Tom Magliozzi Has Died

Bad news on the radio–Tom Magliozzi has died. I have squandered literally hundreds of hours of my life listening to Tom and Ray–Click and Clack–give good and bad advice (but always entertaining advice), and had harbored a secret desire to hear Tommy read one of my verses (below) on the show. Alas, it never happened, and now it never will. [Read more…]

“The Churchless”: Not Just Atheists

If “twenty percent” leaves you troubled—it’s doubled!
The “churchless” are very near forty percent!
It’s all in the way things are measured—so, treasured
Assumptions of culture are apt to get bent!
A third claim they’re Christians! The label’s a fable,
Cos frankly, they say it from habit, or less
They don’t go to church, and their bible is liable
To sit there, unread, like it came off the press

The atheists make up a quarter—these sort are
The skeptical types, and they’re sharp as a tack!
Some 16 percent just stopped showing—quit going
To church at one point and then never came back
The rest of them, given their druthers, are “others”
Like Muslims or Jews, or some seeker in search;
Not “godless” but “churchless”, we see them as heathen
They’ll all go to hell if they’re not in our church.

There’s a new term, including more than mere atheists, more than just heathens, but which is an important addition to our vocabulary, because someone has a new book out.

If you’re dismayed 20 percent of Americans are “nones”—people who claim no particular religious identity—brace yourself.

Try 38 percent, the figure religion researcher David Kinnaman calculates when he adds “the unchurched, the never-churched and the skeptics” to the nones.

He calls his category “churchless”—the same title Kinnaman has given his new book. By his count, roughly four in 10 people living in the continental United States are actually “post-Christian” and “essentially secular in belief and practice.”

I must admit, I am a little bit confused, though. That 38% includes some strange bedfellows:

About a third (32 percent) still identify as Christian. They say they believe in God, but they’re wobbly on connections. Kinnaman calls them “Christianized but not very active.”
[…]
• 25 percent are self-identified atheist or agnostics. Kinnaman calls them “skeptics.” And their ranks have changed in the last two decades. The percentage of women is up to 43 percent from 16 percent since 1993. Highly educated and more mainstream than before, “this group is here to stay,” he said.

• 27 percent belong to other faith groups such as Jewish or Muslim or call themselves spiritual but not religious.

• 16 percent are Christians—people with a committed relationship with Christ, Kinnaman said—who don’t go to church anymore.

32 plus 25 plus 27 plus 16… ok, that’s everybody (of the 38%). They are not all atheists, though–somewhere between fewer-than-25% (many agnostics won’t identify as atheists) to over 50% (if we arbitrarily include the “accidental atheists” from the first category), and some are explicitly and admittedly “true Christians”–others (category 3) may be every bit as devout, but in a different religion. So… what is the common denominator? They are not going to church. Some are believers, the majority claim tribal identity with Christians… so why is the “churchless” category important?

The article doesn’t actually say–it simply describes the categories. And I am not nearly cynical enough to suggest that it comes down to the fact that it is much harder to put your money in when they pass the plate.

Fechner Day, 2014!

164 years ago today, Gustav Theodor Fechner awoke from a dream which would change his life, and the course of science itself. In his dream, Fechner had discovered the key to studying sensation and perception, the method to measure the mind itself. Of course we cannot simply turn up some switch and increase your awareness, or your sensitivity, or anything about your experience of the world; prior to Fechner’s dream, the only way to study your thoughts was… to think about them. Introspection, essentially. It could not be systematically controlled-indeed, the very thought of controlling the mind, that non-physical part of Descartes dualistic view of Man, was ludicrous. [Read more…]

Re-Asserting The Null

The comments to “I thought I saw a dictionary atheist” have been quite interesting. Much is predictable, but not all, and all are quite thoughtful. And looking at something I wrote some time ago, I am reminded that the good that atheism does–even dictionary atheism, I would argue)–is not a function of what (again, even dictionary) atheism is; rather, it is a function of what it is not. [Read more…]