Elaine Howard Ecklund is the sociologist who studies atheists and always twists the interpretation of her results to laud religion. She’s done it again.
She has a new study about “Atheists embracing religious traditions”, which notes that some unbelievers will still send their children off to church, out of familial obligation or a vague sense that that is an appropriate way to socialize the kids. I think that’s entirely true, and I’ve seen it myself — but it doesn’t say much about atheists as much as it does the pervasive cultural attitudes that falsely make “church” a synonym for morality.
But here’s what makes me disrespect her pretense of objectivity.
Ecklund said one of the most interesting findings was discovering that not only do some atheist scientists wish to expose their children to religious institutions, but they also cite their scientific identity as reason for doing so.
“We thought that these individuals might be less inclined to introduce their children to religious traditions, but we found the exact opposite to be true,” Ecklund said. “They want their children to have choices, and it is more consistent with their science identity to expose their children to all sources of knowledge.”
Religion is not a goddamned source of knowledge. Quit pretending that it is.
But also, that’s her twist. When our kids were living with us, we freely encouraged them to go to church with their friends when invited, but it wasn’t because we thought it was a “source of knowledge”. Religion is an unfortunate reality in our society, and we wanted them to be able to see for themselves what was going on. Ecklund simply doesn’t understand what science is about: it’s part of the ethos that we don’t hide data, but confront it and address it.
Another consistent angle to Ecklund’s work is spotlighting the statistics that fit her bias and trivializing the rest. Here’s the evidence that atheists are “embracing religious traditions”:
The researchers found that 17 percent of atheists with children attended a religious service more than once in the past year.
I am underwhelmed. The only surprise there is that the number is that low — given that American society is soaking in religion, and that atheists are a minority surrounded by friends and family who are religious, I’m impressed that 83% have succeeded in escaping the church trap so thoroughly. That ought to be the news.
But that’s Ecklund. Show her a population with an overwhelming majority rejecting faith, and she’ll ignore them to turn to the minority and pretend they are representative, just to find some tiny reassurance that scientists and atheists really are god-lovin’, deep down.