Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Links(Bomb) Pertinent to the BYU Atheist

I just want to get one story in particular out there, that's cool, but I also wish to link a couple other interesting tidbits of informania.

First is this little study on liberalism, atheism, IQ, and male sexuality. Kanazawa (who may have a good record for study methods but not conclusions) confirms what we already have known for some time, that non-believers are more liberal and smarter than population averages.

What I enjoy about this study is that men are surveyed as being more exclusive with sex. My only guess is that men who are more sexually active generally have shown to be more loyal and monogamous in their sexual relationships, though they may have several relationships in only a few years. I don't really see anything new in the study that I haven't already seen elsewhere, but it's nice to have a lot of similar results all coming from one study. It should be noted that Kanazawa has a habit of finding correlations and making theories from these that are stretching reality a little bit though. Again - good with methods, maybe not so much with conclusions.

Another link I should post is this little blog by a BYU student who has a nice following and is an ally for equal rights in nearly every sense. This is an article dealing directly with the BYU policy of kicking out former-LDS students. Brad also has a book on homosexuality from a straight student's perspective. He may be setting himself up to get in trouble, and I may not always agree with him, but he definitely has some good points and is making a name for himself.

Finally, this awesome link posted by the token feminist of our happy valley group. It seems atheists are beginning to organize en masse in high schools around the country. I am all for this. I get sick of hearing that organizing atheists is like herding cats, but it's so true. Definitely not an easy task. The article claims that the number of atheist clubs in high schools has doubled in the last few months. Only to just over 20, but the SSA is planning on doubling that number again. The Secular Student Alliance is also what will be helping out with the UVU group some people are starting.

The article is a nice and fair little thing, giving some wonderful quotes, like:
“If they don’t accept Jesus Christ as a savior, they will definitely go to hell."
“My reaction is faith in Jesus Christ is not at all logical."
"There were board members who were concerned that the epic poem[Gilgamesh] included a few sexual passages." - cause we all know the Bible doesn't have anything like that!
or this personal fav. - Last fall, Breane Lyga joined both a Christian club and the atheist club. Some Christian club members thought she was doing it for a goof. Others wondered if she was a spy for the atheists, but Breane said she was just confused.

“I was kind of agnostic,” she said. “I wanted to get both points of view.” She talked with Mrs. Harrell and Mr. Creamer, two of her favorite teachers. She weighed the pluses and minuses. Around Christmas she stopped attending the Christian club meetings.

Bringing it up again, high schoolers right now are claiming to be 25% non-religious. A massive amount higher than any previous generation. Obviously many of these students will be in flux for religion, but when it comes to atheism or the like generally there isn't much flux. Most professed atheists today turned to atheism during college, or high school. Then it's all downhill from there, though it seems reaching about 50 and getting the kids out of the home also leads to a peak in deconverting to atheism. Atheism has a good retention rate. If it's truly the work of the Devil then, again, he beats God hands down. (sarcasm, please).

Either way, I think it's great that high schools will be having more atheist clubs. I think statistical studies are wrong in their outlooks on belief and religion. I think more and more high school and college students will stop believing and won't return to church and that the secular community in America will become over a quarter of the US population before 2050. But that's just me.


  1. I do think it's interesting that you talk of 25% atheism among teens like it's a monolithic group. You wouldn't lump Buddhist Lamas and Westboro Baptists into a general category of "religious" as if they're somehow morally equivalent, and yet modern secular humanists and the Khmer Rouge both get the label "atheist". When celebrating the rise of atheism it matters a lot what kind of atheist you're talking about, and where these atheists get their moral compass. It doesn't seem to me that the trend away from religion among teens is correlating with a rise in their ethical awareness. I hope I'm wrong.

  2. No. Non-religious. I recognize that self-labeled 'atheists' in that would only be about half or so. And I view the Westboro baptists as the epitome of what's wrong with religion, though I suspect their main motivation is actually greed for all the lawsuits they make.

    Unfortunately the moral compass argument doesn't hold much sway for me. I find that the prodigal son argument doesn't either - saying that countries like Sweden aren't bad yet because even the prodigal son had it good for a while after turning to sin.

    I find a correlation at my high school back home. More and more students are less religious, and yet the school is more and more supportive. Only 8 years ago no one came out as gay, but now there are a lot of out-of-the-closet gays back home. And violent cases haven't happened a lot. There were some in the 90s, but no violent assaults or anything more recently. Just using my old high school as an example I won't say that a rise in non-religious people is leading to better behavior, but it sure isn't stopping it.

    Honestly I get tired of the moral compass argument. Most Christians don't even follow the Bible, so you can't say that has all that much influence. I think most of it comes from parenting in their younger years, rather, their youngest. Socoipaths generally could be diagnosed by 5 or 6 given case study histories. "Predators" by Salter gives some good examples. I think most moral foundations are already in place before children really realize other people actually have real thoughts and feelings. Certainly before they experience empathy.

    Of course there's bad atheists, no question on that, but I don't think atheists are overrepresented in prisons, or in violent crimes, or unethical behavior. They may be more likely to try drinking or drugs or pre-marital sex, but I don't see how these are horrible, evil, immoral actions unless you put God into the equation. I am opposed to drinking because of the risks involved, but I don't see atheists drinking anymore than anyone else.

    I guess I don't respect the moral compass argument against atheism cause I haven't seen any major evidences that lead me to suspect atheism means living a horrible life.

  3. You're refuting a strawman version of an argument I didn't even make. I feel like you're responding to other people here, not to me. I haven't suggested that atheists are horrible people. I wouldn't make the argument that atheists are overrepresented in prison. I would state categorically, however, that those who attend weekly religious services are enormously underrepresented in prisons and violent crimes. You are conflating theist and religious, and the terms do not mean the same thing. One is philosophical, the other behavioral.

    Your examples of unethical behavior indicate to me that you see the concept in Mormon terms. Ethics has very little to do with drinking, drugs, and sex. I had in mind issues like cheating on tests, shoplifting, and vandalism. You know, things that actually affect other people. I have little doubt that teens that attend weekly religious services would be less likely to participate in these behaviors. Note that I didn't say 'spiritual teens' or 'theist teens', but those that go to church every week. I'd happily include ethics classes or humanist lectures in the category of 'church', but the sample size for teens would be insignificant.

    It appears that the only issue that matters to you is the homosexual one. Can we agree that the Mormon church is behind on that issue and not have it come up in every discussion?

  4. J-Dog,

    I'd just like to point out that men weren't surveyed as being more sexually exclusive than women. The studies showed that men who were sexually exclusive had a higher average IQ than men who were not sexually exclusive (and also that sexual exclusivity in women didn't show differences in IQ). And I don't think sexual exclusivity means monogamy or loyalty per se but actually being exclusive in how many sexual partners a person has-as the study seems to state. Perhaps you know this, but your wording makes it sound like you didn't understand that.


    I agree with your point of view about how we talk about groups of people. And certainly going to church every week would seem to suggest a devotion to ethical behavior, but that's not necessarily the case and there are plenty of examples of adults who regularly attend church services who do not behave ethically. And of course I have know teens who cheated on tests AND attended church at least 6 days a week (not to say a correlation between church-going and ethical behavior isn't there just that there are obviously more factors in play). I'd be interested to learn more about atheists and their devotion to ethical behavior, and if there are any factors that correlate with increased ethical behavior in atheists.

    I personally think the rise in atheism is probably a good thing in that getting people to think for themselves about ethics can be better than relying on an authority figure who may claim to speak for God (or be perceived to). But just because people are atheists doesn't necessarily mean that they are choosing to be "good" people. It would certainly be interesting to see more data.

    Also, I don't think J-Dog ever said that all atheists are morally equivalent, just that they share the disbelief in God. And I don't think that celebrating a change in philosophy is wrong. I'd certainly agree that a shift to more ethical behavior is more practically important but celebrating an increased acceptance of a more reality-based worldview doesn't seem like an unworthy endeavor either.

  5. Demosthenes - I do think often in 'Mormon' terms, but these things were thrown at me daily while in Nashville by other Christians. Lot's of non-Mormons view drinking, drugs, and sex as very immoral things to get into. Maybe not as much, on average, as Mormons, but I even get that at home from friends of the family.

    Yeah, thank you clarifying, I was not so much answering you as explaining why some related arguments don't sway me much. I think I agree that those who attend church regularly or the equivalent ethical discussion would probably be more ethical. I think ethical behavior is mostly learned, that most people would not behave as such unless taught to do so.

    The homosexual thing just irks me a lot cause it stirs up all the knowledge of the near daily suicides just in Utah, usually LDS. It isn't one I'll get over till it's far better. I am aware that you and others are just as bothered, I don't think anyone on here thinks you don't care about them - I hope not anyway!

    I don't think I can make any claims on cheating or vandalism, etc... with atheists. I'd like to see some studies on that. I would say that my experience with non-believers and Mormons is that the ratio of sex is similar, but drugs definitely is higher with non-believers. With cheating or lying I can't say. I know plenty of religious cheaters, or the classic 'liars for Jesus,' especially missionaries, and clepto Mormons. And I know clepto atheists, non-believers who have lied to my face. At this moment my experience shows no difference, but I'm betting that the most believing religious person most likely would attend church regularly and follow the commandments. However, I can't say whether one causes the other.

    Again, this would be interesting to find out, and it makes ''common sense'' but common sense isn't always right.

  6. Anonymous - Oh, yes, when I preface the sentence with ''My guess..." I'm obtusely saying that IMHO or in other studies I find etc .... This one talks only on exclusive-ness, but other related studies, such as divorce rates or fidelity with atheists, suggest that men actually are more loyal. Whether due to atheism, intellect, being liberal, who knows.

    Plenty of non-believers live in open relationships and would therefore not divorce and would say they are being loyal even though they are sleeping around. A lot of factors here, I mean, the atheist spouse may be more loyal due to some kind of performance anxiety if married to a deeply religious spouse.

    When it comes to marriage studies you will find a lot of studies 'proving' the other side. One study I've had BYU people talk about is how sex is better in relationships where they waited till marriage versus those who had flings with multiple partners. My retort is "ignorance is bliss." Many studies suggest that the more partners you've had the less likely you are to stay loyal once married, than say the person who waited, again. Then there will be other studies saying the opposite. Marriage is tricky business and I've taken on the philosophy of 'to each his/her own.'

    When it comes to a new philosophy of life though, such as atheism, I was initially worried about morality and how I would rebuild my ethical standards. Eventually I got to the point of changing and I did, and have been ever since. I think I'm a determinist, but I don't really care about that. I think we can 'reason' our ethics down dangerous roads, but reason and ethics also tell us that sometimes we shouldn't even go there, or that it doesn't matter if this is the way it is in reality, we should still act this way. I'm personally not afraid of those dangerous paths cause most people just do what they want anyways.

  7. I was a bit snippy with my last comment, and that often makes me less clear. Here’s a second shot at what I originally meant to convey:

    Your post celebrates the rise of atheism. My only point is that atheism as measured in a poll tells you nothing about what kind of a person someone is. A rise in religiosity might be a good thing for society, but it also might be due to a surge in fundamentalist Islam. Likewise, rising atheism in China in the 40s and 50s coincided with the Long March and the Cultural Revolution, ending with the death of 80 million Chinese (I didn’t say caused by atheism, mind you, but correlated with). I am not suggesting that atheists do not have a moral compass, or that religion is the only practical guide for goodness. Sometimes less religious adherence means a move toward concern for individual human dignity and liberty, sometimes it means a move away. I think it remains to be seen which is the case with American teens today, and celebrations of the decline of religiosity are, at best, premature.

  8. And I tend to agree Rob. I find myself viewing it like an alcoholic with problems. His alcoholism (religion) may make matters worse, but getting rid of it may make it easier for him to deal with the deeper more 'human' issues and problems. However, this is only an analogy and it may be that religion is like a life-vest for the average drowning person. And mainly I'm comparing this to society at large. I think the concerns are legit, and so far our only examples are countries where the majority are non-religious, but where the country has cultural religious adherence, such as Sweden having a 'state' church.

  9. Since it keeps coming up, I've got to ask what exactly it is that you find so appealing about Sweden. I don't think there's any need to fall back on some prodigal son analogy of future depravity, it's an unimpressive place right now. There's a definite trend for societies to replace religious institutions with socialist institutions and larger governments. Having lived and practiced medicine in a socialist system I can state quite confidently that it does not lead to better or more moral outcomes for the average citizen.

  10. I use Sweden as the example that a country doesn't fall into chaos if it has a massive majority not only being non-religious, but atheist. Besides that I've had a lot of people say that Sweden is a pretty nice place actually. Some could be bias as some of these people are from Sweden, and that's understandable, but Swedish film also brought us 'Let the Right One In' ... so it's got to be a Godsend country ... wait...