Aliens and the Atheist

Commenter JA continues to hold the notion that “low atheists” don’t exist in his continued (no true Scottsman) argument as a basis for the higher intelligence/education feature of the set of atheists compared to those who do believe in God. There is a problem with this position.

Consider an alien coming from a place/planet which has never considered the notion of divinity, spirit, gods or God. This notion, for our alien, is an (pardon) alien concept with which he struggles and only incompletely understands having now encountered earthlings. During his life prior to that meeting he had never ever spent an iota of mental activity thinking about or considing God (or the gods). He is, more than our earthly atheists, I contend a complete atheist. In the spectrum of belief between the Saint and the modern atheist he is even further away from the Saint than the 20th century self-professed atheist.

By contrast to the high atheist, who has a panoply of reasons why he has decided God doesn’t exist the low atheist is more akin to our alien. Just like our alien the low atheists actions, values and decisions are made in a universe in which God (or gods) do not consider. He spends just as little time thinking about the divine (much less praying) as our alien does. He is an atheist of the same mold as our alien.

By first approximation, one might view religious belief in a population as existing on some sort of bell curve. A population with low religious beliefs and attendance shifts the bell curve toward “nonbelief” and a population that is highly religious shifts it the other way. Atheists practically exist at a point on the non-belief side of the curve and a less religious population will (to first order) just be expected to have more atheists than one that is highly religious. Demographic studies that our JA note point out that many highly educated populations are often (in our culture) ones with low religous beliefs and therefore also have a higher percentage of atheists. However what he hasn’t noted is that populations which are very poorly educated also are characterized as having low religious beliefs …. and it would follow that these too have (functionally like our alien) a higher percentage of atheists.

The percentage of atheists in a population is not correlated directly with intelligence. It is however, a symptom of the spread in religious beliefs found in people and that the mean/mode (peak) of that population is not a universal human invariant but a culturally dependent variable.

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76 comments

  1. Mark says:

    JA,
    Atheist/not-atheist is not a binary function, just like with religious belief there is a spectrum of certainty and intensity.

    Also, the American military is weirdly wrapped up with Christianity. I had a marine tell me (and a roomful of people — he didn’t even know to be embarrassed about his bigotry) that Buffalo is “going downhill” and as evidence he pointed out that there are mosques and other “non-Christian” houses of worship sprouting up everywhere.

    Kinda like how you are not mindful of your anti-Christian bigotry, eh? “Your faith is ludicrous” just popped out in this conversation as a random unconscious irrelevant interjection.

    There’s a connection there.

    We call that connection 9/11.

  2. Atheist/not-atheist is not a binary function, just like with religious belief there is a spectrum of certainty and intensity.

    I agree.

    Kinda like how you are not mindful of your anti-Christian bigotry, eh? “Your faith is ludicrous” just popped out in this conversation as a random unconscious irrelevant interjection.

    How is it bigoted to call someone’s beliefs ludicrous?

  3. Mark says:

    JA,

    How is it bigoted to call someone’s beliefs ludicrous?

    It is exactly parallel the “doing downhill” remark.

    I agree.

    I guess that’s your point system then, eh?

  4. It is exactly parallel the “doing downhill” remark.

    Not at all. The “going downhill” remark implies is about people. The “ludicrous” remark is about beliefs. I may find your beliefs ludicrous, but I wouldn’t tell people the neighborhood was going downhill if you moved in.

  5. Mark says:

    JA,
    The people you quoted were not citing “people” but beliefs and cultural practices. Just the same as you. Sorry.

  6. You’re really stretching. He was talking about the whole city going downhill. I’m just saying the things you believe are ludicrous, not that your residence in a city makes the whole city worse. There’s a huge difference.

  7. Mark says:

    JA,
    You’re the one stretching. Let’s see, you’re dependent on and a product of Western European Christian culture … and you call their notions “ludicrous” where as a person noting the loss of the same is “talking about people” and not ideas.

    Sorry I don’t see it. If he is talking about “people” then so are you. If you are talking about ideas … so is he. If he is a bigot. So are you (and you’re not a bigot … but then again, neither is the one whom you call out as such).

  8. “Christian” culture? Give me a break. Christian culture was the Dark Ages. Modern Europe and the U.S. are an outgrowth of the Enlightenment. Giving credit for that to your religion is itself ludicrous.

    Sorry I don’t see it. If he is talking about “people” then so are you.

    Repeating yourself doesn’t make it so.

  9. Mark says:

    JA,
    “Dark ages” … gotcha. Did you learn history in preschool? Get with the program. “Dark ages” is a term relegated to the ash heap decades before Pluto became a not-planet.

    If you think however, that religion could be easily separated from culture in anything but the most recent modern times, you need to get in line alongside the YEC folk. Hint, have you never heard of the Puritan work ethic?

    And “repeating itself doesn’t make it so” is true. So, then why do you repeat yourself. Look. You cited the marine as “mocking people” (when he spoke of cutural signals, i.e., ideas). You think your only mocking ideas, which are oddly enough held by a passing majority of people. To suggest you’re doing something different doesn’t scan.

  10. Boonton says:

    Nonetheless, I do not suspect JA would say something like “Charlotte NC is going down hill” after visiting it and noting the numerous churches scattered throughout the city.

  11. Ok my Dark Ages comment was a little sophomoric, I admit, but my general point stands. Much of our culture came about despite Christianity, not because of it.

    You have a point about the Puritan work ethic, but the Puritan work ethic is not what makes contemporary Western society so different from the societies prior. In fact it’s not even relevant outside America, to my knowledge at least. The big leap forward was the Enlightenment, which valued reason and then empiricism over religion, and put forward humanism rather than religion in the moral arena.

    Christianity, being the constantly evolving memeplex it is, of course absorbed and claimed as its own many of the developments, but right-wing Christianity has continued to be the enemy of much of enlightenment progress to the current day. In freaking 2011, the Christian right is still fighting for religion over science and for religious values over humanism. All of our progress as a society has happened and continues to happen in spite of traditional Christianity.

    (I will say that Christianity probably contributed somewhat economically with e.g. the Puritan work ethic and a worldview that could rationalize slavery and exploitation* among people who should have known better, but economics ain’t everything. * You may object that Jesus would have opposed these things, but Christianity doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with Jesus, does it?)

  12. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    The churches are not moving into his area. If, on the other hand, a big influx of relatively poor rural Baptists moved into his neighborhood he would likely say that his neighborhood was going downhill. He’d see them as culturally “lower” when more likely “different” would be a better term.

    JA,
    I think your thesis that the Enlightenment can be separated from Church in an age when the Church had so much importance culturally is weak. The pretense that “right wing” Christianity existed in any meaningful way as right vs left is akin to your “Dark Ages” remark. What does “right wing” vs “left wing” mean in the context of international intellectual European discourse and development in the 12th or 13th centuries. Not so much, I think. Just like the notion that that religious thought and Christianity had nothing to do with the same. Your convenient overlooking Christian intellectual movements is a failing not a feature, e.g., our concept person dependence on Trinitiarian theology (see wiki if you still don’t believe me).

  13. He’d see them as culturally “lower” when more likely “different” would be a better term.

    I’ll thank you to not put bigoted words in my mouth. Funny how you always have to pretend I have said or will say something I haven’t and wouldn’t.

    I think your thesis that the Enlightenment can be separated from Church in an age when the Church had so much importance culturally is weak.

    I didn’t say there was no relationship, but the Enlightenment was in large part a reaction against Christianity. Even those who remained “Christian” weren’t “Christian” like traditional Christians had been.

    The pretense that “right wing” Christianity existed in any meaningful way as right vs left is akin to your “Dark Ages” remark.

    I was speaking about “right-wing” Christianity in the context of contemporary America. Obviously the term is not applicable a couple hundred years ago, let alone much farther back. One of the difficulties in talking about religions is how it evolves and and divides — it is a hardy memeplex that constantly evolves for survival. Some branches of the tree adapt to keep its members separate, some adapt to have more children, some to get more converts. It fills virtually all niches, from traditionalists who want a simplistic, hierarchical and sexist church and worldview to deists who are for gay marriage and abortion. My point is that the better, more liberal ideas tend to come from outside of Christianity and then some denominations adapt (or are created) to include them. And most of what makes our culture great (to the extent that it is) are the more liberal ideas.

    Even a religion like Judaism is hard to talk about as one thing, and two hundred years ago there was only one denomination! There are enough denominations of Christianity that pretty much anything you say about Christianity will be true for some and false for others, but even within a denomination, you can’t say much without specifying the time period.

  14. Boonton says:

    It would seem then that your hypothetical JA wouldn’t be bigoted against Christians then…only certain types of Christians (poor Baptists, not ok….Anglicans who wear suits and have a bit of British accent ok).

  15. Mark says:

    JA,
    Under what circumstances in your PC shackled linguistic world do you allow yourself to say out loud that the neighborhood has gone to seed? If that is because a single sub-culture/group has moved in are you allowed to acknowledge that?

  16. I mean if it’s suddenly run-down and crime-ridden, you can say so. It’s pretty ridiculous to say it just because members of religion or ethnicity X moved in.

  17. Mark says:

    JA,

    It’s pretty ridiculous to say it just because members of religion or ethnicity X moved in.

    Even if that’s what occurred, i.e., the change between the neighborhood then and now was the moving in of a particular sub-culture?

    To stretch a point, what if you’re living in a relatively stable predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood and over a few years a rash of recent German immigrants move in who happen to come from a sector of Berlin who happen to be largely neo-Nazis and are fleeing what they perceive as persecution for their practices in Germany? Why would it be ridiculous to cite the change as due to their race or beliefs?

  18. Because it’s a ridiculous (i.e. false) overgeneralization? Note how even in your contrived example, you felt the need to narrow it to “a sector of Berlin.” Obviously “Germans” would be far too broad a category to blame.

    There are 1.57 BILLION Muslims in the world. Way more than Germans.

  19. Mark says:

    JA,
    So, for umpteen comments here I’ve called out “subculture” yet when I use an example which adheres the discussion point I’m offering you call me out on that. Odd, being called out for the point you’re making. Duh.

  20. I’m sorry, are you complaining that I’m not letting you shift the goalposts? We were talking about somebody saying the neighborhood is going downhill because there are mosques and other “non-Christian” places of worship going up. What does that have to do with subcultures?

  21. Mark says:

    JA,
    No. Why are you complaining now. I’ve been noting subcultures for the last 10 or so replies. In my last query to you I asked if you can ever talk about the people who move in. You basically said “no.” Then I pointed out an example and you shifted the goalposts, i.e., called me on what I was saying all along as if I’d changed my tune.

    OK. Riddle me this, yes it may be that certain Islamic subcultures are highly compatible and would be unnoticed moving in w.r.t. to the current practices and mores in the region. So, which one(s) would those be? Identify them. You mock the Marine because he cannot. I’m guessing you can’t either.

  22. No. Why are you complaining now. I’ve been noting subcultures for the last 10 or so replies

    You used it exactly once (I think) before the comment I complained about, and then it was “sub-culture/group” and I responded by explicitly referring to “religion or ethnicity” to make it clear that I wasn’t talking about smaller groups.

    OK. Riddle me this, yes it may be that certain Islamic subcultures are highly compatible and would be unnoticed moving in w.r.t. to the current practices and mores in the region. So, which one(s) would those be? Identify them. You mock the Marine because he cannot. I’m guessing you can’t either.

    Nice try. You don’t need to be an expert on Muslim sects/subgroups to know that the presence of mosques does not, on it’s own, indicate that an entire city is “going downhill.”

  23. Mark says:

    JA,

    Nice try. You don’t need to be an expert on Muslim sects/subgroups to know that the presence of mosques does not, on it’s own, indicate that an entire city is “going downhill.”

    That’s right. And German skinheads moving into your neighborhood doesn’t indicate your neighborhood is going downhill. However, graffiti, open drug use, beating of kids walking home from school are indications and when coupled with the realization of who has moved in allows you to make the comment that race/subgroup is indicative of “going downhill” and the cause. You haven’t established that the Marine in question has noted his city going downhill and correlated that with Mosques (rightly or wrongly) or is assuming that Mosques will mean it will go downhill.

  24. Jewishatheist says:

    It was clear from the context that he was basing his opinion on the mosquez.

  25. Mark says:

    JA,
    And rural Baptists are not a sub-culture from the South?

    You cited Mr Hansen as a “bigot” because he noted a particular Hispanic subculture was ignoring property rights. He didn’t note signs of the culture and then conclude things were going south, but the reverse.

  26. And rural Baptists are not a sub-culture from the South?

    I don’t know the boundaries of the term “sub-culture,” but I fail to see your point regardless.

    You cited Mr Hansen as a “bigot” because he noted a particular Hispanic subculture was ignoring property rights.

    Can you point me to what you’re referring? You know I can’t trust you to quote me accurately.