IN a recent conversation with a fellow journalist, I voiced my exasperation at the endless talk about faith in God as the only consolation for those devastated by the unfathomable murders in Newtown, Conn. Some of those grieving parents surely believe, as I do, that this is our one and only life. Atheists cannot find solace in the idea that dead children are now angels in heaven. “That only shows the limits of atheism,” my colleague replied. “It’s all about nonbelief and has nothing to offer when people are suffering.”
This widespread misapprehension that atheists believe in nothing positive is one of the main reasons secularly inclined Americans — roughly 20 percent of the population — do not wield public influence commensurate with their numbers. One major problem is the dearth of secular community institutions. But the most powerful force holding us back is our own reluctance to speak, particularly at moments of high national drama and emotion, with the combination of reason and passion needed to erase the image of the atheist as a bloodless intellectual robot.
The secular community is fearful of seeming to proselytize. When giving talks on college campuses, I used to avoid personal discussions of my atheism. But over the years, I have changed my mind because such diffidence contributes to the false image of the atheist as someone whose convictions are removed from ordinary experience. It is vital to show that there are indeed atheists in foxholes, and wherever else human beings suffer and die.
Read more at the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
Original article and resignation letter: Why I Don’t Want to Be a West Point Graduate
I do not wish to be in any way associated with an institution which willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America by enforcing policies which run counter to the same. Examples of these policies include mandatory prayer, the maintenance of the 3rd Regiment Shield, awarding extra passes to Plebes who take part in religious retreats and chapel choirs, as well as informal policies such as the open disrespect of non-religious new cadets and incentivizing participation in religious activities through the chain of command.
I didn’t know how badly the atheists on this site were suffering until I read what Dr. John G. Weldon had to say about their mental neuroses. What else can I say but…
Through self-deception atheists may truly think there is no God, or do their best not to believe in God, but it’s kind of like striking the earth with a hammer in order to send it out of orbit – a useless and hopeless endeavor. This isn’t an Alice in Wonderland world where we can eat six elephants before breakfast; this is reality where we must live in the world God made, not a world of our own construction. Unfortunately, as a number of psychologists have shown, atheists tend to exhibit neurotic tendencies and the reason seems obvious – because they push so hard against reality that it’s simply not emotionally healthy (see below).
…To be sure, it’s very hard to be an atheist, especially in the modern world, which may explain why so many atheists apparently have various forms of neuroses – the denial and constant need for suppression of reality simply runs too deep and eventually takes a toll, which logically leads to psychological problems.
…As one example, the noted existential psychologist Rollo May observed in The Art of Counseling, ‘I have been startled by the fact that practically every genuine atheist with whom I have dealt has exhibited unmistakable neurotic tendencies.
I simply never realized that atheism was a mental disorder before now, I sure hope you guys can get some appropriate therapy (by a member of the clergy?) and medication to alleviate your condition.
///you poor, poor dears…
AMERICA is not an easy place for atheists. Religion pervades the public sphere, and studies show that non-believers are more distrusted than other minorities.
Several states still ban atheists from holding public office. These rules, which are unconstitutional, are never enforced, but that hardly matters. Over 40% of Americans say they would never vote for an atheist presidential candidate.
Yet the past seven years have seen a fivefold increase in people who call themselves atheists, to 5% of the population, according to WIN-Gallup International, a network of pollsters. Meanwhile, the proportion of Americans who say they are religious has fallen from 73% in 2005 to 60% in 2011.
Such a large drop in religiosity is startling, but the data on atheists are in line with other polling. A Pew survey in 2009 also found that 5% of Americans did not believe in God. But only a quarter of those called themselves atheists. The newest polling, therefore, may simply show an increase in those willing to say the word.
The era of world struggle between the great secular ideological -isms that began with the French Revolution and lasted through the Cold War (republicanism, anarchism, socialism, fascism, communism, liberalism) is passing on to a religious stage. Across the Middle East and North Africa, religious movements are gaining social and political ground, with election victories by avowedly Islamic parties in Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. As Israel’s National Security Council chief, Gen. Yaakov Amidror (a religious man himself), told me on the eve of Tunisia’s elections last October, “We expect Islamist parties to soon dominate all governments in the region, from Afghanistan to Morocco, except for Israel.”
On a global scale, Protestant evangelical churches (together with Pentacostalists) continue to proliferate, especially in Latin America, but also keep pace with the expansion of fundamentalist Islam in southern Africa and eastern and southern Asia. In Russia, a clear majority of the population remains religious despite decades of forcibly imposed atheism. Even in China, where the government’s commission on atheism has the Sisyphean job of making that country religion-free, religious agitation is on the rise. And in the United States, a majority says it wants less religion in politics, but an equal majority still will not vote for an atheist as president.
But if reams of social scientific analysis have been produced on religion’s less celestial cousins — from the nature of perception and speech to how we rationalize and shop — faith is not a matter that rigorous science has taken seriously. To be sure, social scientists have long studied how religious practices correlate with a wide range of economic, social, and political issues. Yet, for nearly a century after Harvard University psychologist William James’s 1902 masterwork, The Varieties of Religious Experience, there was little serious investigation of the psychological structure or neurological and biological underpinnings of religious belief that determine how religion actually causes behavior. And that’s a problem if science aims to produce knowledge that improves the human condition, including a lessening of cultural conflict and war.
…Claiming that secularism and atheism are the same thing makes for good culture warrioring. The number of nonbelievers in this country is quite small. Many Americans, unfortunately, harbor irrational prejudices toward them. By intentionally blurring the distinction between atheism and secularism, the religious right succeeds in drowning both.
Yet it is not only foes, but friends of secularism, who sometimes make this mistake as well. Nowadays most major atheist groups describe themselves as “secular.” Many are in fact good secularists. But others, as we shall see, are beholden to assumptions that are strikingly at odds with the secular worldview.
Let’s start with some brief definitions. Atheism, put simply, is a term that covers a wide variety of schools of thought that ponder and/or posit the non-existence of God/s. Among scholars there is a fascinating debate about when precisely atheism arose. One compelling theory (see writers like Alan Kors and Michael Buckley) is that nonbelief as a coherent worldview developed within Christian theological speculation in early modernity.
Secularism, on the other hand, has nothing to do with metaphysics. It does not ask whether there is a divine realm. It is agnostic, if you will, on the question of God’s existence — a question that is way above its pay grade.
What secularism does concern itself with are relations between Church and State. It is a flexible doctrine that can embody a lot of policy positions. Strict separationism is one, but not the only, of those positions. At its core, secularism is deeply suspicious of any entanglement between government and religion…
There was surely no more fiery an unbeliever than my own teenage self, after I had broken from the Orthodox Judaism in which I had been raised. It happened pretty quickly, the year I turned 15. The catalyst was Civilization and its Discontents, which I discovered in the library of my yeshiva high school. (The fact that Freud was a Member of the Tribe was apparently enough to warrant the book’s inclusion, without anyone inquiring too closely into its contents.) I toted it around for a few days, gulping it down between classes. I felt like I was hiding a weapon in plain sight. Of course, it made me realize, of course it’s all absurd. How could I have ever imagined otherwise?
Oh, I gave it to them, those believers, after that. Got myself thrown out of school by the end of the year. (The last straw: I made fun of another boy for wearing tzitziss during gym, which is akin to ridiculing someone for carrying a rosary at a school called St. Cecilia’s.) “God?” I remember saying to a Catholic friend in college. “God can go to Hell!” In my late 20s, as a graduate instructor, I’d insinuate my unbelief into the classroom, along with the principles of English composition. If I can win one away from the pale Galilean, I thought, then that’ll be a bonus.
But gradually, at first unwillingly, over the last 10 years or so, something began to change. Not my atheism—that isn’t going to change. To paraphrase Marilynne Robinson (leave it to a believer to find the perfect way of putting it), I’m a categorical atheist. Says a character in Gilead, “I don’t even believe God doesn’t exist.” God, in other words, is a meaningless concept. But my feelings about religion—those have begun to change.
Alexander Aan, 30, was found guilty of “deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity,” presiding judge Eka Prasetya Budi Dharma told the Muaro Sijunjung district court in western Sumatra.
Aan started an atheist group on Facebook on which he shared comic strips of the prophet, Dharma said.
He also uploaded three articles on his account written about the prophet.
“Under the Electronic Information and Transactions law, we sentence him to prison for a length of two years and six months,” Dharma said.
“What he did has caused anxiety to the community and tarnished Islam.”
Aan was beaten by an angry mob and arrested by police in his hometown of Pulau Punjung in western Sumatra in January after posting the material online and declaring himself an atheist.
The court had earlier indicted Aan with two other charges - persuading others to embrace atheism and blasphemy - and prosecutors had sought a three-and-a-half-year jail term for him.
But the court convicted him of the most serious charge and dropped the other two.