Partially because I believe this to be true, partially because the last paragraph is what I have been saying all along. Post is near the bottom if you care to look.
Atheism Doesn't Mean Amoral
I was stunned when I read the results of a survey that was recently conducted by the University of Minnesota’s department of sociology about atheism. It seems that Americans are distrusting of atheists although, from the study, it appears that they have little idea what it means. According to most of the 2000 Americans surveyed, we are self-centered, prone to criminal behavior, materialistic, untrustworthy, don’t have core values, don’t care about our fellow citizens let alone the rest of humanity and you shouldn’t let your sons and daughters marry us. Glad to know we’re so highly regarded by our fellow Americans.
Not to toot my own horn, but I care very deeply about the world around me, I follow the law, and I am generous with my friends, family, neighbors and community. I also try to consume as little as possible, I use public transportation, drive my car little and much prefer to spend time with people than acquiring things. I share many of the same core values as religious people, treat others as I would myself, do no harm, share, in fact I would say that I adhere to the words of Jesus much better than most Christians. I do it not because I believe they are the words of God, but because I believe deeply in the inherent dignity of living things. God doesn’t make us good, we choose that for ourselves and our behavior is how we are judged by society. Then why is there such a disconnect between what atheists believe, and what others believe of them?
This survey does give some insight into why science is under attack. Scientists are predominantly atheists with 93% of members of the National Academy of Sciences either not believing or doubting the existence of God. This is not proof that they are bad human beings, but rather their experience tells them that what is not provable, is not something you want to have blind faith in. But if the majority of the country considers them suspect as people, why would they trust the science that they produce, whether about global warming, fine particulate contamination or stem cells? If science breeds atheism, then in a “Christian society” science must not be trusted. We seem to be going back further in time and at a much more rapid pace than we ever could have imagined.
There seems to be a sense that if you don’t believe in God, you must believe instead in the opposite of God. I guess this is a function of our polarized society and our vain attempts to order the world into black and white. I have no problem with others having faith in God, I have faith in things too. I just don’t kid myself that there are any absolutes. I have faith that the world will keep spinning, until it stops. I have faith that my husband will come home each night, until he doesn’t. I have faith that people are good and decent, until they show me otherwise. I have faith. I just can’t make that leap to having blind faith in anything, even God. But that doesn’t mean I reject everything in the Bible.
Rejecting God doesn’t mean rejecting the morality that Christians believe comes from Him, I follow the commandments regarding social behavior, honor thy mother and father, thou shall not kill, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, or covet thy neighbor’s house and wife, but I do so because they’re good ideas, not because God tells me to.
So where does this leave us? While 40% of people in the United Kingdom don’t believe in God, in the United States, that number is only 5% according to a Gallup Poll conducted in 2005 (although a BBC poll from 2004 has that number at 10%). The U.S. is still a pretty religious country and atheists, while fairly common in Western Europe, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, make up a very small segment of the population in this country and clearly, we are a group not trusted by our fellow citizens. It seems to me that atheists are misunderstood and we have much work to do in educating our fellow Americans about our beliefs, but interestingly enough, it is Christians, not atheists, who are feeling persecuted, even though they are, by far, in the majority.
This week, Christians are gathering in Washington D.C. to formulate a strategy for fighting back in the “War on Christians”, but who is persecuting them? Atheists? Not likely, considering we are a disconnected and highly unorganized group. What are they so afraid of? If the word “God” is erased from our money, our courtrooms and our public places, does that really have any effect on their faith? Do they need non-believers to validate their belief in God? Having “God” on our money and in our public squares has not made me believe in His existence, so how could it possibly have the opposite effect?
The separation of Church and State is a protection for all of us. Government can’t mandate religion and it can’t infringe upon religious institutions either. Legislating morality is un-American and it doesn’t work, this is what atheists know and what Christians must learn. Atheism doesn’t mean amoral, it just means that external forces are not necessary for the formation of, and adherence to, a moral code. In most cases, we share a common vision of American society. It’s just how we get there where the difference is found.