Subject: Re: Atheism in America Date: 14 Feb 90 02:56:23 GMT References: <90042.232945NETO

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Path: ncsuvm!ncsuvx!lll-winken!sunlight!loren From: loren@sunlight.llnl.gov (Loren Petrich) Newsgroups: alt.atheism Subject: Re: Atheism in America Message-ID: <48536@lll-winken.LLNL.GOV> Date: 14 Feb 90 02:56:23 GMT References: <90042.232945NETOPRWA@NCSUVM.BITNET> Sender: usenet@lll-winken.LLNL.GOV Reply-To: loren@sunlight.UUCP (Loren Petrich) Organization: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Lines: 76 In article <90042.232945NETOPRWA@NCSUVM.BITNET> NETOPRWA@ncsuvm.ncsu.edu (Wayne Aiken) writes: >In article <76930@tut.cis.ohio-state.edu> > pearlman@cherokee.cis.ohio-state.edu (Andrew Pearlman) writes: >>In article <2608@wyse.wyse.com> benefiel@wyse.wyse.com (Daniel Benefiel) >r id dept234) writes: >>I think a USA Today Poll(take this as you want) said something around 75% of >>Americans go to church regularly and a much higher percentage believe in God. >>(90-95%?) Actually, I have met quite a few liberal, well educated, >>middle-class bible-thumpers. > >75% regularly? No way. There isn't enough room in all the churches in the >land to handle even a bare fraction of the people in this country. > > [the suspicion that the number of people who claim to believe in God > is exaggerated...] > >Does anyone else have any more recent or better stats on this? I've seen >some surveys, particularly those done by Gallup, that were so vague that even >an atheist could conceivably be considered a believer. On this subject, I recall that there was once a poll in Psychology Today on negative religious commitment that found that 53% of people have not made a meaningful commitment to Christ and most educated people are indifferent to religion. Also, some religious conservatives claimed to have found that while 80% of people claimed to believe in the Ten Commandments, only 20% can name five of them. And there is the problem of what one means by the word "God". Carl Sagan illustrates this question nicely in "A Sunday Sermon" in _Broca's Brain_. When asked whether or not he believes in God, he asks what the questioner means by "God". And he gets answers like "Well, you know, _God_. Everyone knows who God is." Or "Well, it's kind of like a force more powerful than ourselves that exists everywhere in the Universe." As Carl Sagan points out, there are some such forces, for example, gravity. But gravity is not usually called "God". And different people use the word "God" to mean different things. For instance, some people have in mind some Universe-controlling anthropomorphic patriarch; an old man with a big white beard who sits on a throne somewhere in the sky and who tallies the fall of every sparrow (I think that's in one of the Psalms). Others, like Spinoza and Einstein, use the word "God" to mean something like the laws of nature. Read Einstein's _Ideas and Opinions_, and it is clear that he does not mean by the word "God" some sort of Universe-controlling superbeing that is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. Spinoza has been called the "God-intoxicated man" and was excommunicated as an atheist. Einstein has provoked some similar reactions. So, when anyone tells you that Einstein was a believer in God, point out that he didn't have the God of the Bible in mind, but something like the laws of nature. I suppose my belief in laws of nature might make me want to call myself a believer in Einstein's God, but I think that would lead to too many understandings. Another thing about Simon(?) Gallup. He once studied to be a clergyman. He might possibly be a born-again Christian. At any rate, he once did a poll for Pat Robertson in which he assured this TV evangelist that it was OK to claim to have taken marching orders from God ("I'm just following orders", he could always say), since 30% of people supposedly claim that God has communicated with them. So, I think that there is reason to doubt this fellow's objectivity on religion, and the validity of the polls he has conducted on that subject. ^ Loren Petrich, the Master Blaster \ ^ / loren@moonzappa.llnl.gov \ ^ / One may need to route through any of: \^/ sunlight.llnl.gov <<<<<<<<+>>>>>>>> lll-lcc.llnl.gov /v\ lll-crg.llnl.gov / v \ star.stanford.edu / v \ v "Crucifixes are sexy because there's a naked man on them" -- Madonna

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