Some questions make atheists feel second-class — and make you look like a jerk for asking them.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever been personally offended per se, but I have been annoyed by encountering the same thoughtless assumptions regularly. Then again, some people genuinely misunderstand the atheist position, and that’s understandable — it’s not exactly a commonly accepted one, nor have we had much opportunity throughout history to articulate our position.
During the Rwandan genocide, when neighbors killed neighbors and friends betrayed friends, some crossed lines of hatred to protect each other.
At the time of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the Mufti of Rwanda, the most respected Muslim leader in the country, issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from participating in the killing of the Tutsi. As the country became a slaughterhouse, mosques became places of refuge where Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis came together to protect each other. KINYARWANDA is based on true accounts from survivors who took refuge at the Grand Mosque of Kigali and the madrassa of Nyanza. It recounts how the Imams opened the doors of the mosques to give refuge to the Tutsi and those Hutu who refused to participate in the killing.
Religious affiliation in the United States is at its lowest point since it began to be tracked in the 1930s, according to analysis of newly released survey data by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University. Last year, one in five Americans claimed they had no religious preference, more than double the number reported in 1990.
Results of the survey – which looked at numerous issues, including attitudes about gun ownership and how tax dollars should be spent, and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation – are being released now and in coming weeks.UC Berkeley sociologists Mike Hout and Claude Fischer , along with Mark Chaves of Duke University, analyzed data on religious attitudes as part of the General Social Survey, a highly cited biannual poll conducted by NORC, an independent research institute at the University of Chicago.
On American attitudes toward religion, UC Berkeley researchers found that 20 percent of a nationally representative group reported no religious preference. That’s a jump from 1990 when all but 8 percent of Americans polled identified with an organized faith.
”This continues a trend of Americans disavowing a specific religious affiliation that has accelerated greatly since 1990,” said Hout, lead author of the study.
Hout and Fischer are authors of the General Social Survey study that in 2002 first identified a rise in the number of “unchurched.” They are careful to distinguish the survey category of “no religion,” which means individuals who are not part of an organized religion, from “atheists,” who do not believe in God and made up just 3 percent of those interviewed last year. Meanwhile, just 8 percent of those surveyed said they were raised with no religion.
Though she’s been criticized since she first gained fame, a recent study by the University of Montreal has done a meta-analysis on all the various reports, facts, and accounts regarding Mother Theresa — including some from her own organization and affiliates — that has cast her in further negative scrutiny. Read and judge for yourselves.
Beyond the polls, social scientists have conducted more rigorous analyses of religious behavior. Rather than ask people how often they attend church, the better studies measure what people actually do. The results are surprising. Americans are hardly more religious than people living in other industrialized countries. Yet they consistently—and more or less uniquely—want others to believe they are more religious than they really are.
Religion in America seems tied up with questions of identity in ways that are not the case in other industrialized countries. When you ask Americans about their religious beliefs, it’s like asking them whether they are good people, or asking whether they are patriots. They’ll say yes, even if they cheated on their taxes, bilked Medicare for unnecessary services, and evaded the draft. Asking people how often they attend church elicits answers about their identity—who people think they are or feel they ought to be, rather than what they actually believe and do.
The better studies ascertain whether people attend church, not what they feel in their hearts. It’s possible that many Americans are deeply religious but don’t attend church (even as they claim they do). But if the data raise serious questions about self-reported church attendance, they ought to raise red flags about all aspects of self-reported religiosity. Besides, self-reported church attendance has been held up as proof that America has somehow resisted the secularizing trends that have swept other industrialized nations. What if those numbers are spectacularly wrong?
The Unbelievers’ follows renowned scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss across the globe as they speak publicly about the importance of science and reason in the modern world - encouraging others to cast off antiquated religious and politically motivated approaches toward important current issues.
The film includes interviews with celebrities and other influential people who support the work of these controversial speakers, including:
Ricky Gervais Woody Allen Cameron Diaz Stephen Hawking Sarah Silverman Bill Pullman Werner Herzog Tim Minchin Eddie Izzard Ian McEwan Adam Savage Ayaan Hirsi-Ali Penn Jillette Sam Harris Dan Dennett James Randi Cormac McCarthy Paul Provenza James Morrison Michael Shermer David Silverman …and more.
For this experiment, try to purge your mind of any preconceptions, as much as you can. And try, literally, to answer the questions to yourself as you read. Take time. This isn’t meant to be read quickly. Think about each sentence before proceeding.