profound sadness. But it is a temporary separation; we hope and believe that we will see each other again. Death is not a separation from God but a return to God. When a Christian dies, we say that they have gone to be with God. And when we die, we will join them.

Yancy: This all seems to work out well for faithful Christians, but what about atheists? Should they fear death?

Teel: No more than anyone else. In the 1960s, the Catholic Churchs teaching on non-Christian religions developed beyond the ancient notion that only Christians could be saved. Now the church teaches that, under certain conditions, people who do not identify as Christians may be saved. Personally, I believe that whenever a person does their best to live rightly, according to the principles they know to be true, God honors that effort. Nothing good will be lost.

Yancy: Speaking of atheism, I read recently that cosmologist Stephen Hawking said, I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. He also added, There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark. How do you respond to the charge that Christians who believe in an afterlife are just really afraid of the dark, that is, afraid of facing the inevitability of nothingness?

Teel: Thats very logical. I can see why a nonbeliever might think that. The question here is whether we are going to allow people to be the authorities on what they feel.

When my mother was 59, she was diagnosed with A.L.S., Lou Gehrigs disease. Hawking had it too. Theres no cure for A.L.S. Its a neurological disease in which the mind usually remains sharp, but the voluntary muscles gradually stop working, leaving you totally dependent on others. Hawking lived for decades after his diagnosis; most people live two to five years. My mother lived for three years.

Moms decline never hit a plateau. The diseases progression was gradual and relentless. Her arms went first, which seemed particularly cruel, since she was a pianist. When she could no longer climb stairs, she and my father moved to be near me and my children. She began to need help with everything: eating, using the bathroom, controlling her wheelchair, breathing.

During Moms last weeks especially after she asked us to stop feeding her, when we took turns sitting with her around the clock, so that she would not die alone I realized two things: She was going to die soon, and I believed that I would see her again. This had nothing to do with being afraid of losing her. I was losing her. We had known for three years, with reasonable and devastating certainty, the precise manner in which we were going to lose her. But I also believed, with a conviction I had never before felt, that she would not cease to exist upon her death. She was going to join her parents, and one day I would see them all again.

Before facing my mothers death, I never really knew that I believed that life continues. I still dont expect others to believe it. But I know it as I know the sun will come up in the morning, as I know Ill get wet in the rain, as I know I love my own children. It isnt about fear. Its a gift and a mystery, this conviction that we come from love and we return to love.

Yancy: That is a powerful story and I thank you for sharing it. How do we explain the fact that even Christians continue to fear death despite the fact that they believe that there is so much more after we die?

Teel: Well, Christians hope to go to heaven, but ultimately its not up to us. Perhaps the outcome of the last judgment will not be in our favor, or a loved one wont make it. Thats a pretty terrifying scenario. Then again, some of us probably imagine that heaven will be boring because we will no longer be doing any of the exciting stuff that we had feared might land us in hell.

Change is scary, and death is a big change. Many ways of dying involve pain. Even if we expect a good death and something better beyond, this life is familiar and beloved, and we are in no hurry to go. We also fear for the loved ones we leave behind. Who will take care of them when were gone?

Yancy: It has occurred to me at times that the atheist belief expressed by Hawking that there is no afterlife, that there is nothing after we die, might have an upside of adding value to our current lives. For example, I might treat people differently knowing that I will never see them after this life. Given that, do you think believing that one will exist forever could negatively impact how one lives in the present?

Teel: I suppose there are Christians who use their hope of heaven as an excuse to be lazy or immoral, though I dont know very many. More common, and more problematic, is our tendency to look down on people who dont believe what we do. Yet believing that life ends at death can also lead to nihilism, or to treating people horribly. Neither belief guarantees good character.

Yancy: Do you think that people lose anything by taking an atheist stance? And if they dont, why should they invest in the belief that we exist beyond the grave?

Teel: Im not terribly interested in convincing others to believe what I do about life after death. I may turn out to be wrong; and anyway, whatever is going to happen will happen whether or not anyone believes in it. Im much more interested in working to make our world more just.

In this life we have right now, people are suffering. This is not new. In his Urbi et Orbi blessing in March, Pope Francis, praying with the world from a dark and empty St. Peters Square, suggested that perhaps we can learn from the pandemic what we have failed to learn from war, injustice, poverty and environmental catastrophe: We need each other. If God is love, then we must do everything we can to reduce one anothers suffering, now and always. In fact, Jesus says that God cares far more about whether we do that than about whether we invoke God as our reason to do it. So, if believing in life after death motivates you, great. If not, then lets find another reason, pick a cause, and get to work.

Yancy: You say that your views on death and the afterlife could turn out to be wrong. If so if death were in fact final would it render life meaningless for you?

Teel: No. I dont believe that life matters because it continues. I believe that life continues because it matters. If it doesnt continue, it still matters.

We love each other imperfectly, yet love remains. My mothers love for me did not begin or end with her. She could love me because others loved her, they could love her because they had been loved, and so on. Her love is with me now. And it will continue, through me, through everyone I love, through everyone they love, long after we are all forgotten. Whether I actually see my mom again, in the specific way I anticipate, doesnt change that. As love, we live forever, we always will have lived.

George Yancy is a professor of philosophy at Emory University. His latest book is Across Black Spaces: Essays and Interviews from an American Philosopher.

Now in print: Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments, and The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments, with essays from the series, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley, published by Liveright Books.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. Wed like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And heres our email: letters@nytimes.com.

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I Believed That I Would See Her Again - The New York Times

The Eagle and The Cross: Religion and the American Republic – The Yale Politic

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10 describes how God is the apex of all knowledge, the end goal of human reason. Naturally, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) takes a different view of the matter. The FFRF website asks will I join to promote nontheism and defend the constitutional separation between religion and government? One could be forgiven for being unsure what precisely the constitutional separation between church and state is, and why one ought to promote the lack of belief in something. An article they published helps illustrate precisely what they mean. In writing about a slew of laws proposing various religious activities in the public sphere, such as Bible studies or public prayer, they use pretty charged language. When describing Project Blitz, a concerted effort to promote such bills, they say the following: It seeks to inject state legislatures with a whole host of religious bills, imposing the theocratic version of a powerful few on We The People. Their proposals signal an unvarnished attack on American secularism and civil libertiesthose things we cherish most about our democracy and now must tirelessly defend. Earlier in the article, they state that Project Blitz seeks to destroy the separation between church and state, and advance a false notion that America was founded as a Christian nation.

Clearly, this organization has a particular view of the separation of church and state. To them, religion ought to play no role in the public sphere. Laws which are religiously motivated, or promote any sort of theism, are unconstitutional. Firstly, the framing of their claims is quite telling. Apparently, religious law is the machination of a powerful few. Apparently, religion is not something held by the vast majority of Americans; rather it is foisted upon those citizens who would otherwise be secular and free. Nevermind that, according to Gallup polling, nearly four-fifths of Americans are religiously affiliated. The FFRF is advancing a claim that Americas founding was an entirely secular affair, that the Founders envisioned a nation free of religion, and that religion has no place in the public sphere. No matter their claims, their beliefs do not hold up to scrutiny on historical, legal, and logical grounds.

What does the Constitution say about the separation of church and state? The obvious place to look regarding religious practice is the First Amendment. Regarding religion, it states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. How are we to interpret the establishment of religion? Here it may be useful to look to the model the Founding Fathers were rebelling againstGreat Britain. Since the 16th century, Great Britain has had an established church, led by the Monarch as Supreme Governor. Under the Act of Supremacy and Act of Uniformity passed by Parliament under Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I, all office-holders had to swear an oath recognizing the Queen as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and individuals were fined for not attending church weekly (that is, at a parish of the Church of England). Further, the Test Act of 1673 required office-holders to deny transubstantiation, a staple of the Catholic Faith. The Test Act of 1678 required all members of Parliament, with some exceptions, to deny the Mass, invocation of saints, and transubstantiation.

All of this demonstrates that the Founders were rebelling against a specific intersection of church and state. They were rebelling against an established state church, of which membership was coerced by force of arms, and in which alternate faiths were punished or denied office. This is the thrust of the First Amendment; it was feared that America would follow the mold of England (or Scotland with the Kirk) and have a mandatory state church. It seems an interpolation into the history of our more secular time to say that the Founders were concerned with the irreligious and atheists. While that may be desirable, explicit atheism, especially in the public sphere, is largely a product of later times. It seems a stretch to say that they had the freedom not to worship, rather than freedom to worship, in mind when crafting our Constitution.

Despite this, if one is not of an originalist bent, the FFRFs position is still redeemable if modern court decisions espouse the freedom from worship path. However, this is not the case. In American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the Supreme Court decided that the Bladensburg Cross, a symbol of memorializing fallen WWI soldiers, could remain despite being an unmistakably Christian symbol. In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, The cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol, but that fact should not blind us to everything else that the Bladensburg Cross has come to represent. Here, religion is at least accepted in the public sphere, provided there are other legitimate reasons for its existence. This already discounts the view that the Constitution demands that religion be limited to the private sphere. However, the Town of Greece v. Galloway goes further, where the Supreme Court ruled that chaplains could open legislative sessions with sectarian prayer in the town. Here, religion is explicitly allowed to intersect with the public sphere. Interpreting the Constitution to mean that we must excise religion from the body politic like a tumor is simply wishful thinking.

Now, it should be noted that the position I have laid out is a far cry from the religious theocracy that the FRFF is afraid of. My position is merely that religion cant be fully removed from the public sphere. Public prayer and religious symbols are acceptable in this Republic. However, what the FRFF is afraid of is the capture of state power by Christianity. If one looks at their Legal Challenges page, all of the challenges which are against a specific religion are against Christianity. They fear both oppression and bad policy. They fear the oppression that a state religion may bring. One need only look at history to see their fear. They also fear religiously-motivated policy. After all, if one doesnt believe in God, then the Catholic Churchs teachings on a whole host of issues are misguided at best. To allow for such policy is to deny women reproductive rights, all to coddle those who foolishly believe in an Old Man in the Sky.

However, there are good practical reasons to allow for religiously-motivated politics. In its political nature, religion is a mechanism for forming beliefs. Many people take political actions for explicitly religious reasons, from abortion to prison reform to public prayer. To cordon religion off from politics, the government must assert that it is categorically unfit for forming beliefs. It is important to note that there is a difference between believing in something and thinking it is valid. For example, as a religious person, I think any non-theistic formulation of the world is categorically wrong. However, it is a valid way of generating political positions. As such, beliefs formed as a result of atheism should be welcome in the public sphere. To separate church and state in a way that groups like the FRFF would like, we would have to say that religion is so invalid as a way of forming beliefs that no reasonable person would use it to form opinions. This seems like an overly strong position from the non-theists.

Beyond this attempt to box out those with different priors, it seems odd to single out religion as an improper grounding. There are plenty of people who may form their beliefs wrongly in the eyes of some, yet they should be able to participate in the political process. Any pluralistic society must allow for various first principles, even if one does not personally agree with them.

Lastly, it seems a concerning proposition to have the government adjudicate which beliefs are acceptable. At the risk of communist-baiting, this sounds like requiring Leninism from all of our voters. If we are to say that religion has no space in the public sphere, the government is necessarily adjudicating what beliefs can be expressed there. It sounds like the elected deciding their electorate. If the government can decide who is valid in a democratic society, that seems like one is begging to disenfranchise those with whom they disagree. Such a position is authoritarian and unfit for a liberal society. People dont lose their voice merely because they are wrong. Even if we accept all of the FFRFs premises, the conclusion would not be to ban religion in politics. After all, the point of democracy is that the people get to decide, not the people get to decide but only if they make the right decision. To defend their position, the FRFF would have to claim religious people are so wrong that they do not deserve to have their voices heard. No matter their professed fidelity to the Constitution, such a position seems wholly un-American to me.

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The Eagle and The Cross: Religion and the American Republic - The Yale Politic

Atheist A Logo Found Near Graffiti at Site of Burned Down Mississippi Church – Patheos

We posted yesterday about how the First Pentecostal Church in Holly Springs, Mississippi had burned to the ground shortly after the church sued the city over its stay-at-home orders, which were stricter than those for the state as a whole. (That lawsuit was prompted by police going into the church during a Bible study and Easter service after members refused to respect social distancing requirements.)

The alleged arsonist was said to have left graffiti on the parking lot reading Bet you stay home now you hypokrits [sic].

Theres no indication about who did this. Ive heard conspiracy theories abound about how a church member may have done this tobolster the claims of persecution, but theres no evidence of that.

But heres a disturbing new wrinkle in the story:

A photograph of the graffiti also appears to show an atomic symbol with an A in the center, which is sometimes used as a logo for atheist groups.

Part of me is eagerly coming up with defenses against the suggestion that an atheist did this:

Thats not really the same design thats popular with some online atheists.

Atheists dont even use that symbol. (We dont have a symbol.)

Why would an atheist burn the church down and leave a calling card?

What atheist would misspell hypocrite like that?

Who would be so idiotic to burn down a church over COVID concerns when plenty of other churches are doing the same thing, when there could have been people inside this building, and when this wont resolve anything since church members will just meet somewhere else?

Thats not to go all conspiracy in the other direction. Only that Im not quite ready to take this symbol as slam-dunk evidence that an atheist did it.

Still, without any leads, what else should people think? All we know publicly is that a church has been destroyed and theres a symbol associated with atheism at the scene of the crime.

American Atheists is the group that uses the atomic logo thats also the URL the New York Times uses in their article andthe groups president Nick Fish issued a statement this afternoon:

Words cannot capture how strongly we condemn this heinous act of destruction. I hope that the perpetrator of this crime is swiftly brought to justice and held to account for their actions. No one should face violence of any kind because of their religion or lack thereof. No matter what our disagreements may be, violence is never the appropriate response.

Im disgusted that anyone would associate a symbol of our community with something so incompatible with our values as atheists. Pluralism, open dialogue, finding common ground, and protecting equality under the law have never been more important than they are today.

My thoughts are with the members of the First Pentecostal Church during this difficult time.

Theres a fundraiser for the rebuilding of the church here.

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Atheist A Logo Found Near Graffiti at Site of Burned Down Mississippi Church - Patheos

One of the World’s Most Powerful Scientists Believes in Miracles – Scientific American

When I talk to my students aboutthe tempestuous relationship between science and religion, I like to bring up the case of Francis Collins. Early in his career, Collins was a successful gene-hunter, who helped identify genes associated with cystic fibrosis and other disorders. He went on to become one of the worlds most powerful scientists. Since 2009, he has directed the National Institutes of Health, which this year has a budget of over $40 billion. Before that he oversaw the Human Genome Project, one of historys biggest research projects. Collins was an atheist until 1978, when he underwent a conversion experience while hiking in the mountains and became a devout Christian. In his 2006 bestselling bookThe Language of God, Collins declares that he sees no incompatibility between science and religion. The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome, he wrote. He can be worshipped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. Collins just won the$1.3 million Templeton Prize, created in 1972 to promote reconciliation of science and spirituality. (See my posts on the Templeton Foundationhereandhere). This news gives me an excuse to post an interview I carried out with Collins forNational Geographicin 2006, a time whenRichard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and others were vigorously attacking religion. Below is an edited transcript of my conversation with Collins, which took place in Washington, D.C. I liked Collins, whom I found to be surprisingly unassuming for a man of such high stature. But I was disturbed by our final exchanges, in which he revealed a fatalistic outlook on humanitys future. Collins, it seems, haslots of faith in God but not much in humanity. John Horgan

Horgan:How does it feel to be at the white-hot center of the current debate between science and religion?

Collins:This increasing polarization between extremists on both ends of the atheism and belief spectrum has been heartbreaking to me. If my suggestion that there is a harmonious middle ground puts me at the white-hot center of debate--Hooray! Its maybe a bit overdue.

Horgan:The danger in trying to appeal to people on both sides of a polarized debate is--

Collins:Bombs thrown at you from both directions!

Horgan:Has that happened?

Collins[sighs]: The majority have responded in very encouraging ways. But some of my scientific colleagues argue that its totally inappropriate for a scientist to write about religion, and we already have too much faith in public life in this country. And then I get someverystrongly worded messages from fundamentalists who feel that I have compromised the literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and call me a false prophet. Im diluting the truth and doing damage to the faith.

Horgan:Why do you think the debate has become so polarized?

Collins:It starts with an extreme articulation of a viewpoint on one side of the issue and that then results in a response that is also a little bit too extreme, and the whole thing escalates. Every action demands an equal and opposite reaction. This is one of Newtons laws playing out in an unfortunate public scenario.

Horgan:I must admit that Ive become more concerned lately about the harmful effects of religion because of religious terrorism like 9/11 and the growing power of the religious right in the United States.

Collins:What faith hasnotbeen used by demagogues as a club over somebodys head? Whether it was the Inquisition or the Crusades on the one hand or the World Trade Center on the other? But we shouldnt judge the pure truths of faith by the way they are applied any more than we should judge the pure truth of love by an abusive marriage. We as children of God have been given by God this knowledge of right and wrong, this Moral Law, which I see as a particularly compelling signpost to His existence. But we also have this thing called free will which we exercise all the time to break that law. We shouldnt blame faith for the ways people distort it and misuse it.

Horgan:Isnt the problem when religions say,Thisis the only way to truth? Isnt that what turns religious faith from something beautiful into something intolerant and hateful?

Collins:There is a sad truth there. I think we Christians have been way too ready to define ourselves as members of an exclusive club. I found truth, I found joy, I found peace in that particular conclusion, but I am not in any way suggesting that that is the conclusion everybody else should find. To have anyone say, My truth is purer than yours, that is both inconsistent with what I see in the person of Christ andincrediblyoff-putting. And quick to start arguments and fights and even wars! Look at the story of the Good Samaritan, which is a parable from Jesus himself. Jews would have considered the Samaritan to be a heretic, and yet clearly Christs message is:Thatis the person who did right and was justified in Gods eyes.

Horgan:How can you, as a scientist who looks for natural explanations of things and demands evidence, also believe in miracles, like the resurrection?

Collins:My first struggle was to believe in God. Not a pantheist God who is entirely enclosed within nature, or a Deist God who started the whole thing and then just lost interest, but a supernatural God who is interested in what is happening in our world and might at times choose to intervene. My second struggle was to believe that Christ was divine as He claimed to be. As soon as I got there, the idea that He might rise from the dead became a non-problem. I dont have a problem with the concept that miracles might occasionally occur at moments ofgreatsignificance where there is a message being transmitted to us by God Almighty. But as a scientist I set my standards for miracles very high. And I dont think we should try to convince agnostics or atheists about the reality of faith with claims about miracles that they can easily poke holes in.

Horgan:The problem I have with miracles is not just that they violate what science tells us about how the world works. They also make God seem too capricious. For example, many people believe that if they pray hard enough God will intercede to heal them or a loved one. But does that mean that all those who dont get better arent worthy?

Collins:In my own experience as a physician, I have not seen a miraculous healing, and I dont expect to see one. Also, prayer for me is not a way to manipulate God into doing what we want Him to do. Prayer for me is much more a sense of trying to get into fellowship with God. Im trying to figure out what I should be doing rather than telling Almighty God whatHeshould be doing. Look at the Lords Prayer. It says, Thywill be done. It wasnt, Our Father who are in Heaven, please get me a parking space.

Horgan:Many people have a hard time believing in God because of the problem of evil. If God loves us, why is life filled with so much suffering?

Collins:That isthemost fundamental question that all seekers have to wrestle with. First of all, if our ultimate goal is to grow, learn, discover things about ourselves and things about God, then unfortunately a life of ease is probably not the way to get there. I know I have learned very little about myself or God when everything is going well. Also, a lot of the pain and suffering in the world we cannot lay at Gods feet. God gave us free will, and we may choose to exercise it in ways that end up hurting other people.

Horgan:The physicist Steven Weinberg, who is an atheist, has written about this topic. He asks why six million Jews, including his relatives, had to die in the Holocaust so that the Nazis could exercise their free will.

Collins:If God had to intervene miraculously every time one of us chose to do something evil, it would be a very strange, chaotic, unpredictable world. Free will leads to people doing terrible things to each other. Innocent people die as a result. You cant blame anyone except the evildoers for that. So thats not Gods fault. The harder question is when suffering seems to have come about through no human ill action. A child with cancer, a natural disaster, a tornado or tsunami. Why would God not prevent those things from happening?

Horgan:Some theologians, such as Charles Hartshorne, have suggested that maybe God isnt fully in control of His creation. The poet Annie Dillard expresses this idea in her phrase God the semi-competent.

Collins:Thats delightful--and probably blasphemous! An alternative is the notion of God being outside of nature and of time and having a perspective of our blink-of-an-eye existence that goes both far back and far forward. In some admittedly metaphysical way, that allows me to say that the meaning of suffering may not always be apparent to me. There can be reasons for terrible things happening that I cannot know.

Horgan:I think youre an agnostic.


Horgan:You say that, to a certain extent, Gods ways are inscrutable. That sounds like agnosticism.

Collins:Im agnostic about Gods ways. Im not agnostic about God Himself. Thomas Huxley defined agnosticism as not knowing whether God exists or not. Im a believer! I have doubts. As I quote Paul Tillich: Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Its a part of faith. But my fundamental stance is that God is real, God is true.

Horgan:Im an agnostic, and I was bothered when in your book you called agnosticism a copout. Agnosticism doesnt mean youre lazy or dont care. It means you arent satisfied with any answers for what after all are ultimate mysteries.

Collins:That was a putdown that should not apply to earnest agnostics who have considered the evidence and still dont find an answer. I was reacting to the agnosticism I see in the scientific community, which has not been arrived at by a careful examination of the evidence. I went through a phase when I was a casual agnostic, and I am perhaps too quick to assume that others have no more depth than I did.

Horgan:Free will is a very important concept to me, as it is to you. Its the basis for our morality and search for meaning. Dont you worry that science in general and genetics in particularand your work as head of the Genome Project--are undermining belief in free will?

Collins:Youre talking about genetic determinism, which implies that we are helpless marionettes being controlled by strings made of double helices. That is so far away from what we know scientifically! Heredity does have an influence not only over medical risks but also over certain behaviors and personality traits. But look at identical twins, who have exactly the same DNA but often dont behave alike or think alike. They show the importance of learning and experience--and free will. I think we all, whether we are religious or not, recognize that free will is a reality. There are some fringe elements that say, No, its all an illusion, were just pawns in some computer model. But I dont think that carries you very far.

Horgan:What do you think of Darwinian explanations of altruism, or what you callagape, totally selfless love and compassion for someone not directly related to you?

Collins:Its been a little of a just-so story so far. Many would argue that altruism has been supported by evolution because it helps the group survive. But some people sacrifically give of themselves to those who are outside their group and with whom they have absolutely nothing in common. Like Mother Teresa, Oscar Schindler, many others. That is the nobility of humankind in its purist form. That doesnt seem like it can be explained by a Darwinian model, but Im not hanging my faith on this.

Horgan:If only selflessness were more common.

Collins:Well, there you get free will again. It gets in the way.

Horgan:What do you think about the field of neurotheology, which attempts to identify the neural basis of religious experiences?

Collins:I think its fascinating but not particularly surprising. We humans are flesh and blood. So it wouldnt trouble me--if I were to have some mystical experience myself--to discover that my temporal lobe was lit up. Id say, Wow! Thats okay! That doesnt mean that this doesnt have genuine spiritual significance. Those who come at this issue with the presumption that there is nothing outside the natural world will look at this data and say, Ya see? Whereas those who come with the presumption that we are spiritual creatures will go, Cool! There is a natural correlate to this mystical experience! How about that! I think our spiritual nature is truly God-given, and may not be completely limited by natural descriptors.

Horgan:What if this research leads to drugs or devices for artificially inducing religious experiences? Would you consider those experiences to be authentic? You probably heard about the recent report from Johns Hopkins that the psychedelic drug psilocybin triggered spiritual experiences.

Collins:Yes. If you are talking about the ingestion of an exogenous psychoactive substance or some kind of brain-stimulating contraption, that would smack of not being an authentic, justifiable, trust-worthy experience. So that would be a boundary I would want to establish between the authentic and the counterfeit.

Horgan:Some scientists have predicted that genetic engineering may give us superhuman intelligence and greatly extended life spans, and possibly even immortality. We might even engineer our brains so that we dont fear pain or grief anymore. These are possible long-term consequences of the Human Genome Project and other lines of research. If these things happen, what do you think would be the consequences for religious traditions?

Collins:That outcome would trouble me. But were so far away from that reality that its hard to spend a lot of time worrying about it when you consider all the truly benevolent things we could do in the near term. If you get too hung up on the hypotheticals of what night happen in the next several hundred years, then you become paralyzed and you fail to live up to the opportunities to reach out and help people now. That seems to be the most unethical stance we could take.

Horgan:Im really asking, Does religion requires suffering? Could we reduce suffering to the point where we just wont need religion?

Collins:In spite of the fact that we have achieved all of these wonderful medical advances and made it possible to live longer and eradicate diseases, we will probably still figure out ways to argue with each other and sometimes to kill each other, out of our self-righteousness and our determination that we have to be on top. So the death rate will continue to be one per person by one means or another. We may understand a lot about biology, we may understand a lot about how to prevent illness, and we may understand the life span. But I dont think we will figure out how to stop humans from doing bad things to each other. That will always be our greatest and most distressing experience here on this planet, and that will make us long the most, perhaps, for something more.

Further Reading:

In Defense of Disbelief: An Anti-Creed

Can Faith and Science Coexist?

Richard Dawkins Offers Advice for Donald Trump, and Other Wisdom

What Should We Do With Our Visions of Heaven and Hell?

Mind-Body Problems(free online book, also available asKindle e-bookandpaperback).

The rest is here:

One of the World's Most Powerful Scientists Believes in Miracles - Scientific American

This Is a Very, Very Tiny List of Elected Atheist Republicans – Patheos

Almost a month ago, the group Republican Atheists sent a message to members hoping to publish a list of atheist Republicans who are elected officials in Republican groups and/or their cities/counties.

They wanted names.

I laughed a lot because the GOP, as a whole, is clearly hostile to people who arent white evangelicals, and thats evident through the policies they promote, their platform, and their top-tier candidates. Its hard to imagine Republican voters supporting a candidate whos openly and proudly non-religious, because Republican values go against what most non-religious people support. A party that supports Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence, and Ted Cruz isnt about to throw money and support to an avowed atheist. (They had a hard enough time getting their people to support a Mormon candidate in 2012.)

Ill freely admit there are conservative atheists especially ones who feel very strongly about one or two issues and vote on those issues alone but thats different from supporting todays GOP. Being a Republican today means backing a party whose politicians are overwhelmingly anti-science, anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-choice, and anti-church/state separation. It means supporting a president who blindly accepts and promotes conspiracy theories, surrounds himself with a coterie of evangelical Christians, and condemns expertise and reason whenever they contradict his whims.

Maybe some voters can deal with that cognitive dissonance but actual politicians? Cmon now. Lets be serious.

That said, I would love to know if there are any openly atheist elected Republicans out there. That would be newsworthy! But theyre not out there! Ive looked!

Just to prove my point, here are some numbers for you. After the 2018 midterms, by my best estimate, there were 52 openly non-religious politicians in the country at the state level or higher. Were talking about state representatives and state senators, along with one congressman. Many of them use the word atheist to describe themselves. (I didnt keep track of atheists below that level because, frankly, there would be too many.)

Every single one of them is a Democrat.

In 2017, I stumbled across one guy who was both an elected Republican and, it turned out, openly atheist but he soon switched parties (becoming a Libertarian) and lost his bid for re-election.

There are currently no elected Republicans at the state level or higher who are openly atheist.

52 Democrats. 0 Republicans.

If Im incorrect, though, Im all ears. I would love to know if there are elected officials in the Republican Party who openly reject God. That would be fascinating! (It would be weird, too, but thats a different issue.) If nothing else, having prominent atheists in the GOP might mean having some voices in the party pushing for science and church/state separation and countering the weight of the Religious Right.

Thats a long way to say I really looked forward to seeingthis list from Republican Atheists.

But the weeks came and went and there was no update. I was only told the list was coming and that it was not impressive. (Shocker. But thanks for the honesty.)

Yesterday, the group finally released the list.

Are you ready for it?

There are three names.

Thats it.

Poulson is a leader within his local GOP affiliate but not elected to anything outside of that. Same with Anderson. (Correction: I said earlier Anderson had run for office, but that is not the case.)

As for Umphrey, she is indeed a Republican atheist but it should be noted that the city council elections are non-partisan and the body doesnt usually debate the more polarizing issues we see at the state level. There arent any examples of her publicly calling herself an atheist or a Republican, at least as it relates to her office or examples of her promoting atheism or the GOP during the campaign.

Thats not a criticism of her, by the way! Those kinds of issues just dont often come up at many city council meetings outside of invocations and the like. My point is that if I just looked at her record or public statements, I dont think I would be able to pin down that she was a Republican or an atheist. But shes the only person the group could find after nearly a month of searching and they already knew about her in 2018.

This whole search just proves my point: There are no openly atheist elected Republicans at the state level or higher. (Apparently they barely exist at lower levels, too.) That shouldnt surprise anyone.

Its been said that the only thing atheists have in common is one answer to one question. But many people who call themselves atheists support secular schools, oppose faith-based discrimination, want accessto birth control and contraception, etc. Its hard to imagine someone who cares enough about the topic of religion that she uses the label atheist finding a home in the GOP.

(I should also say the Democratic Party has a long way to go on these issues, too, but theres just no comparison.)

I would love for the Republican Atheists group to simply admit the current GOP is no place for open atheists but theyre working to change that and then I want to see what theyre doing to make that happen.

Instead, as far as Ive seen, all they ever do is promote MAGA memes and push conservative propaganda to their followers. Theyre like the Log Cabin Republicans a group that claims to represent LGBTQ people, but is widely considered a laughingstock because Republican politicians and judges routinely oppose LGBTQ rights. Theres no way to spin that. Every time the group tries to do it, its just pathetic.

But good luck getting Republican Atheists to admit all that.

Read this article:

This Is a Very, Very Tiny List of Elected Atheist Republicans - Patheos

Atheism Analyzed: Principles of Atheism: The Principle of …

One Atheist claim is that Atheism is nothing more than not accepting theist claims. This ignores the existence of the Atheist VOID which is created by the rejection, and the resulting consequences of that void. Atheism is actually much more than merely not accepting claims, and it is not even that. But if it were that, and only that, then still the issue of Atheist morals comes to the fore. And Atheist morals do not exist in the VOID, they have to be created somehow and by someone. So the Atheist either creates his own morals, or he accepts the morals created by some other Atheist somewhere, or he has no morals.

Within the Atheist VOID there are an infinite number of intellectual and moral directions to choose from. However, it is very common for the Atheist to choose the path of eliteness, which leads directly to AtheoLeftism and its messiahism, based on Victimology. This in turn leads to Leftist morals, which are unilaterally for the Other.

Just as I have not encountered many Atheists who are not leftist when pressed, I have not come across any Atheists who actually have no morals. Their arguments usually devolve to moral arguments because they have no logical absolutes to tether their arguments rationally. It is common for an Atheist to claim an argument is wrong, but rather than logically wrong, Wrong, meaning morally Wrong (and therefore Hateful).

But what appears moral to an Atheist is completely different from that which is commonly thought moral by both theists and pre-Modernity culture in general. The issue of valuing humans based solely on contribution comes to mind, although most totalitarian regimes do that, whether Modern, post-Modern, or pre-Modern, so Atheists have that in common with totalitarians. Atheists tend to jump at the chance to place a value on the lives of other humans so long as they themselves are considered elite and the apogee of human value.

In the world of the VOID, there are no absolutes, no rules, and there is total freedom of thought and behavior (essentially intellectual and moral anarchy). So the necessity of having moral principles is purely pragmatic. In other words, the moral world of the Atheist is simply to define the practical behaviors expected of the Other, while maintaining total tolerance of all behaviors for the Atheist. The draw of creating two separate moralities is strong: one morality for the AtheoElites, and a completely separate morality which is applied to the Other.

The moral principles apply, not to Atheists, who have no rules other than behavior tautologies applying to themselves, but rather apply only to the Other. As described earlier, Atheist morality for themselves is merely tautological to their predilected behaviors, so is not really morality at all. In fact, their concept of morality is not principled behavior for themselves; it is principles of behavior demanded of the Other. (note 1) The two major Atheist principles of moral behavior for the Other are Tolerance and Fairness. These are loosely based on existing Christian moral principle of forgiveness and the value of the individual human. However, the similarity stops there.

Tolerance, in the Atheist redefinition of the term, means tolerance for all behaviors except dissent.

Fairness, in the Atheist redefinition of the term, means equality of outcome for the Other, not the elites.

Intolerance and unfairness, as defined by the AtheoLeftist, cannot be tolerated. Those who fail the AtheoLeft test for tolerance and fairness are deemed immoral and therefore evil, despite there being no evil under the Atheist VOID.

So opposing views are considered evil, which is codified as hate.

Atheists are religious in the use of their own morality. They use morality in its most onerous religious form: to bully other people. Because Atheists are immune to all morality including their own, even and especially while they place moral judgment on the other, Atheist morality is purely a weapon. What Atheists do with their weapon is not limited by rules: there are no rules for Atheists under the VOID. Any and all behaviors by Atheists are AOK, including intolerance of intolerance. And Atheist tactics are similarly unrestricted, including published death wishes for their designated enemies.

Unilateral Universal ToleranceUnder AtheoLeftist morals, the Other must be totally tolerant of the AtheoLeft, its acolytes and codependent victims. Intolerance is not tolerated in the Other. In other words, the AtheoLeft is totally intolerant of intolerance of their antics. So the concept of tolerance applies only to the Other, not to the AtheoLeft; it is purely a morality for other people, unilaterally applied by the AtheoLeft.

The AtheoLeftist intolerance for the dissent of the Other results in massive displays of self-righteous outrage by the AtheoLeft, which is judging the morality of only the Other based on the morality demanded of them by the AtheoLeft. The AtheoLeft has no morality for itself. (2) The resulting AtheoLeftist moral proclamations accompanied by hate rants, and even death threats do not violate any principles which the Atheists have for themselves, since they subscribe to the VOID and its emptiness of rules.

Atheists are religious in the use of their own morality. They use morality in its most onerous religious form: to bully other people. The AtheoLeft must be tolerated in every regard by the Other. The AtheoLeft has no morality for itself. They must be tolerated regardless of their action or thoughts. The AtheoLeft itself cannot be judged, because there is no moral basis upon which to judge them. Their morals are unilaterally for the Other only.

Lets repeat that:The AtheoLeft has no morality for itself. They must be tolerated regardless of their action or thoughts. The AtheoLeft cannot be judged, because there is no moral basis upon which to judge them. Their morals are unilaterally for the Other only.

Equalitarianism and the Fairness PrincipleAtheoLeftists dont give their stuff away in order to achieve equality and fairness; rather they wish to coerce the Other to do so. Empathy is an example of a principle that is understood only in the abstract by Atheists. What Atheists miss in their abstraction is that many people dont want to be helped by getting free stuff because that devalues both the stuff and the person who receives it instead of earning it. But to recognize details like that would be to jeopardize their supply of Victims to rescue, and messiahs need Victims, always.

Thus, AtheoLeftism decrees that it is not fair for one of the herd to have more than another of the herd. The one with more must give up the excess; it is only fair according to the messiahs. The messiahs would be exempt of course, being elites and all (Congress is loaded with multimillionare Leftists). Hence, many of the AtheoLeft dont even pay their taxes; taxes are for the herd, the little people. The elites cannot be expected to be equal; after all they are the elites, the messiahs, the saviors. (3) Its all part of the VOID: there are no rules for the AtheoLeft.

So, total equality is unilateral: its not for the elites, who are obviously a separate and superior class. There are no rules for AtheoLeftists.

The Principle of Thought Crimes and Anti-dissent: If ridicule doesnt work, pass lawsIts simple: if you disagree, you are intolerant; intolerance is hate; hate is intolerable. Laws against hate/intolerance/dissent are essential. This was institutionalized in the morality tribunals in Canada until recently.

Atheists are religious in the use of their own morality. They use morality in its most onerous religious form: to bully other people.

Suing for SecularityMajor AtheoLeftist organizations are constantly suing small local governments and private organizations such as the Boy Scouts in order to force the removal of religiosity from the secular scene. So small cities without much in the way of resources are threatened with financial burdens of litigation, cities such as Las Cruces, New Mexico, as opposed to Las Angeles, CA. Or for that matter, Washington DC which is loaded with government buildings sporting religious symbology. The bully factor is obvious by observing the targets these Atheists choose.

Notes: (1) Atheist organizations such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation staunchly deny that positive character traits have value and can be beneficially taught; they are too hard for some people, and therefore are discriminatory. Thus inside the Atheist VOID, moral values are too difficult and must be ignored. This helps victims remain victims and messiahs remain messiahs.

(2) Except for those AtheoLeftists who stumble into heretical statements or actions, thereby becoming identified as Other by the elites, and thus subject to moral judgment by their betters.

(3) This might now be called the David Gregory Principle of Elite Immunity.

Go here to read the rest:

Atheism Analyzed: Principles of Atheism: The Principle of ...

Atheism to orthodoxy: Russia’s convoluted relationship with God – The Aggie

Seventy years of atheistic rule later, God finds its way into the Russian constitution

Following decades of atheism in the Soviet Union, the resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church signals a new nation. Today, television stations broadcast live sermons, citizens line up for holy water and Christmas trees light up Moscows Darwin museum. President Vladimir Putin even vowed to rebuild Christian churches in war-torn Syria back in 2017.

With plans to instate Gods will into the Russian constitution, the necessary separation between church and state diminishes.

Currently, the constitution defines Russia as a secular state, stating, no religion may be established as a state or obligatory one. Including God in the document would be a major amendment, especially given Russias complicated history with religion.

The amendment would also rule out gay marriage in Russia by officially defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

We can and should address the fact that family and marriage are relations between a man and a woman, said Duma lawmaker Pyotr Tolstoi. If it is fixed at the constitutional level, this will remove a number of questions that they are trying to ask us in the European Union.

Additionally, the amendment would notably exclude members of other religious groups, such as Muslims, who already face marginalization from the government. Russias Supreme Court even previously declared Jehovahs Witnesses, a Christian denomination known for their outspoken beliefs, as an extremist organization.

Ironically, just 30 years ago, two-thirds of Russians claimed no religious affiliation.

During Vladimir Lenins reign of the early 20th century, atheism had a simple definition. Instead of disbelief in God, it implied the absence of religion entirely, a seemingly natural symptom of the Soviet Unions development into a modern society.

Although churches and monasteries were still legal, officials found ways of shutting them down, like in the 1931 demolition of Moscows Christ the Savior Cathedral. In a time of social instability and reconstruction, the Orthodox Church was a political threat.

After successful attempts to demote the church, Stalin welcomed religion back into public life during World War II, seeing it as a way to promote patriotism and win the good will of allies. Once Nikita Khrushchev entered office in 1953, his anti-religious campaign transformed atheism from the absence of religion to the commitment to science and rationalism a vision that aligned most with communist ideals.

Just before the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev brought the Orthodox Church back one last time before it became state-sanctioned. At the time, religion seemed to be the solution for the nations growing moral crisis. Indifference became the dominant principle.

In the post-Soviet era, Putin continues to invoke God in his public speeches, which gives the church a more prominent place in Russian political life. He presents himself as a defender of traditional morality by supporting conservative ideas. Despite his efforts, the truth remains as such most Russians dont abide by Orthodox morals.

Although the majority of Russians identify as Orthodox Christians, just 6% attend church weekly and only 17% pray daily. In 1920, the Soviet Union was the first country to legalize abortion. Today, the rate of abortions is more than double that of the U.S., even with strong objections from the Orthodox Church. Premarital sex and divorce are also less stigmatized in Russia than in other countries.

Russia seems like it would be the last country to put God into its constitution, especially with a former KGB member as president. Although some view it as a tactic to get Russians out to vote for the other proposed amendments, Putins trivial intentions have irreversible consequences.

Enshrining God into the constitution doesnt make the government any more righteous than before especially when many political decisions are free of moral substance. If the Orthodox church does not speak for everyone, then when the decisions of the people are concerned, it should not speak at all.

Written by: Julietta Bisharyan jsbisharyan@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer:The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie

Original post:

Atheism to orthodoxy: Russia's convoluted relationship with God - The Aggie

Atheism – Wikipedia

Absence of belief in the existence of deities

Atheism is, in the broadest sense, an absence of belief in the existence of deities.[1][2][3][4] Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist.[5][6] In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[1][2][7][8] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[9][10] which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.[10][11][12]

The etymological root for the word atheism originated before the 5th century BCE from the ancient Greek (atheos), meaning "without god(s)". In antiquity, it had multiple uses as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshiped by the larger society,[13] those who were forsaken by the gods, or those who had no commitment to belief in the gods.[14] The term denoted a social category created by orthodox religionists into which those who did not share their religious beliefs were placed.[14] The actual term atheism emerged first in the 16th century.[15] With the spread of freethought, skeptical inquiry, and subsequent increase in criticism of religion, application of the term narrowed in scope. The first individuals to identify themselves using the word atheist lived in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment.[15] The French Revolution, noted for its "unprecedented atheism," witnessed the first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason.[17]

Arguments for atheism range from philosophical to social and historical approaches. Rationales for not believing in deities include arguments that there is a lack of empirical evidence,[18][19] the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the rejection of concepts that cannot be falsified, and the argument from nonbelief.[18][20] Nonbelievers contend that atheism is a more parsimonious position than theism and that everyone is born without beliefs in deities;[1] therefore, they argue that the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of gods but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism.[21] Although some atheists have adopted secular philosophies (e.g. secular humanism),[22][23] there is no ideology or code of conduct to which all atheists adhere.[24]

Since conceptions of atheism vary, accurate estimations of current numbers of atheists are difficult.[25] According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were "convinced atheists" in 2012,[26] 11% were "convinced atheists" in 2015,[27] and in 2017, 9% were "convinced atheists".[28] However, other researchers have advised caution with WIN/Gallup figures since other surveys which have used the same wording for decades and have a bigger sample size have consistently reached lower figures.[29] An older survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2004 recorded atheists as comprising 8% of the world's population.[30] Other older estimates have indicated that atheists comprise 2% of the world's population, while the irreligious add a further 12%.[31] According to these polls, Europe and East Asia are the regions with the highest rates of atheism. In 2015, 61% of people in China reported that they were atheists.[32] The figures for a 2010 Eurobarometer survey in the European Union (EU) reported that 20% of the EU population claimed not to believe in "any sort of spirit, God or life force", with France (40%) and Sweden (34%) representing the highest values.[33]

Writers disagree on how best to define and classify atheism,[34] contesting what supernatural entities are considered gods, whether it is a philosophic position in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. Atheism has been regarded as compatible with agnosticism,[35][36][37][38][39][40][41] but has also been contrasted with it.[42][43][44] A variety of categories have been used to distinguish the different forms of atheism.

Some of the ambiguity and controversy involved in defining atheism arises from difficulty in reaching a consensus for the definitions of words like deity and god. The variety of wildly different conceptions of God and deities leads to differing ideas regarding atheism's applicability. The ancient Romans accused Christians of being atheists for not worshiping the pagan deities. Gradually, this view fell into disfavor as theism came to be understood as encompassing belief in any divinity.

With respect to the range of phenomena being rejected, atheism may counter anything from the existence of a deity, to the existence of any spiritual, supernatural, or transcendental concepts, such as those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism.[46]

Definitions of atheism also vary in the degree of consideration a person must put to the idea of gods to be considered an atheist. Atheism has sometimes been defined to include the simple absence of belief that any deities exist. This broad definition would include newborns and other people who have not been exposed to theistic ideas. As far back as 1772, Baron d'Holbach said that "All children are born Atheists; they have no idea of God."[47]Similarly, George H. Smith (1979) suggested that: "The man who is unacquainted with theism is an atheist because he does not believe in a god. This category would also include the child with the conceptual capacity to grasp the issues involved, but who is still unaware of those issues. The fact that this child does not believe in god qualifies him as an atheist."[48] Implicit atheism is "the absence of theistic belief without a conscious rejection of it" and explicit atheism is the conscious rejection of belief.For the purposes of his paper on "philosophical atheism", Ernest Nagel contested including the mere absence of theistic belief as a type of atheism.[49] Graham Oppy classifies as innocents those who never considered the question because they lack any understanding of what a god is. According to Oppy, these could be one-month-old babies, humans with severe traumatic brain injuries, or patients with advanced dementia.

Philosophers such as Antony Flew[51]and Michael Martin have contrasted positive (strong/hard) atheism with negative (weak/soft) atheism. Positive atheism is the explicit affirmation that gods do not exist. Negative atheism includes all other forms of non-theism. According to this categorization, anyone who is not a theist is either a negative or a positive atheist.The terms weak and strong are relatively recent, while the terms negative and positive atheism are of older origin, having been used (in slightly different ways) in the philosophical literature[51] and in Catholic apologetics.[52]Under this demarcation of atheism, most agnostics qualify as negative atheists.

While Martin, for example, asserts that agnosticism entails negative atheism,[38] many agnostics see their view as distinct from atheism,[53][54]which they may consider no more justified than theism or requiring an equal conviction.[53]The assertion of unattainability of knowledge for or against the existence of gods is sometimes seen as an indication that atheism requires a leap of faith.[55][56]Common atheist responses to this argument include that unproven religious propositions deserve as much disbelief as all other unproven propositions,[57]and that the unprovability of a god's existence does not imply equal probability of either possibility.[58]Australian philosopher J.J.C. Smart even argues that "sometimes a person who is really an atheist may describe herself, even passionately, as an agnostic because of unreasonable generalized philosophical skepticism which would preclude us from saying that we know anything whatever, except perhaps the truths of mathematics and formal logic."[59]Consequently, some atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins prefer distinguishing theist, agnostic and atheist positions along a spectrum of theistic probabilitythe likelihood that each assigns to the statement "God exists".

Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so accepted in the Western world that even the possibility of true atheism was questioned. This is called theistic innatismthe notion that all people believe in God from birth; within this view was the connotation that atheists are simply in denial.[61]

There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or that "there are no atheists in foxholes".[62]There have, however, been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal "atheists in foxholes".[63]

Some atheists have challenged the need for the term "atheism". In his book Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris wrote:

In fact, "atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist". We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

Pragmatic atheism is the view one should reject a belief in a god or gods because it is unnecessary for a pragmatic life. This view is related to apatheism and practical atheism.[65]

Atheists have also argued that people cannot know a God or prove the existence of a God. The latter is called agnosticism, which takes a variety of forms. In the philosophy of immanence, divinity is inseparable from the world itself, including a person's mind, and each person's consciousness is locked in the subject. According to this form of agnosticism, this limitation in perspective prevents any objective inference from belief in a god to assertions of its existence. The rationalistic agnosticism of Kant and the Enlightenment only accepts knowledge deduced with human rationality; this form of atheism holds that gods are not discernible as a matter of principle, and therefore cannot be known to exist. Skepticism, based on the ideas of Hume, asserts that certainty about anything is impossible, so one can never know for sure whether or not a god exists. Hume, however, held that such unobservable metaphysical concepts should be rejected as "sophistry and illusion".[67] The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic worldview.[68]

Other arguments for atheism that can be classified as epistemological or ontological, including ignosticism, assert the meaninglessness or unintelligibility of basic terms such as "God" and statements such as "God is all-powerful." Theological noncognitivism holds that the statement "God exists" does not express a proposition, but is nonsensical or cognitively meaningless. It has been argued both ways as to whether such individuals can be classified into some form of atheism or agnosticism. Philosophers A.J. Ayer and Theodore M. Drange reject both categories, stating that both camps accept "God exists" as a proposition; they instead place noncognitivism in its own category.[69][70]

Philosopher, Zofia Zdybicka writes:

"Metaphysical atheism... includes all doctrines that hold to metaphysical monism (the homogeneity of reality). Metaphysical atheism may be either: a) absolute an explicit denial of God's existence associated with materialistic monism (all materialistic trends, both in ancient and modern times); b) relative the implicit denial of God in all philosophies that, while they accept the existence of an absolute, conceive of the absolute as not possessing any of the attributes proper to God: transcendence, a personal character or unity. Relative atheism is associated with idealistic monism (pantheism, panentheism, deism)."[71]

Some atheists hold the view that the various conceptions of gods, such as the personal god of Christianity, are ascribed logically inconsistent qualities. Such atheists present deductive arguments against the existence of God, which assert the incompatibility between certain traits, such as perfection, creator-status, immutability, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, transcendence, personhood (a personal being), non-physicality, justice, and mercy.[18]

Theodicean atheists believe that the world as they experience it cannot be reconciled with the qualities commonly ascribed to God and gods by theologians. They argue that an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God is not compatible with a world where there is evil and suffering, and where divine love is hidden from many people.[20]A similar argument is attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.[73]

Philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach[74]and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud have argued that God and other religious beliefs are human inventions, created to fulfill various psychological and emotional wants or needs, or a projection mechanism from the 'Id' omnipotence; for Vladimir Lenin, in 'Materialism and Empirio-criticism', against the Russian Machism, the followers of Ernst Mach, Feuerbach was the final argument against belief in a god. This is also a view of many Buddhists.[75] Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, influenced by the work of Feuerbach, argued that belief in God and religion are social functions, used by those in power to oppress the working class. According to Mikhail Bakunin, "the idea of God implies the abdication of human reason and justice; it is the most decisive negation of human liberty, and necessarily ends in the enslavement of mankind, in theory, and practice." He reversed Voltaire's aphorism that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him, writing instead that "if God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him."[76]

Atheism is not mutually exclusive with respect to some religious and spiritual belief systems, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Ralism,[77] and Neopagan movements[78]such as Wicca.[79]stika schools in Hinduism hold atheism to be a valid path to moksha, but extremely difficult, for the atheist cannot expect any help from the divine on their journey.[80]Jainism believes the universe is eternal and has no need for a creator deity, however Tirthankaras are revered beings who can transcend space and time[81] and have more power than the god Indra.[82]Secular Buddhism does not advocate belief in gods. Early Buddhism was atheistic as Gautama Buddha's path involved no mention of gods. Later conceptions of Buddhism consider Buddha himself a god, suggest adherents can attain godhood, and revere Bodhisattvas[83]and Eternal Buddha.

Apophatic theology is often assessed as being a version of atheism or agnosticism, since it cannot say truly that God exists.[84] "The comparison is crude, however, for conventional atheism treats the existence of God as a predicate that can be denied ("God is nonexistent"), whereas negative theology denies that God has predicates".[85] "God or the Divine is" without being able to attribute qualities about "what He is" would be the prerequisite of positive theology in negative theology that distinguishes theism from atheism. "Negative theology is a complement to, not the enemy of, positive theology".[86]

Axiological, or constructive, atheism rejects the existence of gods in favor of a "higher absolute", such as humanity. This form of atheism favors humanity as the absolute source of ethics and values, and permits individuals to resolve moral problems without resorting to God. Marx and Freud used this argument to convey messages of liberation, full-development, and unfettered happiness.[68] One of the most common criticisms of atheism has been to the contrary: that denying the existence of a god either leads to moral relativism and leaves one with no moral or ethical foundation,[87] or renders life meaningless and miserable.[88] Blaise Pascal argued this view in his Penses.[89]

French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre identified himself as a representative of an "atheist existentialism"concerned less with denying the existence of God than with establishing that "man needs... to find himself again and to understand that nothing can save him from himself, not even a valid proof of the existence of God."Sartre said a corollary of his atheism was that "if God does not exist, there is at least one being in whom existence precedes essence, a being who exists before he can be defined by any concept, and... this being is man."The practical consequence of this atheism was described by Sartre as meaning that there are no a priori rules or absolute values that can be invoked to govern human conduct, and that humans are "condemned" to invent these for themselves, making "man" absolutely "responsible for everything he does".

Sociologist Phil Zuckerman analyzed previous social science research on secularity and non-belief, and concluded that societal well-being is positively correlated with irreligion. He found that there are much lower concentrations of atheism and secularity in poorer, less developed nations (particularly in Africa and South America) than in the richer industrialized democracies.[93][94]His findings relating specifically to atheism in the US were that compared to religious people in the US, "atheists and secular people" are less nationalistic, prejudiced, antisemitic, racist, dogmatic, ethnocentric, closed-minded, and authoritarian, and in US states with the highest percentages of atheists, the murder rate is lower than average. In the most religious states, the murder rate is higher than average.[95][96]

People who self-identify as atheists are often assumed to be irreligious, but some sects within major religions reject the existence of a personal, creator deity.[98]In recent years, certain religious denominations have accumulated a number of openly atheistic followers, such as atheistic or humanistic Judaism[99][100]and Christian atheists.[101][102][103]

The strictest sense of positive atheism does not entail any specific beliefs outside of disbelief in any deity; as such, atheists can hold any number of spiritual beliefs. For the same reason, atheists can hold a wide variety of ethical beliefs, ranging from the moral universalism of humanism, which holds that a moral code should be applied consistently to all humans, to moral nihilism, which holds that morality is meaningless.[104] Atheism is accepted as a valid philosophical position within some varieties of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.[105]

Philosophers such as Slavoj iek,[106] Alain de Botton,[107] and Alexander Bard and Jan Sderqvist,[108] have all argued that atheists should reclaim religion as an act of defiance against theism, precisely not to leave religion as an unwarranted monopoly to theists.

According to Plato's Euthyphro dilemma, the role of the gods in determining right from wrong is either unnecessary or arbitrary. The argument that morality must be derived from God, and cannot exist without a wise creator, has been a persistent feature of political if not so much philosophical debate.[109][110][111]Moral precepts such as "murder is wrong" are seen as divine laws, requiring a divine lawmaker and judge. However, many atheists argue that treating morality legalistically involves a false analogy, and that morality does not depend on a lawmaker in the same way that laws do.[112]Friedrich Nietzsche believed in a morality independent of theistic belief, and stated that morality based upon God "has truth only if God is truthit stands or falls with faith in God.".[113][114][115] For Immanuel Kant the reason for adjusting to rules comes in its value as: 'Categorical Imperatives', that contain in itself the reason to be fulfilled.

There exist normative ethical systems that do not require principles and rules to be given by a deity. Some include virtue ethics, social contract, Kantian ethics, utilitarianism, and Objectivism. Sam Harris has proposed that moral prescription (ethical rule making) is not just an issue to be explored by philosophy, but that we can meaningfully practice a science of morality. Any such scientific system must, nevertheless, respond to the criticism embodied in the naturalistic fallacy.[116]

Philosophers Susan Neiman[117]and Julian Baggini[118](among others) assert that behaving ethically only because of divine mandate is not true ethical behavior but merely blind obedience. Baggini argues that atheism is a superior basis for ethics, claiming that a moral basis external to religious imperatives is necessary to evaluate the morality of the imperatives themselvesto be able to discern, for example, that "thou shalt steal" is immoral even if one's religion instructs itand that atheists, therefore, have the advantage of being more inclined to make such evaluations.[119]The contemporary British political philosopher Martin Cohen has offered the more historically telling example of Biblical injunctions in favor of torture and slavery as evidence of how religious injunctions follow political and social customs, rather than vice versa, but also noted that the same tendency seems to be true of supposedly dispassionate and objective philosophers.[120] Cohen extends this argument in more detail in Political Philosophy from Plato to Mao, where he argues that the Qur'an played a role in perpetuating social codes from the early 7th century despite changes in secular society.[121]

Some prominent atheistsmost recently Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, and following such thinkers as Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll, Voltaire, and novelist Jos Saramagohave criticized religions, citing harmful aspects of religious practices and doctrines.[122]

The 19th-century German political theorist and sociologist Karl Marx called religion "the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people". He goes on to say, "The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."[123] Lenin said that "every religious idea and every idea of God is unutterable vileness... of the most dangerous kind, 'contagion' of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagions... are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of God decked out in the smartest ideological costumes..."[124]

Sam Harris criticizes Western religion's reliance on divine authority as lending itself to authoritarianism and dogmatism.There is a correlation between religious fundamentalism and extrinsic religion (when religion is held because it serves ulterior interests)[126] and authoritarianism, dogmatism, and prejudice.[127]These argumentscombined with historical events that are argued to demonstrate the dangers of religion, such as the Crusades, inquisitions, witch trials, and terrorist attackshave been used in response to claims of beneficial effects of belief in religion.[128]Believers counter-argue that some regimes that espouse atheism, such as the Soviet Union, have also been guilty of mass murder.[129][130] In response to those claims, atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins have stated that Stalin's atrocities were influenced not by atheism but by dogmatic Marxism, and that while Stalin and Mao happened to be atheists, they did not do their deeds in the name of atheism.[132]

In early ancient Greek, the adjective theos (, from the privative - + "god") meant "godless". It was first used as a term of censure roughly meaning "ungodly" or "impious". In the 5th century BCE, the word began to indicate more deliberate and active godlessness in the sense of "severing relations with the gods" or "denying the gods". The term (asebs) then came to be applied against those who impiously denied or disrespected the local gods, even if they believed in other gods. Modern translations of classical texts sometimes render theos as "atheistic". As an abstract noun, there was also (atheots), "atheism". Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin theos. The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.[13]

The term atheist (from Fr. athe), in the sense of "one who... denies the existence of God or gods",[134]predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566,[135]and again in 1571.[136]Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577.[137]The term atheism was derived from the French athisme,[138] and appears in English about 1587.[139]An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonism.[140][141]Related words emerged later: deist in 1621,[142]theist in 1662,[143]deism in 1675,[144]and theism in 1678.[145]At that time "deist" and "deism" already carried their modern meaning. The term theism came to be contrasted with deism.

Karen Armstrong writes that "During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the word 'atheist' was still reserved exclusively for polemic... The term 'atheist' was an insult. Nobody would have dreamed of calling himself an atheist."

Atheism was first used to describe a self-avowed belief in late 18th-century Europe, specifically denoting disbelief in the monotheistic Abrahamic god.[146]In the 20th century, globalization contributed to the expansion of the term to refer to disbelief in all deities, though it remains common in Western society to describe atheism as simply "disbelief in God".

While the earliest-found usage of the term atheism is in 16th-century France,[138][139] ideas that would be recognized today as atheistic are documented from the Vedic period and the classical antiquity.

Who really knows? Who will here proclaim it? Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation? The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen?

Atheistic schools are found in early Indian thought and have existed from the times of the historical Vedic religion.[150]Among the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, Samkhya, the oldest philosophical school of thought, does not accept God, and the early Mimamsa also rejected the notion of God.[151]The thoroughly materialistic and anti-theistic philosophical Crvka (or Lokyata) school that originated in India around the 6th century BCE is probably the most explicitly atheistic school of philosophy in India, similar to the Greek Cyrenaic school. This branch of Indian philosophy is classified as heterodox due to its rejection of the authority of Vedas and hence is not considered part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism, but it is noteworthy as evidence of a materialistic movement within Hinduism.[152]

Chatterjee and Datta explain that our understanding of Crvka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools, and that it is not a living tradition:[153]

Though materialism in some form or other has always been present in India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later philosophical works we do not find any systematic work on materialism, nor any organized school of followers as the other philosophical schools possess. But almost every work of the other schools states, for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian materialism is chiefly based on these.

Other Indian philosophies generally regarded as atheistic include Classical Samkhya and Purva Mimamsa. The rejection of a personal creator God is also seen in Jainism and Buddhism in India.[154]

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy,[157][158] but atheism in the modern sense was extremely rare in ancient Greece.[159][160][158] Pre-Socratic Atomists such as Democritus attempted to explain the world in a purely materialistic way and interpreted religion as a human reaction to natural phenomena,[155] but did not explicitly deny the gods' existence.[155] Anaxagoras, whom Irenaeus calls "the atheist",[161] was accused of impiety and condemned for stating that "the sun is a type of incandescent stone", an affirmation with which he tried to deny the divinity of the celestial bodies.[162] In the late fifth century BCE, the Greek lyric poet Diagoras of Melos was sentenced to death in Athens under the charge of being a "godless person" () after he made fun of the Eleusinian Mysteries,[159][160][155] but he fled the city to escape punishment.[159][160][155] Later writers have cited Diagoras as the "first atheist",[163][164] but he was probably not an atheist in the modern sense of the word.[160]

A fragment from the lost satyr play Sisyphus, which has been attributed to both Critias and Euripides, claims that a clever man invented "the fear of the gods" in order to frighten people into behaving morally.[165][160][166][160][158] This statement, however, originally did not mean that the gods themselves were nonexistent, but rather that their powers were a hoax.[158] Atheistic statements have also been attributed to the philosopher Prodicus. Philodemus reports that Prodicus believed that "the gods of popular belief do not exist nor do they know, but primitive man, [out of admiration, deified] the fruits of the earth and virtually everything that contributed to his existence". Protagoras has sometimes been taken to be an atheist, but rather espoused agnostic views, commenting that "Concerning the gods I am unable to discover whether they exist or not, or what they are like in form; for there are many hindrances to knowledge, the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life."[167][159]

The Athenian public associated Socrates (c. 470399 BCE) with the trends in pre-Socratic philosophy towards naturalistic inquiry and the rejection of divine explanations for phenomena.[155][156] Aristophanes' comic play The Clouds (performed 423 BCE) portrays Socrates as teaching his students that the traditional Greek deities do not exist.[155][156] Socrates was later tried and executed under the charge of not believing in the gods of the state and instead worshipping foreign gods.[155][156] Socrates himself vehemently denied the charges of atheism at his trial[155][156][168] and all the surviving sources about him indicate that he was a very devout man, who prayed to the rising sun and believed that the oracle at Delphi spoke the word of Apollo.[155] Euhemerus (c. 300 BCE) published his view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors and founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political structures.[169] Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having "spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods".[170]

The most important Greek thinker in the development of atheism was Epicurus (c. 300 BCE).[158] Drawing on the ideas of Democritus and the Atomists, he espoused a materialistic philosophy according to which the universe was governed by the laws of chance without the need for divine intervention (see scientific determinism).[171] Although Epicurus still maintained that the gods existed,[172][158][171] he believed that they were uninterested in human affairs.[171] The aim of the Epicureans was to attain ataraxia ("peace of mind") and one important way of doing this was by exposing fear of divine wrath as irrational. The Epicureans also denied the existence of an afterlife and the need to fear divine punishment after death.[171]

In the 3rd-century BCE, the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cyrenaicus[164][173] and Strato of Lampsacus[174] did not believe in the existence of gods.

The Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus compiled a large number of ancient arguments against the existence of gods, recommending that one should suspend judgment regarding the matter.[175] His relatively large volume of surviving works had a lasting influence on later philosophers.[176]

The meaning of "atheist" changed over the course of classical antiquity.[160] Early Christians were widely reviled as "atheists" because they did not believe in the existence of the Graeco-Roman deities.[177][160][178][179] During the Roman Empire, Christians were executed for their rejection of the Roman gods in general and the Imperial cult of ancient Rome in particular.[179][180] There was, however, a heavy struggle between Christians and pagans, in which each group accused the other of atheism, for not practicing the religion which they considered correct.[181] When Christianity became the state religion of Rome under Theodosius I in 381, heresy became a punishable offense.[180]

During the Early Middle Ages, the Islamic world experienced a Golden Age. Along with advances in science and philosophy, Arab and Persian lands produced outspoken rationalists and atheists, including Muhammad al Warraq (fl. 9th century), Ibn al-Rawandi (827911), Al-Razi (854925), and Al-Maarri (9731058). Al-Ma'arri wrote and taught that religion itself was a "fable invented by the ancients"[182] and that humans were "of two sorts: those with brains, but no religion, and those with religion, but no brains."[183] Despite their being relatively prolific writers, little of their work survives, mainly being preserved through quotations and excerpts in later works by Muslim apologists attempting to refute them.[184] Other prominent Golden Age scholars have been associated with rationalist thought and atheism as well, although the current intellectual atmosphere in the Islamic world, and the scant evidence that survives from the era, make this point a contentious one today.

In Europe, the espousal of atheistic views was rare during the Early Middle Ages and Middle Ages (see Medieval Inquisition); metaphysics and theology were the dominant interests pertaining to religion.[185] There were, however, movements within this period that furthered heterodox conceptions of the Christian god, including differing views of the nature, transcendence, and knowability of God. Individuals and groups such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena, David of Dinant, Amalric of Bena, and the Brethren of the Free Spirit maintained Christian viewpoints with pantheistic tendencies. Nicholas of Cusa held to a form of fideism he called docta ignorantia ("learned ignorance"), asserting that God is beyond human categorization, and thus our knowledge of him is limited to conjecture. William of Ockham inspired anti-metaphysical tendencies with his nominalistic limitation of human knowledge to singular objects, and asserted that the divine essence could not be intuitively or rationally apprehended by human intellect. Followers of Ockham, such as John of Mirecourt and Nicholas of Autrecourt furthered this view. The resulting division between faith and reason influenced later radical and reformist theologians such as John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and Martin Luther.[185]

The Renaissance did much to expand the scope of free thought and skeptical inquiry. Individuals such as Leonardo da Vinci sought experimentation as a means of explanation, and opposed arguments from religious authority. Other critics of religion and the Church during this time included Niccol Machiavelli, Bonaventure des Priers, Michel de Montaigne, and Franois Rabelais.[176]

Historian Geoffrey Blainey wrote that the Reformation had paved the way for atheists by attacking the authority of the Catholic Church, which in turn "quietly inspired other thinkers to attack the authority of the new Protestant churches".[186] Deism gained influence in France, Prussia, and England. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza was "probably the first well known 'semi-atheist' to announce himself in a Christian land in the modern era", according to Blainey. Spinoza believed that natural laws explained the workings of the universe. In 1661 he published his Short Treatise on God.[187]

Criticism of Christianity became increasingly frequent in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in France and England, where there appears to have been a religious malaise, according to contemporary sources. Some Protestant thinkers, such as Thomas Hobbes, espoused a materialist philosophy and skepticism toward supernatural occurrences, while Spinoza rejected divine providence in favor of a panentheistic naturalism. By the late 17th century, deism came to be openly espoused by intellectuals such as John Toland who coined the term "pantheist".[188]

The first known explicit atheist was the German critic of religion Matthias Knutzen in his three writings of 1674.[189] He was followed by two other explicit atheist writers, the Polish ex-Jesuit philosopher Kazimierz yszczyski and in the 1720s by the French priest Jean Meslier.[190] In the course of the 18th century, other openly atheistic thinkers followed, such as Baron d'Holbach, Jacques-Andr Naigeon, and other French materialists.[191] John Locke in contrast, though an advocate of tolerance, urged authorities not to tolerate atheism, believing that the denial of God's existence would undermine the social order and lead to chaos.[192]

The philosopher David Hume developed a skeptical epistemology grounded in empiricism, and Immanuel Kant's philosophy has strongly questioned the very possibility of a metaphysical knowledge. Both philosophers undermined the metaphysical basis of natural theology and criticized classical arguments for the existence of God.

Blainey notes that, although Voltaire is widely considered to have strongly contributed to atheistic thinking during the Revolution, he also considered fear of God to have discouraged further disorder, having said "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."[193] In Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), the philosopher Edmund Burke denounced atheism, writing of a "literary cabal" who had "some years ago formed something like a regular plan for the destruction of the Christian religion. This object they pursued with a degree of zeal which hitherto had been discovered only in the propagators of some system of piety... These atheistical fathers have a bigotry of their own...". But, Burke asserted, "man is by his constitution a religious animal" and "atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and... it cannot prevail long".[194]

Baron d'Holbach was a prominent figure in the French Enlightenment who is best known for his atheism and for his voluminous writings against religion, the most famous of them being The System of Nature (1770) but also Christianity Unveiled. One goal of the French Revolution was a restructuring and subordination of the clergy with respect to the state through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Attempts to enforce it led to anti-clerical violence and the expulsion of many clergy from France, lasting until the Thermidorian Reaction. The radical Jacobins seized power in 1793, ushering in the Reign of Terror. The Jacobins were deists and introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being as a new French state religion. Some atheists surrounding Jacques Hbert instead sought to establish a Cult of Reason, a form of atheistic pseudo-religion with a goddess personifying reason. The Napoleonic era further institutionalized the secularization of French society.

In the latter half of the 19th century, atheism rose to prominence under the influence of rationalistic and freethinking philosophers. Many prominent German philosophers of this era denied the existence of deities and were critical of religion, including Ludwig Feuerbach, Arthur Schopenhauer, Max Stirner, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche.[195]

George Holyoake was the last person (1842) imprisoned in Great Britain due to atheist beliefs. Law notes that he may have also been the first imprisoned on such a charge. Stephen Law states that Holyoake "first coined the term 'secularism'".[196][197]

Atheism, particularly in the form of practical atheism, advanced in many societies in the 20th century. Atheistic thought found recognition in a wide variety of other, broader philosophies, such as existentialism, objectivism, secular humanism, nihilism, anarchism, logical positivism, Marxism, feminism,[198] and the general scientific and rationalist movement.

In addition, state atheism emerged in Eastern Europe and Asia during that period, particularly in the Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, and in Communist China under Mao Zedong. Atheist and anti-religious policies in the Soviet Union included numerous legislative acts, the outlawing of religious instruction in the schools, and the emergence of the League of Militant Atheists.[199][200] After Mao, the Chinese Communist Party remains an atheist organization, and regulates, but does not forbid, the practice of religion in mainland China.[201][202][203]

While Geoffrey Blainey has written that "the most ruthless leaders in the Second World War were atheists and secularists who were intensely hostile to both Judaism and Christianity",[204] Richard Madsen has pointed out that Hitler and Stalin each opened and closed churches as a matter of political expedience, and Stalin softened his opposition to Christianity in order to improve public acceptance of his regime during the war.[205] Blackford and Schklenk have written that "the Soviet Union was undeniably an atheist state, and the same applies to Maoist China and Pol Pot's fanatical Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s. That does not, however, show that the atrocities committed by these totalitarian dictatorships were the result of atheist beliefs, carried out in the name of atheism, or caused primarily by the atheistic aspects of the relevant forms of communism."[206]

Logical positivism and scientism paved the way for neopositivism, analytical philosophy, structuralism, and naturalism. Neopositivism and analytical philosophy discarded classical rationalism and metaphysics in favor of strict empiricism and epistemological nominalism. Proponents such as Bertrand Russell emphatically rejected belief in God. In his early work, Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to separate metaphysical and supernatural language from rational discourse. A.J. Ayer asserted the unverifiability and meaninglessness of religious statements, citing his adherence to the empirical sciences. Relatedly the applied structuralism of Lvi-Strauss sourced religious language to the human subconscious in denying its transcendental meaning. J.N. Findlay and J.J.C. Smart argued that the existence of God is not logically necessary. Naturalists and materialistic monists such as John Dewey considered the natural world to be the basis of everything, denying the existence of God or immortality.[59][207]

Other leaders like Periyar E.V. Ramasamy, a prominent atheist leader of India, fought against Hinduism and Brahmins for discriminating and dividing people in the name of caste and religion.[208]This was highlighted in 1956 when he arranged for the erection of a statue depicting a Hindu god in a humble representation and made antitheistic statements.[209]

Atheist Vashti McCollum was the plaintiff in a landmark 1948 Supreme Court case that struck down religious education in US public schools.[210] Madalyn Murray O'Hair was perhaps one of the most influential American atheists; she brought forth the 1963 Supreme Court case Murray v. Curlett which banned compulsory prayer in public schools.[211] In 1966, Time magazine asked "Is God Dead?"[212] in response to the Death of God theological movement, citing the estimation that nearly half of all people in the world lived under an anti-religious power, and millions more in Africa, Asia, and South America seemed to lack knowledge of the Christian view of theology.[213] The Freedom From Religion Foundation was co-founded by Anne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor, in 1976 in the United States, and incorporated nationally in 1978. It promotes the separation of church and state.[214][215]

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the number of actively anti-religious regimes has declined considerably. In 2006, Timothy Shah of the Pew Forum noted "a worldwide trend across all major religious groups, in which God-based and faith-based movements in general are experiencing increasing confidence and influence vis--vis secular movements and ideologies."[216]However, Gregory S. Paul and Phil Zuckerman consider this a myth and suggest that the actual situation is much more complex and nuanced.[217]

A 2010 survey found that those identifying themselves as atheists or agnostics are on average more knowledgeable about religion than followers of major faiths. Nonbelievers scored better on questions about tenets central to Protestant and Catholic faiths. Only Mormon and Jewish faithful scored as well as atheists and agnostics.[218]

In 2012, the first "Women in Secularism" conference was held in Arlington, Virginia.[219] Secular Woman was organized in 2012 as a national organization focused on nonreligious women.[220] The atheist feminist movement has also become increasingly focused on fighting sexism and sexual harassment within the atheist movement itself.[221]In August 2012, Jennifer McCreight (the organizer of Boobquake) founded a movement within atheism known as Atheism Plus, or A+, that "applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime".[222][223][224]

In 2013 the first atheist monument on American government property was unveiled at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida: a 1,500-pound granite bench and plinth inscribed with quotes by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Madalyn Murray O'Hair.[225][226]

"New Atheism" is the name that has been given to a movement among some early-21st-century atheist writers who have advocated the view that "religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises."[227]The movement is commonly associated with Sam Harris, Daniel C. Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Victor J. Stenger, Christopher Hitchens, and to some extent Ayaan Hirsi Ali.[228] Several best-selling books by these authors, published between 2004 and 2007, form the basis for much of the discussion of "New" Atheism. The new atheists and Dawkins in particular have been accused of committing the strawman fallacy [230] and of creating a new religion: Scientism.[231]

In best selling books, the religiously motivated terrorist events of 9/11 and the partially successful attempts of the Discovery Institute to change the American science curriculum to include creationist ideas, together with support for those ideas from George W. Bush in 2005, have been cited by authors such as Harris, Dennett, Dawkins, Stenger, and Hitchens as evidence of a need to move toward a more secular society.[232]

It is difficult to quantify the number of atheists in the world. Respondents to religious-belief polls may define "atheism" differently or draw different distinctions between atheism, non-religious beliefs, and non-theistic religious and spiritual beliefs.[234] A Hindu atheist would declare oneself as a Hindu, although also being an atheist at the same time.[235] A 2010 survey published in Encyclopdia Britannica found that the non-religious made up about 9.6% of the world's population, and atheists about 2.0%, with a very large majority based in Asia. This figure did not include those who follow atheistic religions, such as some Buddhists.[236] The average annual change for atheism from 2000 to 2010 was 0.17%.[236] Broad estimates of those who have an absence of belief in a god range from 500 million to 1.1 billion people worldwide.[237][238]

According to global Win-Gallup International studies, 13% of respondents were "convinced atheists" in 2012,[239] 11% were "convinced atheists" in 2015,[27] and in 2017, 9% were "convinced atheists".[28] As of 2012[update], the top 10 surveyed countries with people who viewed themselves as "convinced atheists" were China (47%), Japan (31%), the Czech Republic (30%), France (29%), South Korea (15%), Germany (15%), Netherlands (14%), Austria (10%), Iceland (10%), Australia (10%), and the Republic of Ireland (10%).[240]

According to the 2010 Eurobarometer Poll, the percentage of those polled who agreed with the statement "you don't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force" varied from a high percentage in France (40%), Czech Republic (37%), Sweden (34%), Netherlands (30%), and Estonia (29%); medium-high percentage in Germany (27%), Belgium (27%), UK (25%); to very low in Poland (5%), Greece (4%), Cyprus (3%), Malta (2%), and Romania (1%), with the European Union as a whole at 20%.[33] In a 2012 Eurobarometer poll on discrimination in the European Union, 16% of those polled considered themselves non believers/agnostics and 7% considered themselves atheists.[242]

According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2012 religiously unaffiliated (including agnostics and atheists) make up about 18% of Europeans.[243] According to the same survey, the religiously unaffiliated are the majority of the population only in two European countries: Czech Republic (75%) and Estonia (60%).[243]

There are another three countries, and one special administrative region of China or regions where the unaffiliated make up a majority of the population: North Korea (71%), Japan (57%), Hong Kong (56%), and China (52%).[243]

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 30% of Australians have "no religion", a category that includes atheists.[244]

In a 2013 census, 42% of New Zealanders reported having no religion, up from 30% in 1991.[245] Men were more likely than women to report no religion.

According to the World Values Survey, 4.4% of Americans self-identified as atheists in 2014.[246] However, the same survey showed that 11.1% of all respondents stated "no" when asked if they believed in God.[246] In 1984, these same figures were 1.1% and 2.2%, respectively. According to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, 3.1% of the US adult population identify as atheist, up from 1.6% in 2007; and within the religiously unaffiliated (or "no religion") demographic, atheists made up 13.6%.[247] According to the 2015 General Sociological Survey the number of atheists and agnostics in the US has remained relatively flat in the past 23 years since in 1991 only 2% identified as atheist and 4% identified as agnostic and in 2014 only 3% identified as atheists and 5% identified as agnostics.[248]

According to the American Family Survey, 34% were found to be religiously unaffiliated in 2017 (23% 'nothing in particular', 6% agnostic, 5% atheist).[249][250] According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014, 22.8% of the American population does not identify with a religion, including atheists (3.1%) and agnostics (4%).[251] According to a PRRI survey, 24% of the population is unaffiliated. Atheists and agnostics combined make up about a quarter of this unaffiliated demographic.[252]

In recent years, the profile of atheism has risen substantially in the Arab world.[253] In major cities across the region, such as Cairo, atheists have been organizing in cafs and social media, despite regular crackdowns from authoritarian governments.[253] A 2012 poll by Gallup International revealed that 5% of Saudis considered themselves to be "convinced atheists."[253] However, very few young people in the Arab world have atheists in their circle of friends or acquaintances. According to one study, less than 1% did in Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or Jordan; only 3% to 7% in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Palestine.[254] When asked whether they have "seen or heard traces of atheism in [their] locality, community, and society" only about 3% to 8% responded yes in all the countries surveyed. The only exception was the UAE, with a percentage of 51%.[254]

Various studies have reported positive correlations between levels of education, wealth and IQ with atheism.[255][256][257][95] According to evolutionary psychologist Nigel Barber, atheism blossoms in places where most people feel economically secure, particularly in the social democracies of Europe, as there is less uncertainty about the future with extensive social safety nets and better health care resulting in a greater quality of life and higher life expectancy. By contrast, in underdeveloped countries, there are virtually no atheists.[258]

The relationship between atheism and IQ, while statistically significant, is not a large one, and the reason for the relationship is not well understood.[255] One hypothesis is that the negative relationship between IQ and religiosity is mediated by individual differences in noncomformity; in many countries, religious belief is a conformist choice, and there is evidence that more intelligent people are less likely to conform.[259] Another theory is that people of higher IQ are more likely to engage in analytical reasoning, and that disbelief in religion results from the application of higher level analytical reasoning to the assessment of religious claims.[255]

Statistically, atheists are held in poor regard across the globe. Non-atheists, and possibly even fellow atheists, seem to implicitly view atheists as prone to exhibit immoral behaviors ranging from mass murder to not paying at a restaurant.[260][261][262] In addition, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center publication, 15% of French people, 45% of Americans, and 99% of Indonesians explicitly believe that a person must believe in God to be moral. Pew furthermore noted that, in a U.S. poll, atheists and Muslims tied for the lowest rating among the major religious demographics on a "feeling thermometer".[263] Also, a study of religious college students found that they were more likely to perceive and interact with atheists negatively after considering their mortality, suggesting that these attitudes may be the result of death anxiety.[264]

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Atheism - Wikipedia

What is Atheism? | American Atheists

Atheism is one thing: A lack of belief in gods.

Atheism isnot an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too oftendefined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.

Older dictionaries define atheism as a belief that there is no God. Clearly, theistic influence taints these definitions. The fact that dictionaries define Atheism as there is no God betrays the (mono)theistic influence. Without the (mono)theistic influence, the definition would at least read there are no gods.

While there are some religions that are atheistic (certain sects of Buddhism, for example), that does not mean that atheism is a religion. To put it in a more humorous way: If atheism is a religion, thennot collecting stamps is a hobby.

Despite the fact that atheism is not a religion, atheism is protected by many of the same Constitutional rights that protect religion. That, however, does not mean that atheism is itself a religion, only that our sincerely held (lack of) beliefs are protected in the same way as the religious beliefs of others. Similarly, many interfaith groups will include atheists. This, again, does not mean that atheism is a religious belief.

Some groups will use words like Agnostic, Humanist, Secular, Bright, Freethinker, or any number of other terms to self identify. Those words are perfectly fine as a self-identifier, but we strongly advocate using the word that people understand: Atheist. Dont use those other terms to disguise your atheism or to shy away from a word that some think has a negative connotation. We should be using the terminology that is most accurate and that answers the question that is actually being asked. We should use the term that binds all of us together.

If you call yourself a humanist, a freethinker, a bright, or even a cultural Catholic and lack belief in a god, you are an atheist. Dont shy away from the term. Embrace it.

Agnostic isnt just a weaker version of being an atheist. It answers a different question. Atheism is about what you believe. Agnosticism is about what you know.

In recent surveys, the Pew Research Center has grouped atheists, agnostics, and the unaffiliated into one category. The so-called Nones are the fastest growing religious demographic in the United States. Pewseparates out atheists from agnostics and the non-religious, but that is primarily a function of self-identification. Only about 5% of people call themselves atheists, but if you ask about belief in gods, 11% say they do not believe in gods. Those people are atheists, whether they choose to use the word or not.

A recent survey fromUniversity of Kentucky psychologists Will Gervais and Maxine Najle found that as many as 26% of Americans may be atheists. This study was designed to overcome the stigma associated with atheism and the potential for closeted atheists to abstain from outing themselves even when speaking anonymously to pollsters. The full study is awaiting publication inSocial Psychological and Personality Sciencejournal but a pre-print version is available here.

Even more people say that their definition of god is simply a unifying force between all people. Or that they arent sure what they believe.If you lack an active belief in gods, you are an atheist.

Being an atheist doesnt mean youre sure about every theological question, have answers to the way the world was created, or how evolution works. It just means that the assertion that gods exist has left you unconvinced.

Wishing that there was an afterlife, or a creator god, or a specific god doesnt mean youre not an atheist. Being an atheist is about what you believe and dont believe, not about what you wish to be true or would find comforting.

The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints.

Atheists exist across the political spectrum. We are members of every race. We are members of the LGBTQ* community. There are atheists in urban, suburban, and rural communities and in every state of the nation.

We have more than 170 affiliates and local partners nationwide. If you are looking for a community, we strongly recommend reaching out to an affiliate in your area.

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What is Atheism? | American Atheists

atheism | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to …

Atheism as rejection of religious beliefs

A central, common core of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is the affirmation of the reality of one, and only one, God. Adherents of these faiths believe that there is a God who created the universe out of nothing and who has absolute sovereignty over all his creation; this includes, of course, human beingswho are not only utterly dependent on this creative power but also sinful and who, or so the faithful must believe, can only make adequate sense of their lives by accepting, without question, Gods ordinances for them. The varieties of atheism are numerous, but all atheists reject such a set of beliefs.

Atheism, however, casts a wider net and rejects all belief in spiritual beings, and to the extent that belief in spiritual beings is definitive of what it means for a system to be religious, atheism rejects religion. So atheism is not only a rejection of the central conceptions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; it is, as well, a rejection of the religious beliefs of such African religions as that of the Dinka and the Nuer, of the anthropomorphic gods of classical Greece and Rome, and of the transcendental conceptions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Generally atheism is a denial of God or of the gods, and if religion is defined in terms of belief in spiritual beings, then atheism is the rejection of all religious belief.

It is necessary, however, if a tolerably adequate understanding of atheism is to be achieved, to give a reading to rejection of religious belief and to come to realize how the characterization of atheism as the denial of God or the gods is inadequate.

To say that atheism is the denial of God or the gods and that it is the opposite of theism, a system of belief that affirms the reality of God and seeks to demonstrate his existence, is inadequate in a number of ways. First, not all theologians who regard themselves as defenders of the Christian faith or of Judaism or Islam regard themselves as defenders of theism. The influential 20th-century Protestant theologian Paul Tillich, for example, regards the God of theism as an idol and refuses to construe God as a being, even a supreme being, among beings or as an infinite being above finite beings. God, for him, is being-itself, the ground of being and meaning. The particulars of Tillichs view are in certain ways idiosyncratic, as well as being obscure and problematic, but they have been influential; and his rejection of theism, while retaining a belief in God, is not eccentric in contemporary theology, though it may very well affront the plain believer.

Second, and more important, it is not the case that all theists seek to demonstrate or even in any way rationally to establish the existence of God. Many theists regard such a demonstration as impossible, and fideistic believers (e.g., Johann Hamann and Sren Kierkegaard) regard such a demonstration, even if it were possible, as undesirable, for in their view it would undermine faith. If it could be proved, or known for certain, that God exists, people would not be in a position to accept him as their sovereign Lord humbly on faith with all the risks that entails. There are theologians who have argued that for genuine faith to be possible God must necessarily be a hidden God, the mysterious ultimate reality, whose existence and authority must be accepted simply on faith. This fideistic view has not, of course, gone without challenge from inside the major faiths, but it is of sufficient importance to make the above characterization of atheism inadequate.

Finally, and most important, not all denials of God are denials of his existence. Believers sometimes deny God while not being at all in a state of doubt that God exists. They either willfully reject what they take to be his authority by not acting in accordance with what they take to be his will, or else they simply live their lives as if God did not exist. In this important way they deny him. Such deniers are not atheists (unless we wish, misleadingly, to call them practical atheists). They are not even agnostics. They do not question that God exists; they deny him in other ways. An atheist denies the existence of God. As it is frequently said, atheists believe that it is false that God exists, or that Gods existence is a speculative hypothesis of an extremely low order of probability.

Yet it remains the case that such a characterization of atheism is inadequate in other ways. For one it is too narrow. There are atheists who believe that the very concept of God, at least in developed and less anthropomorphic forms of Judeo-Christianity and Islam, is so incoherent that certain central religious claims, such as God is my creator to whom everything is owed, are not genuine truth-claims; i.e., the claims could not be either true or false. Believers hold that such religious propositions are true, some atheists believe that they are false, and there are agnostics who cannot make up their minds whether to believe that they are true or false. (Agnostics think that the propositions are one or the other but believe that it is not possible to determine which.) But all three are mistaken, some atheists argue, for such putative truth-claims are not sufficiently intelligible to be genuine truth-claims that are either true or false. In reality there is nothing in them to be believed or disbelieved, though there is for the believer the powerful and humanly comforting illusion that there is. Such an atheism, it should be added, rooted for some conceptions of God in considerations about intelligibility and what it makes sense to say, has been strongly resisted by some pragmatists and logical empiricists.

While the above considerations about atheism and intelligibility show the second characterization of atheism to be too narrow, it is also the case that this characterization is in a way too broad. For there are fideistic believers, who quite unequivocally believe that when looked at objectively the proposition that God exists has a very low probability weight. They believe in God not because it is probable that he existsthey think it more probable that he does notbut because belief is thought by them to be necessary to make sense of human life. The second characterization of atheism does not distinguish a fideistic believer (a Blaise Pascal or a Soren Kierkegaard) or an agnostic (a T.H. Huxley or a Sir Leslie Stephen) from an atheist such as Baron dHolbach. All believe that there is a God and God protects humankind, however emotionally important they may be, are speculative hypotheses of an extremely low order of probability. But this, since it does not distinguish believers from nonbelievers and does not distinguish agnostics from atheists, cannot be an adequate characterization of atheism.

It may be retorted that to avoid apriorism and dogmatic atheism the existence of God should be regarded as a hypothesis. There are no ontological (purely a priori) proofs or disproofs of Gods existence. It is not reasonable to rule in advance that it makes no sense to say that God exists. What the atheist can reasonably claim is that there is no evidence that there is a God, and against that background he may very well be justified in asserting that there is no God. It has been argued, however, that it is simply dogmatic for an atheist to assert that no possible evidence could ever give one grounds for believing in God. Instead, atheists should justify their unbelief by showing (if they can) how the assertion is well-taken that there is no evidence that would warrant a belief in God. If atheism is justified, the atheist will have shown that in fact there is no adequate evidence for the belief that God exists, but it should not be part of his task to try to show that there could not be any evidence for the existence of God. If the atheist could somehow survive the death of his present body (assuming that such talk makes sense) and come, much to his surprise, to stand in the presence of God, his answer should be, Oh! Lord, you didnt give me enough evidence! He would have been mistaken, and realize that he had been mistaken, in his judgment that God did not exist. Still, he would not have been unjustified, in the light of the evidence available to him during his earthly life, in believing as he did. Not having any such postmortem experiences of the presence of God (assuming that he could have them), what he should say, as things stand and in the face of the evidence he actually has and is likely to be able to get, is that it is false that God exists. (Every time one legitimately asserts that a proposition is false one need not be certain that it is false. Knowing with certainty is not a pleonasm.) The claim is that this tentative posture is the reasonable position for the atheist to take.

An atheist who argues in this manner may also make a distinctive burden-of-proof argument. Given that God (if there is one) is by definition a very recherch realitya reality that must be (for there to be such a reality) transcendent to the worldthe burden of proof is not on the atheist to give grounds for believing that there is no reality of that order. Rather, the burden of proof is on the believer to give some evidence for Gods existencei.e., that there is such a reality. Given what God must be, if there is a God, the theist needs to present the evidence, for such a very strange reality. He needs to show that there is more in the world than is disclosed by common experience. The empirical method, and the empirical method alone, such an atheist asserts, affords a reliable method for establishing what is in fact the case. To the claim of the theist that there are in addition to varieties of empirical facts spiritual facts or transcendent facts, such as it being the case that there is a supernatural, self-existent, eternal power, the atheist can assert that such facts have not been shown.

It will, however, be argued by such atheists, against what they take to be dogmatic aprioristic atheists, that the atheist should be a fallibilist and remain open-minded about what the future may bring. There may, after all, be such transcendent facts, such metaphysical realities. It is not that such a fallibilistic atheist is really an agnostic who believes that he is not justified in either asserting that God exists or denying that he exists and that what he must reasonably do is suspend belief. On the contrary, such an atheist believes that he has very good grounds indeed, as things stand, for denying the existence of God. But he will, on the second conceptualization of what it is to be an atheist, not deny that things could be otherwise and that, if they were, he would be justified in believing in God or at least would no longer be justified in asserting that it is false that there is a God. Using reliable empirical techniques, proven methods for establishing matters of fact, the fallibilistic atheist has found nothing in the universe to make a belief that God exists justifiable or even, everything considered, the most rational option of the various options. He therefore draws the atheistical conclusion (also keeping in mind his burden-of-proof argument) that God does not exist. But he does not dogmatically in a priori fashion deny the existence of God. He remains a thorough and consistent fallibilist.

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atheism | Definition, Philosophy, & Comparison to ...

Atheism | Definition of Atheism by Merriam-Webster

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1a : a lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods

b : a philosophical or religious position characterized by disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'atheism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

1546, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Middle French athisme, from athe atheist, from Greek atheos godless, from a- + theos god

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Atheism. Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/atheism. Accessed 19 May. 2020.

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Atheism | Definition of Atheism by Merriam-Webster

The Land Without Atheism | IndiaFactsIndiaFacts – IndiaFacts

Tamil Nadu is perhaps the only land where there is no atheism! This divine land sports tens of thousands of ancient Temples (44,121 belonging to different time periods, according to government figures) and many other later-day ones. It encompasses eventful places of the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha. It is the historical hub of many a spiritual phenomenon. It is the birthplace of sixty-three Nayanmars and twelve Azhwars, who spearheaded what we now refer to as the Bakthi Movement, and carried Bhakthi to every nook and cranny. It is also the land of Ramana Maharishi, Shri Ramanujar, and Siddars. Likewise, there are innumerable forms of theistic insignia to glorify this land. Nevertheless, any presumption that the absence of atheism is attributable to any of those theistic highlights might be misleading because, on the basis of belief in God, the people here could be classified into two broad categories the the ists and the pseudo-atheists.

This pseudo-atheism lends itself smoothly to a variety of distortions; no matter how much, or how many times, or in how many ways it is bent, it never breaks! It is probably this trait that makes it all the easier to embrace. Formulated by E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker (EVR), and promptly embraced by prominent leaders like M. Karunanithi, K. Veeramani, and others, it censures all the sanctified ideals of the land, and celebrates the imported, or foisted ones, without so much as a question. In other words, all its repulsive pronouncements are directed squarely at Hinduism, while all other religions remain recipients of its adulatory affirmations. Interestingly, the ideals which the Dravidian intellectuals vilify are the selfsame ideals which their own ancestors have venerated for generations, right down to the immediately preceding one. This pseudo-atheism and discerning intellect, which purports to eradicate superstition, constitute the bedrock of the Dravidian ideology, built upon falsification and hatred.

To do justice to EVR, one must acknowledge his accomplishments as a multifaceted personality!

* As an atheist, he prided himself on blaspheming Hindu deities, rituals, scriptures, observances, and practices. He basked in breaking Lord Ganesh idols, and organizing Ravanleela.

* As a social reformer, he kept flirting with harlots, and while on his overseas tours, he attended the nudist club.

* As a liberator of women, he traumatized his wife from going to temples by having a group of philanderers accost her inside a Temple. Further, he coerced his wife into supplying food for his band of harlots and fellow philanderers whenever they were out on their lecherous expeditions. He unabashedly advocated adultery and debauchery. Not to stop with that, he passed a party resolution demanding that such acts be legitimized under the constitution. He reviled the Thali (Mangal Suthra) calling it a symbol of women enslavement, and demanded the repeal of this custom. Thali-snapping conventions are being organized even today (by Veeramani and others) from time to time. However, they snap the Thali of only the other women, never of their own women folk! To top it all, EVR married his foster daughter, Maniammai, younger by nearly 40 years, an outrage which raised hackles even along the party lines.

* As a caste-eradicator, he called for the eradication of Brahmins, and displayed uncovered apathy toward Dalits. When around 44 Dalits, including women and children, were burnt alive by feudal landlords, near Nagapattinam, in 1968, instead of condemning the act, or at least expressing condolence, he criticized the victims for demanding higher wages saying, They should learn to live within their means. If those landlords had been Brahmins, or if the victims had not been Dalits, he would have probably reversed his stand, and put the criticism and compassion in their right places. He is often compared with Dr. Ambedkar. But at the rudimentary level, his views and those of Ambedkars are like parallel lines that never meet. In one instance, he even alleged that Dr. Ambedkar had received a bribe from Brahmins during the negotiations for reservations one shot, two birds.

* As an economist, he observed, Cloth price has gone up because the Pariah-caste women have started wearing jackets. And as an educationist, he warned, If Dalits become literates, unemployment will rise.

* As a patriot, he owed allegiance to the British, and wanted the British rule to continue. When that was not to be, he implored the British Queen to rule India from England. Anyway, the last thing he would tolerate was a free India, with Tamil Nadu being a part of it. Therefore, as a freedom fighter, he fought for a sovereign Dravidanadu. To this end, he exhorted the British and sought the help of Mohammed Ali Jinnah only to be snubbed by both. Even to this day, the idea of a separate dominion lies entrenched in the Dravidian ranks, and keeps creating ruckus, now and then, in various forms.

* Finally, as a way to self-appeasement, in separate instances, he passed a party resolution demanding the abrogation of the Supreme Court and made a clarion call for declaring August 15 as a Day of Mourning!

However, in his living days, EVR had much stronger opposition than support. He was severely criticized by every single prominent leader of his day; Karunanithi until he became or was close to becoming the Chief Minister was far from prominence. Even among the masses, EVRs thin line of followers were only those who would flock to him in spite of his despicable views, in spite of his habitual tantrums, and in spite of his trademark announcement, I want only fools! Whatever fame he is credited with, is but a posthumous attribution, which he owes to his disciples, idolizers, and hagiographers mostly to Karunanithi, less to Veeramani, and still less to a bunch of attention seekers. Being highly insightful and equally insensitive, they spoke and wrote volumes of eulogy shot through with downright lies, unfounded claims, and contaminated truth (more dangerous) to popularize EVR, and his Dravidianism. Karunanithi ensured the preponderance of these written accounts in all the state libraries. In many libraries, hardly a material could be seen on Tamil Nadu bereft of Dravidianism. Further, all this was thrust into the mainstream education of the Tamil Nadu state syllabus. Every question paper prepared by the state would mandatorily contain questions on this section; from the students angle, focusing on this section would mean a sure shot at marks. Thus, the young, impressionable minds were indoctrinated with this Dravidian delusion. Even the TNPSC exams could not escape such questions. By this, they made it impossible for the students to get out of this delusion even after they come out of school or college. Besides all this, they made the most out of newspapers, magazines, banners, posters, stage plays, movies, and whatnot to drag into their fold, the young and the old, the literate and the illiterate people from all walks of life!

Further, they have the uncanny knack of lifting the credit for others sweat, blood, and toil. For instance, Avinashi Lingam, the former Education Minister, and Kamarajar, the former Chief Minister were instrumental in making education accessible to the under-privileged children. But later the DMK, with power in hand, promptly put the Dravidian label on it. To this day, there is a large group of people who are living under the grateful impression that it was because of the Dravidian movement that they were privileged to some decent education which gave them some decent standard of living, all of which would have otherwise been stymied by the Brahmins! If the educated ones could be conned into such thoughts, what kind of glowing thoughts would the rest be prone to? The one thing that the real benefactors failed to do was give themselves airs. In a public meeting, when a subordinate uttered a couple of words in praise of Kamarajar, he at once thundered, Enough, cut it out I said; come straight to the point! Those leaders and benefactors not only Kamarajar or Avinashi Lingam, but also the others like Kakkan or Rajaji, for instance belonged to the old school of taught that strictures even accepting praise, leave alone asking for it. Morally lofty but politically inane, this bent of mind of theirs came as a blessing in disguise to the Dravidian leaders. Thus, when it came to publicity, it was not a tussle at all, but a mutually complementary interplay between self-effacing humility and all-absorbing rapacity!

In the absence of, or in addition to the other things with which to make their presence felt, the Dravidians have always taken to pseudo-atheism like duck to water. They would spread scurrilous propaganda against Sacred Scriptures, and Brahmins. To give just an outline without any exaggeration, they would reject Lord Shri Ram as a fictitious character invented by Brahmins but would hail Ravan as a great Tamil king of the past, who was martyred by the Sanskrit-speaking, wicked Raman! On similar lines, Lord Shri Krishna was a fiction, or a promiscuous character while Khamsa and the others were real-life martyrs! Those are only some random samples of the intellectual propaganda, while the profanities are too egregious to describe. They would stage plays with indescribably profaned versions of the Ramayana, and the Mahabharata. Those playwrights would be felicitated, among themselves (not by any university), with coveted titles as poets and literary geniuses. And there would be a rat race for such titles the more profane the script, the quicker and the higher the recognition. The hypnotized audience would be tricked into taking their version as true over whatever it had learnt perchance through hearsay and would obviously become infuriated against the Brahmins who had twisted the tale! Further, as a novel way to slight Brahmins, they would convene a gathering, perform a mock ceremony, and confer the Sacred Thread upon a pig. However, such ceremonies fizzled out following the retort, Is it a proclamation of their own identities, since it is the father who performs the Sacred Thread ceremony for his son?

Karunanithi, the obedient disciple of EVR, and five-non-successive-term Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu reveled and abetted in all his Mentors convulsions. No sooner had he risen to power, than he started unleashing terror on Brahmins. Thuggery or hooliganism, to these Dravidian mercenaries, is not the last resort, but the first, and they do not know of a second! Tamil Nadu became a spectacle of lynching of Brahmins, and depredation of Brahmin homes and properties. In short, Karunanithi became the pioneer to promote state-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan would be better off learning from this great master! He introduced the liquor culture in Tamil Nadu, squashing the earnest pleas of Rajaji, with whose support the DMK first tasted power. Along with prohibition, he lifted the erstwhile stigma on drinking, and elevated it from a lowly, shameful status to one of pride and style. Since then, the prime attraction to the public meetings of the Dravidian outfits, attended by huge throngs, has been liquor, biriyani, and some cash. On special occasions, these will be supplemented with dance performances of skimpily clad beauties!

Subsequent to the demise of EVR, he raised statues of his mentor in front of Temples and Mutts, besides other places. While his mentor was always brash in his traducements of Hinduism, this disciple was both brash and subtle, yet always incisive. When the proposition of providing electric supply for temples came up under his chiefministership, he inquired, Why do you need electric lamps? Will the halo of your gods not provide illumination to the temples? In the Ram Sethu issue, he argued, Who is this Raman? Where is the proof that he built a bridge? Was he a civil engineer? Which university did he graduate from? He scandalized Sacred Scriptures. He kept calling Lord Shri Krishna a lecher and a womaniser. However, he would inveigle himself into the affections of Muslims and Christians. This atheist would take part in Ramadan celebrations, wear the Islamic cap, and drink the porridge. He would openly applaud Islamic and Christian theistic practices. He would lavish greetings during their festive occasions but would never move his lips except to lambast during Hindu festivals. Holiday Greetings has become a get-away catch phrase for his descendants and followers today, to say something perfunctorily, but not give greetings to Hindus. Speaking at an Islamic wedding, his son Stalin commented that unlike in Islamic weddings, in Hindu weddings, people shed tears (jibing at Homam). Karunanithis daughter Kanimozhi wondered why they need security guards around the Hundial (the receptacle for offerings) in the Thirumala Temple, Can the Lord not protect it?

Besides the religious tantrums they keep throwing, the mental makeup of the DK and the DMK can be seen to reflect in all the words and actions of both the leaders and the followers. On one occasion, Jawahar Lal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, made an official trip to Sri Lanka, to hold bilateral discussions with Sirimovo Bandaranaike, his Sri Lankan counterpart. This event attracted the comment, He (Nehru) is a widower, and she (Bandaranaike) is a widow. They both shut themselves in a room for two hours. Imagine what should have happened! Such a comment was shot not by just an anonymous, demented party fanatic, but by the intellectual Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Karunanithi himself. On another occasion, when Indira Gandhi was seen with blood stains due to some injury on her forehead, as a result of some mob violence during her visit to Tamil Nadu, the same Chief Minister blurted out that it must be menstrual blood. These are just a few glimpses of the kind of thought process, and the quality of expression that identify the Dravidian lot. If the leader of the party and the head of the state, or their publications are capable of making such statements, what will a follower at the street level not be capable of doing? That is the class of people they are. Their vitriolic tirades on Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, and the other national and Tamil Nadu leaders seem to outweigh the ones stated above in every respect. For all this, they claim to possess political refinement, and criticize their opponents for the lack of it! These Dravidians constitute a cult of moral turpitude and social degeneration gleefully oblivious to dignity, culture, civility, morality, and every single virtuous ideal? On the top of it, they criticize the Brahmins for vitiating the Tamil culture; they claim Tamil Nadu to be the land of EVR. Is this the Sacred Tamil culture? By what standards can this Dravidian model designed by EVR, and glorified and diversified by his disciples be called any culture at all? If this model were to be passed off as the Tamil culture, what impression would an outsider get of this venerable land? Is it not a crying shame? Leave alone what they do to Brahmins, are they not doing criminal injustice to the entire Tamil community? Are these Dravidian spearheads not burying alive, the true, timeless Tamil culture known for its rectitude, uprightness, morality, selflessness, sacrifice, self-restraint, spirituality, and suchlike ethereal virtues preserved and nurtured by generations after generations of the highly civilised Tamil societies? This Dravidianism is a curse which has held Tamil Nadu under its crushing spell for nearly 70 years. The real Tamil Nadu can manifest itself with all its pristine glory and splendour only when this curse is lifted from the memories of the land. Jai Hind!

Featured Image: The Hindu

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

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This Is a Very, Very Tiny List of Elected Atheist Republicans – Friendly Atheist – Patheos

Almost a month ago, the group Republican Atheists sent a message to members hoping to publish a list of atheist Republicans who are elected officials in Republican groups and/or their cities/counties.

They wanted names.

I laughed a lot because the GOP, as a whole, is clearly hostile to people who arent white evangelicals, and thats evident through the policies they promote, their platform, and their top-tier candidates. Its hard to imagine Republican voters supporting a candidate whos openly and proudly non-religious, because Republican values go against what most non-religious people support. A party that supports Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence, and Ted Cruz isnt about to throw money and support to an avowed atheist. (They had a hard enough time getting their people to support a Mormon candidate in 2012.)

Ill freely admit there are conservative atheists especially ones who feel very strongly about one or two issues and vote on those issues alone but thats different from supporting todays GOP. Being a Republican today means backing a party whose politicians are overwhelmingly anti-science, anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-choice, and anti-church/state separation. It means supporting a president who blindly accepts and promotes conspiracy theories, surrounds himself with a coterie of evangelical Christians, and condemns expertise and reason whenever they contradict his whims.

Maybe some voters can deal with that cognitive dissonance but actual politicians? Cmon now. Lets be serious.

That said, I would love to know if there are any openly atheist elected Republicans out there. That would be newsworthy! But theyre not out there! Ive looked!

Just to prove my point, here are some numbers for you. After the 2018 midterms, by my best estimate, there were 52 openly non-religious politicians in the country at the state level or higher. Were talking about state representatives and state senators, along with one congressman. Many of them use the word atheist to describe themselves. (I didnt keep track of atheists below that level because, frankly, there would be too many.)

Every single one of them is a Democrat.

In 2017, I stumbled across one guy who was both an elected Republican and, it turned out, openly atheist but he soon switched parties (becoming a Libertarian) and lost his bid for re-election.

There are currently no elected Republicans at the state level or higher who are openly atheist.

52 Democrats. 0 Republicans.

If Im incorrect, though, Im all ears. I would love to know if there are elected officials in the Republican Party who openly reject God. That would be fascinating! (It would be weird, too, but thats a different issue.) If nothing else, having prominent atheists in the GOP might mean having some voices in the party pushing for science and church/state separation and countering the weight of the Religious Right.

Thats a long way to say I really looked forward to seeingthis list from Republican Atheists.

But the weeks came and went and there was no update. I was only told the list was coming and that it was not impressive. (Shocker. But thanks for the honesty.)

Yesterday, the group finally released the list.

Are you ready for it?

There are three names.

Thats it.

Poulson is a leader within his local GOP affiliate but not elected to anything outside of that. Same with Anderson, who ran for office in 2016 as a write-in candidate but got 0.00% of the votes.

As for Umphrey, she is indeed a Republican atheist but it should be noted that the city council elections are non-partisan and the body doesnt usually debate the more polarizing issues we see at the state level. There arent any examples of her publicly calling herself an atheist or a Republican, at least as it relates to her office or examples of her promoting atheism or the GOP during the campaign.

Thats not a criticism of her, by the way! Those kinds of issues just dont often come up at many city council meetings outside of invocations and the like. My point is that if I just looked at her record or public statements, I dont think I would be able to pin down that she was a Republican or an atheist. But shes the only person the group could find after nearly a month of searching and they already knew about her in 2018.

This whole search just proves my point: There are no openly atheist elected Republicans at the state level or higher. (Apparently they barely exist at lower levels, too.) That shouldnt surprise anyone.

Its been said that the only thing atheists have in common is one answer to one question. But many people who call themselves atheists support secular schools, oppose faith-based discrimination, want accessto birth control and contraception, etc. Its hard to imagine someone who cares enough about the topic of religion that she uses the label atheist finding a home in the GOP.

(I should also say the Democratic Party has a long way to go on these issues, too, but theres just no comparison.)

I would love for the Republican Atheists group to simply admit the current GOP is no place for open atheists but theyre working to change that and then I want to see what theyre doing to make that happen.

Instead, as far as Ive seen, all they ever do is promote MAGA memes and push conservative propaganda to their followers. Theyre like the Log Cabin Republicans a group that claims to represent LGBTQ people, but is widely considered a laughingstock because Republican politicians and judges routinely oppose LGBTQ rights. Theres no way to spin that. Every time the group tries to do it, its just pathetic.

But good luck getting Republican Atheists to admit all that.

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This Is a Very, Very Tiny List of Elected Atheist Republicans - Friendly Atheist - Patheos

The Black Humanist Heathen Gaze – TheHumanist.com – The Humanist

On Wednesday, May 20, the American Humanist Associations Center for Education presents its May Speaker Series event via Zoom (6:30-8:00pm ET) with Sikivu Hutchinson. The author will discuss her new book, Humanists in the Hood: Unapologetically Black, Feminist, and Heretical. The Zoom link to join is: https://zoom.us/j/95825362663 (and if maximum capacity is reached for the live event please note video will be available at a later date). The following is an excerpt from Humanists in the Hood, reprinted with permission of the author.

Growing up in the seventies and eighties as a secular Black girl, I rarely saw myself represented in mainstream childrens literature. One of the most popular teen books of the era was Judy Blumes Are You There God? Its Me, Margaret, a coming-of-age novel whose protagonist is an eleven-year-old white girl from a middle-class Jewish-Christian family. Blumes novel was considered controversial for the early seventies because it dealt explicitly with adolescent sexuality, puberty, desire, and religious skepticism. It was widely banned by conservative religious groups for its alleged anti-Christian and immoral themes. Still, even though Blumes lead character Margaret questions organized religion, she affirms her personal relationship with god at the end of the book.

Critics and activists of color have long pushed back against the publishing industry for the dearth of culturally diverse childrens and young adult literature. In much of childrens literature, the default child protagonist has been middle class, Christian, white, and male. Indeed, 75 percent of the 3,700 books reviewed by the Cooperative Childrens Book Center (CCBC) which were published in 2017 featured white protagonists. This is especially problematic given the U.S. rapidly diversifying population, in which a growing majority of children are non-white. In 2020, less than half of all children are projected to be non-Hispanic whites, and by 2050 it is projected that this number will have declined to approximately 39 percent. The representation deficit spotlighted by the CCBC is also problematic when considering that many white children are not exposed to literature that feature protagonists or communities unlike their own. In addition, the CCBC found that the majority of books featuring African American, Indigenous, and Latinx protagonists were written by white authors. Similarly, LGBTQI childrens book characters were overwhelmingly written by straight, cisgender authors. In 2014, authors of color created the We Need Diverse Books campaign to redress the systemic problem of underrepresentation in childrens literature. The campaign was initially sparked on Twitter in response to an all-white male childrens author panel at the 2014 BookCon festival. This representation deficit is just as much a humanist concern as church-state separation. Why? Because multicultural childrens literature has the capacity to elicit critical consciousness, challenge the dominant culture, redress toxic, preconceived notions about the other, and, ultimately, save lives.

For generations (before the Internet and social media hijacked the custom of reading print literature), children received messages about what was human from books and iconic literary figures. Human characters, fantastical characters, and anthropomorphized animal characters taught us what was heroic, villainous, lovable, contemptuous, good, bad, and all points in between. As a form of cultural socialization, these portrayals provided guideposts for morality and ethicsbe they Pinocchios lesson on truth telling or working-class Charlie Buckets lesson on greed and selfishness in the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Ironically enough, Charlie was originally intended to be a Black character. [Roald] Dahl was reportedly persuaded by his agent to change him to a more socially acceptable (and presumably more universal) white protagonist. The ethnicity of childrens literature protagonists notwithstanding, the fact that most of these so-called universal lessons come from a white, Eurocentric literary lens underscores the burning need for secular humanist art and literature by and for people of color. This is especially true given the robustness of the Christian entertainment market and the way in which Christian respectability (I will unpack this term and its cultural implications in greater detail later in this chapter) influences gender roles, family structures, and sexual identity when it comes to Black and Latinx portrayals in mainstream TV, film, and literature. As streaming services, online platforms, and social media marketing have exploded over the past decade, Christian entertainment has become an influential niche market with diverse appeal in both traditional white evangelical communities and communities of color.

For example, in popular culture and academia, Christian entrepreneurialism and the faith-based gaze are booming. Christian films, reality shows, and maudlin TV dramas abound. Christian dating websites, Christian book publishers, education courses, colleges, and universities do a brisk business in faith-based propaganda. Most of these media and institutions tell us how to be, think, and do as flawed, made-in-His-image humans. According to a 2018 Los Angeles Times article on the rise of the Christian film industry, Studios now have to go to greater lengths to attract devout audiences in an increasingly challenged faith-based film business, as the market for Christian movies becomes more crowded. Although grosses of big budget Christian films have fallen off, the sheer glut of faith-based content sends a strong global message that reinforces the GOPs fantasy about the United States reigning Christian nation status. This message of Christian dominionism, or Christian theocracy, is embodied by faith-based legislation and public policies that imperil the economic self-determination of communities of color. GOP efforts to privatize public education by giving vouchers to religious schools, criminalize and outlaw abortion, and prohibit LGBTQI people from obtaining health care are especially pernicious because people of color disproportionately rely on what little remains of the social welfare safety net.

As an educator, playwright, and filmmaker-producer who strives to make the lives of humanist, atheist women of color visible in my work, Ive long challenged the lack of explicitly Black humanist secular content in American media and the arts. Where is the humanist cultural production to buck the tide of the OWN networks Black evangelical family dynasty show Greenleaf or all of those ubiquitous Life of Jesus documentaries on cable? Where is the intersectional Black feminist scholarship that frames humanist, secular, and atheist of color ideology? In 2016, I submitted a course proposal entitled Going Godless: Challenging Faith and Religion in Communities of Color to the School of Religion at the University of Southern California. After many gatekeeping gyrations from college administrators, it was shot down due to lack of funding. The course focuses on the intersectional politics of secularism, atheism, and humanism, cultural representation, and the work of humanists of color. The uptick in Americans identifying as secular nones has led to the creation of more secular courses, many of which are housed in religious studies departments. Despite the much ballyhooed rise of the nones, however, there is currently only one bona fide secular studies department (based at Pitzer College and helmed by my friend and colleague, author-scholar Phil Zuckerman) in the United States. Even when secular, humanist, or atheist people of color appear in academic spaces, the range of lived experience that they are allowed to represent is limited and reductive. The standard caricature that bubbles up into mainstream consciousness is one of smug atheist Blacks and Latinos condemning God and Tyler Perryesque evangelicalism among folk of color. Rejecting religion becomes an end in and of itself, and not merely symbolic of a more politicized belief system based on social justice, ethics, Black liberation, Black feminism, and serving Black communities within the context of heightened anti-Black state violence, segregation, and misogynoir. Because Black bodies have always signified an irrational supernaturalism positioned as the antithesis of the Western universal subject, Black humanist atheist praxis can upend traditional constructions of racial authenticity and identity.

Similarly, humanist representations that highlight Black lived experience, faith, and secularism are largely MIA in the contemporary artsbe it narrative film, theatre, or fiction. Virtually all of the internet lists I found on atheist or humanist films are by white folks about white folks challenging religion, posing questions about the nature of the universe, and taking on religious dogma in the family, politics, or the judicial system. Exploring the subject in the Humanist magazine, Nick Farrantello asked, How does one clearly define a motion picture genre as humanist? Im thinking of those few films that reject religion and supernaturalism, even peripherally, and that uphold the ideals of reason, ethics, and justice while also celebrating what it is to be human. While questioning and criticizing faith is a familiar theme in Black literature in particular (for example, in August Wilsons Ma Raineys Black Bottom, Lorraine Hansberrys Raisin in the Sun, and James Baldwins Go Tell It on the Mountain and Blues for Mister Charlie), a complete rejection of supernaturalism and religion, as a sustained critical theme in fictional works by Black authors, is still rare. Indeed, only the works of Richard Wright (Black Boy and The Outsider) and Nella Larsen (Quicksand) occupy this space of radical aesthetic and ideological possibility. Larsens portrayal of Black female atheism in her 1928 novel is still seminal insofar as it frames her protagonists atheism as a direct rebuke of the stifling conventions of motherhood, gender respectability, and domesticity. However, far too often in Black cultural production, the presumption of faith-based, religious, or spiritual worldviews, and experiences preclude more complex portrayals of Black life, Black subjectivity, and epistemology.

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The Black Humanist Heathen Gaze - TheHumanist.com - The Humanist

An imagined threat – Inside Indonesia

Atheists are treated with suspicion in a religious society, but they represent an opportunityTimo Duile

Indonesia has always been portrayed as a religious nation. The state itself says religion is one of its main foundations. Ketuhanan yang maha esa (or monotheism) is its fundamental norm. Social scientists have reinforced this perception by persistently looking at Indonesia in terms of religion, religiosity and the supernatural. This is for good reason. Indonesians frequently stress how important religion is to them. According to Pew Research Center surveys conducted between 2008 and 2017, 93 per cent of Indonesians say that religion is very important in their lives.

However, in my opinion we have neglected the possibility of secular and even atheist ways of life in Indonesia. The term way of life here does not refer only to belief, but puts an emphasis on social practice. It is a form of engaging with people and the world in general, as the cultural anthropologist Tim Ingold wrote. Being atheist in a religious society always affects ones way of life. Indonesian atheists have found numerous ways of dealing with that problem, as I will outline later. However, I first want to give a short overview of what atheism means for the state and society in Indonesia.

More than fifty years after the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of communists in 1965-1966, very little effort has been made to come to terms with that bloody past. Discourses depicting the outlawed PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia) as a latent threat remain potent. Politicians and the military invoke them all the time. They always portray the PKI as hostile to religion and therefore as atheist, even though PKI leaders in reality went to great lengths to avoid appearing anti-religious, not wanting to scare away ordinary people who were affiliated with religion. Portraying the PKI as an anti-religious force, however, was one of the Suharto regimes most powerful tools to make people afraid of communism.

In 1965, just before the crackdown on the PKI, the government adopted a blasphemy law that prohibited efforts to promote atheism in public. When in 2010 the Constitutional Court dismissed an appeal issued by human rights groups against the blasphemy law, the court explicitly declared that the Indonesian people are a religious, not atheist, people. It argued that the blasphemy law was necessary to prevent social unrest. The law is still part of the KUHP (Indonesian Criminal Code). August 2019 brought news of a proposed revision of the KUHP that would also outlaw agnosticism expressed in public.

Furthermore, there are other laws not specifically formulated against atheism that can be applied to atheists who announce their unbelief in public. Alexander Aan, a civil servant in West Sumatra, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and a fine of Rp.100 million (A$10,350) after he posted comments to the Facebook group Ateis Minang and these comments became public. He had written that he did not believe in God, and suggested that the Prophet Muhammad had sex with his wifes maid. The court found him guilty of spreading information that could incite hostility and hatred based on religion. It applied Law No.11/2008 on Electronic Information and Transactions. The presence of an angry mob, which first beat up Aan and then protested outside the courtroom during the proceedings, probably contributed to the courts decision.

Politicians and clerics regularly warn their audiences about the dangers of secularism and atheism even when the discussion does not concern communism. In November 2019, for instance, Vice President Maruf Amin weighed in on the current debate about violent religious radicalism. He said secularism was also a form of radical thought that must be rejected in Indonesia. That is to say, atheism has no place in Indonesia.

Given this context, atheists in Indonesia realise they cannot express their convictions publicly. Some of my informants choose to be individual atheists, declaring their atheism to nobody or only to very close friends. Other atheists actively search for like-minded people. Atheist groups on social media like WhatsApp or Facebook are a means to find them. In major cities there are also off-line gatherings of atheists. Atheism is a form of life for all of them. It always influences the way an individual feels, interacts with and perceives their (social) environment. Yet there is no one set way of life among these various communities. There are many ways to be an atheist in Indonesia for example in politics, relationships and ethics.

Most atheists I talked to are interested in political issues. But as Indonesian politics usually relies on having religious links (as the state does), they find concrete political representation something of a lost cause. Many of my atheist friends did not vote in the 2019 election. Only a few atheists I know voted for Jokowi not because they thought he could represent their political conviction but as the lesser of two evils. This general detachment from the state and politics can be expressed in different ways of life. Some are quite apolitical, some are leftist, and yet others describe themselves as liberal (or libertarian). Some of the latter will quote anti-Islamic discourses from the global north as a way to criticise political Islam in their own country a strategy at odds with views of leftist atheists. All, however, feel estranged from state and society by their atheism but, perhaps because of their differing social class origins, they find different ways of expressing it ideologically.

Atheism also has consequences for private relationships, and for sexuality. Without the normative framework of religion, atheists have to find their own understandings of what relationships, love, and sexuality mean to them. Monogamous female-male relationships are the norm for many atheists, but they do not base these relationships on religious ideas such as kodrat wanita (the essential female nature). Often, they demand from, and allow, their partners more freedom. Models of relationships not accepted in mainstream society such as polyamory or same-sex relationships are usually accepted. Atheists often indeed define their sexual morals precisely in opposition to Islamic teaching. They mercilessly mock, for example, the conservative network Indonesia without premarital relationships.

Yet finding their own ethics presents many Indonesian atheists with a major challenge. Most were raised as religious people. They now have to conceptualise entirely new approaches towards what is good and bad, and how one should behave towards others. Many Indonesians indeed many societies around the world view atheists as having no ethics. To them, all ethics come from religion. There are some atheists who subscribe to a rather Nietzschean way of looking at morals. That is, rather than taking the genealogy of morals for granted as something given and natural, they want to rethink them for themselves.

Some others respond more out of their disaffection with society, as a way of rebelling silently against it. They withdraw from common morals and, in their own social spaces, follow rather hedonistic ways of life. Other atheists engage with society precisely because of their atheism. Since they feel that society, under the influence of (reactionary) religion, is at odds with what they value as good and right, they take on the struggle for their values. These values are, of course, based on atheist convictions. They focus on different goals, such as environmental protection, social justice and civil liberties. But they know they cannot make their atheism explicit when arguing for their causes in public.

Many Indonesian atheists left religion because of bad personal experiences. Others left because they believe in science, which they see as being in conflict with religion. The decision to become an atheist is a personal one in the first place, but it heavily influences the way someone engages in a religious society. Having taken that step, one has to find out what it means for everyday relationships. Atheism, in return, can be an expression of uneasiness with the religious foundations of society. It allows people to look differently at things mainstream society takes for granted. What appears normal to most Indonesians begins to look like an absurd and arbitrary convention.

Atheists are an invisible minority most of the time in Indonesia, but that is no reason to leave them out of our picture of what we think Indonesia is. On the contrary, they can teach us to look at politics and social phenomena in Indonesia from a new, yet still Indonesian, viewpoint. Atheist perspectives arise both from within Indonesian society (that is, they are emic), as well as from outside, as they transcend norms of, and divisions between, societies. Their way of seeing the absurd and the cruel in things everyone else assumes are normal should help the rest of us to sit up and rethink what we think we know about this country.

Timo Duile (tduile@uni-bonn.de) is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department for Southeast Asia Studies, Bonn University.

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An imagined threat - Inside Indonesia

Yes, It Can Be Hard to Be an Atheist in America; Now We Have the Data – Religion Dispatches

Are the nonreligious a marginalized group in America? When I brought this question up to a friend who lives in New York the other day, he was skeptical. Practically everyone he knows is an atheist, he says, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. As someone who grew up in central Indiana and Colorado Springs, where I was sent to evangelical schools, his attitude both bemused and concerned me. The disconnect just serves to illustrate that how one answers this question may vary wildly depending on where one sitsin some cases quite literally.

According to a new report from American Atheists* called Reality Check: Being Nonreligious in America, those living in very religious communities reported substantially more discrimination in employment, education, and other services than those living in not at all religious communities.

Visual from Reality Check: Being Nonreligious in America, courtesy of American Atheists.

The Secular Survey, from which the report was drawn, includes data from 33,897 nonreligious Americansthose who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, humanists, skeptics, freethinkers, secular, and/or simply nonreligious. The surveys designers consider a lack of data on nonreligious Americans an obstacle to effective advocacy for the needs of this group, which the report describes as an invisible minority.

In a webinar for journalists and advocates, American Atheists vice president for legal and policy, Allison M. Gill, stressed that most data we currently have fail to distinguish between the various stripes of the religiously unaffiliated (i.e. nones). Nones may retain some religious beliefs or consider themselves religious without belonging to a formal institution, but this is not true of the nonreligious proper, as the report defines them. As Gill observes, this can sometimes obfuscate the needs of our community.

According to Reality Check, Participants analysis of community religiosity aligned well with geographic expectations. In other words, regions youd expect to be highly religious were reported by participants to be so. In addition, While nonreligious beliefs may be casually accepted in states like California and Vermont, nonreligious people living in states like Mississippi and Utah have markedly different experiences.

Stigma and Community Religiosity by State chart is from Reality Check: Being Nonreligious in America, courtesy of American Atheists.

Indeed, the 554 survey respondents from Utah rated their state more religious than respondents from any other state, although Mississippians reported a slightly higher degree of stigmatization of nonreligious people. The study measured stigma using a scale based on nine microaggressions targeting nonreligious people, and respondents were asked to note whether and how often they had experienced each one over the year prior to taking the survey. Per the report:

Nearly two thirds of all survey participants were sometimes, frequently, or almost always asked to join in thanking God for a fortunate event (65.6%). Nearly half (47.5%) of survey participants recalled sometimes, frequently, or almost always being asked to or feeling pressure to pretend that they are religious. Nearly half of participants were sometimes, frequently, or almost always asked to go along with religious traditions to avoid stirring up trouble (45.3%), and nearly two in five (37.9%) were treated like they dont understand the difference between right and wrong.

Of participants, 26.3% reported that sometimes, frequently or almost always others have rejected, isolated, ignored or avoided me and 17.3% reported sometimes, frequently, or almost always being excluded from social gatherings and events because of their nonreligious identity. When RD recently spoke with American Atheists Gill over the phone, she also noted that her organization and others like it hear from constituents every day who have complaints about their children facing discrimination and bullying in school, how theyre at risk at work for talking about their beliefs, how theyre not able to access government services.

Stigmatized minority or bullies without a pulpit?

The representation of nonreligious Americans as a stigmatized minority is bound to be contentious, particularly when the Secular Surveys respondentsa convenience sample recruited through secular organizations rather than a representative sampleskew so disproportionately white (92.4% vs. a U.S. Census Bureau estimate of 76.5%, including white Hispanic/Latinx) and male (57.8% vs. 49.2%), a profile that inevitably recalls elevatorgate and the racism, misogyny, and alt-right views that have come to characterize far too much of visible movement atheism in recent years.

If ones primary associations with being nonreligious are people like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and their vocal and all too often abusive fans, its only natural to find it absurd and even offensive that such privileged and powerful men could be considered in any sense marginalized. But before we jump to too many conclusions, in addition to recalling the disparate geographic experiences noted above, we should also note that Secular Survey respondents skew disproportionately LGBTQ (23% vs. an estimated 4.5% of American adults as noted in Reality Check). In addition, Reality Check takes care to note disparate outcomes among African-American, Latinx, ex-Muslim, and LGBTQ respondents, the intersections of whose racial, ethnic, sexuality, and gender identities can affect their experiences as nonreligious Americans.

After reading Reality Check, I recently decided to test the waters on how the politically engaged, broadly progressive public might relate to the representation of nonreligious Americans as a stigmatized minority. I did so, as a queer nonreligious American myself, by posting a 24-hour Twitter poll in which I asked respondents, Can the language of coming out properly be used by anyone forced to conceal an aspect of identity, or does it belong only to the LGBTQ community?

I noted that the question was inspired by the new report on the Secular Survey, which found that many respondentsparticularly those in very religious communitiesare forced to conceal their nonreligious identity. The Twitter poll results are, of course, unscientific, but the replies were passionate and deeply divided in ways that matter for the kind of public discussion the Secular Survey is intended to spark:

While some respondents insisted that being nonreligious is a choice in a way that ones experience of ones gender and sexuality is notand even some self-identified atheists replied to the effect that they dont consider their atheism an identitythe fact remains that in many parts of the United States, being recognized as an unbeliever can come with severe social consequences. In addition, although ones beliefs about the nature of reality should ideally be a matter of conscience, children have no control over the beliefs theyre raised with or the communal norms that surround them.

If we recognize that forced religious conversion is an act of violence, then we should recognize that living in a community where its unsafe to disagree with the prevailing religious consensus and to refuse to participate in religious activities is also to experience violence. As a transgender woman and ex-evangelical, these issues are very relatable to me, as they are to many who have left high-control religious groups, and its my fervent conviction that they need to be part of our public discourse.

According to Reality Check:

Nearly one third (31.4%) of participants mostly or always concealed their nonreligious identity from members of their immediate family. Nearly half of participants mostly or always concealed their nonreligious identity among people at work (44.3%) and people at school (42.8%).

Family rejection can come into play as well, with the Secular Survey finding that 29.2% of respondents under 25 whose parents were aware of their nonreligious identity had somewhat or very unsupportive parents. By including questions about loneliness and isolation, the survey was able to suggest that such situations result in higher likelihood of depression, and it also showed that lack of family support for nonreligious Americans resulted in lower educational achievement. The reports prediction of likely depression corresponds well to recent social scientific findings on the psychological harm that comes to people who consider leaving their high-control religious communities but choose to remain.

In addition, some atheists are at risk of physical violence over their lack of religion. Only .8% of survey respondents reported being physically assaulted over their unbelief, although for African-American respondents the number is 2.5%. Meanwhile, 12% of respondents experienced threats of violence, and 2.5% experienced vandalism (14.2% and 3.2%, respectively, for Latinx respondents).

None of these facts make the experience of coming out as nonreligious the same as coming out as LGBTQ, but they do nonetheless show that disclosing ones nonreligious identity can be fraught and risky depending on ones social environment. While the report itself did not use the language of coming out, its framing is recognizable as that associated with social justice advocacy. The reports inclusion of intersectional analysis is also particularly noteworthy for an atheist organization, but is unsurprising given the diversity of American Atheists national staff and the organizations willingness to partner with religious organizations to work toward the common good, as the pluralism inherent in democracy demands.

With respect to the terminology of coming out, one of the qualitative responses included in Reality Check, identified as coming from a female respondent in Kentucky, reads in part, Joining an atheist/humanist meetup group helped me have the courage to come out with my secular beliefs. Prior to having a social group, I felt alone without a way to overcome judgement from religious family members. American Atheists Utah Director Dan Ellis also recently commented, When I came out as an atheist, I experienced discrimination from family members, adding that he lost friendseven ones who werent particularly religious.

Gill, herself a transgender lesbian, noted in our phone conversation that the Secular Surveys questions about identity concealment were indeed meant to get at a coming out experience, though the survey deliberately did not use that language in order to avoid possible confusion.

Asked whether she thinks the phrase coming out belongs only to the LGBTQ community, Gill remarked, I would vehemently disagree with that; I think it belongs to everybody. And I see a lot of similarities between being nonreligious and being LGBT. She stressed that this does not mean that the stigma and discrimination faced by nonreligious people and members of the LGBTQ community are the same, but observed that the process of coming to awareness of ones identity and beliefs and revealing it to other people and facing possible rejection is similar.

The use of the terminology of coming out outside of LGBTQ experience will likely remain contentious. But the hardships that many nonreligious Americans face for being nonreligious, while distinct from those faced by LGBTQ Americans, are still very real. Christian privilege and supremacism are pervasive in the United States, and much work remains to be done to render them more visible so that, along with white supremacism and patriarchy, we can work more effectively to dismantle them.

*Full disclosure: I am in regular contact with the leadership of American Atheists, and I was slated to speak at the organizations 2020 convention before it had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More here:

Yes, It Can Be Hard to Be an Atheist in America; Now We Have the Data - Religion Dispatches

Safe Spaces in Trans Atheism – Splice Today

Despite the rise of the religiously non-affiliated (aka The Nones), being a non-believer is still a social taboo. This was recently confirmed by the American AtheistsReality Check: Being Nonreligious in Americareport, which compiles results from the organizations Secular Survey conducted last year. Out of the 34,000 respondents, almost half said they hid their non-belief from co-workers and people at school due to negative experiences. The survey also found that LGBTQ non-believers are more likely to hide their beliefs from family than straight/cis non-believers, and the 43 percent who were out said their parents werent supportive.

Im thankful to have understanding parents because my time in atheist spaces has taught me other queer/trans atheists arent so lucky. At best, relationships with their religious parents are awkward, but sometimes their parents disown them simply for who they are, which is whyhomelessness ratesin LGBTQ youth are so high. Even when theres no trouble at home, the constant bombardment of messages about how being queer and trans is a sin is detrimental to LGBTQ peoples mental health. A 2018 paper by theAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicinefound that queer people who regularly attend religious services are more likely to be suicidal than straight people.

Yet I rarely see room in LGBTQ spaces for non-believers. As several religious institutions became more LGBTQ-affirming and more LGBTQ people of faith made peace with God, theres been an increase of religiosity within the LGBTQ community. Many LGBTQ people do find solace in religious traditions, as well as motivation to fight for liberation, but the overemphasis on queer spirituality comes off to me asrespectability politics. Focusing the spotlight almost exclusively on LGBTQ people of faith is another way of appealing to the cis/straight gaze, and the result is less visibility for LGBTQ non-believers.

Back in January, before the pandemic lockdown, I flew to Dallas for the annual Creating Change conference to co-present a workshop on humanism with my friends Diane and Ashton. The event was fun, but there were only three spaces there for non-believers: our workshop, a caucus for non-believers, and a caucus Diane and Ashton led centering LGBTQ non-believers of color.

Even the Many Paths interfaith spacedespite advertising with various religious symbols, including theHappy Humanwas very Christian-centered. Because religion causes so much trauma for many LGBTQ people, there should be more spaces for LGBTQ non-believers as well.

The atheist community has gotten better about providing a safe space for LGBTQ non-believers over the past few years, although theres room for improvement. Thanks to trans atheists like Callie Wright and Marissa McCool, there have been a lot more conversations about trans issues that have made the atheist community more trans-inclusive. However, transphobic atheists still exist; they may be a small minority, but theyre vocal. All it takes is one Twitter dogpile from transphobic atheists to make a trans non-believer feel like theyre not welcome in the community. This leaves the trans atheist in a tough spot: not feeling welcomed in atheist spaces for being trans, and not welcomed in LGBTQ spaces for being a non-believer.

The spaces that do exist for LGBTQ non-believers are overwhelmingly white. Thats why last year Diane and I created Centering the Margins; a one-day conference held in DC for LGBTQ non-believers of color. Only about 50 people attended, but they all thanked us. It may seem like identity politics to some to have a space only for secular LGBTQ people of color, but given the intersection of racism, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, and anti-atheist bias many LGBTQ non-believers of color experience, there are certain conversations that cant happen if the space is majorly white.

According to the Secular Survey, non-believers involved with secular communities are less likely to battle with depression than those with no community. This is why there needs to be more attention for LGBTQ non-believers. Not safe spaces as in stereotypical recovery rooms for college students offended by different opinions, but places where LGBTQ non-believers can be authentic. Countless studies show theres power in having a chosen familya group of friends and loved ones someone can turn to for the support their biological family and peers never gave themand this chosen family can be the reason another LGBTQ person chooses to stay alive.

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Safe Spaces in Trans Atheism - Splice Today

Survey: Atheists face discrimination, rejection in many areas of life – UPI News

May 11 (UPI) -- A new report says atheists in the United States face such widespread stigma and discrimination that many of them conceal their nonreligious identity from relatives, co-workers and people at school.

Atheist residents of "very religious" communities are especially likely to experience discrimination in education, employment and public services such as jury duty, according to Reality Check: Being Nonreligious in America, a survey released this month by American Atheists, a Cranford, N.J.-based nonprofit that advocates civil rights for nonreligious people.

The report says that although the percentage of Americans who consider themselves religious has been declining for decades and the diversity of religious beliefs has increased, nonreligious people "continue to live in a culture dominated by Christianity."

"Like religious minorities, nonreligious people too often face discrimination in various areas of life, as well as stigmatization, because of their beliefs," the report says.

Survey results

The report was based on the U.S. Secular Survey, which was created and managed by Strength in Numbers Consulting Group in New York. Nearly 34,000 participants age 18 or older who self-identified as atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, skeptics or secular people responded to the survey between Oct. 15 and Nov. 2.

"The Reality Check report reveals how widespread discrimination and stigma against nonreligious Americans is," American Atheists said in a news release. "Due to their nonreligious identity, more than half of survey participants had negative experiences with family members, nearly one-third in education and more than 1 in 5 in the workplace."

The percentage of survey respondents who mostly or always conceal their nonreligious identity from members of their immediate family was 31.4. The percent for co-workers was 44.3 and 42.8 for people at school, according to the report.

Among respondents under age 25, 21.9 percent reported their parents are not aware of their nonreligious beliefs. In that age group, 29.2 percent of those with parents who know about their nonreligious identity said they were somewhat or very unsupportive of their beliefs.

"We found that family rejection had a significant negative impact on participants' educational and psychological outcomes," the report says. "For example, participants with unsupportive parents had a 71.2 percent higher rate of likely depression than those with very supportive parents."

Geographic differences

The experiences of nonreligious people vary dramatically in different parts of the nation, Reality Check says. Nonreligious beliefs might be causally accepted in some states, including California and Vermont, but the stigmatization and concealment were higher on average in states survey participants reported as "very religious."

To reach those conclusions, survey participants were asked to assess how religious the people are in the community where they live and to rank the frequency -- never, seldom, sometimes, frequently or almost always -- that they had encountered nine types of "microaggressions" in the past year. Those experiences included being asked to go along with religious traditions to avoid stirring up trouble; being bothered by religious symbols or text in public places; being told they are not a "good person" because they are secular or nonreligious; and being asked by people to join them in thanking God for a fortunate event.

"As might be expected, participants from rural locations (49.6 percent) and small towns (42.7 percent) were more likely to say their current setting was 'very religious' than those from other settings (23.7 percent)," the report says. "Stigmatization and concealment were higher on average in states that participants reported are 'very religious.'"

The survey ranks Utah as the most religious state based on 80 percent of survey participants who live there calling their community "very religious." Mississippi is second with 78.7 percent.

Mississippi ranks as the worst state for stigma against nonreligious people and as the state where they are most often forced to conceal their beliefs. Utah is ranked as the second worst.

Sarah Worrel said she had friends of many faiths while growing up in Long Island, N.Y., and "you didn't presume someone was religious or of a particular religion until they told you." It's different in Mississippi, where she's lived since age 12.

"There's so little cultural diversity that it's assumed that you are some form of Christian unless you state otherwise," Worrel, the American Atheists assistant state director for Gulfport, wrote in an email. "I've met many atheists, pagans and other non-Christians here, but I usually don't find that out until I've gotten to know them well."

Worrel said she's had encounters with strangers trying to push religion on her and is always honest about her lack of belief but has not faced any serious discrimination. However, a friend lost a job for being an atheist, she said.

Questioning religion

Dan Ellis, the Utah state director for American Atheists, also is open about being an atheist.

Ellis said that as a child, he couldn't square what he learned in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with stories of a Biblical flood that destroys everything. His teacher couldn't explain why a loving God would kill babies in such a cruel way, he said.

Ellis, who was never a firm believer, also was unable to get satisfactory answers to his questions from church leaders and as an adult, he eventually became a "Jack Mormon," a term for an inactive member of the LDS Church.

For a long time, he thought it was wrong to be a non-believer. He wasn't sure how to refer to himself until he was in his mid-20s and a co-worker revealed that he was an atheist. Ellis began using that label for himself with close friends and family.

At the time, people he knew linked atheism with satanism, he said. Ellis lost friends and angered some relatives, who cut him out of their lives.

"There's a lot of discrimination and recrimination in Utah against atheists," Ellis said, adding that many atheists can't be open about being nonreligious for fear of losing their job.

Overlooked viewpoint

Other survey findings include:

Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, said in a news release that the struggles of nonreligious people are often overlooked.

"Thankfully, the U.S. Secular Survey has revealed the discrimination our community regularly faces," Fish said. "With that well-established, we need to find solutions and work toward ending the stigma faced by our community."

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Survey: Atheists face discrimination, rejection in many areas of life - UPI News