Recently, I came across this incendiary video:
I believe that one of the things that makes a country strong is diversity - diversity of race, sexual orientation, politics, and faith (or lack thereof). The idea that all the atheists should just GTF out of America is absurd. That said, the idea that if the atheists left we'd have no intelligent people is equally absurd.
You'll note that this video does not cite its sources; it uses music as a tool to evoke an emotional response; and it makes claims that aren't entirely true. In short, it is a propaganda film. I find myself not only offended by this video, but disappointed. One thing I really like about atheism is the value it places on logic and reason - things I value as well. When an atheist person or group makes statements like these, it says to me, "Fuck logic and reason. I just want to piss people off." Since that seems to be the mantra of the Christian right, I am disturbed to find that some atheists are adopting it as well. Seriously, guys? Stop it. You're better than that.
In the comments on the last post, I found myself on a tangent about what I believe to be the correlation between blind faith and lack of education. In order to explore that further, I decided to check out some statistics (because I am just a barrel of fun, and this is what I do with my free time). Here's what I got (from Gallup):
So, the claim this video makes that says 10% of America is atheist is apparently fabricated. It looks more like 6% to me. Way to be part of the "reality-based community", video-making guy. Gosh.
As I'm sure we could all have predicted, the likelihood of fervent religious belief seems to decrease as a person's education level increases. That said, this data doesn't entirely support what's presented in this stupid video. But it does raise an interesting question: why are more highly-educated people less likely to believe in God? I have a hypothesis (which might sound slightly redundant to those of you who read the comment thread on the last post).
One of the most valuable byproducts of a good education is the learned ability to think critically. Children are naturally curious; but if they are taught facts without methods, numbers without formulas, and dates without context, they will, for the most part, lose their curiosity and wind up as mindless drones (to put it dramatically). Unfortunately, it is difficult for someone with a high school education or less to receive the kind of education that would lead to critical thinking. Public schools, for the most part, teach to standardized tests. The schools are measured on how much useless knowledge they can cram into kids' heads, to the detriment of the students themselves.
Thus, receiving a higher education will almost certainly impact a person's ability to think critically. University classes involve discussion, experimentation, and real problem-solving. If a person is going to get through, he's going to have to learn how to think. And, in doing so, he may feel inclined to apply his new-found thinking ability to other areas of his life, such as belief in God. I'm quite certain that the more education a person receives, the more that person will question his faith. Like I said, it's human nature to be inquisitive (if you can remember how). In questioning, he is more likely to find the idiosyncrasies* of belief; and in finding the idiosyncrasies, he is more likely to look for truth elsewhere. And really, I think that's fine and good and, in fact, the best thing a person can do with their faith. After all, faith is meaningless if it isn't questioned.
Lots of things in Christianity don't make sense. The virgin birth seems a little too convenient, the resurrection seems a little far-fetched, and the idea that the world was created in six days is in direct conflict with everything we know about science. Some people, when they are unable to reconcile these ideas with belief in God end up atheists. Some of them place such a high value on logic that they cannot excuse belief in God, even if it makes no attempt to argue with scientific fact, because there is not empirical evidence to support it. And, like I said, that's great. But here's the kicker:
This is just an example of one of the problems that arise for logical people raised in the Christian faith, but I think it is food for thought. According to this poll, 74% of postgraduates believe the theory of evolution to be true. Simultaneously, 90% of postgraduates believe either in God or some other higher power. What this says to me, is that these people, who are more likely than any other group (in my opinion) to have questioned their faith, have, for the most part, found a way to reconcile logic and God. Are the militant atheists going to accuse these people of stupidity? They're educated, they understand science... does belief in God make all of that irrelevant? I don't think so.
I'm of the camp that need for a higher power is a fundamental part of human nature. Sure, a small percentage of the population seems to get along just fine without it, but the rest of us really do need Him, whoever he is. That doesn't make us stupid, nor does it necessarily make us blind followers. If the people out there making videos like these and claims that religion causes all the worlds ills concentrated on improving the standards of education in the United States, they'd probably get a lot further. After all, it's got to be a hell of a lot easier to achieve education reform than it is to convince 93% of the population that there is no God. And, if they succeeded, they'd likely wind up with a few more atheists.
Were I a religion teacher (I'm not sure who would allow that. Maybe the Unitarians), I would encourage my students to find ways to relate their faith to daily life (and vice-versa), to relate their faith to what they know of the natural world (and vice-versa), and to try to find a place where faith and reality are not in conflict. If that means not believing in God, fine. But I refuse to believe that atheism is inherently superior to religion. After all, most of the faults the super-atheists attribute to religion are really faults in human nature. And, in the end, nobody really knows WTF Jesus would do.
*Holy crap! I spelled that word correctly on the first try!!!